Monday, March 29, 2010

The Weekly Read: 12

Not much reading done this week, either, but I at least got my book finished for book club, so yay! I need to pick up the pace, though, before I fall too far behind.

READ: Stardust | Neil Gaiman
This was my pick for our local book club, and I put off reading it for six months so I could have it fresh in my mind when we discussed it. I was very much looking forward to this book because the basic premise was interesting, and then I could watch the movie afterwards. I was therefore slightly disappointed when I started reading and realized I HAD seen the movie, and just hadn't know what it was. I don't know why this bugged me so much, but it did.  Luckily the book is quite different from the movie, and it becomes more and more different as it progresses.  This book was easy to read - it flowed well, and sort-of skimmed along the surface.  The characters were interesting and likable, and I enjoyed the slow, natural way that Tristran and Yvaine's relationship developed. I just wanted to know more about them. You could feel all these details simmering below the surface, but Gaiman just wouldn't tell us. He could fill up several more books with their adventures, as well as the history and workings of the whole Castle group, and I would happily read them (so get to it, Neil Gaiman!). In the end, I liked the story and the writing, and would gladly recommend this book. Just for me personally, it was tough to shake the disappointment.

STARTED: The Betrayal of the Blood Lily | Lauren Willig
This is the 6th book in the Pink Carnation series, which I've been reading for about 4 years. This is my favorite kind of fluffy fiction because it involves happily-ever-after romances and history. This particular series is sort of a story embedded into a story: About 15% of each book is about Eloise and her quest to research and write her dissertation on English spies from the nobility during the Napoleon War. The bulk of each book, though, is a story involving one of the spies she is researching. The characters are all interconnected, so you see them popping up in each other's stories, which I love, because it feels like you are checking in on old friends. This story has been as entertaining as the previous ones so far, with the added benefit of being set in India.

This coming week I will hopefully finish both Betrayal of the Blood Lily and Island, which I started last week. After that, who knows? I have a busy weekend coming up yet again, so it all depends on how much free time I end up with.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Weekly Read: 11

I didn't find much time to read this week. The fact that I watched a whole season of Angel on DVD probably didn't help. :) Also, I just wasn't as in to the ones I was reading this week.

READ: The Book of Samson | David Maine
This was an interesting and innovative retelling of the Biblical story of Samson, but something about the style rubbed me the wrong way. I'm not a fan of the "If I knew then what I know now" style of flashback storytelling - it feels so depressing, and doesn't let you live in the moment and really experience the story. I also didn't feel like I really got to know Samson as well as I did Noah from The Preservationist. He remained fairly one-dimensional throughout the story; though we heard about his life, his battles, his women, we didn't hear enough about who he was or what he felt. There were certainly entertaining moments, but overall, I didn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to. It could be that I just don't like the story of Samson as much as the story of Noah.

STARTED: Island | Aldous Huxley
This is another book from the Lost Lit List. I was looking forward to reading it, and the first chapter or so has a very Lost feel to it, but it's moving pretty slowly, and I'm not quite sure what the point is yet. I'll keep reading though.

Next week, I'm hoping to finish Island, and then I finally get to read Stardust, my pick for our book club. The meeting is next Sunday, but I shouldn't have any problem getting it read. :) Happy reading!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Weekly Read: 10

Another week, and two more books read. I still don't feel like I'm reading enough, though. I'm not sure why exactly, but maybe my ever-growing to-read list has something to do with it.

READ: The Preservationist | David Maine
I grew up going to church, and stories from the Bible have been woven into my memory since birth. Perhaps because of this, I love reading reinterpretations of Biblical stories, where you can get to know the characters a bit more, and see them in their historical context. I've been wanting to read this particular book about Noah and the Flood since I first heard of it a year ago.  The Flood is one of my favorite stories in the Bible, but so many of the particularities of it, what makes it so incredible and miraculous, seem to be glossed over. The animals came, but how? It rained for 40 days, and then they floated for 150 days, but how did they survive? Noah lived HOW LONG? The Preservationist is a realistic and practical account of the Biblical Flood story. Maine brings all the facts into focus: these are real people, who somehow, through faith and determination, built a floating barn in the middle of the desert, collected animals from over the world, and did it all without knowing why or how or what to expect. Characters, even those unnamed, are given shape and feelings and opinions, and we truly come to know them. The flood is given a sense of scale: you can feel each of those 150 days of just floating, and can see the destruction of the whole earth, everything except what was in that boat.  One thing that all of the characters wrestled with was WHY God sent the flood, and they never come to a consensus. I like what Mirn says at the end, though: "Did Papa say God reigns over everything or did he say God rains over everything and does it matter? Because I'm pretty sure it does. It seems like one of them says, God is in charge, so watch your step. And the others days, God can take away everything but he'll give back everything too, so it's up to us what to make of the sun and rain and all the animals and whatever else we find." I think Mirn is right.  Mirn was my favorite character - so matter-of-fact, calm, simple, hard-working, and deceptively smart.  Overall, I very much enjoyed this book, and would definitely recommend it.

READ: The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game | Michael Lewis
After seeing the movie The Blind Side, which is based on this book, I knew I wanted to read this one. It was a great movie, and I was convinced this would be an equally great book. Luckily, I was not disappointed! I knew going into the book that this was not just the story of Michael Oher, like the movie was. Perhaps because of that, I was happily surprised at how much of the book was taken up by Michael's story. It is truly a fascinating tale, one that is hardly believable as fact, but you can see the truth of it in front of you, when you look up pictures of the Tuohy family and see Oher playing for the Ravens. Intertwined with Michael's engrossing life story is not just a brief history football, but an impeccably researched history of how the game has changed in the last 30 years. Before reading this book, I could have named maybe 4 or 5 positions in football, and the left tackle was not one of them. I could have told you that Walter Jones was an important part of the Seahawks football team (because I'm from Seattle), but I couldn't have told you what he actually did that was so important. I had heard the term "west coast offense" throw around for ages, but never knew what it meant. I couldn't imagine a team without a passing game. But now, I finally feel like I could hold an intelligent conversation about the sport of football. And not only was I educated about football while reading this book, I enjoyed it! Lewis' writing is full of wit and intelligence, and there was not a slow moment. Now if only he could sit down and explain what the rest of the football team does to me. This is one book that I didn't want to end.

STARTED: The Book of Samson | David Maine
After reading The Preservationist, I immediately wanted to start Maine's book about Samson. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have the same flow as The Preservationist - it seems a lot of the action is told flashback-style, set apart by phrases like, "I didn't know this at the time but..." and "If I had known then that..." For some reason, these always kind of bug me. Anyway, I was easily distracted from this one and ended up reading The Blind Side instead. :)

Up for this week: finishing The Book of Samson. Then I'll maybe spend some more time with the Lost Lit List and read Island by Aldous Huxley and The Diaries of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain.  Happy reading!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Weekly Read: 9

Another week, and two more books read. I'm happy to say that I am on track to read 100 books this year, yay! Hopefully I can keep it up.

READ: Bonk | Mary Roach
My expectations were too high for this one. Last spring, I read Mary Roach's first book, Stiff, and loved it. Unfortunately, Bonk just doesn't live up.  It was a much drier and slower read, and overall, I just wasn't as entertained. There were, of course, interesting parts, and Roach certainly goes all out in pursuit of her subject, but in the end, there just wasn't enough to say. This book probably would have benefited from having more studies to talk about, but the problem is, there just isn't that much serious research going on about sex. And despite Roach's claims that it's just as important as other medical research, I remain unconvinced.

READ: Watership Down | Richard Adams
This is a book that under my previous reading system, I never would have finished. If I got bored with a book, I would stop reading it for a while, and never pick it up again. And I would have missed out, because this truly is a great book. The first 20% was slow, and I was afraid the only plot was going to be bunnies hopping from field to field. Guess what? I was wrong. As soon as the group of rabbit refugees reach Cowslip's mysterious warren, things start to get exciting, and the following 400 pages are filled with as much conflict and tension as any action movie. You grow to love these characters as you would any other, human or not. Each one brings different skills and personalities to the group; without each one, the group as a whole might not have survived. This book is not just about rabbits; it's about surviving adversity through perseverance, cleverness, and sheer heart. It's about not compromising on what you know you deserve out of life.  The is one of the books on the Lost List: Sawyer is seen reading it on the beach during a couple of episodes in season 1, and Boone later claims that he brought it with him to read in Australia.  The book's thematic connection to Lost is especially strong during the first few seasons, when a lot of the survivors' time was spent doing just that: surviving. As in the book, the group is full of unique characters that each bring something different to the table, and they must band together to face adversaries that seem at times both mysterious and other-worldly strong. I would definitely recommend this book, and not just to fans of Lost.

That's it for this week. I'm not exactly sure what I'll read in the next week, but I'm thinking of reading a couple of books by David Maine that I've been looking forward to: The Preservationist and The Book of Samson. Happy Reading!