2009 Reads for Marcia (allthesedarnbooks) Part 2: 76+
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My previous thread can be found here:
In that post, I have a ticker, as well as an ongoing complete list with links, both of which I will continue to edit to keep them up to date, as I am geeky about things like lists. (I figure we all are, or else we wouldn't be here... Ahem.) Anyway, moving onward, here are my thoughts on my latest reads.
76. Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau by Martha Ward
I loved this book! I picked it up in a roundabout way; I was searching for a different book on my library database, and this title came up by accident. My local library didn't have it, so I immediately requested it from another branch. I'm very happy that I did, as it was immensely fascinating. Ward writes about the two famous women who have been combined in popular memory into one, the mother and daughter, both named Marie Laveau. There's not a lot of information about either woman for many reasons; records have been lost or destroyed, rumors and legends have been treated as facts, besides the two Maries profiled there were numerous other women (some related, some not) by the same name living in New Orleans in the 19th century. Ward does an admirable job tracking down facts about the women's lives, dispelling myths about voodoo, while at the same time never taking away from the immense spiritual impact that is their legacy. I learned not only about these two remarkable priestesses and voodoo in general, but also about life as a Creole, a woman, and a free person of color in 19th century New Orleans. Highly recommended; five stars.
77. The Vampire of Ropraz by Jacques Chessex; translated by Donald W. Wilson
This is a bizarre, disturbing little book. At just over a hundred pages, it manages to be full of intense, graphic images. The author takes the true story of a crime committed in rural Switzerland in 1903. The corpse of a young woman is found violated, then those of two more women, before a mentally ill, disfigured farm boy is found in an act of bestiality and accused of the crimes. This book... ugh. I really did not like it. The prose is spare and cold, except for the descriptions of the various crimes, which are grisly and overly detailed. This book also contains one of the most stomach turning scenes of child abuse that I have ever read. The very last page or so was intriguing, and there were moments when I felt that the author was really going to make a point about the nature of poverty, abuse, and violence, but he never really got there. This is a gruesome book with no deeper meaning. What's more, there are no real characters; even the perpetrator of the crimes is barely developed as an individual. If you are interested in terrifying scenes of necrophilia, mutilation, rape, bestiality, and child abuse with no further story, then you might enjoy this book. Otherwise, steer clear from it. I wish I had. 1/2 a star.
I am going to start looking for Voodoo Queen. The other one - I do not think so!
I certainly would not want to lose your thread. You are one of the major contributors to my tbr pile. I'm heading to the library later this morning and I hope to get a copy of Voodoo Queen..then I'm heading to Barnes and Noble for a coy of Zeitoun highly recommended by Arubabookwoman (Deborah), another major contributor...then, I'm looking for Impossible a book recommended on the kitchen thread by scarpettajunkie....oh, not to mention Stasia and the hundreds I find on her thread that I simply cannot resist.
I'm taking Will with me so he can help to carry them all. .... He doesn't know it yet, so I'll make a fresh pot of coffee to be nice to him in the hope he helps me.
>6 alcottacre:, Actually Stasia I started reading What the Moon Saw this morning, and it's doing a good job of cleansing my palate!
>8 Whisper1:, Linda, I hope you can get Voodoo Queen and that you enjoy it. I just added Zeitoun to my wishlist last night, actually, and Impossible's been on there for a while. You're a great contributor to my pile, too, lol... That is if you're talking about the same Nancy Werlin book!
78. What the Moon Saw by Laura Resau
I absolutely adored this book! It's the story of 14-year-old Clara Luna, who lives in suburban Maryland with her family. Her father, who crossed the border from Mexico illegally many years ago, never speaks of his parents or his youth in Mexico. One day, just as she is feeling restless and yearning for something, Clara receives a letter from her grandparents, inviting her to visit them in rural Mexico. When she arrives, at first she is shocked at the way they live, and doesn't think she will be able to survive without the conveniences and luxuries she is accustomed to back home. She begins to explore the wilderness around Yucuyoo, her grandparents' village. She makes friends with Pedro, a young goatherder, and learns about healing from her grandmother. Clara's story is alternated with chapters narrating her grandmother, Helena's, experiences growing up in the late 1930s and discovering her own healing abilities. Finally, with the help of her grandparents, Pedro, and the beautiful natural surroundings, Clara finally comes to feel like her "inside matches her outside." This one is definitely a keeper, one that I fully intend to pass onto my own children someday. Highly, highly recommended. Five stars!
I saw this on a bunch of your threads, and I just couldn't resist.
What were the last three books you bought?
Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels
Cooking Basics for Dummies
Falling in Love with Natassia
What are the next three books you want to buy?
Hmm, this is bound to change, but I have the following in my Book Depository cart:
The Way of Shadows
The Secret History of Moscow
Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry
Let the Right One In
The Implacable Order of Things
And that's six, not three...
Which book would you most like as a gift from someone?
Something I haven't read from my wishlist, or that really touched their soul. A nice edition of one of my favorites.
Which book would you most like to give someone as a present?
Really depends on the person I'm buying for and their tastes!
Who are your 3 favorite authors?
Hard to decide on just three! But maybe
Which three books will you buy as soon as they are published?
The Silver Blade by Sally Gardner
The next George R.R. Martin Song of Ice and Fire book
Strange Fate by L.J. Smith
Who are your 3 favourite characters in books?
Hard! Emily from L.M. Montgomery's Emly books (Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and Emily's Quest), Anne from her Anne of Green Gables series, Alanna from Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness Quartet are my childhood favorites and probably still my favorite.
Which three books did you inherit (not necessarily physically, but as recommendations from parents)?
Misty of Chincoteague (from my mom)
Einstein's Dreams (from my dad)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn/Maggie-Now (from my grandma)
Which three books would you love to pass down to your children?
Off the top of my head?
Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech
Anne of Green Gables (and its sequels)
D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths
Which three books do you most often recommend?
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
The Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
If you were going into hospital, which three books would you take with you?
I would take a huge pile of books I hadn't read yet, which is what I did when I had brain surgery, lol. It worked out really well, as you might imagine...
If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you want to find there?
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder - great comfort read to remind me of winter
War and Peace - so I could finally finish it
The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson - a lifetime's worth of poems that you can get something new from on every reading
Your house is burning down and you can only rescue three books, which would you grab?
My mom's copy of Misty of Chincoteague
My grandma's copies of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn/Maggie Now and Gone With the Wind
Which book would you like your children to look at and immediately remember you by?
I don't know... Emily of New Moon maybe.
Which book would you like to be buried with?
None. I'll leave them to my loved ones and/or the library. Plus, I want to be cremated.
What are you reading right now?
Enclave by Kit Reed
Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend by Joshua Blu Buhs
A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce
This was a pretty good book about life in New Orleans before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. Baum follows the lives of nine citizens of New Orleans. It took me a while to get into it. For the first 100 pages or so, I had a hard time keeping the people straight. After that, it picks up considerably. I had two problems with the book. First, it really gets interesting when you start to see how the people you've gotten to know handle the disaster and tragedy of Katrina, and I felt that the section about the storm itself was too short and lacking in detail, and that the section about afterward was also not long enough, especially in comparison with the build up. I felt that a lot of the "stories" were not properly wrapped up. Some of the "characters" were hardly featured in the last section at all. Secondly, I wish there had been a little more diversity amongst the people profiled. New Orleans is a very diverse city, and while there were rich and poor blacks and whites, there were no other minorities. There were also, IMO, not enough women. Three out of 9, one of whom was born a man. Women's lives are just as interesting as men's. Overall, however, a very good read. It whetted my appetite to read more about Katrina, and I'm always interested in reading more about New Orleans. Recommended. Four stars.
On a somewhat related note, I watched an extremely interesting documentary last night called On the Order of Myths. It's about Mardi Gras, and while it takes place in Mobile, Alabama, not New Orleans, I think there are some similar issues raised. In Nine Lives, one of the main topics of discussion is the integration of carnival krewes, and in Mobile, Mardi Gras is still segregated. It's an intriguing film about race and tradition in the South. It's available on DVD, or if you have Netflix, to watch instantly on your computer, which I did.
P.S.--glad to see you are doing better, and are back with us, marcia. :)
Ok science fiction/fantasy novel. Sarge starts a boarding school on an abandoned monastery island, isolating the students and telling them that the end of the world is imminent... but is it really? Didn't hold my interest consistently. Three stars.
81. A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
Interesting YA fantasy novel, setting the tale of Rumpelstiltskin in an early Industrial Revolution mill setting. A little too long, but definitely an enjoyable read. Three and a half stars.
This is the second book in Harris's Lily Bard series, after Shakespeare's Landlord, which I read last year. I really enjoyed it. Lily is a great character, and I really feel like I get to know her better with each book (I've also read, out of order, Shakespeare's Trollop). She is, in my opinion, the most complex of Harris's heroines, and I much prefer her to Aurora Teagarden or Sookie Stackhouse. A great little mystery. Four stars.
I'm currently reading Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans. I agree that it is a bit difficult to get into at first, but now that I got the hang of it, I'm enjoying it. Deb, thanks for recommending this one and other Katrina/New Orleans books!
>34 Whisper1:, Yay! Glad you like it, Linda. I agree it's hard to get into, but it does get better. I guess my main problem was that once I finally got into it, it ended too soon!
>39 alcottacre:, Thanks Stasia! Lily's just such an amazing character, she really makes the series stand out from the usual mysteries I read.
Using only books you have read this year (2009), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title.
How do you feel:
Describe where you currently live:
Dry Storeroom No. 1
If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
Toward the Distant Islands
Your favorite form of transportation:
Feet of Clay
Your best friend is:
You and your friends are:
What’s the weather like:
What the Moon Saw
What is the best advice you have to give:
Secrets to Happiness
Thought for the day:
How I would like to die:
The Shortest Way to Hades
My soul’s present condition:
A Certain Slant of Light
83. The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
It had been a long time since I'd visited Discworld, and after hanging out around here enough, I was eager to go back again, and start from the beginning. This is the first in the series, and I had never read it before. While it's not as even as the later books, I still quite enjoyed it. I know a lot of people don't care for Rincewind, but I find him fairly amusing. Death makes his first memorable appearance, and the tropes of high fantasy are delightfully lampooned. If you haven't read a lot of fantasy, you won't find this as funny; it's definitely not as pop culture funny as some of his other books. I liked it a lot, though. Four stars.
84. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
This was a disappointing YA novel. The premise is intriguing: a post-apocalyptic, dystopian society hiding from zombies. OMG, though, the book is just incredibly boring. It was a struggle to finish... How can the author make zombies this boring? I guess that's an accomplishment, but not necessarily something to be proud of. Kind of reminded me of the movie The Village. I would recommend avoiding this one unless you're SUPER into zombies or post-apoc. Two stars.
85. Undead and Unpopular by MaryJanice Davidson
Found this one when going through some unshelved boxes of books and cataloging them. I was glad I picked it up! I'd forgotten how enjoyable this series is. This is the fifth book in the Betsy series, which starts with Undead and Unwed. I laughed out loud at several points, and it was a great escape from my everyday life. Nothing deep, but loads of fun! Three and a half stars.
>44 ronincats:, You should try them, Roni! They are good quick reads, big print, and funny. Similar to the Sookie Stackhouse books, only less mystery and action, more laughs and chick lit.
I've heard so many positive things about The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I really must read this soon.
86. Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tam
This book is, as the title states, a guide to romance novels by the authors of one of my favorite blogs, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. The blog is witty, funny, and full of romance novel recommendations. The book... well, I was a little disappointed. It's not that it wasn't funny; it was. It was just extremely disorganized, and it was a lot of fluff and not a lot of substance. It's pretty similar to the blog, and while the style used works really well in that format, for a book it leaves something to be desired. There were some interesting discussions of the history of romance, it's cliches, etc. I would've liked more. There were a few recommendations of books, based on subgenre (pirate romance, time travel, etc.); again, I would've loved more. There were lots of silly, funny little lists; I could've done without the majority of them. Cute, but nothing life-changing. Overall, recommended for hardcore fans of the blog and romance junkies; for anyone else, I think reading the blog will be enough. Three stars.
87. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery; translated by Alison Anderson
I had read a lot of really positive things about this book on LT. I went into it with some trepidation, certain that it couldn't live up to the praise I had heard. Wow, was I wrong! Not only did it meet the high standard I was expecting, it surpassed it on just about every level. There's lots of philosophy and Art, but the real meat of the story is the characters: Renee, the self-educated concierge who hides from the world; Paloma, the 12-year-old genius; and Ozu, the Japanese man who befriends them both. Their not perfect characters, and at times I found some of their opinions pretentious, but they are REAL. The story starts out slow and builds subtly until by the last 50 pages or so, I could not put it down. I got it out from the library, but this is one I will buy and reread, which isn't something I do very often. Highly recommended. I gave it five stars for the sake of LT ratings, but in reality, it's worth about five hundred stars.
Finished another one...
88. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
The second of the Discworld series, in chronological order. Another one featuring Rincewind. Funny. I enjoyed it... can't wait to get to the witches, though! Four stars.
I picked up a copy of The Elegance of the Hedgehog before I saw it on the ER list, and haven't gotten to it yet. Need to bump it up the leaning tower of TBRs for post-move reading :)
I thought of you last night. I belong to a book club held at my local library. The elegance of the Hedgehog was mentioned as a book to discuss. One member said she didn't like the book, all others in the group who have read it almost jumped out of their chairs at her telling her to go back and re-read it because indeed it is an excellent book.
>58 suslyn:, Welcome back, Susan, and thanks!
I've been busy and haven't had that much time for reading lately, and I've also been suffering from a case of the dreaded Book Funk and have started a ton of books and not finished them. I did manage to read one, however:
89. Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies: the Straight Scoop on Freemasons, the Illuminati, Skull and Bones, Black Helicopters, the New World Order, and many, many more by Arthur Goldwag
This was an interesting, if flawed book. It consists of articles covering many "cults," conspiracies, and secret societies. I had two major problems with the book: One, Goldwag doesn't always reference his sources, and when he does, he does so inconsistently. There are no footnotes, or even endnotes. Sometimes he references his sources directly in the text, but there are many articles where he doesn't cite sources at all. I understand that a lot of what he cited was from unconventional sources, due to the nature of his subjects, but I still wanted to know where the info was coming from. My second problem was that there was so much information presented, but the articles were so short on each group/theory, etc. The addition of cults seemed odd, in particular; while I could somewhat see grouping conspiracies and secret societies together, since a lot of conspiracies are about secret societies, the cults didn't seem that related. It could easily have been two, if not three, more comprehensive, informative books. Still an interesting read, especially the part about the conspiratorial mindset. I, for one, started to understand a lot of current conspiracy theory, ie. some of the more fringe beliefs about President Obama, in context with ideas that have been around longer. Worth a read if you're interested in the subject, but not a comprehensive look by any means. Three stars.
90. Shakespeare's Christmas
91. French Kissing
92. Genesis: A Novel by Bernard Beckett
90. Shakespeare's Christmas
Another entry in the Lily Bard mystery series. In this one, Lily leaves Shakespeare to go back to her hometown for her sister's wedding. We learn more about her past and her family, and when people start getting murdered, and her PI lover Jack shows up on a missing child assignment, the mystery heats up. I really enjoyed the development of the relationship between Lily and Jack. While it was interesting to learn more about Lily, I missed the peripheral characters back in Shakespeare. Three and a half stars.
91. French Kissing by Nancy Warren
I went into this book with fairly low expectations. I was sick, and looking for something light, so I picked this one from my collection of Harlequin Blazes. For those of you who aren't familiar with category romance, Blaze is Harlequin's "sexy" category. The good ones are steamy and exciting; the bad ones are like watching porno paint dry. This one was not just good and steamy; it was excellent. The sex wasn't what made it good (there were several run-of-the-mill scenes, and one very hot chapter involving photography) but the characters. The heroine, Kimi Renton, is a fashion editor for an upscale Manhattan magazine. Holden MacGregor is a PI working undercover to solve a couture theft. They meet in Paris. The plot is kind of silly, but the writing and the characters raise it way above regular category romance fare. Every once in a while you find an author who really speaks to your sense of what a romance novel should be, and for me, Nancy Warren is one of those authors. I will definitely be checking out her backlist. Four and a half stars.
I know you guys are eagerly awaiting thoughts on the Beckett, but I still need to wait for my head to clear up a little before I can give it the serious attention it deserves. But I did like it!
92. Genesis: A Novel by Bernard Beckett (Can't get the touchstone to work on the title, so I put it on the author and you should be able to get to the work page, I think.)
This was a short, interesting little book. Set in a not-so-distant dystopian future, the novel centers around Anaximander, a young student, who is being questioned by the members of the Academy, in order to gain a place among their ranks. It is through this interview that we learn the history of the society Anax lives in. I don't want to give too much away, but it's all about the nature of humanity and freedom, with a great twist at the end. I'm not sure about the style of the book, it almost reads like a play, with pages of dialogue, and I'm not sure it wouldn't have worked better that way. Still recommended, especially for fans of dystopian literature, or people who are interested in artificial intelligence. Three and a half stars.
93. Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Another fun Discworld novel. This is the first one to introduce my personal favorite character of all time, Granny Weatherwax. Eskarina, a young girl, is left a staff and power by a dying wizard, who mistakes her for an eighth son, instead of a daughter after seven boys. The problem is wizards are meant to be men, and women are meant to be witches, and nary the two shall meet. Esk is taken under the wing of Granny, they head off towards Unseen University, and much fun ensues. Four stars.
I'm stopping by to wave hello and to say I hope you are feeling much, much better.
94. Murder Uncorked by Michele Scott (touchstone wasn't working, so the page is here.)
This is the first in the Wine Lovers mystery series. It was an enjoyable cozy mystery. There were some great descriptions of wines, and some excellent recipes. The writing style was a little weak, and the mystery was so-so, but the characterization and setting were interesting enough that I will probably read more of the series. Three stars.
95. Beth and the Bachelor by Susan Mallery (touchstone wasn't working, so the page is here.)
CatyM recommended this romance on her thread, and while I didn't enjoy it quite as much as she did, I really liked it a lot. I don't read very many Silhouette Special Editions (when I'm in the mood for a category, I usually pick up a Harlequin Blaze or a Silhouette Intimate Moments/Romantic Suspense). The heroine of this one, the titular Beth, is a 38-year-old widow with two children. The hero, Todd, is a millionaire playboy whom Beth's friends win her a date with at a charity auction. The date is a disaster, and at first it seems like they have nothing in common. However, Todd pursues Beth, much to her amazement, and a relationship slowly blossoms between them. I loved the way their relationship developed organically. Beth and Todd are both well-drawn characters, and Beth in particular is achingly real. So real, in fact, that when her insecurities threatened to derail her, I had to put the book down because it hit too close to home. Even though I'm only 24, and not a widow, the way she feels about her body is one of the more realistic portrayals of a woman's issues with her body that I've read in a romance. The peripheral characters (Beth's friends, her children) are weak, especially in comparison with the in-depth characterization of Beth and Todd, but that's to be expected in the length restraints of a category romance. My only major problem was with the sex scenes. My expectations are different after reading Blazes and other contemporary romances, but the sex scenes here just read to me as unbelievably cheesy and cliched. I understand not wanting to use vulgar language to describe the sex, but every time Beth referred to her "feminine place" all I could think of was a Kotex ad, and some of Todd's romantic lines made me laugh out loud. I think it would have been just about a perfect, short, sweet romance if the sex had been excluded altogether, or if it was merely alluded to by the author. Four stars.
Aha: I found a review of it (as well as the title) here:
One of my favorite romances is Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie, which features a curvy heroine.
96. Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews
I loved this cozy murder mystery, the first in a series! Thanks to everybody in the group who recommended it. Funny, laugh out loud, light, perfect escape reading... Everything I would've liked from Murder Uncorked, but was never delivered! I will definitely be reading more of this series. Four stars.
My TBR pile is filled with your recommendations, and so many books that I've read this year I found on your thread! Murder With Peacocks sounds delightful!
97. Ill Wind - Rachel Caine
This is the first book in the Weather Wardens series. It's fun, fairly inventive urban fantasy, complete with djinn and some great twists. I will look for more in the series. Three and a half stars.
98. Wednesday Wars - Gary D. Schmidt
Thanks to Linda, Stasia, and everyone else who recommended this one! I will go ahead and admit that this is not a book I would have picked up on my own, Newbery Honor book or not. Maybe it's the twelve-year-old girl still inside of me, but usually when I read young adult books, I tend to pick up ones with female protagonists. Kudos if there's romance or something paranormal in nature. This book is set in 1967 Long Island, narrated by a seventh grade boy, the awesomely named Holling Hoodhood. As the book starts, Holling is convinced that his seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Baker, hates his guts. While the other students in his class go to Catholic or Jewish religious education classes, Holling, a Presbyterian, is forced to stay alone with Mrs. Baker. Eventually they start reading Shakespeare together. Sounds like a fairly simple story, right? Think again. In the hands of Schmidt, what could be a basic, boring coming of age story is a masterpiece. I laughed out loud and I sobbed out loud, sometimes within the space of the same page. I really cannot recommend this book enough. Highly recommended for kids and adults! Five stars.
Like you, it's not one that I would normally seek out; but you, Linda, and Stasia have convinced me!
>92 lunacat:, I don't know Jenny! When I was a kid, I was never into reading books with male protagonists, and as I've grown up, I notice it still happens, to an embarrassing extent. If the book doesn't have a female main character, or isn't written by a woman, the chances of me picking it up decrease greatly. It's not just YA books for me! I've tried in the last few years to read more books by men, from a male perspective, but my library is still predominantly female. I don't feel that bad about it, though, since the traditional literary canon is so male and misogynistic. Whatever the case is, I just prefer girl books!
99. Amuse Bouche - Anthony Bidulka
This is the first in the Russell Quant mystery series, another delight I would never have discovered if not for this group. Russell is a great hero-- a gay PI living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which is awesome, because so rarely do we see either gay people or private investigators living outside of New York or LA in our literature. Great characterization, funny one-liners, and a pretty good mystery. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more in the series. Four stars.
100. Mort - Terry Pratchett
Another hilarious Discworld book. In this one, Death takes an apprentice, Mort. Mort is a great character, as is Death's daughter, Ysabell, and his manservant, Albert, but Death is the real star. When he takes a vacation to experience human life... just delicious, funny stuff. Four stars.
>97 Whisper1: Thanks Linda! Hugs back (over the interwebs I'm not even contagious!).
>98 ronincats:, Roni, I think I read Reaper Man years ago when I did my original Pratchett run. I don't remember a lot of the details, though, just being amused. Right now I'm trying to read the Disworld books in publication (in spite of the recommended reading order chart), so hopefully I'll get to it sometime soon.
I'm pretty much on the mend, except for a lingering croupy cough.
101. Power Play - Nancy Warren
This is another fun contemporary romance by Nancy Warren. The sex is hot, but not too over the top for a Blaze. Emily and Jonah are stuck in a room together after an unfortunate bedbug incident and further failures on the part of the hotel staff. Emily's in town for her cousin's wedding, Jonah for a hockey tournament. Sparks fly, at first they think just sexually, but then when Emily is in danger they both realize it's become something more. Fun, sexy romance. I didn't like it as much as I did French Kissing, but still heads and tails above typical category romance far. Four stars.
I'm currently reading Wolf Hall, which is excellent!
Wolf Hall sounds very interesting. Thanks.
102. Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel (touchstone doesn't seem to be working all of a sudden, so work page is here: http://www.librarything.com/work/9209435/book/50764601 )
Other members of this group have written really amazing reviews of this book. I can't hope to stand up to theirs, but I'll throw in my two cents nonetheless. This is historical fiction at its finest: it draws you in, recreates the scene with detail and emotion, and makes you care about people long dead. Set during the reign of Henry VIII, this book chronicles the life of Thomas Cromwell, born to a drunk and abusive blacksmith, who rises to become Master Secretary and adviser to the king. The politics are intriguing, Cromwell is sympathetic, and the portrait of the Tudor Court is fascinating. The book is written in a different style than I'm used to in my historical fiction. Mantel refers to Cromwell as "he" rather than by name, which causes a lot of confusion at first when their are other males present in the scene. However, the immediacy of this point of view overcomes the downfalls, and I soon found myself absorbed. The view Mantel presents of Sir Thomas More was somewhat shocking, for a Catholic school girl like myself. This is a lengthy, exciting glimpse into another time. Highly recommended, especially for fans of historical fiction, or those who are disappointed with the Phillipa Gregory-izing of the Tudor era. Five stars.
103. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt - Aimee Bender
I chanced upon this collection of short stories while wandering the fiction stacks at my local library. The title and the cover drew me in; I started reading the first story, and I couldn't put it down. I checked it out, took it home, and finished it within a few hours.
This collection is probably not for everyone. It's absurd, it's bizarre, it's surreal. Bender mixes sexuality, grief, and the imagination in a way that is at once fascinating and repellent. On first glance, many of the stories seem light, insubstantial, comical. Many of them take on the familiar style of fairy tales. But each one has a dark underbelly, much like life itself. They are confusing, incomplete, imperfect, and completely haunting. I finished the book and I found that I couldn't stop thinking about them. This is a book that will stick with me, and one that I will probably have to read again.
My favorite stories were "Drunken Mimi," a high school love story about an imp and a mermaid, both pretending to be human; "What You Left in the Ditch," the heartbreaking tale of a woman whose husband returns from the war with no lips and her attempts to deal with the loss; and "The Healer," a tale of two mutant girls in a small isolated town, one with a hand of fire, the other with a hand of ice.
Highly recommended for fans of magical realism and inventive symbolic prose. I loved it, in spite of, because of, all its weirdness. I will definitely be looking to read more by Bender. Five stars.
Love those serendipitous library discoveries. That hardly ever seems to happen to me any more - my 'preferred' library doesn't have the range to put out interesting books, and the Central library is just too confusing. I have really happy memories of discovering new writers at the library as a child, in a way I don't nowadays.
104. Murder with Puffins - Donna Andrews
This is the second book in the mystery series starring Meg Langslow. Her boyfriend Michael, her colorful family, and unfriendly little dog Spike all reappear, as well. Not as funny as the first book, but still a cute, cozy mystery novel. Three and a half stars.
105. Sourcery - Terry Pratchett
Another fun Discworld book. This is my favorite, so far, of the books starring Rincewind. It's a lot funnier than The Color of Magic or The Light Fantastic. Also, the Luggage plays a big role in this book, and I absolutely adore the Luggage. Funny, light, escape reading. Four stars.
106. The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters
I was a little disappointed in this gothic period piece, mostly because I'm such a huge fan of Sarah Waters. I haven't yet read her The Night Watch, set during World War II, but I'd say I definitely prefer her Victorian-era set novels (ie Fingersmith) to this one, but that could just be a historical era preference in general. The ghost story is subtle, probably too subtle for me. I like my ghosts with a bang. Still a good book, but not, in my opinion, her best. Three stars.
107. The Girls - Lori Lansens
This book absolutely took my breath away. It's easily one of the best books I've read in 2009. Thanks to everyone in this group who recommended it. I owe you guys!
The book is primarily narrated by Rose Darlen, one of a set of two conjoined twins, with occasional chapters from her sister, Ruby. Abandoned by their young mother after birth, the girls were raised by loving older couple Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash in a small town in rural Ontario. The prose is wonderful, but the characterization is really the star of this novel. Although Ruby doesn't speak as often as Rose, they are both separate, multi-dimensional, and, most important, interesting characters. Just wonderful, wonderful stuff. I can't recommend this book highly enough. Five stars.
108. All My Patients Have Tales: Favorite Stories from a Vet's Practice - Jeff Wells
This book about a mixed practice veterinarian was enjoyable, but not for the weak-stomached, as there's no shortage of blood, feces, and other animal excretions. It's composed of a series of essays relating some memorable moments in the author's first years of practice. A few of the stories are laugh-out-loud and many are filled with in-depth detail of medical procedures. The stories are ok, but they often seem to lack the human (or animal) element that is so necessary in books of this nature. I read this book because the blurb's on the back compared it to James Herriot's classics, but Wells lacks Herriot's warmth and style. I'd recommend this is if you're really interested in veterinary medicine or want to read anything about animals you can get your hands on, but for the average reader, I'd say go read (or re-read) Herriot instead. Three stars.
And your rec, like Stasia's, was one of the reasons I read The Girls in the first place, so thank you very much for that!
109. Warbreaker -Brandon Sanderson
I really enjoyed this fantasy novel. The worldbuilding was excellent, although it took me a long time to catch on to the magical system. That could be a problem with my comprehension abilities, not the writing, however. The characters were really great, especially one of the main female characters, Siri, who grows from a rebellious princess into a smart, strong leader. Her sister, Vivenna, wasn't as likable for me, mostly because she made some very stupid choices through most of the book, but by the end she had grown half a brain and I was ashamed to root for her as well. The only thing I didn't like about it's book was its exhausting length at 592 pages. I didn't notice it for the last 100 or 200 pages when the action really picked up, but there were some points in the middle that could have been more tighly edited. Still, this book's a winner and I will definitely be looking to read more of Sanderson's books. If you like your fantasy with strong female (and male!) characters, complex religious and political systems, and zombies (yes, zombies!) this book is for you. Four and a half stars.
110. Grave Secret - Charlaine Harris
This is the fourth book in Harris's Harper Connelly series. It's very good, but I do suggest reading the series in order, so that the development of the characters is clear. Harper, who was hit by lightning as a teenager, has the unique ability to find and "hear" dead bodies. She travels around the country with her stepbrother and now lover, Tolliver. This book really delves into their troubled pasts, especially the disappearance of Harper's sister, Cameron. If you've followed the series, this book is very rewarding. Harper becomes more and more real as the book goes on, and it's a testament to Harris's abilities at an author that although I, like many of the people Harper and Tolliver meet, would normally be weirded out by the fact that they were raised as brother and sister but are now "together", for them it makes perfect sense and you really feel the need they have for one another. A great entry in what is, IMHO, tied with the Lily Bard books for Harris's best series. Four stars.
P.S. is anyone else having problems loading some of the group pages? Mine won't go to past page 1, and I don't know if it's my computer, or what.
I'm having the same problem with the group pages. There's a Bug Collectors thread here, though not many people seem to be complaining yet.
Warbreaker was very good. It was the first Brandon Sanderson I've read, and I really enjoyed it. The worldbuilding was excellent, although it took me a long time to catch on to the magical system. The characters were really great, as well, especially one of the main female characters, Siri. I will definitely be looking to read more of his books. I have Elantris already, so I will probably read that next, and then go for the Mistborn trilogy.
>127 _Zoe_:, Thanks, Zoe! I'm looking forward to Elantris whenever I get to it, and knowing that you enjoyed it definitely is a good sign! The Alcatraz books look like fun, too, and I'd add Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians to my wishlist if it weren't already there!
>128 jadebird:, You're more than welcome, jadebird! I hope you enjoy Warbreaker as much as I did. Happy Holidays to you, too!
111. Tis the Season - Lorna Landvik
This book was a pleasant little surprise. I picked it up on a whim off the Christmas display at the library, not expecting much. I don't usually go in for holiday themed reading, due to the cheese factor, but this year I was feeling festive, so I thought what the hey. This book is written in epistolary form, including some emails and gossip columns, and while it starts out slow, it really picks up towards the middle for a satisfying conclusion. Caro, a rich, alcoholic heiress, has just gotten out of rehab when she reaches out to her former nanny, Astrid, and the man whose dude ranch she stayed at as a teenager, Cyril. What follows is a Christmas miracle of friendship and love. This was sappy, yes, and the characters could have been more developed, but in the end it was exactly what I needed this time of year, and I may even have shed a tear or two. Very sweet. Three and a half stars.
ETA: The touchstone wasn't working because someone had combined the book with a totally different work, and I tried to separate the page, so here's hoping this work link stays: http://www.librarything.com/work/9343812
And now I must go to bed, because Santa Claus comes tonight! Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
>134 Whisper1:, Thank you, Linda! I did. I hope yours was wonderful, as well!
111. Holly - Jude Deveraux
I hated this romance novel. Both of the main characters were distinctly unlikable, and the heroine especially left me with a nasty taste in my mouth. Hollander "Holly" Latham is an heiress who is obsessed with two things: old American houses and Laurence "Lorrie" Beaumont, the boy she fell in love with when she was thirteen. She convinces her father and stepmother to buy the house she stayed in that summer so she can stalk Lorrie, marry him, and become mistress of his ancestral home, Belle Chere. This brilliant plan of hers is thwarted, however, when she meets Nick Taggert, who is supposedly a "working class" gardener. They have an immediate sexual attraction, which is described in frequent, mostly cold and clinical detail. The sex scenes are very unsexy, but there sure are a lot of them.
There's a nefarious plot against Holly, but I didn't give two hoots, because she was so awful. She's selfish and snobby. Nick, of course, isn't even really one of the "little people", but a doctor from an equally rich family, so when she realizes that she loves him in spite of his class, it doesn't matter because he's really old money, too! And the villain, of course, is secretly gay.
I had to keep checking the copyright page, because although this book was published in 2003, it was so sexist and classist, I felt sure it was a Harlequin from like 1981 with some gross and gratuitous sex scenes added in to make it feel "modern." This was my first foray reading Jude Deveraux, and I have to say I won't try her works again. This is the kind of book that gives romances a bad name. Not recommended in the least. One star.
112. Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett
This book, on the other hand, I absolutely loved! It's my favorite Discworld book I've read so far. Granny Weatherwax is in peak form and Pratchett takes on Shakespeare, with a story that parodies MacBeth and makes frequent references to Hamlet and King Lear, as well. Just hilarious. I don't think you need to be familiar with MacBeth to enjoy it, but I think having read the play will only enhance the experience. Five stars.
Edited to add comments!
Happy New Year!
114. Willful Creatures - Aimee Bender
This is another delightful collection of short, surreal tales by Aimee Bender, who is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. It's not quite as strong of a collection as The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, but it's still absolutely absorbing and bizarre. The same blend of tragedy, human fallacy, oddness, and magical realism prevails in this book. My favorite stories are "End of the Line" a quietly horrifying tale about a man who buys a little man from the pet store; "I Will Pick Out Your Ribs (from My Teeth)" the story of a man in love with a girl who won't stop overdosing on pills; and "Leading Man," the story of a boy born with fingers the shape of keys and his discovery of what they unlock. Highly recommended. Five stars.
This is probably the last book I will finish in 2009, unless I have a lot more time to read today and tomorrow than I am anticipating, so here's a link to my 2010 thread: http://www.librarything.com/topic/79163
Hope to see you there!
I want to thank you for the wonderful books you have read in 2009. I've added many to my list.
All good wishes for a very healthy New Year!
Luckily he seems to write very quickly! Also, have you read the Wheel of Time books? Sanderson is writing the last three, but it's a long journey to get there.... personally I abandoned the series around Book 7, so I don't think I'll ever get around to seeing what Sanderson has done with it. The reviews have been great, though.
Zoe- I've never read the Wheel of Time series, just because I had heard that it was unfinished. Maybe once Sanderson writes his, I will tackle them as a whole. In all my spare time, lol...
How long are you going to be in NYC?
I will just be in NYC for for New Year's Eve and day, unfortunately. My friend has to drive back to Buffalo on Saturday, so we have to come home on Fri so she has a chance to get packed. That's why I'm so worried I'll get sick. It's a lot packed into two days for me! Hopefully my fragile biosystem will remain in balance. It's about a 3 or 4 hr drive each way, so we shall see!
That would be a lot for anyone in two days! Good luck.
I'm sending lots of love and energy your way for a wonderful trip.
>158, Thanks, Linda!
I will "see you" guys in 2010!!!
Wishing you a Happy New Year and looking forward to following your thread next year.