Monday, December 28, 2009

Best Books of 2009!

I read so many great books this year! It was hard to pick ten, so I chose ten honorable mentions as well. I wrote a brief description of each book, but I also linked to my original review, which says a lot more. Toni Morrison was my most-read author this year, and all three of her books that I read this year made the honorable mentions. Read Neil Gaiman for the first time, and plan on reading more in the future.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak Told by death itself, this is the story of a brave and thoughtful little girl living in Nazi Germany during WWII. Heartbreaking and beautiful.

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. A great piece of young adult dystopian fiction, involving cloning, drug lords, and the disappearance of the whales.
The Once and Future King by T.H. White. A whimsical and enjoyable retelling of the King Arthur saga.

The Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan. I linked to my review of the first book, The Lightning Thief, but all five were excellent. A brilliant way to bring classical mythology to life, and to envision it coexisting with today's modern life.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. I'm glad I gave Faulkner another shot, because I loved this bit of dark comedy.

House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III. A tragic and beautiful story about people too caught up in themselves to understand one another.

Animal Farm by George Orwell. Perhaps the perfect allegory, this famous work shows beautifully what happens when socialism goes awry.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. A riveting account of an expedition to climb Mount Everest gone horribly wrong.

Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood. This book could be the model for today's "Mean Girls" phenomenon. A great story that examines girls'--and womens'--relationships with one another.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. Told in one of the most unique voices, this book chronicles a brilliant but autistic teen's attempt to solve a mystery.

And the honorable mentions:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Finish That Series--1/1/10-12/31/10

Hosted here at the very alliterative site, Royal Reviews, this challenge provides the opportunity to finish the series you've begun. I am going to sign up on the "fascinated" level, meaning I must complete three series this year. Some of the series I am hoping to finish are:

The Twilight Saga 4/19/10
The Murdoc Jern series
The Foundation series
The Border Trilogy
The Hunger Games 9/12/10

Series I want to reread include:

The Chronicles of Narnia
Dragonlance: Legends
The Prydain Series
The Dark Tower series 8/25/10

Young Adult Through the Decades Challenge (1/1/09-12/31/09)

Hosted here at Youth Services Corner, this challenge has you read young adult books written in different decades, starting with the 1930s or before and ending with the 2000s. Rereads are allowed (yay!!!).

1930s or before: Little Women
1940s: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
1950s: Fahrenheit 451 --1/13/10
1960s: I Am David --11/19/10
1970s: Rumble Fish
1980s: Four's Crossing
1990s: Push
2000s: The Hunger Games--2/9/10

The Great Fire--Jim Murphy

Genre: Nonfiction
Year Published: 1995
Pages: 144
Rating: 4/5

I use this book in my classroom occasionally. It is a really interesting and informative account of the Great Chicago Fire, with drawings, photographs, and true-life accounts written by survivors of the fire. Definately worth reading.

Book a week # 60

Eclipse--Stephanie Meyer

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Year Published: 2007
Pages: 629
Rating: 2/5

"All our attempts at subterfuge had been in vain."

Why oh why do I keep reading these books? It isn't the writing, which is awkward and flowery, and seems to deteriorate even more with each subsequent book. It isn't Bella, the main character, who may very well be the WORST female heroine ever--she's spineless, moronic, and an utter doormat. It isn't Edward or Jacob, both of whom behave very badly when it comes to matters of love. I'm completely over the romance between Edward and Bella, so it isn't that (although I will admit the tension between Bella and Jacob got me a little bit). So what is it that keeps me coming back for more nauseating twaddle?

Well, I like the supernatural. I like the mythology behind the vampires and werewolves in the novels--especially the Native American shapeshifting stories. And I feel like I've invested myself in it this far so I sort of have to go all the way. (I thought Eclipse was the last book, however, and was very annoyed that I'm going to have to subject myself to this again). And I guess the story isn't that horrible...although our anti-heroine really truly is.

What happens in this book? More of the same, really: Victoria is still after Bella, Jacob is still in love with her, she still feels torn between him and Edward even though she will never even consider life without Edward because without him she would surely die, her father is still a bumbling fool, she still wants to be a vampire but Edward is still holding out for--gasp--marriage, the werewolves and vampires still hate each other, and Bella still manages to do stupid things and get herself into trouble so that her strong and supernatural lovers can save her. New stuff? Bella graduates, we get the whole story behind the tribe of werewolves, the werewolves and vampires come together to save her, and she makes a choice between the boys and a big decision that will affect her future. Oh, and there's a big party at the vampires' house.

What really disgusts me about these books is the same as I wrote in my last review--Bella is a horrible example for young women. The message here is that it is OK to act like an idiot because a boy will come and rescue you from danger. And that nothing is more important than your love for said boy. And if the boy leaves you life is no longer worth living and you will walk around like an empty shell. Oh--and Bella's revulsion to marriage hardly fits with her as a character. Ditto for the fact that she's supposed to be an honor's student but she's a complete idiot. I could document all of Bella's "Duh!" moments--you know, when the light bulb goes on and she suddenly realizes what the reader figured out ages ago--but why put anyone through that?

Now that I'm done ranting, I must sheepishly admit that I AM going to read the final book in the series.

Book a week # 61
Date Read: 12/21/09

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Take Another Chance Challenge (1/1/10-12/31/10)

The Take Another Chance Challenge allows you to find books to read by chance--how fun!! You can find all the guidelines here. There are twelve categories of participation; I am going to try to participate in all twelve (Gambling it All, as they say on the site!). I will list the categories, and the books I plan on reading, below.

1. Read Your Doppelganger: Since no one has the same exact name for me, I am going to read an author with the same initials--Lois Lowry's Number the Stars.

2. Blogroll Roulette: Twilight Children by Torey Hayden

3. 100 Best Book (I chose from the 2009 Best Books for Young Adults List): Debbie Harry Sings in Frency by Meagan Brothers

4. Prize Book Winner: 2666 by Roberto Bolano

5. Title Word Count: Jazz by Toni Morrison

6. Genre Switch Up: Graphic Novel--From Hell by Alan Moore

7. Break a Prejudice: Oh boy. Maybe I'll read The Bourne Identity for this one.

8. Real and Inspired:

9. Same Word, Different Book: Breaking Dawn; Breaking Her Fall

10. Become a Character:

11. All in the Family: 20th Century Ghosts (Joe Hill); Just After Sunset (Stephen King)

12. Author Anthology Pick:

Flashback Challenge (1/1/10-12/31/10)

I love re-reading books. I have been keeping track of my re-reads with the ongoing Read it Again Challenge, but this new one--the Flashback Challenge--caught my eye. It is a little more structured, with categories for how many books you read (I am going for Literati, which means I will reread six books) and the following mini-challenge categories:

1. Re-read a favorite book from your childhood
2. Re-read a book assigned to you in high school
3. Re-read a book you loved as an adult

I am going to read two from each category. This challenge crosses over with my Revisit Childhood Favorites as well.

Childhood: Ballet Shoes, Four's Crossing
High School: Catcher in the Rye, The Crucible
Adult: The Stand, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Fantasy Reading Challenge (1/1/10-12/31/10)

I love fantasy, and this challenge crosses over with my Arthurian Reading challenge, so it seemed a waste not to join. Guidelines can be found here. I think I will opt for the "fascinated" category, meaning I will read six fantasy fiction novels, but I might up that to "addicted" and read twelve. I will post my list soon!

2010 Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge (1/1/10-12/31/10)

"Reading With Tequila" has compiled a list of books recommended by bloggers. Of the 234 books on this list, I have read 35. For this challenge, I plan on reading another ten. Here is a tentative list of books I might read:

1. City of Bones--Cassandra Clare
2. The Alchemist--Paulo Coelho
3. Eragon-_Christopher Paolini
4. The Host--Stephanie Meyer
5. Gone With the Wind--Margaret Mitchell
6. Push--Sapphire
7. A Thousand Splendid Suns--Khaled Hosseini
8. The Prisoner's Wife--Asha Bandele
9. Artemis Fowl--Eoin Colfer
10. The Bell Jar--Sylvia Plath
11. Alas Babylon--Pat Frank
12. The Looking Glass Wars--Frank Beddor
13. Neverwhere--Neil Gaiman
14. My Sister's Keeper--Jodi Picoult
15. Fight Club--Chris Pahlaniak

451 Challenge (1/1/10-11/30/10)

This challenge is hard to explain, so I am going to just copy and paste from the 451 Challenge site:

"451 Fridays is based on an idea from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. In his novel, a group of people (Bradbury calls them Book People) are trying to keep the ideas found in books alive. Instead of actually saving the books, the Book People each "become" a book - memorizing it, word for word, and passing it down to the next generation.

451 Fridays asks what books you feel passionate about. What book do you think is so important that you would be willing to take on the challenge of "becoming"?

We have compiled an amazing list of books this year in our weekly 451 Fridays posts, and it's time to start reading them! So, the 451 Challenge was born."

I am going to do the "Blaze" level,which means I will be reading at least seven books from the list. Here is my tentative list of books:

A Thousand Splendid Suns--Khaled Hosseini
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn--Betty Smith
Gone With the Wind--Margaret Mitchell
A Solitary Blue--Cynthia Voigt
Fahrenheit 451--Ray Bradbury
I Am David--Ann Holm
Shantaram--Gregory David Roberts
The Haunting of Hill House--Shirley Jackson

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Sun Also Rises--Ernest Hemingway

Genre: Fiction (Classic)
Year Published: 1926
Pages: 251
Rating: 3/5

"Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton."

I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, having recently finished On the Road, it was almost torturous to endure another book about a narcissistic, self-centered group of 'friends' getting drunk all the time. On the other, I did find myself caught up in the romance between Lady Ashley and Jake, and almost feel a warmness for them. And I really liked the ending.

The story takes place in Europe not long after the first World War. Jake is a writer living in Paris, and he and several of his friends, including his on-again off-again lover, Brett Ashley, decide to go to Spain for the Running of the Bulls. Then they get drunk, do some fishing, get drunk, watch some bullfights, get drunk, get mad at one another, get drunk, fight each other, get drunk, find out Brett has left with a young bullfighter, get drunk again, wake up and leave town. That is pretty much the entire plot. What holds the book together is the characters and their relationships to one another. Robert Cohn is a friend of Jake's who has also had an affair with Brett (pretty much everyone has, actually. Brett was quite the afficionado of men), and who follows her around like a lost puppy even though she is with her fiancee. Her fiancee acts like he's fine with her affairs when he's sober, then gets nasty about it when drunk. Brett seems to feel some sort of remorse about her loving and leaving these guys, but not enough to stop her from continuing to do so. She does seem to love Jake, but again, not enough to stop her from continuing to do so. Jake loves Brett but knows that he can't have her on any other terms, so he accepts this way even though it bothers him.

I have to say the anti-semitism weaving through this book bothered me. I have never been bothered by this before when reading a book, so I'm not sure what was different about this one, but every time someone referred to Cohn as "that Jew" or the "kike" it irked me. I did like Lady Ashley--it seemed almost feminist to have a female carry out the "playa" role. Even though she's a real jerk to those poor guys.

I get that the book is meant to represent the post-WWI generation, the loss of innocence, etc. But as far as I'm concerned, the best thing about this book is how it ends. It's a lovely ending, and it manages to sum everything up in an almost whimsical moment. But I certainly can't say that this was one of my favorite reads this year. In fact, I can't really say that I like Hemingway much at all.

Book a week #: 60
Challenge/s: Decades; Modern Library; 1% Well Read
Date Read: 12/14/09

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Riders of the Purple Sage--Zane Grey

Genre: Western/Classic
Year Published: 1912
Pages: 358
Rating: 3.5

A sharp clip-clop of iron shod hoofs deadened and died away, and clouds of yellow dust drifted from under the cottonwoods out over the sage.

I was surprised by this book. It was surprisingly readable, considering it was written in the early 1900s--1912, to be exact--and that westerns have never really been my genre. But really it was a lot of fun to read. Dramatic and romantic, heavily outdated, but fun. The story centers around Jane Withersteen, a Mormon woman who has inherited a ranch and riches from her father. The Mormon men in her small Utah town are unhappy with Jane's independence, and more so with her friendliness to the Gentiles (meaning non-Mormons. This confused me greatly, since it actually means non-Jew, but apparently the Mormons actually regard themselves as Isrealite descendants: who the church members shun. When Jane refuses to marry Elder Tull her real problems begin. Her cattle and horses disappear, her workers quit, disappear, or turn out to be spies. Enter Lassiter, the gun-slinging hero of the range, who has come to take revenge for a loved-one's death but finds himself instead falling in love with Jane and her adopted daughter, Fay. The two of them are forced to make a stand, with only Jane's former employee (and previous love interest?) Benters, who has been holed up in the cliffs with a notorious cattle-rustler's "Masked Rider", who turns out to not be what everyone presumed.

There are many reasons I could have disliked this book: it reads like a soap opera, the plot is easy to figure out, the characters are simplistic and stereotypical, the Mormons are over-vilified, it's preachy, and horses die. But I didn't dislike it at all. The story was fun, and even after I knew what was going to happen I still wanted to read it. The female characters are surprisingly strong for the time, especially Jane (although she does faint). The romance is overdramatic and ridiculous, but not anymore so than in the Twilight series, and more enjoyable. This book has left me with visions of the barren wastes of the Utah cliffs, the wind rustling through the sage, and the proud and noble people riding into the sunset.

Book-a-week # 59
Date Read: 12/8/09
Challenge: Decades

The Zero Game--Brad Melzer

Genre: Crime Thriller
Year Published: 20056
Pages: 512
Rating: 3

"I don't belong here."

I don't usually read thrillers, but I needed to read something that started with "Z" for my A-Z challenge, and this was one of the only books I could find. It was good. Well-developed characters, good plot, kept me guessing through much of it. It centers around the US Congress, which was an interesting touch, and deals with secret projects hidden deep below the earth in a defunct South Dakota gold mine. Enjoyable, easy to read, and now I've read my "Z"!

Book a week #: 58
Date Read: 12/4/09
Challenge/s: A-Z

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time--Mark Haddon

Genre: Fiction
Year Published: 2004
Pages: 226
Rating: 4

It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn in front of Mrs. Shears house.

This book was a delight to read, featuring one of the most unique narrative voices I have ever read. The narrator, 15-year old Christopher Boone, thinks differently than most of us. Some might call him autistic. Some might call him a savant. Some other kids call him stupid but he knows this is not so, just as he knows all the prime numbers up to 7,057 and the Monty Hall Problem and why Occam's razor is true. When Christopher finds his neighbor's dog dead on her lawn, he is determined to find out who committed the crime, although he dislikes interacting with others. In deciphering this mystery, Christopher finds out far more than he expected about his own family life, with extreme results.

More than anything I am impressed with Haddon's ability to give a voice to a person like Christopher. His character is so real and so likeable that it helps further understanding towards those who may not relate to the world in the way most of us might expect. But aside from that, the story is captivating and suspenseful, touching and disturbing, and altogether human. I skimmed through all the higher math problems because they made my head hurt, but they were a nice touch as well, along with the diagrams and visual aids. Altogether a very good book.

Book a week #57
Date Read: 12/1/09
Challenge/s: What's in a Name

As I Lay Dying--William Faulkner

Genre: Fiction
Year Published: 1930
Pages: 267
Rating: 4
"Jewel and I come up from the field, following the path in single file."
I began this book with trepidation. I had read The Sound and the Fury last year and found it to be one of the most difficult books I've ever read, and hardly worth the effort. But I ended up really enjoying this book. First of all, it is much easier to read--no lack of chronology, no stream-of-consciousness. There is still an abundance of unidentified pronouns, so you aren't always entirely sure who the narrator is referring to, but it all becomes clear by the end. Secondly, this book is so full of dark comedy that it is hard not to enjoy. The story is about a southern family who is transporting their dead mother's/wife's body to her hometown for burial. A series of mishaps befall them, and each character deals with their own issues, before they finally arrive. That's it. That's the plot. The story is told by many different characters in the book--mostly the family, occasionally other minor characters, and once the dead woman herself. The characters in the family, including the dead mother, are not very sympathetic--they're all a bunch of jerks, in my opinion. But their voices are clear and amusing. After reading this I think I might give Absalom! Absalom! a chance.
Book a week # 55
Date Read: 11/28/09
Challenge/s: 1% Well Read, Decades, What's in a Name, Modern Library

X-Files: EBE--Les Martin

Genre: Young Readers/Fantasy
Year Published: 1996
Pages: 100
Rating: 3/5

I needed a book that started with X (although I suppose this one actually starts with "E") for a reading challenge, so I pulled this off my classroom bookshelf. I had already seen the episode, so I knew what was coming, but it was a decent retelling that is good for older kids with lower reading levels, as well as younger kids who are interested in (and ready for) X-Files material.

Uncharted Stars--Andre Norton

Genre: Science Fiction
Year Published: 1969
Pages: 256
Rating: 3/5
"It was like any other caravansary at a space port, not providing quarters for a Veep or some off-planet functionary, but not for a belt as sparsely packed with credits as mine was at that moment either."
The second book in the Zero Stone series, Uncharted Stars continues Murdoc Jern's quest to understand the secret of the stone he recovered from his dead father's belongings. His alien feline-like telepathic partner Eet is still with him, and they pick up a down-and-out pilot to fly their ship to Waystar, the planet of the Thieves' Guild. Although somewhat wordy (especially the parts where he is analyzing gems), the book keeps your interest with new alien creatures and wasted, empty planets of ruins. Big surprise at the ending too, when Eet transforms. I plan on reading the third book sometime next year.
Book a week # 54
Date Read: 11/26/09
Challenge/s: Decades

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What's In a Name Challenge 2010

I really enjoyed this challenge last year, so I am glad it is running again, thanks to Beth F. who has taken over and come up with some really great categories! You can sign up for this challenge here.

Between January 1 and December 31, 2010, read one book in each of the following categories:

A book with a food in the title: Oranges are Not the Only Fruit
A book with a body of water in the title: Lake Woebegone Days
A book with a title (queen, president) in the title: Queen of Babble
A book with a plant in the title: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
A book with a place name (city, country) in the title: City of Bones
A book with a music term in the title: Jazz

TBR 2010

It has become an annual tradition for me to join the TBR challenge, and this year is no exception! My bookshelves seem to get heavier and heavier all the time!

Some of the alternates are books I never got to from last year's TBR alternate list. Maybe this year...

Regular list:

1. The Alchemist--Paulo Coelho
2. Survivor--Chris Pahluniak
3. Elven Star--Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret--Brian Selznick
5. The Nature of Jade--Deb Caletti
6. Abarat 2: Days of Magic, Nights of War--Clive Barker
7. Gregor the Overlander--Suzanne Collins (1/1/10)
8. A Short History of Nearly Everything--Bill Bryson
9. You Are a Spiritual Being Having a Human Experience--Bob Frissell
10. Sin in the Second City--
11. Gone With the Wind--Margaret Mitchell
12. Just After Sunset--Stephen King


1. Eragon--Christopher Paolini
2. I, Robot--Isaac Asimov
3. Night--Elie Weisel
4. Are Men Necessary?--Maureen Dowd
5. Breaking Her Fall--
6. Trainspotting
7. Life of Pi--Yann Martel
8. Her Fearful Symmetry--Audrey Niffenegger
9. Blaze--Stephen King
10. The Crossing--Cormac McCarthy
11. Dance Macabre--Stephen King
12. A Brief History of Time--Stephen Hawking

A to Z 2010

Last year, I did the A to Z challenge by reading titles beginning with each letter of the alphabet. (You can see my list and links to reviews here). This year I am joining the 2010 A to Z Challenge but doing it by author's last name. Last year I managed to find a book beginning with every title, including X and Z, so hopefully I will have the same luck this year with authors!

Atwood, Margaret (The Robber Bride) 1/23/10
Bradbury, Ray (Fahrenheit 451) 2/13/10
Collins, Suzanne (Gregor the Overlander) 1/1/10
Gaiman, Neil (American Gods) 6/6/10
Holland, Kevin Crossley (The Seeing Stone) 1/4/10
King, Stephen (multiple)
Lawhead, Stephen R (Taliesin) 1/8/10
McCarthy, Cormac (Blood Meridian) 2/23/10
Paulsen, Gary (The Crossing) 3/24/10
Vonnegut JR., Kurt (Slaughterhouse 5) 3/10/10

2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge

One of my favorite challenges each year is the Young Adult Challenge, hosted by J. Kaye. I finished this challenge last year, and the year before. This year I am going to choose the "Just My Size" option, meaning I will read 25 rather than 12 young adult novels. I don't have a complete list yet for 2010, but here are some of what I hope to read:

1. Abarat 2: Days of Magic, Nights of War--Clive Barker
2. The Hunger Game--Suzanne Collins
3. Gregor the Overlander--Suzanne Collins (1/1/10)
4. The Nature of Jade--Deb Caletti
5. Among the Hidden
6. I Am David
7. The Host--Stephanie Meyer
8. Push--Sapphire
9. Artemis Fowl
10. Eragon--Christopher Paolini
11. City of Bones
12. Breaking Dawn--Stephanie Meyer
13. The Seeing Stone
14. The Invention of Hugo Cabret
15. A Solitary Blue--Cynthia Voigt
16. Number the Stars--Lois Lowry
17. Debbie Harry Sings in French--Meagan Brothers
18. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn--

100+ Reading Challenge 2010

Even though I didn't make 100+ books in last year's 100+ Challenge, that doesn't deter me from signing up for this year's. Hopefully this year I will be able to focus and channel my energy and make the 100 book mark. This is where I will be listing books for the Book a Week Challenge as well.

1. Gregor the Overlander--Suzanne Collins (1/1/10); 308p; 3.5/5
2. The Seeing Stone--Kevin Crossly-Holland (1/4/10);
3. Taliesin--Stephen R. Lawhead (1/8/10)
4. The Robber Bride--Margaret Atwood (1/23/10)
5. City of Bones--Cassandra Clare (1/28/10)
6. Hawkes Harbor--SE Hinton (2/4/10)
7. The Hunger Games--Suzanne Collins (2/9/10)
8. Fahrenheit 451--Ray Bradbury (2/13/10)
9. Blood Meridian--Cormac McCarthy (2/23/10)
10. Feast of Snakes--Harry Crews (2/26/10)
11. Jazz--Toni Morrison (3/9/10)
12. Slaughterhouse 5--Kurt Vonnegut (3/10/10)
13. Life of Pi--Yann Martel (3/10/10)
14. The Crossing--Gary Paulsen (3/24/10)
15. Merlin--Stephen R. Lawhead (4/12/10); 448p; 3/5
16. Breaking Dawn--Stephanie Meyer (4/19/10); 754p; 3/5
17. The Host--Stephanie Meyer (5/19/10); 619p; 2.5/5
18. Sin in the Second City--Karen Abbott (5/26/10); 384p; 5/5
19. Blaze--Stephen King (5/29/10); 285p; 4/5
20. American Gods--Neil Gaiman (6/6/10); 592p; 5/5
21. Artemis Fowl--Eoin Coffer (6/18/10)
22. Dead Until Dark--Charlaine Harris (6/25/10)
23. Living Dead in Dallas--Charlaine Harris (6/28/10)
24. Club Dead--Charlaine Harris (7/3/10)
25. Dead to the World--Charlaine Harris (7/6/10)
26. Dead as a Doornail--Charlaine Harris (7/9/10)
27. The Gunslinger--Stephen King (7/16/10)
28. The Drwaing of the Three--Stephen King (7/24/10)
29. A Short History of Nearly Everything--Bill Bryson (7/25/10)
30. The Waste Lands--Stephen King (7/30/10)
31. Wizard and Glass--Stephen King (8/5/10)
32. Wolves of the Calla--Stephen King (8/14/10)
33. Song of Susannah--Stephen King (8/17/10)
34. The Dark Tower--Stephen King (8/25/10)
35. The Colorado Kid--Stephen King (9/7/10)
36. The What's Happening to My Body Book
37. Catching Fire--Suzanne Collins (9/12/10)
38. Mockingjay--Suzanne Collins (9/12/10)
39. Definitely Dead--Charlaine Harris (9/23/10)
40. Altogether Dead--Charlaine Harris (10/4/10)
41. The Gunslinger Born--Multiple (10/13/10)
42. The Long Road Home--Multiple (10/14/10)
43. A Thousand Splendid Suns--Khaled Hosseini (10/20/10)
44. Horns--Joe Hill (10/25/10)
45. The Invention of Hugo Cabret--Brian Selznick (10/25/10)
46. Treachery--Multiple (10/26/10)
47. Under the Dome--Stephen King (11/6/10)
48. I Am David--Anne Holm (11/19/10)
49. Among the Hidden--Margaret Peterson Haddox (11/20/10)
50. Number the Stars--Lois Lowry (11/20/10)
51. The Nature of Jade--Deb Caletti (12/1/10)
52. Fall of Gilead--Multiple (12/2/10)
53. Saving Max--Antoinette van Huegten (12/5/10)
54. Just After Sunset--Stephen King (12/8/10)
55. From Dead to Worse--Charlaine Harris (12/20/10)
56. Survivor--Chuck Pahlaniuk (12/30/10)

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter--Carson McCullers

Genre: Fiction
Year Published: 1940
Pages: 306
Rating: 5/5

In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together.

This book is nothing short of brilliant. McCullers paints a vivid and heartbreaking portrait of loneliness and the human need for companionship. But the characters are in search of more than simply another person to pass the time with. They are desperate for someone to validate their *self*--their uniqueness, their own personal searches for justice, for beauty, for happiness.

The plot interweaves the stories of five major characters. Mick Kelly is a girl growing into a woman, a teenager in a family of six kids who run a boarding house. She has a gift for music but no money to explore her talent, and nobody to share it with. Jake Blount is an alcoholic drifter with Communist ideals, angry at the society America has become and at the complacency of the majority of it's citizens. Benedict Mady Copeland is a Negro doctor who is not content only to administer care to his people, but wants justice and empowerment for them as well. Biff Brannon runs a cafe in town where he can watch over his patrons and puzzle over ther behavior and his own feelings toward them. All four of them are drawn inexplicably to John Singer, a deaf mute who can read lips and therefore "hear" all that they have to say, but can speak only through sign language, which none of them understand. In him they find understanding and acceptance, but he remains the loneliest of them all--his only true friend being another deaf mute who has been sent to an asylum.

The setting is a small southern town in the midst of the depression. The novel deals with deep themes, including racism, the rise of labor unions, poverty, and sexuality. This is all interspersed delicately through the character's stories and manages to add to the major theme of the book, which is about the human need for understanding and acceptance. This book is often sad--at times terribly so. The writing is gorgeous--for example: " a swift radiance of illumination he saw a glimpse of human struggle and of valor. Of the endless fluid passage of humanity through endless time. And of those who labor and of those who--one word--love." This is probably my favorite book of all time, and I think everyone should read it.

Challenges: Read it Again, What's in a Name
Book a Week # 53
Date Read: 11/20/09

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Moon--Stephanie Meyer

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Horror/Romance
Year Published: 2006
Pages: 563
Rating: 3/5

I felt like I was trapped in one of those terrifying nightmares, the one where you have to run, run till your lungs burst, but you can't make your body move fast enough.

I have to say I'm beginning to have trouble suspending my disbelief while reading these books. It's not that I'm having trouble believing in vampires or even werewolves living amongst normal humans in Washington state. It's that I can't believe a high school senior who is supposedly an honor student could be so stupid. Or that an intelligent, sophisticated 100+ year old vampire could fall in love with an idiot like her. How she can continually miss things that are glaringly obvious to the reader seems pretty inconsistent with her character, even taking into consideration normal adolescent self-centered behavior and the fact that she has the self-esteem of an earthworm.

But other than that annoyance, I liked this book. Not as much as the first one, but enough to gulp it down in a day or two. The feud between the werewolves and vampires is engaging, especially with Bella caught in the middle of it. And once the story gets exciting and suspenseful it is hard to put it down. And I admit, I'm a sucker for the romantic Romeo-and-Juliet storyline behind Edward and Bella's melodramatic relationship. So I swallowed my disbelief and hardened myself against Bella's idiocy. Hopefully she won't be as dumb--or as much of a doormat--in the next book.

Challenge/s: A-Z
Book-a-week #: 52!!
Date Read: 11/11/09

Monday, November 9, 2009

House of Sand and Fog--Andre Dubus III

Genre: Fiction
Year Published: 1999
Pages: 368
Rating: 4.5/5

The fat one, the radish Torez, he calls me camel because I am Persian and because I can bear this August sun longer than the Chinese and the Panamanians and even the little Vietnamese, Tran.

This book is very, very good, and very, very sad. An absolute tragedy, in fact. It centers around three main characters, all desperately fighting for their own self-preservation but in different ways. Kathy is a thirty-something recovering alcoholic/addict whose husband left her and who feels she has disappointed her family and longs for one of her own. Colonel Behrani is an immigrant from Iran whose family fled for their lives after an uprising, and who has fallen from wealth into the humiliation of menial labor and his family's disappointment. Deputy Burdon is trapped in a loveless marriage--at least on his end--and struggles with his own self-worth. When Kathy is evicted from her home, which was bequeathed to her by her father and is all she has left of her dignity, due to a mistake, Deputy Burdon falls for her and is determined to help her get it back. But Colonel Behrani buys it at an auction and plans to resell at a much higher price to restore his family's wealth, honor, and faith in him. The three of them are so caught up in their own desperate needs that they are unaware of the tragic path they tread.

The narration switches from the first-person accounts of Kathy and the Colonel to the occasional third-person account of Burdon. But it is the first-person narration that draws the reader in. Their voices are so real, so honest, so vulnerable, and we are able to clearly see both points of view. Though the ending was a little rushed and perhaps slightly lacking for closure, this book was one of my best reads of the year. Now I have to see the movie.

Book a week # 51
Challenges: TBR, What's in a Name
Date Read: 11/9/09

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Genre: Fiction
Year Published: 2005
Pages: 432
Rating: 4/5

The snow started to fall several hours before her labor began.

I really liked this book, which shows the detrimental effects secrets can have on families over time. When a doctor delivers his wife's twins during a snowstorm, he decides to send away the one who is born with Down's Syndrome, to spare his wife the pain of raising a child like that. He tells her the child died at birth, and sends it off with his nurse, who decides to keep and raise it. The book follows the lives of both families as the children grow into adulthood. The writing is excellent, and the story is lovely and sad.

Book a week #: 50
Date Read: 11/26/09
Challenge/s: TBR, What's in a Name

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Twilight--Stephanie Meyer

Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Year Published: 2005
Pages: 498
Rating: 3.5/5

I'd never given much thought to how I would die--thought I'd has reason enough in the last few months--but evenif I had, I would not have imagined it like this.

Now this book I expected to dislike. I thought it would be sickeningly mindless, prattering teenage prose. I figured the over-romanticized vampire icon would make my stomach turn and my eyes roll. I'd read most of Anne Rice's Vampire chronicles back in high school, and while I loved them then I can't deal with them at all now. Overdramatic, flowery prose, stereotypical characters, predictable plots--ugh.
Well, this book had most of that--sans the flowery prose--and yet I loved it. I'm almost embarrassed at how much I enjoyed this book. I read it within 24 hours, even borrowing a students' copy because I had left mine at home.

I'm not sure what made me like it so much. Part of it is the narrator's voice--she is so real, so assured, that I found myself relating to her without meaning to. Part of it is the fast-paced plot, which unfolds like a smooth spiral staircase bringing you to it's inevitable climax. Part of it is the flowery teenage romance. There's that affinity with the timeless story of falling for the "bad boy"--the one who even warns you to stay away from him yet loves you too much to let it happen. I've had plenty of those in my day, though my stories usually ended poorly. There is a passage in the book that reminds me uncannily of a short story I wrote in high school that deals with the theme of the woman surrendering herself for love--even dangerous love. Which is exactly what the narrator does, and as much as I want to shake her for it, I can't help but sigh and nod my head. And of course the love interest, Edward Cullen the vampire, is everyone's dream man--strong, beautiful, invincible, intelligent, playful, and in love with you and only you. The story behind the vampires is interesting too--the different groups, the "vegetarians" (who don't eat humans) versus "non-vegetarians", the ways they all became vampires. What is the American fascination with vampires anyway? Is it sexual? Is it the immortality thing? Whatever it is, this was a quick, easy and fun read, and I will probably read the rest of the series as well.

Book a week # 48
Challenges: RIP IV
Date Read: 10/27/09

On the Road--Jack Kerouac

Genre: Fiction
Year Published: 1957
Pages: 313
Rating: 3/5

I first met Dean not long after my wife and I had split up.

I expected to like this book a lot more than I actually did. In fact, it is surprising that I never read it before--during my highschool years I embraced ideals of the counter-culture and became some sort of hippie incarnation. After highschool I traveled the country, following the Grateful Dead from show to show, hitching rides from fellow Deadheads with nothing but a bag full of clothes and a sleeping bag. So many people have spoken of this book to me--how they loved it, how it influenced them to travel. But I think if I read this book previously, if anything it would have turned me OFF that lifestyle.

It isn't the writing--Kerouac's prose is delightful to read, wandering, poetic ramblings that manage to be both profound and inane. It's the characters. They're heinous. I'm not sure if I've ever read a book with more selfish, self-centered, narcissistic characters. OK, maybe Wuthering Heights, but besides that. It was like a laundry list of transgressions: someone leaving another wife, or ripping off another person, or stealing another car, or abandoning another friend. I'll admit that Dean's descent into madness was somewhat interesting, in the way that a freak show is interesting. But even all the stories got tedious. It was like hearing someone excitedly tell of their past drunken exploits--"Oh man, we were sooooo wasted, guess what we did????"--for over three hundred pages. Again and again.

I am glad I read it--I've been meaning to for years, so at least I've gotten it out of the way, and now I know for myself what it is all about. But I must admit I'm disappointed. And I sure won't put this one on my read-it-again list.

Book a week # 47
Challenges: TBR, 1% Well Read, Decades, Modern Library
Date Read: 10/26/09

Jasmine--Bharati Mukherjee

Genre: Fiction
Year Published: 1989
Pages: 241
Rating: 4/5

Lifetimes ago, under a banyan tree in the village of Hasnapur, an asrologer cupped his ears--his satellite dish to the stars--and foretold my widowhood and exile.

Jasmine is a captivating story of a young Indian woman's incarnations as she struggles with fate. Born Jyoti in India and renamed Jasmine by her husband Prakash, the protagonist finds herself reinvented constantly by tragedy until she settles in Iowa farmland and begins a relationship with a banker who christens her Jane. Her strength and intelligence are admirable, as well as her adaptability. By the end of the story she is still unsure of who she really is, but marches into the unknown with dignity and grace.

This book deals with many issues--the political unrest in India, the plight of the illegal immigrant in America, the struggle for immigrants to fit in to American culture without losing their identity. But the theme is all about identity. Who is Jasmine--or Jyoti--or Jane--or Kali? Are each of these incarnations a part of her being, or does she evolve into them through fate and circumstance?

My only complaint with this novel is that the ending seems a little rushed. But it is a beautifully written piece of work with strong characters, and is definately worth reading.

Book a week #: 45
Challenges: Young Adult, A-Z
Date Read: 10/17/09

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fill in the Gaps--100 Books Project (12/31/15)

OK, so in a nutshell this challenge invites you to make a list of up to 100 books that you really want to get around to reading, and then read at least 75% of them in the next five years. I plan on starting on January 1, 2010, and thereby finishing by December 31, 2015. More details can be found here. My list is tentative; I might change it before the challenge starts, and I don't have 100 books yet, but here is the start:

1. Everything is Illuminated
2. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
3. Fever Pitch
4. Life of Pi
5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
6. High Fidelity
7. Slaughterhouse 5
8. Fight Club
9. Rose Madder
10. Umney's Last Case
11. Storm of the Century
12. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
13. The Colorado King
14. Just After Sunset
15. A Confederacy of Dunces
16. The Witches of Eastwick
17. A Handful of Dust
18. The Woman in White
19. Get Shorty
20. The Bourne Identity
21. V
22. Song of Solomon
23. Jazz
24. The Bell Jar
25. Possession
26. One Hundred Years of Solitude
27. Love in the Time of Cholera
28. The Kite Runner
29. For Whom the Bell Tolls
30. Their Eyes Were Watching God
31. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
32. Lady Chatterly's Lover
33. Women in Love
34. Atonement
35. Tropic of Cancer
36. Gone With the Wind
37. Gilead
38. Crash
39. Fahrenheit 451
40. Childhood's End
41. Dune
42. The Haunting of Hill House
43. His Dark Materials
44. The Satanic Verses
45. The Hobbit
46. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
47. Things Fall Apart
48. Uncle Tom's Cabin
49. Bleak House
50. Middlemarch
51. A Passage to India
52. Trainspotting
53. Journey to the Center of the Earth
54. L'Morte D'Arthur
55. A Short History of Nearly Everything
56. Her Fearful Symmetry

Revisit Childhood Favorites Challenge (6/30/10)

This challenge provides an opportunity to read those books you remember so fondly from your childhood, but haven't read in years! I am to pick five books to reread by June 30, 2010. Further guidelines and reviews can be found here , at Debbie's World of Books. My list:

Little Women
The Narnia Chronicles (which is seven, so any or all will count for one)
The Chronicles of Prydain (same as above)
Ballet Shoes
Harriet the Spy

VPR Poetry Reading Challenge (5/16/10)

This challenge, found here at Regular Rumination, requires reading 2-15 books of contemporary poetry--that is, published in the 20th or 21st centuries. I am joining the "shallow end" challenge, meaning I must read 2-5 books. Since an Eliot book has been on my TBR list for a while now, I figured I would join to light a fire under my butt. Plus I really need to read more poetry.
I don't have a list of books yet, but favorite poets include:
Maya Angelou
T.S. Eliot
Adrienne Rich
Mark Strand
Sylvia Plath
Anne Sexton
Pablo Neruda
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Allen Ginsburg
Denise Levertov

Books to Read Before I Die Challenge (12/31/10)

Found here at Bibliophile by the Sea, the Books to Read Before I Die challenge asks you to choose between 10-20 books that you absolutely must read before you die. Your list must be finalized by December 31, 2009, and the challenge begins the next day and ends Dec. 31, 2010.

My tentative list:

1. A Spot of Trouble--Mark Haddon
2. Everything is Illuminated--Jonathon Safran Foer
3. Choke--Chuck Pahlaniak
4. Life of Pi--Yann Martel
5. Trainspotting--Irvine Welsh
6. The Robber Bride--Margaret Atwood
7. Jazz--Toni Morrison
8. Get Shorty--Elmore Leonard
9. Possession--A.S. Byatt
10. The Satanic Verses--Salman Rushdie
11. Love in the Time of Cholera--Gabriel Garcia Marquz
12. The Unbearable Lightness of Being--Milan Kundera
13. Confederacy of Dunces--John Kennedy Toole
14. Song of Solomon--Toni Morrison
15. Crash--J.G. Ballard
16. Slaughterhouse 5--Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
17. One Hundred Years of Solitude--Gabriel Garcia Marquez
18. V--Thomas Pynchon
19. The Bell Jar--Sylvia Plath
20. I, Robot--Isaac Asimov

Around the World in 80 Books Challenge (Perpetual)


I got the idea for this challenge here, at Downunder's Reading Challenges blog. The idea is to read books from as many different countries as possible, and it is a perpetual challenge, so there's no time limit. I plan on listing the books I've already read that take place in other countries as well. The list of countries below was taken from

Countries Listed By

Continent NOTE: Only countries recognized (as such) by the United Nations are listed, not dependencies and/or territories. Regarding England, Scotland and Wales, though considered individual countries, they are all a part of the United Kingdom (UK), a European country, and therefore included within the United Kingdom on the list below.

AFRICA (53) Algeria Angola Benin Botswana Burkina Burundi Cameroon Cape Verde Central African Republic Chad Comoros Congo Congo (Dem. Rep.) Djibouti Egypt Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Ethiopia Gabon Gambia Ghana Guinea Guinea-Bissau Ivory Coast Kenya Lesotho Liberia Libya Madagascar Malawi Mali Mauritania Mauritius Morocco Mozambique Namibia Niger Nigeria Rwanda Sao Tome and Principe Senegal Seychelles Sierra Leone Somalia South Africa Sudan Swaziland Tanzania Togo Tunisia Uganda Zambia Zimbabwe

ASIA (44) Afghanistan Bahrain Bangladesh Bhutan Brunei Burma (Myanmar) Cambodia China East Timor India Indonesia Iran Iraq Israel Japan Jordan Kazakhstan Korea (north) Korea (south) Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Laos Lebanon Malaysia Maldives Mongolia Nepal Oman Pakistan Philippines Qatar Russian Federation Saudi Arabia Singapore Sri Lanka Syria Tajikistan Thailand Turkey Turkmenistan United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Vietnam Yemen

EUROPE (47) Albania Andorra Armenia Austria Azerbaijan Belarus Belgium Bosnia and Herzegovina Bulgaria Croatia Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Georgia Germany Greece Hungary Iceland Ireland Italy Latvia Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macedonia Malta Moldova Monaco Montenegro Netherlands Norway Poland Portugal Romania San Marino Serbia Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden Switzerland Ukraine United Kingdom Vatican City

N. AMERICA (23) Antigua and BarbudaBahamas Barbados Belize Canada Costa Rica Cuba Dominica Dominican Rep. El Salvador Grenada Guatemala Haiti Honduras Jamaica Mexico Nicaragua Panama St. Kitts & Nevis St. Lucia St. Vincent & the Grenadines Trinidad & Tobago

OCEANIA (14) Australia Fiji Kiribati Marshall Islands Micronesia Nauru New Zealand Palau Papua New Guinea Samoa Solomon Islands Tonga Tuvalu Vanuatu

S. AMERICA (12) Argentina Bolivia Brazil Chile Colombia Ecuador Guyana Paraguay Peru Suriname Uruguay Venezuela

As I read books from any of these countries I will list them below and take the country off the list above. For instance:

United States: The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Stephen King/Richard Bachman Challenge (Perpetual)

When I came across this challenge, found here at Book Geek 2.0, I knew I had to sign up. Stephen King is probably my favorite author. I've certainly read more of his works than any other author. It doesn't hurt that he is amazingly prolific--check out this list of his works
here! The Dark Tower series is my favorite fantasy series of all time, and The Stand is in my top five list of Best Books Ever. I don't think I have much more to go in order to catch up, but by the time I do he will probably have published ten more, so it's a good thing this is a perpetual challenge.

My plan is to read the King I've missed and then re-read the rest. I will review all the books I read and post the links here. I have already reviewed some King in the last few years, and I will link to those reviews as well. Duma Key and Cell should be on here soon!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Arthurian Challenge 2009/2010

April 2009-March 2010
I didn't realize this challenge had been running, or I would have joined it months ago! Because I am joining late I am opting to read between 3-6 books which have something to do with the King Arthur legend. I will post my list later. Thanks to Becky for hosting!
The Seeing Stone

Index of Book Reviews by Author

Adams, Douglas:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Life, the Universe, and Everything
Mostly Harmless
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish

Alexander, Lloyd:

The Book of Three

Anderson, Laurie Halse:


Atwood, Margaret:

The Blind Assassin
Cat's Eye
The Handmaid's Tale

Asimov, Isaac:


Bohjalian, Chris:

The Law of Similars

Black, Holly:

Tithe: A Modern Tale of Faerie
Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie

Bradley, Marion Zimmer:

The Mists of Avalon

Bronte, Emily:

Wuthering Heights

Cochran, Molly:

The Forever King

Connolly, John:

The Book of Lost Things

Coville, Bruce:

Armageddon Summer

Creswell, Toby:

1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time

Dick, Philip K:

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Dikkers, Scott:

Destined For Destiny: The Unauthorized Biography of George W. Bush

Eugenides, Jeffrey:

The Virgin Suicides

Time of the Twins--Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (The Dragonlance Series)

Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 335
Year Published: 1986
Rating: 5/5

I am a huge fan of the Dragonlance series, and the Legends trilogy is my favorite. Focusing on the relationship between the twins Caramon and Raistlin, it wrestles with themes such as good versus evil, redemption, and the corruption of power and ambition. Raistlin has become the most powerful mage of his time, and quite possibly of all time. His thirst for power has led him to his latest ambition: to challenge the Dark Queen, god of evil. But in order to do this he needs the help of Crysania, a cleric of Paladine, god of good, who is too often blinded by her own vanity and refusal to see the truth. While leaving Raistlin's tower, Crysania is attacked by a dark knight, and ends up sent back in time, to the time period just before the gods brought the Cataclysm down upon the City of Istar. Raistlin too goes back in time to learn from--and become--the great mage Fistandantilus. The conclave of mages decides to send Caramon back, hoping he will be able to save Crysania and stop his brother. What they didn't plan for was Tasslehoff the kender joining Caramon on this quest.

This is a double love story. There is Caramon's unconditional love for his brother and belief that he is not truly evil; also Crysania falls in love with the mage. Raistlin's character is fascinating, in that he struggles with his own weakness when it comes to love--he finds himself falling for Crysania and fighting bitterly against it to remain true to his goals. Crysania sees the good within Raistlin and truly believes she can save him from his evil path.

The book ends abruptly and continues in the next book in the series, War of the Twins.

Book-a-week # 46
Challenges: Read it Again, Series
Date Read: 10/23/09

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Graveyard Book--Neil Gaiman

Genre: Children's Fantasy/Horro
Year Published: 2008
Pages: 307
Rating: 4/5

"There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife."

This was a charming little coming of age story set in an old, crumbling graveyard. Bod (shortfor Nobody), the protagonist, narrowly escapes death at the hands of a murderer when he is a toddler. Unfortunately his family does not fare so well, and the orphan finds his way to a graveyard, where the unearthly inhabitants take him in. Raised among the dead yet still human, Bod has to navigate his childhood in the cemetery and avoid the being who murdered his family, who still wants to finish the job. This book reminded me heavily of A Fine and Private Place, one of my favorite books ever and another where the dead and the living communicate. I enjoyed it a lot.

RIP Challenge
Book a week # 44
Date Read: 10/12/09

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Heart-Shaped Box--Joe Hill

Genre: Horror
Year Published: 2007
Pages: 354
Rating: 4/5

Jude had a private collection.

I have been meaning to read this book for quite some time now, so the night I signed up for this year's R.I.P. Reading Challenge I pulled it off the shelf. Less than two days later, I have finished it. This book was hard to put down. The story flowed well and was captivating, suspenseful and just creepy enough to keep me 100% invested in its pages.

This is a rock-and-roll horror story. Jude is a former metal/goth band frontman with a collection of occult objects and nubile goth 20-somethings. When he sees a ghost for sale on an internet auction site he doesn't think twice before acquiring it. Unfortunately, he has unwittingly walked into a trap--the ghost is his former lover's step-father, bent on revenge after his stepdaughter's suicide. From this point forward, Jude and his newest goth girl, Georgia, have to avoid the ghost long enough to stay alive, piece together the truth of why he is there, and figure out how to send him back from whence he came. There's a lotta good stuff here. The characters are believeable and lovable. The plot flows quickly and suspensefully. The rock and roll references are multiple and fun for a rocker girl like me. I was engaged almost instantly and found it hard to stop reading.

I did have some issues with the novel. Georgia's character in the beginning seems completely different than who she was in the end, and the change doesn't mesh well in my mind. Parts of the story stretch believability beyond what I would prefer, and some detail seems unnecessary. And in some ways it almost flows too quickly from beginning to end. But these are small complaints, and I really enjoyed and would recommend this book.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I constantly compared Hill's writing to that of his famous father, Stephen King. It is somewhat uncanny how much this resembles a King novel, but without the extreme detail and plot-weavings that King manages. Hill obviously inherited a love of music from his father (I loved that the book sections were named after rock songs: Black Dog, Hurt, etc.) as well. The frankness in the characters is as reminiscent of King as the subject matter. But famous father or not, Hill has proven himself to me as an author in his own right, and I look forward to reading more of his work.

Date Read: 9/30/09
Book a week # 43
Challenges: RIP IV

Monday, September 28, 2009

Challenge: R.I.P IV

Once again the leaves are changing, the air is chill, the scent of fall is in the air, I am trying to figure out how to manuever my son's Halloween costume, and--oh yes! Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting yet another RIP Challenge!! RIP stands for "Readers Imbibing Peril", and since there's not much I love more than some good peril imbibing in October it is a challenge that was made for me. The genres included under the "peril" heading include:

Dark Fantasy.

Actually, I almost missed RIP IV, but the cold dampness of today reminded me, so I have officially signed on. Since I'm a month late and already behind on all of my reading challenges, I have decided to do Peril the Second, which means I only have to read two books. I will pick my two from the following:

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Blaze by Stephen King
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Just After Sunset by Stephen King

Any other suggestions...?

The Book Thief--Markus Zusak

Genre: Fiction
Year Published: 2005
Pages: 550
Rating: 5/5

"First the colors. Then the humans. That's usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try."

This is one of the best books I have ever read. Set in Nazi Germany during the throes of World War II, it tells the story of Liesel--the book thief--who is taken in by foster parents after her brother dies en route to the town and her mother goes into hiding. The narrator is death itself--something I found unnerving in the beginning but became comfortable with within the first 20 pages. He chronicles Liesel's life, including her exploits with her best friend Rudy, (which reminds me vaguely of those of the children in To Kill a Mockingbird), her stealing books from the mayor's benevolent but broken wife, the trials of her neighbors due to the ravages of war, and even-especially--her foster family harboring a Jew in their basement. The characters are painfully real and the story is woven beautifully, with poetic imagery and death's interspersed interjections.

Though tragically sad, this book is a testament to humanity and human kindness. In a time of horrible evil, small acts of tenderness seem immense. The most heartbreaking moment for me was when the Jews were being marched through the town, staggering and pitiful, as the townspeople watch silently. Finally Liesel's foster father can't stand watching a man--a Jew--struggle and fall and struggle again, and he goes over and gives him a piece of bread. He is whipped and scorned for this act of kindness, and he punishes himself after as well, for breaking down and giving in to his own humanity, thereby putting his own family and friends at risk. I'm not sure that I could have survived in a context where one's ability to care for one's fellow humans was a liability.

Such a great book. So worth reading. I'm sure I'll stop weeping eventually.

Date Read: 9/28/09
Book a week # 42

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible--A.J. Jacobs

Genre: Non-fiction
Year Published: 2007
Pages: 368
Rating: 4/5

"As I write this, I have a beard that makes me resemble Moses."

I really enjoyed this book. The author, A.J. Jacobs chronicles his attempt to follow the Bible literally for a year--an impossible quest, of course, but through extensive research and advice he gives it quite a try! A secular Jew and a self-proclaimed agnostic, Jacobs does his best to remain unbiased and open to all Bible-based faiths, even those that many of us raise our eyebrows at. He manages to be both honest and sensitive as he explores this prickly subject, but it is his humor that makes the book worth reading. What is most interesting to me is his own spiritual journey, which inevitably becomes deeper and stronger as the year progresses, and forces me to look at my own beliefs.

Date Read: 9/20/09
Book a week # 41

1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time and the Artists, Stories, and Secrets Behind Them--Toby Creswell

Genre: Non-fiction/Music
Year Published: 2006
Pages: 880
Rating: 3/5

In this book, the author chooses 1001 songs from different eras and genres (though most are pop/rock) and tells a bit of a story about each one. Though I didn't agree with all of his choices, it was fun to read about the songs I know, and interesting to hear about those I don't. I'd like to go on iTunes and check out all the unfamiliar ones.

Date Read 9/19/09
Book a week # 40

Speak--Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Young Adult
Year Published: 1999
Pages: 198
Rating: 4/5

"It is my first morning of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache."

This is a heart-wrenching young adult novel that deals with a difficult subject: rape. Thirteen year old Melinda is raped at a party the summer before high school. She calls the police, but her voice freezes and she can't tell them what happened. The other kids blame her for the party being raided, and she becomes an outcast. The book chronicles Melinda's freshman year of high school, where she tries to survive each day alone with her secret boiling within her. I was incredibly moved by this book, though it might be because it is a topic that hits rather close to home for me. But Anderson has created a character who manages to be strong even though she is afraid and silent, and her story flows well. I think all students should read this book in 8th-9th grade. Date rape is confusing to adolescents, and this book gives the topic a voice.

Date Read: 8/25/09
Book a week # 38

Mostly Harmless--Douglas Adams

Genre: Sci-Fi/Humor
Year Published: 1992
Pages: 240
Rating: 3.5/5

Eventually, there will be a review here. Eventually.

Date Read: 7/25/09
Book a week # 37

The Last Olympian--Rick Riordan

Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Year Published: 2009
Pages: 381
Rating: 4/5

Review coming eventually.

Date Read: 7/20/09
Book a week # 37

So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish--Douglas Adams

Genre: Sci-Fi/Humor
Year Published: 1985
Pages: 204
Rating: 4/5

Review coming eventually. I won't lie and say soon.

Book a week # 36
Date Read: 7/16/09

The Battle of the Labyrinth--Rick Riordan

Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Year Published: 2008
Pages: 362
Rating: 4/5

The fourth book in the Percy Jackson series is just as engaging as the previous three. In this one, Kronos' army has decided to use the labyrinth to invade Camp Half-Blood, and Percy, Annabeth, Grover and Tyson must quest to stop him. Grover has to find Pan before the Council of Cloven Elders revokes his searcher's license, and Nico is negotiating with some unsavory characters in order to bring his sister back from the dead--and to exact revenge upon Percy for her death. As usual, Riordan brilliantly weaves ancient myths into a modern setting. I am both excited and sad about reading the last book, because I think the series is too good to end.

Book a week # 35
Date read: 7/5/09

Duma Key--Stephen King

Genre: Horror
Year Published: 2008
Pages: 611
Rating: 4/5

"Start with a blank surface."

King never fails to amaze me. How he continues to come up with new ways to bring horror into the world is beyond me. In this novel, a former architect/developer and millioner sustains a near-fatal head injury, and loses his right arm to boot. After his marriage fails as a result, he moves to a remote Floridian key and takes up painting. But as his skills as an artist increase, uncanny things begin to happen. Once he meets his nearest neighbors, including the woman who owns most of the key and grew up there--after surviving a head injury of her own--more of the mysterious and frightening pieces fall into place. I will say no more except that this book was riveting and scary, like all good King.

Book a week # 34
Date Read: 6/27/09

The Titan's Curse--Rick Riordan

Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Year Published: 2007
Pages: 304
Rating: 4/5

Review coming soon. I won't lie and say eventually.

Book a week # 33
Date Read: 6/17/09

Ophelia Speaks: Adolescent Girls Write About Their Search for Self--Sara Shandler

Genre: Non-fiction/Complilation
Year Published: 1999
Pages: 304
Rating: 3/5

This book is a compilation of writing by teenage girls about a variety of subjects, including body image, family, death, and sex. Some of the poems and short stories are really good, but all of them provide a window into the lives of adolescent females, and I'm sure every woman could relate to some of them.

Date Read: 5/23/09
Book-a-week #: 32