Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Weekly Read: 8

I feel like I got a lot of reading done this week, but since I still didn't finish everything I wanted to before the end of the month, I am slightly disappointed. Oh well. 

READ: The Children's Book | A.S. Byatt
I'm very excited to have finished this one! I feel like it took SO long to read, mostly because the prose was so dense, I think. Once I got to know all of the characters, it was pretty simple to follow their storylines. What made it more of a dry read at times were the sections of pure history, when the characters were forgotten and instead we were given accounts of the current events of the time, of the movements in art, of the history women's suffrage, politics, and so on. To be honest, I didn't really care about all that - I wanted to know what was happening with the characters! I feel like this info, if it was essential to the story, could have been integrated more smoothly into the narrative. This book covers such a wide range of time, it is difficult to summarize what it is about. The importance of finding your true purpose in life and not giving up. The necessity of balance between fairy tales and reality in one's life. And in the end, your family is those you care about and who support you, no matter what. What I will remember most from this novel, though, is the rich, deep characters. My favorites were those who evolved and grew to be better than they knew they could be: Philip, Dorothy, Charles/Karl, Griselda, Elsie, Basil, Katharina. I most felt sorry for those who were broken, who couldn't adapt, and subsequently lost themselves. And the few I despised (Methley, I'm looking at you), I am relieved to say fade into oblivion, with no enduring legacy.  I'm very happy with how this one ended. And yes, it made me cry. :)

READ: Magic Study | Maria V. Snyder
I was looking forward to reading this one as it the second in a series following Poison Study, which I loved. This one was quite similar in style, naturally - another fast-paced story, filled with exciting action sequences. I enjoyed learning more about Yelena's past and family along with her. It was perhaps not quite as enjoyable to read as the first because it didn't have the uniqueness that made the first one so special. There were a few villains thrown in at the end that seemed extra and unnecessary. that probably could have been weeded out. Overall, though, this was a fun, quick read and a nice break after some serious reading. I'm looking forward to the third and final book in the series.

READ: The Doomsday Key | James Rollins
This one was for my bookclub, picked by my friend Montine. I wasn't sure how I would like it, as it is actually the 5th or so in a series, of which I have read none. In the end, the only negative impact that this made was I didn't care about the characters at much. There was background info on all of them that I was clearly missing, and as a result, they just weren't very deep, and for that reason, I do think it would be good to go back and read the first books in the series.  Overall, though, I did like this one. It was fun and interesting to read, very DaVinci-Code like. The history aspects of this story definitely made me want to read more about them, and it was easy to get wrapped up in the fast-paced story line. The ecological information in this book was interesting, too, as well as the facts on hunger and overpopulation. One thing that remains with me is that the amount of corn it takes to fill an SUV with one tank of ethanol would feed a starving person for a year. A YEAR. That is just ridiculous! This one ended up being a fun one to discuss, and I think we all had a great time at the meeting. :) Also, we need to take a group trip to Wales.

STILL READING: Bonk | Mary Roach
I was really hoping to finish this one for the Winter challenge, but it just didn't happen. And I'm not enjoying it as much as I did her first book, Stiff, which I LOVED. Perhaps my expectations were just too high. Or maybe there just isn't enough interesting to say about sex and reproductive organs. Oh well. I'm just under half-way through, and will hopefully finish it up on Monday, and be done with it.

Monday starts the new Spring challenge, with a new set of books to read. First up is finishing Bonk and Watership Down. Then, maybe The Monsters of Templeton. Happy Reading!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Weekly Read: 7

I've been at my brother's since Friday, so although I got a lot of reading done on the plane, I still didn't get as much done as I would have liked.

READ: Boys Over Flowers, Volume 35 | Yoko Kamio
READ: Boys Over Flowers, Volume 36 | Yoko Kamio

This series is one of the first mangas I read, and the tv adaptation was one of the first anime series I watched. That being said, I can't say that this is one of my favorites. Every once in a while, I would "check in" with the characters by reading a volume in the store, but I never felt compelled to buy them and take home for rereading. When I saw the series was ending, I knew I wsnted to find out how it all ended. This is an entertaining enough manga, but my issues with these two volumes is the same reason I was never obsessed with it - the action and relationships move too slowly. Volume 35 had almost nothing happen in it - it felt like it only existed to set up the same conflict as always to solve in the last volume - "Will they be together?" In the end, I am glad the characters are happy, and glad to know what happens, but I just don't feel satisfied, perhaps because I was never very invested in the characters.

READ: The Lovely Bones | Alice Sebold
I'd been wanting to read this one for a while, especially when I started seeing commercials for the movie based on it. it's hard to quantify enjoyment of a book with such a disturbing initial set up, and so I find myself at a loss for words when it comes time to talk about it. Certainly, what happens to Suzie is tragic and sad and disgusting, but the real heartbreak of this book is the various reactions of her family. They fall apart in varying ways, and their only hope is to somehow pull themselves back together again.  Susie can see everything that is going on, knows who killed her, knows what her family is going through, and yet can do nothing to change anything. Her only ability is observation, and we as readers are essentially in the same boat. The concept of heaven presented here is interesting- you can have anything you want, expect go back to earth (maybe). And there is a sort-of intermediary heaven that people exist in until they are ready to let go of their earthly connections and head up to the "real" heaven.   It doesn't all quite make sense, but it's entertaining none-the-less.  I certainly found it compelling to read - I couldn't put it down  and read until I finished it at 3:30 AM

STILL READING: The Children's Book | A.S. Byatt
As I am nearly done with this book (finally!), I am going to hold most of my thoughts for next week's weekly read. I will say, though, that I definitely have favorite characters, and it is interesting to see how favorites change as the book progresses. <3 Dorothy, Phillip, Karl. Also, there are definitely a few characters that I despise, and hope meet untimely ends before the end of the book.

STARTED: Bonk | Mary Roach
I've been wanting to read this one since I read Roach's book Stiff last spring and loved it. I picked it up from the library, though, so it's solely a read-at-home book. Hopefully it won't take too long to get through when I get home.

Next week, I need to finish some tasks for the Winter Challenge, so I'm planning on finishing up The Children's Book and Bonk, as well as reading P.S., I Love You, Magic Study, and The Doomsday Key, which I need to read by Sunday for my book club! Eek! I hope I have enough time for all this reading... Wednesday-Friday will be super-busy at work as I try to catch up and get everything done for our Missions convention starting Sunday. Saturday I am headed to the Best Picture Showcase at the AMC. I'll just have to make time, I suppose.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Weekly Read: 6

My reading this week didn't exactly go as planned, mostly because I realized at the last minute that Alice I Have Been was due back at the library on Thursday, and I really wanted to read it before returning it. :)

READ: Housekeeping vs. the Dirt | Nick Hornby
I am relieved to have finally finished this one. Don't get me wrong; for the most part, it is just as well-written and entertaining as the first in the series. After the whole sci-fi debacle, though, and our subsequent fight, there is still a lingering bad taste in my mouth.  I am still able to accept Hornby's reading recommendations (for the most part), but I still don't know if I'll ever fully respect him again. Not that he cares, but still. Oh well. Here are some other books that made it on to my TBR list based on his recs: The Wonder Spot, Gilead, Housekeeping, Citizen Vince, Death and the Penguin, Ghosting. For links to these books and others, see my Nick-Hornby-Recommends shelf on Goodreads.

READ: Alice I Have Been | Melanie Benjamin
This book has been on my to-be-read list since November, when I first heard about it. I love reading novels based on read people, and the fact that this one was based on a real person who already had a novel created for her made this one even more enticing. This novel is based on the life of Alice Liddell, for whom Alice in Wonderland was written.  I feel very torn about this book. On the one had, it is beautifully written: the characters are lively, the action is well-paced, and I was really drawn in to the story and these people's lives. On the other hand, I found large chunks of this book to be disturbing. The first section of the book details Alice's childhood relationship with Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll). It is this section that creeped me out, and to be honest, has forever changed the way I view Lewis Carroll, not only as a person but as an author. The thought of a 10 year-old and a 30 year-old viewing each other romantically is inappropriate and just wrong. Alice's infatuation with Dodgson is something she probably would have grown out of, and would have been merely a footnote in her life, if not for the "event" which separated Dodgson from the Liddell family; This event became a closely-guarded family secret, which even we as readers are in the dark about until the very end of the book. It did cross my mind during this first part to put the book down and not finish it; I'm glad I didn't, though, because my favorite section, and the part that redeemed the book for me, was the second part, detailing Alice's relationship with Prince Leopold. Yes, it was heartbreaking, and certainly made me cry, but seeing Alice and Leopold together made me hopeful. Alice still had the capacity to love, and I was hopeful that she would find happiness eventually.  The third section, about the rest of Alice's life, is also quite sad, but in the end, when she embraces who she is, the true Alice in Wonderland, she truly finds happiness.  I'm glad I read this one, but probably the main thing I will remember about it is my disappointment and disgust for Charles Dodgson. And that truly is sad.

READ: The Egypt Game | Zilpha Keatley Snyder
I'm pretty surprised I never read this book as a kid. I read quite a few Newbery medal winners and nominees, but I'm guessing that this one from 1968 just wasn't recent enough when I hit the right age for it in the late 80s. I'm sad I didn't read it when I was younger, though, because I'm sure I would have adored it: the characters are fun kids, with fantastic imaginations, and their fascination with Egypt is one I certainly share. I don't recall playing such great imagination games when I was their age, but maybe it's been too long, and I just don't remember them any more. Unfortunately, reading this for the first time as an adult meant that for me, it wasn't as magical as it could have been. The excitement and tension didn't really transfer, and I never really felt as though anyone was in danger, even though I realized I should.  I am glad to see they are rebranding good books like this, though, so more kids will want to buy and read it. A good cover goes a long way!

STILL READING: The Children's Book | A.S. Byatt
I'm still chugging away on this one. It is enjoyable to read, but there are just so many characters and storylines to keep track of, it's not one I can read quickly. I'm about a third of the way through, and about 6-8 years have passed since the beginning of the book. I'll slowing starting to figure out what is it about. There is a lot about the arts at the turn of the century, as well as politics and the socialist agenda, but in the end, it's really all about relationships. How do people relate? Who has the power in a relationship? What causes people to care about each other? So far, my favorite character is Phillip, a poor runaway who is a genius at ceramics.

I'm hopeful I'll finish The Children's Book this week, mostly because I'm headed back east to my brother's this weekend, and most of Friday will be spent travelling. That means a lot of reading time, yay! :) I am glad yet again that I got that one for my Kindle, so I can take it when I travel. I think this week before I go, though, I might take a break from it and read a couple manga books, the last two in Boys Over Flowers. I might also read The Lovely Bones, which I picked up on my bookspedition. :) Should be a good week overall.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Book Splurge!

major book splurge

This past weekend, I headed down to Olympia to meet up with my friend Cait and to hit up the big library sales at both the Lacey and Olympia Libraries, as well as check out Cait's favorite Goodwill and used book store. Not only did we have a blast, but we got some fantastic books for super cheap! At the library sales, all books, including hardbacks, were only $1 each. So yes, I did spend a bit of cash on books this weekend. But if you add up what I would have spent, the savings is enormous!

Here are the books I picked up, with links to their pages on Goodreads.

Eight Cousins - Louisa May Alcott
Time's Arrow - Martin Amis
The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy - Sara Angelini
Case Histories - Kate Atkinson
The Wonder Spot - Melissa Bank
Beat the Reaper - Josh Bazell
Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife: Pride and Prejudice Continues - Linda Berdoll
Darcy & Elizabeth: Nights and Days at Pemberley - Linda Berdoll
Midwives - Christ Bohjalian
Before You Know Kindness - Chris Bohjalian
March - Geraldine Brooks
Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks
The Good Earth - Pearl S. Buck
Still Life - A.S. Byatt
The Stranger - Albert Camus
Don Quixote - Cervantes
Being Dead - Jim Crace
The Hours - Michael Cunningham
More Letters from Pemberley - Jane Dawkins
Best Know Works - Daniel Defoe (an old copy which includes Robinson Crusoe, The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, and A Journal of the Plague Year)
The Pirates! In An Adventure with Ahab & The Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists - Gideon Defoe
The Inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai
Geek Love - Katherine Dunn
The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd - Jim Fergus
The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde
Offshore - Penelope Fitzgerald
Everything Is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer
The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen
The Thief Lord - Cornelia Funke
The Tesseract - Alex Garland
The Portable Nineteenth-Century Russian Reader - George Gibian
The White Bone - Barbara Gowdy
The Monsters of Templeton - Lauren Groff
Codex - Lev Grossman
Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
The Autobiography of Santa Claus - Jeff Guinn
Running Out of Time - Margaret Peterson Haddix
Between Sisters - Kristin Hannah
Notes on a Scandal - Zoë Heller
The Widow of the South - Robert Hicks
Until I Find You - John Irving
The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
A Pale View of Hills - Kazuo Ishiguro
Anthology of Japanese Literature: From the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century - Donald Keene
The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova
The History of Love - Nicole Krauss
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri
Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri
Hood - Stephen R. Lawhead
Giraffe - J.M. Ledgard
Shutter Island - Dennis Lehane
The Spellman Files - Lisa Lutz
Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
Must Love Black - Kelly McClymer
Amsterdam - Ian McEwan
The Cement Garden - Ian McEwan
By the Lake - John McGahern
Lost in Translation - Nicole Mones
Dancing to "Almendra" - Mayra Montero
Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings - Christopher Moore
Suite Française - Irène Némirovsky
Dead is the New Black - Marlene Perez
Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay
The Plot Against America - Philip Roth
The God of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
Empress - Shan Sa
The Passion of Mary-Margaret - Lisa Samson
Blindness - José Saramago
The Reader -Bernhard Schlink
The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
Four Comedies - William Shakespeare
American Wife - Curtis Sittenfeld
The Sunday Philosophy Club - Alexander McCall Smith
River God: A Novel of Ancient Egypt - Wilber Smith
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Eggs - Jerry Spinelli
East of Eden - John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer - Neal Stephenson
The Little Friend - Donna Tartt
The Death of Ivan Ilych - Leo Tolstoy
Mary Poppins - Pamela L. Travers
Timequake - Kurt Vonnegut
Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story - Diane Ackerman
Paula - Isabel Allende
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt
The Pooh Perplex - Frederick C. Crews
Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire - Amanda Foreman
Marie Antoinette: The Journey - Antonia Fraser
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia - Elizabeth Gilbert
The New Kings of Nonfiction - Ira Glass
The Boys of Summer - Roger Kahn
Dear Bunny, Dear Volodya: The Nabokov-Wilson Letters, 1940-1971 - Simon Karlinsky
A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland Indiana - Haven Kimmel
The Children's Blizzard - David Laskin
Fern Seed and Elephants - C.S. Lewis
Daughter of the Queen of Sheba - Jacki Lyden
Voices of the Faithful - Beth Moore
Mark Twain on Travel - Terry Mort
Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times - The New York TimesIn the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex - Nathaniel Philbrick
Early Bird: A Memoir of Premature Retirement - Rodney Rothman
Jesus Land - Julia Scheeres
Naked - David Sedaris
Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris
Chalked Up: Inside Elite Gymnastics' Merciless Coaching, Overzealous Parents, Eating Disorders, and Elusive Olympic Dreams - Jennifer Sey

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Weekly Read: 5

I didn't get as much reading done this week as I originally wanted, but some weeks are just like that. That's the problem with going out and doing things, I suppose. :)

READ: FLOW: The Cultural Story of Menstruation | Elissa Stein & Susan Kim
When I first saw this book on Goodreads, I was immediately interested in it, both because the cover was so cute, and because it's a topic that I don't know much about as far as the science of it goes. This book is beautifully designed and illustrated, full of ads from as far back as the 1800s and as recent as the 2000s. I loved seeing not only the ads, but also what women had to go through "back in the day" before tampons, pads, and underwear! Shocking, right? ;) While full of interesting and entertaining information, this book was often wordy and overly repetitive. The authors' style was too conversational at times, and a good editing would have cut this book down by at least 50 pages and have still gotten all in all the necessary info. Also, I found the authors to be too aggressively feminist in their opinions, especially in relation to what they call the "femcare" industry. While it is true that perhaps we shouldn't leave education on this topic to companies just trying to sell their products, we shouldn't be mad that these said companies saw that something was lacking and provided the resources to educate women about their bodies? Overall, I did enjoy this book, and would recommend it to all women to read. Men might get a little squeamish, but I'm sure they'd learn a lot, too. :P

READ: Poison Study | Maria V. Snyder
This is one I hadn't heard of before I went looking for a book to fit a task in the Season Reading Challenge (Read a book with a weapon in the title: poison). I'm so glad I picked it up, though - a ya (young adult) fantasy/romance, and the first in what looks to be a fun series, too!  This was an emotional and exciting story that definitely lived up to its exciting premise: a girl, sentenced to die, is given the option to study poisons and live as the commander's food taster. To keep her from running, though, she is given a poison, and must receive the antidote every day in order to survive. Yelena is a fantastic heroine to root for, and Valek a great counterpoint to her character. This is an intriguing world, with what seems to be a rich history to explore, as well as a supporting cast of characters that are entertaining and lovable.  I'll be the first to admit that I am biased to these sorts of books, but I couldn't put it down! I had to stop myself from reading in order to go to sleep, and the next night, I read until it was finished. I'm hoping to pick up the second one in the series in the next few weeks. :)

STARTED: The Children's Book | A. S. Byatt 
This is the 3rd book that was due back to the library on Friday, and clearly I didn't finish in time. At 675 pages, I was not going to get through this one in 2 days unless I read 24 hours a day, and I just didn't have the time. So I returned the book to the library, and bought it for my Kindle. :) I think it will be worth it, though, because I think I will like it, and now my mom and sister can read it, too. I'm about 10% in; so far, so good. This is not a fast-paced-action-thriller type of good, so not much has actually happened so far, but I feel as though I've made some new friends, and gotten to know the characters fairly well. One of the hardest parts of large novels is that there are often lots of characters, and they all blend together; Not so in this one! I think that is definitely a good thing.  P.S: I LOVE this cover! It's so rich and velvety-feeling.

So, this next week will be a finish up week, I think. I want to finish The Children's Book and Watership Down, and hopefully fit in The Egypt Game to finish off the Newbery Medal task for the Winter Challenge. Also, I want to post a list for you tomorrow of all the awesome books I got this weekend during my used-book-buying-fest (aka Bookspedition, or Bookapalooza, or Bookfest) with my friend Cait. Muahaha! :D