Monday, September 28, 2009

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

This is a graphic novel written by an Iranian women, about her childhood growing up in Iran and in Austria, and how all of what she experienced shaped her into the woman she is now.
I had seen the movie before I read the graphic novel, so I knew what to expect for the most part. Even having seen the movie, though, there were still things that shocked me. A lot of her story involved the ways that her countrymen were tortured by their own government for being Revolutionaries.
One of the best things about this novel is that you get to see what life inside Iran was really like, and not just what we've been shown its like from an outsider's perspective. Satrapi tells us that despite all the freedoms they lost, they still managed to live their lives and go on. I think the best lesson that I get from this novel is that no matter what, you can survive if you want/have to. You can survive anything if you have a reason to, and there are so many reasons to survive.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

I heard about this book from a review on NPR, and I was intrigued. This was also another audiobook for me, and it has to be said that the reader was really good, and that had something to do with how much I liked the book.
The Magicians was kind of like a mishmash of The Chronicles of Narnia and the Harry Potter books, but with main characters that are older and more mature than the characters of either of those stories. Since the characters are older, the issues here are very different. Getting in to college, falling in love for real, intimacy, etc. I really liked how everything worked here, how all the characters got along or didn't. It seemed very real, all the interactions between characters were genuine and personal, sometimes to the point that it was uncomfortable to listen to. But I love books like that, ones that really and truly engage you in the lives of the characters.
To get to the story itself. There is a young man named Quentin who has been obsessed with a series of books about a magical place called Fillory, which definitely reminds me of C.S. Lewis' Narnia. There are three siblings who travel to Fillory via various portals. They have to fight battles and use magic etc. So, Quentin loves these books, and really wants Fillory to be real. Then one day he shows up for a college interview, and finds out that it might actually be real.
He is talented enough to get into a magic college called Breakbills, that is actually located in upstate New York. And of course, adventures in magic and in his love life ensue.
The only thing I didn't like about the book was the induvidual boob descriptions for each and every female character. I understand that the main character is a teenage guy, but seriously?
Other than that one thing, I really enjoyed this novel.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk

This was a very odd book about one surviving member of a cult and all of the things he goes through when more and more of the survivors end up dying. I can honestly say I liked it. Like all his books, it always on a subject that I never would have thought about if he hadn't written about them. These are the kinds of people that are never really talked about until something bad happens to them, or if they do something bad. I'm always glad I've read one of these books. They're always something new.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

I just finished listen to this, one of the very few audiobooks I have ever listened to. The story was about a famous writer with a very mysterious past who contracts a biographer with a unique point of view to write her biography before she dies.
Vida Winter, the famous author, has written many very popular novels in her lifetime, but her life story is one that she is afraid to tell. That is why she contracts Margaret Lee to write it for her. But she specifically hires Lee instead of any other number of biographers because Lee has a particular perspective that is uniquely helpful to telling Winter's story.
I quite enjoyed this story. I'm not generally into ghost stories, and this most definitely is a ghost story. But I liked this one nonetheless. Ms. Winter is an intriguing character, one who tells stories, but tells them in a such a way as to make you want to know if she's telling you the truth or if she's telling you a version of a version of the story. Winter has things about her past that she is desperate to hide, and yet she also wants to be able to die without these memories and secrets weighing on her mind and soul.
Margaret Lee, one could say, is more of a detective than a biographer. She knows that she is not being told the complete and accurate truth by Vida, so she goes in search of it on her own. She very much wants to know what really happened. She also has a vested interest in the story, because there are twins in Vida's past, and Lee herself is a twin, but her twin is dead. Lee wants to know what its like to be a real twin, because she was never able to do so.
If you like ghost stories, you'll like this one.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Storm Front is the first book in The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. The series is all about Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, a wizard, who lives and works (as a wizard, as a matter of fact) in Chicago. He even advertises in the newspaper and phone book. He does some work with the Chicago PD, on any cases that seem out of the ordinary. This book focuses on a couple of murders that seem impossible. Dresden is called in by the police to help them try to figure out how these murders could have happened, and to find out who could have committed them. He also gets a call and a visit from a very mysterious woman who needs help, but won't give Dresden very much information for him to go on.
As Harry begins to research both of these cases and discovers, to his surprise, that they are connected.

This was a very quick read for me. I tend to like paranormal stories, so I like that about it, but I wasn't the biggest fan of his writing style. Maybe its just me, so don't judge his work on my opinion. If you like paranormal thrillers, you will more than likely enjoy this book. I was glad I read it, cause it was something I might not have been into previously, but I don't know if I'll ready anymore in the series.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I have a few books waiting to be finished, so look for a few more reviews to be posted in the next month or so. I get side-tracked too easily.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

Wow, it sure has been a while since I posted anything here. Pretty sad, I think. I have been reading, but mostly reading a lot at the same time and not really finishing any of them, except for this one.
To get to the story; I really liked it. This was a story about two Beautiful Girls living in Shanghai in the early 1930s, and what their lives are like after their father loses all of his money and their money by gambling it all away.
These are two very sophisticated sisters, May and Pearl, who run around the city like they own it, often defying their father in a very unChinese-like manner, posing for calendars that advertise everything from diapers to makeup and motor oil. They play with the international crowd who had their very own section of the city closed off from the rest of the Chinese population of beggars, farmers, rickshaw pullers, and poor. May is considered the really beautiful one, while Pearl is just the taller, thinner, less attractive older sister.
One of the great things about the novel is that See focuses a lot on the superstitions of traditional Chinese; we find out that people really did think that when you were born determined what your character would be like. Pearl is a Dragon, so she is stubborn, and she protects what she loves; May is a Sheep, so she is complacent, follows along, but is also stubborn. The sisters' relationship is complicated, just like any other two sisters. They love each other, they get jealous of one another, they fight, they make up, and they protect each other to a fault.
The one thing I didn't like was See's writing style. She unfolds everything for you, reveals all the little motivations for the reader like we can't do it on our own. Please, just let me use my brain for a little bit, and let me fill in just few of the gaps; I don't want any author to do that for me. I was expecting more from See considering the reviews I heard, but I have to admit I was just a little disappointed, but only in her, not in her story.

Monday, June 29, 2009

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

I bought this on a recommendation from a few internet folks, so I was almost worried that it wasn't going to be good (I've gotten a few bad books based on internet recommendations before.)
So when I picked this one up to read it, and it immediately grabbed my attention, I was very relieved. This is a really great book about the history of a five hundred year old Jewish religious text. You get to see it in the present (sort of: 1996 and then 2002) and you also get to go back in history and find out where every trace of its history came from and how it happened to get there. The book is structured so that every chapter shows a different time in the books history. In the present, there are several pieces of evidence that are recovered from between the pages: a butterfly's wing, some salt crystals, a wine stain. Each of these traces gets revealed to the reader, so that we see the people behind this book and what they went through to make, and save it, so that we, in the present, have the opportunity to see it and gain some of its knowledge.
I loved all the different people who came into the existence of this amazing text; the librarians who saved it multiple times from destruction, the Jews in Venice who hid it, the slave who drew the illuminations that made it so unique.
I definitely recommend this everyone. Its a great historical fiction that will make you think about the way different religions mix and mesh now and through history.

Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman

This was my very first Gaiman graphic novel and it was odd/good. This novel is a collection of stories about Dream, Despair, Death, Destiny, Delight, Desire, who are all god like creatures; except they're not the gods of anything, they just are the thing. My favorites were probably Dream, Desire, and Destiny. The artwork in all the chapters was amazing, mostly straightforward in the first chapters, towards the end very frenetic and chaotic. I loved how the art all matched perfectly with the story, which seems like it might have been difficult, considering the wide ranges of the stories and the six differnt artists, but it all flowed nicely, even the more chaotic chapters.
I'm biased though; everything that Neil Gaiman does is great. He is superbly imaginative, thoughtful with his characters and stories, and there is always more to his writing than meets the eye.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Stroke of Midnight by Laurell Hamilton

This is the 4th book in the Meredith Gentry series.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs

This is another of Burroughs memoirs, this one specifically for his father, or so it says on the cover. I never read Running With Scissors so I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought it was going to be darkly funny, based on seeing the movie of his first memoir, but it turns out this one was just dark.
He opens the book with a fast paced, scary, and exciting scene of his father chasing him through the woods at night; he never says why this is happening, neither here nor when the scene gets retold later in the narrative. His father does not catch him, that's the most important thing about this scene, as the reader is led to believe that he might be seriously hurt if he were caught. There is some vague notion that this chase is in response to something Augusten has said or done, but that is never confirmed. Needless to say, this is what really got me hooked on the book, and made sure that I wasn't going to want to put it down.
This book basically chronicles the early childhood of the author and how horrible it was made by his sociopath and possibly homicidal father. He and his mother stayed in Mexico for a while with one of her friends, just to get away from his father, because, according to his mother, he was "dangerous." As a child Augusten never understood what his mother meant when she said this, but later in his childhood, he began to figure it out for himself.
The end of the book is about Burroughs' adult life after moving away from his parents. Augusten was always terrified of becoming like his father, and would actually pray that he would never end up like him. Burroughs succeeded, for the most part. He did develop a drinking problem later in life, and was constantly trying to keep that secret from everyone in his life. Burroughs had always talked about his father being two different people: mean, violent, and worse in private, yet in public he was none of those things. And now Burroughs himself had developed that mask as well; to the world he was a funny, smart, responsible guy, but at home he drank to extreme excess and lived in filth.
I liked this memoir. I don't think it taught anything, really, other than to not become like him or his father, but I guess I shouldn't expect it to teach me anything. It made me cringe to read, because I had no way to relate to any of his life, but that's probably what made it so interesting. I wouldn't recommend this to people with weak stomachs, some of it is very hard to handle.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Finished on the second try. I starting trying to read this in high school, and did not get past the first hundred pages. This time, I really got into it, so I was able to finish it. It took me about a month and a half, primarily because I was really busy last month and just did not have the time.

I really enjoyed this amazing love story. Jane starts her life with no parents, left to live with an Aunt who hated her and cousins who routinely and continuously beat her up and harass her. She lives there for the first, and awful, ten years of her life, then gets shipped off to an atrocious boarding school called Lowood, by her Aunt Reed. This school is very cold and hard, she gets very little, and very poorly prepared, food while there. There is also Mr. Brocklehurst, the benefactor; he enjoys berating the girls for their "sins" all the while enjoying the finer things in life for himself and his family.
She endures the school, and manages to do well enough to become a student teacher after being there for 6 years. She teaches during her last two years at the school, then decides to leave for good when the headmistress leaves the school. She finds employment for herself as a governess at the Thornfield home, taking care of the master's ward. She starts to love living at Thornfield, being free and somewhat independent. The master of the house, Edward Rochester, is an odd man, not terribly handsome, but kind to her in his own way. They begin to develop feelings for one another, despite their age gap and differing social statuses.
I think I'll stop with the synopsis there, cause that's the point when all the juicy and intriguing stuff starts happening. I came to love this story very much, despite having trouble the first time I read it. Bronte has a way with description that makes reading a pleasure; sure you have to find the rhythm, but once you do, its a breeze. Vizualising everything is so easy when the author takes the time to really show you what they mean. And I love the love story between Jane and Rochester. Its not easy, it doesn't happen too fast, and you can really see that they truly are in love, not lust, like so many modern stories about love. They have real, deep feelings for one another that allows them to be apart for so long, then be able to come back together and not really have to work to rekindle the emotion. I definitely recommend this to everyone, ever. Go read a classic love story, then tell me what you think of all the modern ones.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

This is a reread for me, but it was just as good as the first time I read it. I also realized that I was mistaking Fforde's altered version of Jane Eyre for the real one. I, for a moment, thought that Jane actually went to India John Rivers, and then I saw the Masterpiece Theater movie version, and had to smack myself in the forehead.
I love this book. Fforde is extremely witty, and his subject is one that is close to my heart, so I'll always be in for reading his books. Thursday Next is a great character, a strong woman, with values, and she almost never relies on anyone else for anything. All the surrounding characters are flushed and wonderful, and the story never gets boring. I recommend this to anyone and everyone. Its a great story with loads of great little jokes.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

This is a variation on the vampire story that comes at the genre with a few different ideas about the creatures, and they are definitely different. The "vampires" are called Ina, and are a species to themselves. These people were never human, they are born; they can't "turn" humans into one of them. The Ina also have a very different relationship with humans: they have a symbiotic bond. The Ina takes care of, loves, and needs the human for blood, and the humans need their Ina. Once the Ina and their human become fully bonded, its like the human is addicted to the Ina, and they actually will go through a sort of withdrawal if they haven't been bitten in a while.
This book deals with so much, just like most of Butler's books: religion, bigotry, sex, race, rules, and more. Fledgling concerns the life of a young Ina female called Shori, who is the result of the genetic experimentation of her mothers to create Ina that can walk in the daylight and stay awake during the day. It turns out that more melanin helps, so Shori's skin is dark. There are other's, other Ina families, that hate what they think of as the corruption of the Ina purity, and they take it into their own hands (actually the hands of humans that they use as daytime weapons) to destroy Shori and her family. They succeed in killing her family and all of their symbionts, but they fail to actually kill Shori, who is their main target. Ironically, Shori survives the attack because of the genetic manipulation that lets her stay awake and be out in the sunlight. But she was seriously injured in the attack, so much so that she lost all of her memories of her life before the attack. She meets and takes her first symbiont, Wright, and slowly, very slowly, remembers vague things about who and what she is, then tries to find and punish those who killed her entire family.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

This is the ninth book in her Southern Vampire Mystery series, and it was just as good as all her other ones!! Sookie Stackhouse begins the ninth book witnessing the Great Revelation of all the two natured people in the world. She's also dealing with Eric and their complicated bond, work, bills, her brother, who she's not talking to, among other things. Then to top that all off, her sister-in-law, Crystal, gets murdered, but not only murdered, she gets crucified!!
Sookie has her plate completely full in this installation of the series. She debates forgiving her brother, and helps him out with his situation despite not really wanting to talk to him. She gets "handled" by Eric, as she calls it; mostly that means that he makes a very big decision for her, one that she hadn't figured out on her own yet, and still wanted time to think about. Her Grandfather also makes several appearances and brings more unwanted trouble into Sookie's life, and of course all of this trouble is of the dnagerous variety, so she has to watch her back and look over her shoulder at all times. This is a very quick read, cause its so easy to get sucked in to her story. This one has a very scary ending, and seems to be a closer call than all of Harris' other Sookie stories. A lot more at stake for Sookie, and she still has lots of decisions to make. I can't wait for the next one!! (Too bad I'll have to wait another year, probably)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

It took me about a week and half to two weeks to finish this one, entirely due to the fact that I didn't stay home all the time and read, and I work, so the opportunity to just sit and read for hours was not there. Nevertheless, I LOVED it. Not surprising, cause it was partially written by Neil Gaiman, but it was an excellently done novel about angels, demons, good, evil, and the Antichrist.
I consider myself an agnostic, but I'm always interested when people write about religion and religious traditions, especially when certain writers do it. The jokes are so funny I started laughing out loud while I read them in my car sitting in traffic. Snarky religious humor gets me every time.
So, this novel is about Armageddon and the things that get messed up while trying to bring it to pass correctly. The Antichrist gets switched with another newborn, but goes to the wrong family, and he gets lost for those first 11 years of his life. Thats really the only thing that goes wrong, but thats a pretty big mistake, so it has big consequences.
I love the character Aziraphale and Crowley, and their friendship. Its very unique and hilarious, especially when they have to ask one another who did what to the human race, like parking tickets, and why it was a good/bad idea. And the footnotes; these are some of the best I've ever seen, and I've read quite a few books with footnotes. These are so perfect, like the added verses on a Bible passage that is really a conversation between God and Aziraphale on the subject of misplacing the Flaming Sword. Excellent. Read it!

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman

This is a really good childrens book written by Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean. I don't usually read kids books, but it was by Neil, so I bought it anyway.
I love the way he knows just how kids think. This little girl named Lucy is hearing things in the walls of her house. She and her little pig puppet are convinced its wolves. She tells everyone in her family and they all try to tell her that its mice, or rats, or that she is bats. But she knows the truth. Its Wolves!
Then the wolves come out of the walls and scare the family out of the home and to the bottom of the garden. They are soon tired of sleeping outside while the wolves have the run of the house, so they all go back in, and THEY creep into the walls of the house. The family then jumps out of the walls just like the wolves did, and they scare those wolves right out of the house, and the wolves were never seen again.
I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again, but I LOVE Neil Gaiman!! I would definitely recommend this to everyone, even if you're not a kid, and even if you don't have any.

Friday, April 24, 2009

B is for Beer by Tom Robbins

I just finished this book today, and it was pretty funny. There is this little girl named Gracie, and she is very curious about beer. So she asks her mom about it. Her mom tells her to go ask her dad. She proceeds to ask her dad, but being the asshole he is, he isn't really paying attention to her, so her very nice Uncle Moe tells her all about it.
Gracie is only 5 years old, almost 6, so she does what all kids do: She repeats what she is told about beer to her Sunday school class, getting herself thrown out of class by her puritanical teacher. After a number of bad things happen to Gracie, she finds out for herself what beer does to you, then meets the Beer Fairy, who tells Gracie the secrets and mysteries of the beverage that addicts and gratifies so many adults all over the world.
This is definitely a cute book, with lots of witty little bits about beer and human behavior. I'd recommend it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Needless to say, I loved this book. This is a story about a baby who survives a murder attempt on his life when he is only a baby. Unfortunately, his family is not so lucky. The baby crawls away to safety, oblivious to what has happened, and finds his way to a graveyard nearby. Fate, or Chance, or something, smiles on him then, and he is adopted by two of the ghosts in the graveyard, Mister and Mistress Owens. He is also given Freedom of the Graveyard, which gives him privileges that none but the ghosts themselves have there. He is cared for, loved, and educated by all of the inhabitants of the graveyard, including his guardian, Silas, who is neither living, nor dead, but comes and goes as he pleases; at least, he did before the baby showed up. The baby is named Nobody Owens by the ghosts, and lives his life much like his literary predecessor, Mowgli, from The Jungle Book.
Neil Gaiman consistently delivers amazingly written stories for people of all ages. Every time I pick up one of his novels I expect great characters, well delivered stories, and great imagery. This one was no different. I got to see Bod, short for Nobody, grow up, learn to read from gravestones, develop friendships, and become a person that I admire. He is brave, smart, has a voracious thirst for knowledge. He is always kind, helps others with their problems. And most importantly, he has a love of life that is unextinguishable. This love is what guides him in all the right directions, and saves his life. This book is one I would read to my kids in a heart beat if I had kids. Talk about a book with morals; this is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Go read it!!

Friday, April 3, 2009

#18 Fool by Christopher Moore

I finally finished this book after starting it about three weeks ago. The problem was not the book, the problem was that I had some personal stuff get in the way of me finishing this a week and a half ago, but I won't get into that here. Suffice it to say that I finally did get around to finishing it, and I liked it.
The language the Moore uses in his novels is always quite entertaining, one of my favorite phrases of his being "Fuckstockings!" or alternately "Fucksocks!" just because that is a really, really good expletive that I might have to start using on a regular basis. I noticed, this being my second book by Moore, that he likes to have certain lines that he uses throughout an entire novel. One of those in Fool was "Perfect fucking French," which I thought was an excellent use of alliteration, and I always love good usage of alliteration, mostly because it makes a sentence flow so nicely.
He includes an end note in this novel that I actually read before I had finished reading the book. I looked back to see how many pages I had left, and saw the end note. I read the first sentence and decided to read on, as it seemed there might be some funny and useful information in there that I'd want to see: boy was I right!! He talks about the history of the real Leir that I hadn't ever heard before, and he talked about using lines from a lot of different plays, and chastising a reviewer for a comment on an awkward passage of his, that Moore himself took from Thoreau; I just thought it was really funny, but its not really relevant to this review.
All in all I really did like this novel. The twists were great, and unexpected. The language was excellent, and even elegant at times. And I can honestly say that it did not make me want to go back and reread King Lear. I am content to say that I appreciated the funny, and don't need to fact check. I would definitely recommend this, but a word of caution: Moore really likes to have somewhat gratuitous shagging and cursing and the occasional gory moment, so this is not for the faint of constitution. Enjoy

Monday, March 16, 2009

#17. World War Z by Max Brooks

Hmm, how to start talking about book that revolves around the zombie apocalypse.
To start, I thought it was brilliant. For some reason, when I borrowed this book from a friend, I thought it was going to be funny, mostly because the author is Mel Brook's son. Then I started to read it, and found out the truth.
There are accounts of the attacks, and outbreaks, from all over the world. That means that you can see how a lot of varying cultures weathered the outbreaks (or didn't), and you can really see how each of them reacted differently according to their leadership. Israel isolated themselves by literally building a wall to keep out infected people, even using dogs to sniff out infection. South Africa led the way in a certain policy that included using part of their own population to distract the zombies from following a "chosen group" of their population to a safe location. That was considered a cruel option, but it seemed be used in multiple countries, which was interesting.
It was amazing how realistic the descriptions were from the varying countries. It was also astounding to me how some of the countries refused to let go of hostilities in the crisis facing the world. These hostilities actually led to a nuclear exchange between two countries that normally are not enemies.
This is a definite must read for everyone. Even if you don't like zombie books or movies, you'll like this!!!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

#16 Seduced by Moonlight by Laurell K Hamilton

The third book in the series. Only three after this one to finish the series so far.

#15 A Caress of Twilight by Laurell K Hamilton

Yet another in the Meredith Gentry series. This is book two in the series.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

#14 Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

I loved this novel so much, I don't know if I can put it into the correct words. All of the characters are given detailed backgrounds, so you actually understand them all and you know what there motives are, so nothing they do really surprises you.
And it amazes me, as always, how many things parallel things in real life, even though this was written more than 20 years ago. But I guess I can attribute that to the ever worsening conditions of our world. There was so much amazing dialogue, "The world will look up and say 'Help Us,' and I will look down on them and say 'No.'" I also like that he uses quotes at the end up chapters to seal them up nicely.
And now, let me talk about the comic book within the comic book. I love the way Moore used "Black Freighter" to emphasize the story, add subtext and commentary. It was like commentary within the commentary of the story of the Watchmen, and it was amazing. I don't want to give anything away if you want to read this, so I'm just gonna tell you to read it. It will make you think.

Friday, February 27, 2009

#13 You Suck by Christopher Moore

Hilarious book about vampires and the problems they face in this modern world. I read this book fairly quickly, but it took me a few days cause I didn't sit and read it straight through. This is the book after Bloodsucking Fiends, where Jody and Elijah end up getting bronzed (thanks to Tommy). Jody has turned Tommy so they can be together forever, and now they have to figure out what to do next. The cops are expecting them to leave town, but Jody and Tommy think they can get away with not leaving, just lying low and flying under the radar. They find themselves a minion, Abby Normal, aka Allison Green, a deeply perky 16 year old girl who really wants to not be perky anymore. She desperately wants to not be perky, so she dresses herself in black and fishnet and plasters on the black eye make-up and dark lipstick, and tries to invoke the romantic morbid poetry of the masters (Byron, Shelley, and a few others). This gets her noticed by the newly born vampire, Tommy, who needs to find someone who can take care of his and Jody's daytime needs. Tommy becomes "The Dark Master" and Jody becomes "The Countess" for Abby, and she begins her quest to help the two "vampyres" and tries to convince them to turn her.
The plot speeds up to then include a blue hooker, a group of "Animals" who have given the blue hooker more than half a million dollars in just a few short days, and a homeless man who calls himself "The Emperor," who always has his two "men" with him- Bummer and Lazarus, who are really just a Boston Terrier and Golden Retriever, respectively. Lots of action, ultra violet light, and seriously hilarious diary entries from Abby, that make you think you are really inside the head of a 16 year old wanna-be goth girl. I recommend this to everyone.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

#12 Swallowing Darkness, by Laurell K. Hamilton

This is another in the same series at the previous Hamilton book. It was interesting.

Friday, February 20, 2009

#11 A Kiss of Shadow by Laurel K. Hamilton

Not going to really review this one. It was quick, I actually liked her writing, which is what made me continue reading. I thought there was a vague quality to it at certain points, but that was not a bad thing. Sometimes people try to give a distinct quality to things that are not so easily nailed down by words, so I thought her attempt to show that worked really well.

#10 Parable of the Talents, by Octavia E. Butler

Yet another Butler novel on my list this year. I can't help it, I love her stuff. This one is in her Earthseed series, and I want to say its the last one, but I don't actually know how many are in the series, so I probably shouldn't assume anything.
I loved this book so much. The story is about the later life of Lauren Oya Olamina, a sharer, in the 2030's through to her death as an 82 year old woman. Olamina escapes from a life of fear and violence to live with a small community called Acorn in the countryside of California, (at least I think its in California.Its not entirely clear in the book where Acorn is located.) She believes in something she calls Earthseed, a kind of religious belief that says "God is Change, Shape God." This belief helps establish Acorn as a safe place for a few people, until someone named Jarrett Smith comes into power as President in 2032. He had established a church of his own called Christian America Church, and preached fire and brimstone against the "heathens" that had turned his "God-fearing" United States into a cesspool of violence, poverty, and immorality. So he sets out to "cleanse" the country of all those he deems "immoral." Unfortunately, this includes the Earthseed community, which he sees as a cult. With this book, like all her others, you get nothing but brutal honesty. Butler never shies away from portraying humanity as it really is- mean, nasty, awful, hypocritical, violent, erratic- and not some pretty picture we all like a lot better than the reality. And, yet again, she manages to parallel so much of what has happened in this country after she wrote this book; she writes of what could happen if we don't do our duty as citizens and make the hard choices. I don't mean to sound preachy, but seeing what could happen if we aren't responsible enough to stop it from happening makes me very angry.

This is a must read, in my opinion, for everyone.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

#9 Big Sur by Jack Kerouac

Finally, finally, finished this book.

This is what I can say about it: It was rambling, at times poetic, crazy, tragic, beautiful at times, peaceful at times, wandering, among many other things. The first part was written at a cabin in the West Coast woods of Big Sur. Because of that it is peaceful and beautiful and in tune with nature and the violence of the sea and humanity is only kind of lost here. Kerouac is calm here, letting himself float along with the wind and smell and the sound of nature, so his writing takes on those characteristics. His words flow like the creek he loves, sometimes they stumble along like he does while trying to navigate the woods and cliffs, sometimes they hoot like the owls he hears, or scurry like the mice he feeds. I like this part of the book; its nice to read.
Later, he leaves the beach and returns to the "real world" and here is where he and I started to lose touch. He falls back into his bad habits, drinking all night, waking up feeling sick, only to continue drinking. He also includes some of his "friends" in this- I say this because they don't all seem to be real friends to me (mine wouldn't let me do this to myself)- taking them along on his rambling, drunken journeys all over San Fransisco. He is meeting with people, some he likes, some he doesn't, and invading others' lives. He seems to think that those people enjoy his invasions, but I'm not so sure. As the narrative continues, it becomes more and more drunken in style. He also begins to experience hallucinations due to his copious drinking--> delirium tremens.
The last part of the book details his descent into madness, basically. He thinks that he can hear and see things that aren't there, his is severely paranoid that the people in his life are plotting against him, or wish to harm him both physically and mentally. At this point, his words are so hard to follow, that I actually took to reading them aloud to better enforce what I was reading.
This book is definitely not for the faint of heart, so I wouldn't suggest this for young people. But if you like stream of consciousness, this might be up your alley.

Monday, February 9, 2009

#8 Jemima J, by Jane Green

I just finished this a few minutes ago. I don't have too much to say about this one. It was cute at times, pretty funny and witty, thanks to the switches in perspective from first person to third, but with the kind of expected happy ending.
Jemima Jones is fat, lets be blunt. She's unhappy in life, work, and love. She is totally "butt-crazy-in-love" ( as Cher from Clueless would say) with Ben Williams, her colleague at the Kilbern Herald, but he doesn't look at her like that at all. Ben sees her as a nice girl, but probably won't ever see her in a romantic light. At her job, which she is really, really good at, she is stuck writing something that is well below her skill level, and the only time she gets to really flex her talents is when she rewrites her friend's column every week, all of this mostly because she is not slim and gorgeous. She then discovers internet dating.... and ta da, she meets someone online who she thinks she might like; when he suggests they meet, even though he lives in Los Angelos, and she lives in London, she starts to think about taking it seriously. She joins a gym right then and starts exercising like crazy and manages to lose nearly one hundred pounds in about 7 months. All sorts of craziness ensues, but in the end, fate smiles on Jemima for just about the first time, and she and Ben end up together, finally! Cute book. Nothing totally amazing, but cute.

#7 Coraline, by Neil Gaiman

I did the unthinkable here, and I saw the movie before I read the book. Gasp!!
But honestly, I don't think it mattered this time. I LOVED the movie, it was so creative and creepy and hysterical too. And I really enjoyed the book. This was my first time reading one of his children's books, so it was a bit different for me anyway, and it was so different from any other children's book I'd ever seen.
For those of you who are living under a rock, and don't know the story, here you go: Coraline Jones moves into a flat in a large house with her writer parents, who are often much too busy to play with her and entertain her. All of her neighbors are strange, plus they all call her Caroline, not Coraline, Caroline. She has to find ways to enjoy herself in this new place, so she decides to go exploring. In her exploration of the house she finds that it has 14 creaky doors, 13 of which actually open, but one of them does not. She gets her mother to find the key, then opens it to find a brick wall behind it. She goes back to that door later to find that there is a long tunnel through it, where she finds that she has a set of "other" parents; they look kind of like her parents, but they are also very different from her real parents. Creepiness and danger ensue as Coraline must get herself permanently away from her "other" mother, save the souls of three dead kids, and rescue her own real parents from the clutches of her other mother.
I really liked this book; it was different and inventive just like all of Gaiman's other books, but like all good children's books, included many keen insights into morality, and some unexpected wisdom. If I had kids, I would read this to them in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

#6 He's Just Not That Into You, Greg Behrendt

I picked up this book not realizing that it was a self-help book. I do not, as a general rule, read self help books, because I generally don't need help on anything that I need to read a book to fix. But I picked this one up mostly because the movie looks like its going to be funny, and I wanted to read the book based on that thought. Alas, a self-help book it is.
Despite that fact, it is pretty good. Mostly just Mr. Behrendt telling the female readers that they are beautiful, smart, amazing, attractive, and most of all worthy of being asked out by a man. He was constantly driving home that point that if a man really wants you, he will want to pursue you, and he won't be a jerk to you. He will want to see you, be near you, date you, call you, and have sex with you. Man want to get what they want, and they also like the chase, so if they really like you and want you, they will ask you out, date you, call you, no matter how scared or shy or nervous they are. So all these reasons, or excuses that women use to explain men's behavior is silly and does us no good at all, and mostly just makes us suffer more than we should.
I was amazed to discover that I learned a few things from this book. I have decided that I am perfectly happy being single, and waiting for that guy who really wants me to ask me out, and I am willing to wait as long as I need. Patience and lots and lots of confidence are key.

Monday, February 2, 2009

#5. The Pattermaster by Ocatavia Butler

I just finished this one on Saturday morning, while I was visiting friends in Boston and had a little bit of time. Again, really liked it. It was really different, but it was definitely something I would expect from Butler. This was a story about a population of people so evolved that they communicated mostly telepathically, and that was also how they fought each other. The hierarchy was very interesting in this book, because your status was almost entirely based on your mental strength; the stronger you are mentally, the higher your status. The characters were able to heal themselves using their minds, and kill thousands of people at the same time just by thinking about it in a certain way. I loved how the story worked together, and the twist in the end was so unexpected, but it made the tale end so nicely that it made me really appreciate her storytelling ability that much more. And this was another one that gave you hints that this was just the future of our own lives; this could be the way that the human race evolves. I, for one, think its really cool and hope we manage to last long enough for this possibility to become a reality.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

#4 The Fairy Godmother - Mercedes Lackey

This was my very first time reading a book by this author, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I liked what I read in the synopsis on the back of the book, so I started reading. Turns out I really liked the book. Lackey is a good writer, very imaginative and detailed in her story-telling. I had a very good movie playing in my head the whole time I was reading, which is a great sign.
I really like fairy tales, a lot. Mercedes Lackey managed to incorporate just about all of the major ones, so I really enjoyed this book. There was also a really good romance element to the story, that I really liked also. There was one passage that I thought was particularly intriguing, mostly due to the subject matter being so similar to real life at the time it was written (2004). There were strong allusions to the political environment of the Bush years, and I was impressed.
I would definitely suggest this book to anyone looking for a good fairy tale.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

#3. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz- L. Frank Baum

This was the third book I've read this year, and thankfully it was quick. I wasn't sure what I was expecting when I read this book. I mean that I wasn't sure how much would be familiar, how much I wouldn't recognize at all, and everything in between. I was interested to find that there were some interesting differences between the book and the 1939 movie.
This is a children's book, of course, so there are the obvious moral lessons, like be kind to others, don't judge others. Dorothy seems to be a simple character, but in truth, she is more interesting that you'd think. The reader doesn't get to see much of her environment other than an abounding "grayness" and a brief glimpse of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry before she is whisked away to Oz by a cyclone blowing through the countryside. All we know about her life is that everything is gray; literally everything she describes is gray in some aspect, even her aunt and uncle. And yet, when she gets dropped into Munchkin land, all she wants is to go back home, even though she is, here, surrounded by bright and beautiful color. Apparently, despite the lack of color, there really is "no place like home."
I also like her companions much better now that I have a fuller view of their character. The Tin Woodman, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion are all more detailed and three dimensional, so you can understand their motives and goals so much better. There are also some interesting disconnects within the story itself that have nothing to do with the film; the Tin Woodman thinks he needs to take even more care in his actions when he doesn't have a heart to "guide his actions." He makes sure he doesn't step on any kind of bug, so he doesn't have the death of anything on his conscience, but he will kill a wildcat who is chasing a mouse with no thought, even though the wildcat is doing what cats do naturally.
I really did like this story, and will one day definitely be reading it to my future kids.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

#2. A Room of One's Own- Viginia Woolf

I finished this yesterday afternoon. It made me think about what Woolf would say about Women and Fiction today. Her theory was that women could only become really great writers if they had at least 500 pounds a year, that they didn't have to work for, and a private room of their own. Her thinking was that until female writers had those two things, they couldn't write they way men write, which she describes as free from maleness or femaleness, if that makes sense.
But I started to think about how Woolf would feel about women authors in our time. What would she say about Toni Morrison, or Stephanie Meyers, or Charlaine Harris? How would she view their novels? Would she say that there is too much "femaleness" in them? I really wondered what she would have to say about all the romance novels we have now; in my opinion she would consider them as being complete failures in literature, because they are almost entirely focused on "femaleness." But maybe I'm wrong.
What do you think? Would her theory hold up today? Does a woman now have to have money and a private place to write in this age of the Internet and self publishing?
I did really like this essay. I thought, for her time period, it was absolutely correct. I admired her for trying not to get bogged down in fighting a feminist battle, but solely trying to identify one connection between Women and Fiction.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I meant to have finished A Room of One's Own already, but I just wanted to sleep last night, and could not make myself stay up and read. There was also a doggy trying to sleep with me in my very small bed, and I think that had something to do with it. Anyway, I'm almost half way done with it, so I should finish it by tonight. I see if I can get something up tomorrow about it. I also started to read Madame Bovary this past weekend. I haven't gotten very far in to that one yet, but as soon as I finish the Woolf, I will get more serious about that one.
So far, I really like A Room of One's Own. She's a feminist, but not a femi-nazi, as some people like to say. She does write a lot about the unfairness of the time period; women were not allowed to go into fields where they could earn decent money, were only given menial kinds of jobs. The money that women could earn was given over to their husbands to do what they wanted with it. She also talks about how difficult it is to write intellectually when you have to work to survive. Hard work seems to drain the intelligence out of one, so that you no longer have genius ideas if you once had them, or you are just so tired from toiling or hungry from lack of food, that you don't want to think about anything other than your empty stomach, or your nice warm bed (if you managed to have one like that.) I tend to agree with her on that. She also knew from experience; Woolf had to work odd jobs to live in her earlier years. She was a kindergarten teacher, a sometime reporter, and she read to an elderly lady for a time, among other things. She was lucky enough to have an aunt pass away and leave her 500 pounds a year for the rest of her life, so she no longer had to worry about working.
Okay, thats it for now, till I actually finish the book. Probably tomorrow, but we'll see.

Friday, January 9, 2009

#1Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

I just finished this yesterday evening and I loved it. Its about a modern young black woman in 1976 Los Angelos who gets pulled into early 1800 Maryland in order to save one of her ancestors from drowning. Turns that her ancestor is a slaveowning white man.
I had a hard time putting this down. The characters are so well fleshed out, that is was very involving. Every time something happened to one of them, I could feel it happening. Butler's language invokes all her images beautifully, and many a night I stayed up till 1am or later cause I did not want to stop reading. When I came to the end of this book, the turn of evens was actually heart wrenching to me; I wanted to jump in and say it would get better, but that is what is amazing about Butler's books. She wrote mostly science fiction, but its the kind of science fiction that doesn't put you on another planet. She looked at our own society, made it seem unreal and foreign, but pulled so much truth in the story, that you couldn't deny that it could actually happen if we let it.
Amazing story and one that everyone should read.