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

Sea of Monsters--Rick Riordan

Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Pages: 279
Year Published: 2006
Rating: 4/5

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