Friday, July 31, 2009

Shellie - Review of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This is my first post here at The Fill in the Gaps 100 Project.

Fahrenheit 451 audio

Mini Synopsis: This is a classic dystopian science fiction novel written by a “Grand Master” of the genre. It tells of a future world where books are illegal. They are burned by firemen whose sole purpose in life is to rid society of their supposed evils. Where the members of this society are indoctrinated with an audio/video infused system that produces a collective numbness. The main character Montag is one of these firemen, whom after some internal conflict comes to a transitional point in his life where he questions the loss of books and their importance to humanity.

My thoughts: I listened to this book on an audio version on my iPod which was read by the author. It was my first book downloaded this way and I had some problems listening to it in order. In addition, when I first read Fahrenheit 451 when I was in high school the only thing I remember is my own teenage boredom. So naturally my thoughts are still a bit “choppy” around the book.

However, I do know that revisiting it again in middle age, I can now relate to its significance as to why it was required reading for high school in the late 70’s. I believe it was to show us, as young adults, a significant precept in the US constitution - the right of our freedom of speech – specifically the press. So it was an indirect lesson in civics.

The story reminds me that it is important to remember, and I truly believe, that information - specifically in this example books, should not be censored. Instead, labeled as we do with the movie industry’s rating system so that the individual has a choice, but never banned. It is a slippery slope if even one of our basic rights be dismissed or controlled as exemplified in this society. If I had not been so possessed with teenage apathy in my first so called reading of this book then perhaps I would have gotten half of the author's point.

Here I finish with a quote which is significant on the issue of one of the gifts books bring us:

… books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. They're Caesar's praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, 'Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.' Most of us can't rush around, talk to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven't time, money or that many friends. The things you're looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book. Don't ask for guarantees. And don't look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.

My rating for the book is 3 out of 5 stars. Translation - I liked it and recommend it for anyone interested in classic Science Fiction.

Audio Book Stats:

Fahrenheit 451 – by Ray Bradbury

Unabridged – read by author

Harper Collins – Harper Audio

6 hours –29 minutes

ISBN: 9780060855062

May 3, 2005

If you are interested in purchasing information for this audio book or the book at Amazon please link to my posting on Layers of Thought – Review: Fahrenheit 451.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Linda P Review *Food Matters *Mark Bittman

What I can say about this book that hasn't been written over again? Not much. If you are interested in eating a healthier diet, helping the planet sustain itself, and being an informed consumer, read it. A lot of it was preaching to the choir, not a lot I hadn't heard as far as "Big Food" was concerned, but I'm loving his recipes and how he makes a recipe sounds delicious-with no pictures! I'll be buying this just for the recipes.

Persuasion - Jane Austen

This book had some stiff competition - Pride and Prejudice is my absolutely favourite novel (aside from Alice and Wonderland), so when I picked up this book I had high expectations.

I really did love it. I thought Anne's father and sisters were utterly hilarious, and almost all of the characters were endearing in some way or another. I freely admit that when Captain Wentworth finally admitted his feelings for Anne I nearly cheered (thankfully I didn't, as I was on the bus on the way to work).

It's not Pride and Prejudice though - Anne Elliott is definitely no Elizabeth Bennett. She actually reminded me of an even sweeter version of Jane, which got to be annoying after a while. Also, and I don't know if it was just my edition but man was it longwinded. One sentence was exhausting! And the ending - I closed the book feeling a little deflated after being so happy when Anne and Captain Wentworth got together.

Still, I really enjoyed it. And I'm curious about the adaptation, because I just can't reconcile Ciarin Hinds as Captain Wentworth at all. (I did my thesis on adapting Shakespeare into film, so I tend to go on about adaptations a bit).

Anyone else read it?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Books as Art: Su Blackwell

I am one of those who shudder at some forms of book destruction (underlining, or worse, highlighting!!), but am astonished at the amazing works created from a single book, by the UK artist Su Blackwell. I learned about this on Jezebel today, and the comments on their post also include other cool bits of books as art.

(image via Telegraph)

JezebelTelegraphSu Blackwell Official Site

Monday, July 27, 2009

*Karen, *Wally Lamb, *She's Come Undone

I'm back! Finally reading from my list again.

I found She's Come Undone to be a very easy read, but it was one of those books where I wasn't sure what the plot really was, anyway. If I were to sum up the book, I would say that the point of it seemed to be to find an excuse to go crazy, fake being sane, and then finally get to be sane again. It is my main complaint about novels that span a lifetime. If you're not very attached and interested in the character, there's no point in reading the whole thing.

This is uncomfortable to admit, but I think the reason I kept reading--sometimes unhappily--was because the main character, Dolores Price, reminded me a lot of myself. Fat, blaming the weight for my bad attitude, prone to lashing out, deluding myself, holding the world responsible for my pain, lack of boundaries . . . the list goes on. So, at times, while reading it, I wanted to bury my head under a pillow and cry over being so damned obvious myself.

But I got over it. Why? Because Dolores's therapist is so absurd, that the ridiculousness of a grown man insisting to his patient that he is her mother was just so alien to my own experiences with therapists that it jolted me out of myself and into the story.

Dolores's major emotional shifts are marked by the death of aquatic creatures. She kills her would-be lesbian lover's pet fish out of rage at being molested twice in one night, and a third time in her lifetime (fourth if you count her dad's tweaking of her boobs, which she never takes him to task over but I'm disinclined to let him off the hook so easily), then runs off to hang out with some suicidal whales, looks a dead whale in the eye and decides not to off herself, goes into a home (with the Mommy Therapist) then all seems to go swimmingly for awhile, even though the reader knows better, then she loses her shit again, accidentally kills her pet goldfish, then gets her life together and sees a whale.

Was Wally Lamb using the fish as a metaphor for raw, primitive emotion, and whales for empowered decision-making? Are whales, being mammals, more like humans than fish? Or am I obsessing and nit-picking over nothing? Would I understand this book better if I read Moby Dick? Is there something I'm missing about whales and fish that is a well-established principle in literature?

Progress Report

My progress: terrible!

As I've mentioned, I started Anna Karenina. I couldn't finish the darned thing! It has been my intention to power through a bunch of the books on the list, but the closest I've gotten is 3/4 of the way through Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!

In my defence, I am writing a book of my own. I recently finished the 3rd draft and it is out being critiqued at the moment. I just got some feedback about it, and I was given a stack of books to read to illustrate my critiquer's points - none of which are on my list! They are classics - William Burroughs, Girl, Interupted and so on. But, not on the list! So, I am reading, I'm just not reading the right books.

Thank god we have so many years to get it done. Though, I can see myself trying to fit 90% of my list into the last year!


After energetically plowing through Anna Karenina, I'm afraid I have fallen off the Gaps wagon and started tearing through the Harry Potter series (again) (and also some unimaginably bad epic fantasy series from my childhood as well).

How long is fair to give myself for a recovery period?

Casanova: The Story of My Life (Nom de Gare)

Well, do I really need to introduce this? The memoirs of Casanova, legendary lover, seducer, picaro, swashbuckler, man-about-Europe... this was all I'd hoped for, and more.

First, a qualification. I've read the Penguin Classics edition, which is a translation from the French by Stephen Sartarelli and Sophie Hawkes, and at 500-something pages much abridged from Casanova's original 12 volumes. Does this mean I've really read it? Not really; not properly. But if this was a kind of tasting plate, I highly recommend it. This was on my list because I ended up with a copy several years ago, when I was doing some post-graduate study in 18th-century English lit. I never got around to reading it, but it was one of those Albatrossy books on my shelves -- it was going to hang around my neck and torment me unless I at least attempted it.

And oh, would I have been the poorer if I hadn't. It's wonderful. Casanova is funny, self-deprecating, life-loving, sassy. He's writing as an oldish man looking back on his adventures; he gives us the whole story of his life, from his parenthood and young boyhood on. He's Venetian, but writes in French, having spent many years in Parisian high-society (French was the 'literary' language of his day, we learn; writing in it establishes his cultured credentials). As a young man with more wit and invention than money or connections, he follows his nose around Europe, taking the reader on an unpredictable, helter-skelter trip through many countries and many social circles. He might be hanging out with a dodgy travelling theatre company one month, mixing with ancien-regime French royalty the next, then joining the army, escaping from prison or living in Turkey discussing God and Islam a few weeks later.

As you might expect, sex and romance are central to Casanova's adventures. He starts with the lover stuff very young -- by his early teens, he's seducing young women and honing his technique. His impulsive interest in women, flirtation and seduction is a recurring theme -- but it's by no means the only one. I'd describe him as frank when it's called for, but not terribly bawdy or gratuitious or pornographic. There were a few moments when I felt very aware of my modern feminist convictions. When, as a teenager, he sleeps with a 12-year-old, I couldn't not be outraged. When a group of aggressive, drunken men "convince" a lone, cornered women to sleep with all of them, Casanova's light-hearted claim that she enjoyed it rang hollow. These moments are few, and didn't spoil the book for me -- but that doesn't mean they should be discounted. Aside from the pleasure of Casanova's company and its literary merits, this contrast between our approach to sex and his is part of the book's interest. I'd venture to say that we're more enlightened in many ways -- but not necessarliy in all ways. Casanova's views about single-parenthood, homosexuality, cross-dressing and women's enjoyment of their own sexuality all seem quite liberal, even over 200 years after he wrote. It's an interesting reminder that what we call "conservative" views about sex are often Victorian views about sex; go back another hundred years or so, and the sexual landscape was different again.

Anyhow, I highly recommend it. I dog-eared heaps of quotes, but these seem excessive after I've hogged so much space already. Just a couple of snippets for you, then:

"Economy in pleasure is not to my taste."

"They who do not love life do not deserve it."

"The chief business of my life has always been to indulge my senses; I never knew anything of greater importance. I felt myself born for the fair sex, I have ever loved it dearly, and I have been loved by it as often and as much as I could."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Everything is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer

Amazingly enough, I'd never read or heard of Jonathan Safran Foer before late last year, when my friend (who almost exclusively reads chick lit) gave me Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close to read after someone from work had lent it to her. I will always be grateful that she did - I love that book. It's so funny and so sad.

Everything is Illuminated took me so long to read, and I'm still not sure what the reason for that is. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it first, before ELIC - I really enjoyed it, but certainly not as much. That said, I loved the relationship between Sasha, his grandfather, Jonathan and Sammy Davis Jr Jr, and the whole idea that if a writer can give their characters a happy ever after, why would they choose not to? (I watched The Orphanage last night, and I can see both sides on this point).

I am curious to see the film adaptation of this thought - has anyone seen it?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kristina's Review: Julie & Julia

I'm not even going to say how long it took me to read's embarassing. In my defense, I have a 20 month old son. So needless to say, it took way longer than I wanted it to!

I'm a little upset about this one. With all the hype around it, I was expected a whole lot more than I got. It was good, just not that good. I don't know, maybe it just wasn't the right time for it either, you know how that can happen. But the movie is coming out soon and I think this book will make a better movie.

Here's my review.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mya B Review "The Woman In Black: A Ghost Story" by Susan Hill

This is going to be an, um, different sort of review. I say that as a warning, because yours truly was brilliant enough (gah!) to actually get the movie that was based on this book. Yes, I know. So, I reviewed both, and did little comparison.

Ultimately, I really liked this book. Not a horror or thriller by any means, but a nice, traditional ghost story that stands happily on it's own.

You can find the review here: Mya Barrett Blog

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Notebook- Nicholas Sparks: Dana

The Notebook- Nicholas Sparks
Well, this book was on my Project 100 list and I believe I was one of the last remaining women in the US that hadn't read this novel. I'll preface all of this by saying that I'm not a huge romance reader, but having read and enjoyed Sparks' Three Weeks with my Brother, I was willing to give this a shot.

I'll not give away too much of the plot, but very basically it is about a young man of little means and a young woman of fantastic means who fall in love only to be separated by time and social circumstances.

What made this novel better than the typical love story is the framing of it, as a old man reading the story to an unknown woman. The story is touching and while predictable, still genuinely warm and fuzzy. I did enjoy it. It's a great quick read and especially good when you just want to read and not think too much. Sparks' writing is lovely, clean and concise and his characters are lively and real. While I enjoyed the book in general, I think that I enjoyed it more after reading Three Weeks because I knew how he wrote it and what was happening in his life at the time. Overall, it was worth the hype (and million dollar advance) that it received.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Immoralist - Andre Gide

I have a confession to make: this book is under 100 pages and I started it two years ago. And I still have not finished it. I borrowed it from a friend who did her Masters Thesis on this book and claimed it was the best book of the 20th century. Another friend claimed it was the worst book she had ever read. I thought I would take my chances and, judging their taste in books, figured I'd come up somewhere around the middle. While I might not love it, I didn't think I would hate it.

I may not declare it the worst book I've ever read, it most certainly wasn't the best. I found the protagonist (I can't even remember his name; part of me vaguely remembers knowing that this was supposed to be somewhat autobiographical, but I don't think he used his real name) to be pretentious and whiny. It was nearly impossible to feel any sympathy for him as a character which made coming back to the book really difficult. I wanted to finish it, and when my friend called and said she wanted the book back I could very easily have read through the last twenty or so pages. But I had absolutely no desire to find out what happened to this man.

I suppose part of me could relate to his youth and the desire for something more. He didn't feel content with the simple life he had been given. But the way in which he was willing to throw it all away just seemed to be over the top and, frankly, annoying.

So, that's two crossed off of my list. One finished, one not. I feel like my reading has slowed significantly since I began this project. But vacation is coming up in two weeks so I'm hoping to get through a lot!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Linda P Review-*Little Bee-*Chris Cleave

What I can say about a book, that on its inside flap, implored the reader not to divulge the story? Not to share with friends what the story was about so that each reader would come to it fresh and hopeful? I'll try not to give anything away.
First the writing is lyrical like a song being sung to you. The story alternates between the two women, Sarah and Little Bee. Each with her own voice, full of pain, hope, and fear. Each struggling to make it.
This is a story about two women who meet under extraordinary circumstances and become unlikely allies. I feel like I lack the ability to really explain it without giving away so much of the meat. Suffice to say, read it. It's a short novel, packed with a lot of story. You may need to put it down to digest but you'll be anxious to pick it up again.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Becky's Progress: 17 is the number of the day

I'm adding these four books this time round:

Anderson, M.T. Feed.
Lester, Julius. To Be A Slave.
Scalzi, John. Old Man's War.
Trollope, Anthony. Barchester Towers.

These two are ones I'm working on:

Heyer, Georgette. The Grand Sophy*
Haggard, H. Rider. She.

This one I abandoned, though I may pick it up again later:

Miller, Walter. A Canticle for Leibowitz


So i thought i'd make a little note to say i've changed two books on my list. I've replaced two summer reads (which i'll read anyway) with two irish language books. One an irish translation of Harry Potter agus an órchloch (philosopher's stone). I've never read any of HP books - don't ask me why, but i did buy this book when i say it in my local bookshop because it was in irish. The other book, i haven't decided on yet.

The fact is i haven't done irish in over 4 years and well, i wasn't great at it to begin with (although its meant to be our 'national language') so i know this will probably take me 5 years to even get past the first chapter.

Anyhoo, this change came about because i was inspired by people tackling different language books! So i decided to suck it up and face my phobia of irish! lol.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Long Overdue Progress Report

Since I posted my world lit list in April, I have been doing all kinds of things--falling in love, moving continents away from the love, you know, stuff that really makes you want to sit down with a good challenging read.

Well, not really.

I've been putting off posting until I had actually read more than a couple of books, but it just keeps not happening! So here's my feeble progress so far.

Mudrooroo - Wild Cat Falling
(Oceania category)

I picked this up in a bookstore a few months before the Project. I was casually browsing for Australian Indigenous writing, and it was one of the few novels in the (big, mainstream) bookstore where I happened to be. I enjoyed it. It's a coming-of-age type story. The narrator is really detatched, kind of L'etrangere-y. The setting is outlaw youth culture in 1950s and 60s Australia (it was published in 1965) and that was really interesting.

Elizabeth Knox - The Vintner's Luck
(Oceania category)

I no longer remember who recommended Elizabeth Knox to me or why. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I picked this up, but what I WASN'T expecting was a (rather hot in parts!) gay love story between an angel and a vintner in France. Really recommended if you are into angels. I am not, but I got the impression Knox did some cool innovative things with the concept. And it was a good book.

Yoshimoto Banana - Kitchen (Asia)

Someone once suggested I read Yoshimoto Banana in Japanese--I found a translation instead, and totally confirmed my impression that the Japanese would be way beyond me. But I really enjoyed these stories, and I definitely intend to read more of her work.

Haruki Murakami - Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

This was my second Murakami novel (the first being Wind Up Bird Chronicle). This one was definitely a bit more out there. I found it was a bit of work to get into it far enough to figure out the whole alternating chapters thing, but somewhere around the half point I started to have at least SOME idea what was going on, and it became a bit easier going. Very cool book, but I can't think of how to explain the cool part without giving it away!

That's it! During this time I've also read 15 novels not on the list, though. I need to focus just a bit more, or I will be doing this in ten years instead of five!

working on Anna Karenina

Thought I'd post in case anyone else is, or has, or will.

It's SO long, but I've been surprised that basically it's smooth(ish) reading.

I know a couple other people have already finished this one, right? Any comments/hopes/desperations?

I did read a modern retelling, What Happened to Anna K., a few months ago. It was a good (short!!) read, and has made reading the original really, really interesting (although maybe I would do it in the reverse order if I could revisit).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Review *Orson Scott Card* *Ender's Game*

I like science fiction. I remember reading Anne McCaffery and as I got older looking for books by authors who weren't as well known. Shame on me for not putting Ender's Game on the top of my list years and years ago.

What is unique to me is that this book poses the question, "What if the fate of the earth was in the hands of children?" The story is very easy to fall into. The chapters were like small stories unto themselves, beginning with a question or problem, and having it resolved by the end of the chapter.

What I hadn't expected was Ender's age. There wasn't a time when I didn't feel empathy for Ender. The secondary characters were marvelous to read about. It was great to see varying viewpoints and see it all come together and play like overlapping parts in a symphony. The ending isn't just satisfactory, it's absolutely perfect. There are two twists in the book, neither of which I'll tell you. What I will say is that these revelations were brilliant moves by the author.

Would I recommend this book? I'll do one better. I'd purchase it for anyone who enjoys reading and be sure they'd like the story. In fact, now that I've read the first one, I plan to go out and buy the entire series.

You can find the full review here: Mya's Blog

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Human Stain by Philip Roth

The Human Stain is a much-honored novel about identity, honesty, and the destructive power of hate. It also touches upon many timely social issues, especially education.

The story revolves around Coleman Silk, a college professor unjustly accused of racism and misogyny by his ambitious colleagues. His troubles are amplified when his lover's ex-husband, a deranged Vietnam vet, begins persecuting him. But all the while, Silk is hiding a secret that would both astound and perplex.

My full review is here.

Shellie's Book List

I'm new to blogging and starting a bit late here but excited about this challenge. A forced read of sorts to get all the books that have been staring at me for years into my head. Corrections for misspellings and categorizations are welcome.

Science Fiction:

1. 1984 - George Orwell
2. Animal Farm - George Orwell
3. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
4. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
5. Children of Dune - Frank Herbert
6. Chrysalids - John Wyndham
7. Dandelion Wine - Ray Bradbury
8. Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham
9. Do Androids Dream of Sleep - Phillip K. Dick
10. Dune - Frank Herbert
11. Dune Messiah - Frank Herbert
12. Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury (read 7/28/09 - posted review 7/31)
13. Foundation - Isaac Asimov
14. Foundation Empire - Isaac Asimov
15. Herland - Charlotte Perkins Gilman
16. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream - Harllan Ellison
17. Midwich Cuckoos - John Wyndham
18. New Eves - ed Janrae Frank
19. Rendezvous with Rama - Arthur C. Clark
20. Ringworld - Harry Niven
21. Second Foundation - Isaac Asimov
22. Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut
23. Something Wicked this way Comes - Ray Bradbury (listened to in Sept posted Sept 25, 09)
24. The Day After Tomorrow - Robert Heinlein
25. The Godmakers - Don Pendleton
26. The Island of Doctor Moreau - H. G Wells
27. The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin
28. The Locus Awards - ed Charles N. Brown
29. The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury
30. The Road - Cormac McCarthy (read Aug 15, 2009 review posted Sept 4)
31. The War of the Worlds - H. G. Wells
32. The World Treasury of Science Fiction - David G. Hartwell
33. Time Machine - H. G. Wells
34. Trouble with Lichen - John Wyndham
35. Cry to Heaven - Anne Rice
36. Dragon Flight - Anne McCaffrey
37. Green Mansions - William Henry Hudson
38. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J. K. Rowling
39. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Ascaban - J. K. Rowling
40. Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone - J. K. Rowling
41. Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring - J. R. R. Tolkien
42. Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King - J. R. R. Tolkien
43. Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers - J. R. R. Tolkien
44. The Crystal Cave - Mary Stewart
45. The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien
46. The Hollow Hills - Mary Stewart
47. The Last Enchantment - Mary Stewart
48. The Middle Window - Elizabeth Goudge
49. The Robber Bride - Margaret Atwood
50. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
51. Dracula - Bram Stoker
52. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley (read 10/1/09 review posted 10/9)
53. Great Tales of Horror - Edgar Allen Poe
54. Interview with a Vampire - Anne Rice
55. On The Beach - Nevil Shute
56. The Historian - Elizabeth Kostava
57. The Hunter of the Dark - H. P. Lovecraft
58. The Inferno - Dante
59. The Metamorphosis - Frank Kafka
60. The Queen of the Damned - Anne Rice
61. The Vampire Lestat - Anne Rice
Literary Classics:
62. All the Kings Men - Robert Warren Penn
63. Bless me Ultima - Rodolfo Anaya
64. Catcher in the Rye - J. D. Sallinger
65. Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather
66. Don Quixote - Cevantes
67. East of Eden - John Steinbeck
68. Hamlet - Shakespeare
69. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
70. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
71. Lucy Braveheart - Willa Cather
72. Macbeth - Shakespeare
73. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
74. O Pioneer - Willa Cather
75. On the Road - Jack Keroac
76. One of Ours - Willa Cather
77. Papillion - Henri Charriere
78. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austin
79. Romeo and Juliet - Shakespeare
80. Siddhartha - Herman Hess
81. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
82. The Delta of Venus - Anais Nin
83. The Good Earth - Pearl S. Buck
84. The House of Spirit - Isabella Allende
85. The Lord of the Flies - William Golding
86. The Moon is Down - John Steinbeck
87. The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
88. The Rainbow - D. H. Lawrence
89. The Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys
90. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
91. Their Eyes Where Watching God - Zora Neal Hurston
92. To Have and Have Not - Ernest Hemingway
93. Tortilla Flats - John Steinbeck
94. Tropic of Cancer - Henry Miller
95. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Non Fiction:
96. Care of the Soul - Thomas Moore
97. Feminism - the Essential Writings - ed Mirian Schneir
98. The Feminine Mystique - Betty Friedan
99. The Tribe of the Tiger - Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
100. Women of Wisdom - Tsultrim Allione

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Few Reviews

I've had such a busy summer so far that I've gotten behind in linking to my reviews. Here are the last four that I have read and reviewed:

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (4.5 Stars)
The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley (4.5 Stars)
Alex & Me by Irene Pepperberg (5 Stars)
A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (4 Stars)

Click on the links to see my full reviews. I will try to at least include mini-reviews with my links from here on out, but wanted to get these posted right now.

Kelly, Book Review: *Arthur Conan Doyle *The Hound of the Baskervilles

Wow, did I enjoy this book... (this excitement coupled by the fact that I didn't expect to like it).

Read the full review on my Web site (link opens in a new window).

In a nutshell: recommended.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sherrie, Book Review, Specials - Scott Westerfeld

This is the third book of a series. Also the last book, so far, I can see another one coming, maybe. Tally and Shay are reunited in this book. They are both Specials, they are called Cutters, because they cut their selves to keep the "icy" feeling they crave. They are also out to get the Smokies. They are sent to find their new place and destroy it. But once they get there, they become involved in a war which Dr. Cable has used them to start. Shay and the rest of the Cutters have had the cure, but Tally is the only left with her Special skills still in tact. Tally fights to "rewire" herself to the way she was when she was an uglie. She also finds David again and they both are together keeping the wilderness wild.

Calling All Writers

Sorry to hijack this blog for a moment, but I didn't know how many of the readers on here are also writers. I'm thinking of starting a weekly writing meme, an online writer's circle. Details are here if you're interested.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Book Give away Competition.

Hey Guys, hope you don't mind if i post this, its just that The Book Bundle, a Book review blog i contribute to is having a competition.

All you have to do is drop over to THIS post and leave a comment!

The Prize is a signed copy of Crossed Wires, Rosy Thorntons most recent book!!

This competition is open to everyone everywhere. So drop by and leave a comment :) Closing date is 12 th July.

Appreciate it if people dropped by (a bit nervous no one will enter)

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Reliable Wife-Robert Goolrick

Another one I was excited to read. This one did not disappoint. I was immediately drawn into Catherine and Ralph's world. I loved how the point of view switched between Catherine and Ralph and, later, Antonio. The characters are guarded about what they'll tell you as they are with each other until the novel progresses and the characters start to trust you. It was like reading a series of letter, getting to know someone a little bit at a time.
Cold Wisconsin makes a great back drop for a story about lust and greed. The snow and the ever present winter (it seemed like the longest winter ever) was in definite contrast to lust the characters were feeling. Sex plays a large part in this book. I didn't find it especially erotic. Sometimes it was heartbreaking how much sex was a motivation for the characters.
Highly recommended. Great story about how desperate people can become for someone to love, someone to hold. A little short but certainly does pack a punch.

June update

I'm doing pretty ok! I've finished 15 books total. Here's what happened in June:

The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields, finished June 6 (review here)

Middlemarch, by George Eliot, finished June 11, thanks to all of you guys who read it here together--without you, I never would have kept plowing through all 800 pages

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, finished June 11

The Hound of Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle, finished June 24, thanks to Kelly, who read it with me

Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki, finished June 26 (we chatted about it a little here)

For the last week I've been working on Anna Karenina, which has been going a little more smoothly than I would have thought (I partitioned it up into eight chunks, the way we did with Middlemarch, which helps me get through small bits feeling a great sense of accomplishment).

Hope everyone else had a good month for reading, whatever that means for them personally!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jan *The Shadow of the Wind *Carlos Ruiz Zafon

From the back cover, “Barcelona, 1945 - Just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, and a boy named Daniel awakes one day to find that he can no longer remember his mother’s face. To console his only child, Daniel’s widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona’s guild of rare book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world. Daniel’s father coaxes him to choose a book that will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the book he selects, a novel called The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax’s work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact he may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Before Daniel knows it, his innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness, and doomed love.

“An uncannily absorbing historical mystery, a heart-piercing romance, and a moving homage to the mystical power of books, The Shadow of the Wind is a triumph of the storyteller’s art.”

Amen! I really liked the way this book started and ended and most of the parts in between. I loved that Daniel’s life paralleled Julian’s and that in the end …. Oops -- don’t want to give away the ending. You gotta read this if you’re a book lover. And even if you’re not.

Sandra, Book Review, *Chris Abani, *Becoming Abigail

Becoming Abigail by Chris Abani
Novella, 121 pages Paperback
2006 Nigeria

I've heard only good things about this writer and thought I'd start with a novella to get a taste of his work. All I can say is what a writer!

In Nigeria, Abigail has lived a lonely life with her father who is still pines for his dead wife. At fourteen, Abigail looks so much like her mother that her father is emotionally undone by it. He sends her to England with her Uncle Peter, to what he thinks will be a better life for her. Her uncle is fact a monster, who forces her and other young ones into prostitution. But not without fierce resistance from Abigail who eventually commits a desperate act and flees.

Told in spare but lyrical writing, and with great compassion, Nigerian poet and author Chris Abani relates a heartbreaking story of loneliness and betrayal that is unforgettable. This is neither an easy read nor a happy story, which are a dime a dozen and don't do much for me. But I recommend it highly. Five stars.

I have now set my sights on Graceland, a novel which garnered several awards. Also set in Nigeria, Graceland tells the story of a boy who wants desperately to get out of the slums of Lagos, with its poverty and hopelessness. I can't wait to read it.

Posted by Sandra at Fresh Ink Books.

Sandra, Book Review,*Doris Lessing, *Ben,In the World

Ben, In the World by Doris Lessing

Fiction 178 pages, Hardcover 2002

Nobel author

This is the sequel to The Fifth Child which I reviewed in my last post. That book gave us Ben, born into a large family who welcomed each child with celebration. Unlovable and uncontrollable from birth, freakish in looks, he confuses and frightens everyone around him. He is violent and seems incapable of learning. In the end, though she defends him from others, even his mother cannot love him or even stand to have him around. Ben, In the World begins after he has divided and alienated most of his family and left home in his teens.

What becomes of such an angry young monster, lacking control in all matters, uncomprehending the world and people in general, prone to violence and inviting rebuke by his physically threatening appearance? There is always someone who will be a little kind with food or money to a homeless young man, though most will not. Then there are the unscrupulous who will use people like Ben for criminal activities, knowing he doesn't understand what he's doing and is incapable of communicating information about them to authorities if he's caught. Woman are sometimes kind, even tolerant to a point. But he knows they are always afraid of him. He struggles constantly against his own instincts to hurt people when he perceives mockery or even a slight. The only thing that holds him back is nightmarish memories of being institutionalized and the fear that he will be taken back there. He suffers a strong sexual drive that can only lead to trouble.
Abandoned in another country by criminals who have no further use of him, Ben is eventually spotted by a film maker who thinks of him as a caveman throwback and takes care of him while he has an interest in making a film with him. He will end up on another continent, driven by a spurious promise to find his own "kind", where he will slowly come to face the reality of what he really is. Well written and brutally honest in the end, Lessing is brave enough to show us what everyone secretly thinks about people like Ben. They are unwanted, and there is no sadder fate for anyone.
Highly recommended. But read The Fifth Child first. It's worth it.

Posted by Sandra at Fresh Ink Books.

Sandra, Book Review, *The Fifth Child, *Doris Lessing

The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing

Fiction,133 pages Hardcover

1988 UK

The idea of a mother not loving her own child seems almost taboo as a subject for a novel. Such feelings just aren't possible, or at least they're not natural or normal, are they? That's the general consensus. I wanted to read The Fifth Child because someone said it put them in mind of Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin. They are both about having a child who is difficult to love. Let's be honest, even their mothers find them impossible to love. They do try, very hard, over a period of long years, but ultimately admit their true feelings. Both books are well written and I thought at first they were quite different stories. Kevin, in Shriver's book is a teenager who's killed fellow students in a school shooting before the story even begins. Ben, the fifth child to a couple who planned a large family and celebrated each child's arrival, is odd and frightening and difficult to control from the day he's born. We follow his beleaguered mother and family from birth through to his teen years.

Then I realized that the only difference in the stories is whether they are related to us before disaster strikes, as in the case of Ben, or afterward, as with Kevin's killing spree. Each book hits tender spots and like most tragedies are not the easiest to read. But I think they both need to be read. The questions raised need to be faced-by everyone. Should these children be drugged? Is psychiatry or behavior therapy enough? Should they be "put away" in cases where they cannot be controlled? Then there's the issue of blame. People seem to need to point fingers when things go wrong. Are the parents, especially the mothers, ultimately responsible for the monstrous behavior of their children?

I'm glad I read these books. I learned things, empathy being the very least of these. I recommend The Fifth Child. My next review will be the sequel to this book; Ben, In the World by Doris Lessing

Posted by Sandra at Fresh Ink Books.

One more down. . .

Wahoo another one down!! (only my second lol). Although not as good as the book thief, its an excellent read for all age groups. I'm becoming more and more jealous of Markus Zusak's talent! Some writers just make me sick with envy!!!

You can read my reviews here or here

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

*Karen, Book Review *The Two Princesses of Bamarre, by *Gail Carson Levine

Victory. I've managed to read, a little. Even though they aren't on my list, I thought I'd let you all know that The Two Princesses of Bamarre and The Fairy's Return, by Gail Carson Levine, were delightful.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre was a bit dull, but I loved the final plot twist. I didn't see it coming at all. Though I'm sick to death of the anti-hero--yes, yes, true courage is doing something you're afraid of, the hero is the one who perseveres, blah, blah, blah--I found Princess Addie to be quietly forceful and not as trite as I feared she would be.

I absolutely loved The Fairy's Return. It's a revisionist collection of fairy tales. All of the short stories are about "princesses" in the kingdom of Biddle throughout many centuries. As always, Levine's twist on familiar fairy tales is fresh, charming, and at times, totally unexpected.

Progress for July

July was a moderately productive month, I guess. Read a bunch of good ones. EVERYBODY! READ EMILY BRONTE AND WILLIAM BLAKE'S POETRY! IT'S THE BEST!
Songs of Innocence and Experience (Review)
Beowulf (Review)
Eugene Onegin (Review)
Cranford (Review)
The Comedians (Review)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Review)
Complete Poems of Emily Bronte (Review)
The Jungle (Review)
Agnes Grey (Review)

and another of Shakespeare's plays: As You Like It (Review)

Jan Pruatt, Book Review *Geraldine Brooks *People of the Book

On April 2, 2008, Geraldine Brooks was in Seattle to discuss People of the Book. So I’m using my write-up of that time for this book review.

Geraldine Brooks (aka Mrs. Tony Horowitz) opened her discussion of People of the Book with pictures from the Sophia Haggadah. She told from whence it come -- Spain, 1480 -- the time of the Jewish influence. The story takes Hanna Heath, a book conservator, in quest of the books’ long journey through history through Jewish, Muslim and Christian hands, and its rediscovery in 1996. She told how she was finally able to stick the stories of the Haggadah together and did so by the things that were found in the spine of the book (an insect’s wing, a white hair, saltwater crystals).

A hand-out listed other titles reflective of Brook books. For example, another novel that features a woman book conservator is Robert Hellenga’s The Sixteen Pleasures, about a book of erotic drawings and sonnets from the sixteenth century that is discovered in Florence, Italy after the devastating floods of 1996.

Her fiction title Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, is a dramatic account of a young woman, a charismatic preacher, and a village isolated by sickness in 1660’s England. Another book in which the plague is a driving force is Phillip Gooden’s mystery Mask of Night, also set in 17th century London.

Brooks is also author of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize Winning book, March, a novel set during the US Civil War, much of it told from the point of view of the father of Alcott’s Little Women. As a chaplain in the Union army, March experiences not only the horrors of war, but also the terrible toll of slavery and racism. Another Civil War story told from multiple viewpoints in Robert Hicks The Widow of the South, in which an unusual love story unfolds, even amid the carnage of war.

As a journalist, Brooks spent years covering far-flung places on the globe as a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal where she met her husband. Her non-fiction book, Nine Parts of Desire: the Hidden World of Islamic Women, reveals the surprising true-life experiences of Middle-Eastern women and the cultural and political forces that shape their lives.

At the end of her talk, she invited questions like who are her favorite authors to which she replied -- Hemingway, William Styron, Tim Winton. She’s currently working on another period book that she didn’t really want to discuss as most authors don’t. In the course of her discussion she revealed that as a nine year old Aussie girl, she fell in love with a book. She found in the want ads that the book was from a series and she began saving to buy it. While her family was poor, they knew that books were as important as food and clothing so managed to buy it for her. She laid the books out on the dining room floor and felt her body quivering, her mind finding itself in a new dimension she’d never experienced before nor would again until she was about 15. It was lust! She doesn’t intend to write any more non-fiction because the research is so open-ended and would take her away from her son. She’d rather write historical fiction because its fun to imagine “what if“.

Jan Pruatt, Book Review *Patrick O'Brian *The Reverse of the Medal

From the back cover - “In the early 1800s, the British Navy stands as the only bulwark against the militant fanaticism of Napoleonic France.

“Captain Jack Aubrey, R. N., ashore after a successful tour of duty, is persuaded by a casual acquaintance to make certain investment in the city. This innocent decision ensnares him in the London criminal underground and in government espionage, the province of his friend Stephen Maturin. Is Aubrey’s humiliation and the threatened ruin of his career a deliberate plot? This dark tale is a fitting backdrop to the brilliant characterization, sparkling dialogue, and meticulous detail which O’Brian’s readers have come to expect.”

While this is a series that at least one movie is based on, I was less than thrilled with the plot and characterization of these people, especially. I guess I’m spoiled by the Dick Sharpe fellow from the series by Bernard Cornwell.

Jan Pruatt, Book Review *Patrick O'Brian *The Reverse of the Medal

Jan Pruatt, Book Review *Patrick O'Brian *The Reverse of the Medal

From the back cover - “In the early 1800s, the British Navy stands as the only bulwark against the militant fanaticism of Napoleonic France.

“Captain Jack Aubrey, R. N., ashore after a successful tour of duty, is persuaded by a casual acquaintance to make certain investment in the city. This innocent decision ensnares him in the London criminal underground and in government espionage, the province of his friend Stephen Maturin. Is Aubrey’s humiliation and the threatened ruin of his career a deliberate plot? This dark tale is a fitting backdrop to the brilliant characterization, sparkling dialogue, and meticulous detail which O’Brian’s readers have come to expect.”

While this is a series that at least one movie is based on, I was less than thrilled with the plot and characterization of these people, especially. I guess I’m spoiled by the Dick Sharpe fellow from the series by Bernard Cornwell.