Thursday, March 31, 2011

30 Day Challenge

Day 08 – Most overrated book

I absolutely despised The Wind Up Bird Chronicles by Murakami, but I know people practically salivate over this book. I found it self-congratulatory and dull.

Bad things come in threes for Toru Okada. He loses his job, his cat disappears, and then his wife fails to return from work. His search for his wife (and his cat) introduces him to a bizarre collection of characters, including two psychic sisters, a possibly unbalanced teenager, an old soldier who witnessed the massacres on the Chinese mainland at the beginning of the Second World War, and a very shady politician. Haruki Murakami is a master of subtly disturbing prose. Mundane events throb with menace, while the bizarre is accepted without comment. Meaning always seems to be just out of reach, for the reader as well as for the characters, yet one is drawn inexorably into a mystery that may have no solution. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is an extended meditation on themes that appear throughout Murakami's earlier work. The tropes of popular culture, movies, music, detective stories, combine to create a work that explores both the surface and the hidden depths of Japanese society at the end of the 20th century. If it were possible to isolate one theme in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, that theme would be responsibility. The atrocities committed by the Japanese army in China keep rising to the surface like a repressed memory, and Toru Okada himself is compelled by events to take responsibility for his actions and struggle with his essentially passive nature. If Toru is supposed to be a Japanese Everyman, steeped as he is in Western popular culture and ignorant of the secret history of his own nation, this novel paints a bleak picture. Like the winding up of the titular bird, Murakami slowly twists the gossamer threads of his story into something of considerable weight

Booking Through Thursday

This week's question:

If you’re like me, you grew up reading everything under the sun, like the cereal boxes while you ate your breakfast, the newspapers held by strangers on the subway, the tabloid headlines at the grocery store.

What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever read? (You know, something NOT a book, magazine, short story, poem or article.)

I had to think about this one for a bit. I think probably the oddest thing I've taken the time to read was the back of my shampoo bottle. I got so bored in the shower that the "hydrating technology" seemed interesting. Have you ever read through the instruction on how to shampoo your hair. They're hilarious!

What about you, what strange reading have you done?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Ale Boy's Feast by Jeffrey Overstreet

I received this book from Blogging for Books, and my first thought was how beautiful and lush the cover was. As I began reading, I realized the writing matched it perfectly. There is some serious poetry woven in these pages, some spellbinding images that capture you as they move the story forward.

This is a high-fantasy novel, the fourth in a series, so it’s not best to jump right in without knowing a bit about the particular world in which it is set and a basic idea of who the characters are. The names can be a bit daunting, but it is definitely not one of the more convoluted fantasy stories out there. I was fascinated by the creation of Deathweeds, roots with murderous intentions, they are such an original idea that I cheered every time they appeared on the page.

The conclusion (no worries, I will not reveal it) is so gorgeous that I have the urge to reread the last few pages. I highly recommend this book to all of you that, like me, want a cloak of colors to sink under and dream.

30 Day Challenge

Day 07 – Most underrated book

One book that I could not get enough of, and that stayed with me long after I put it down was The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips
I love all things Egypt so it was no surprise I loved it, but still I wish more people enjoyed it as much as I did.

This story, set mostly in Egypt in the early 1920s, stars Ralph Trilipush, an obsessive Egyptologist. Trilipush is more than a little odd. He is pinning his hopes on purported king Atum-hadu, whose erotic verses he has discovered and translated; now he must locate his tomb and its expected riches. Meanwhile, an Australian detective, for reasons too complicated to go into, is seeking to unmask Trilipush, who may have had some relationship with a young Australian Egyptologist who died mysteriously. Trilipush and the detective are two quite unreliable narrators, and the effect is that of a hall of mirrors. Where does fact end and imagination, illusion and wishful thinking begin? Phillips is a master manipulator, able to assume a dozen convincingly different voices at will, and his book is vastly entertaining. It's apparent that something dire is afoot, but the reader, while apprehensive, can never quite figure out what. The ending, which cannot be revealed, is shocking and cleverly contrived.

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Wave of Terror by Theodore Odrach
This panoramic novel hidden from the English-speaking world for more than 50 years begins with the Red Army invasion of Belarus in 1939. Ivan Kulik has just become Headmaster of school number 7 in Hlaby, a rural village in the Pinsk Marshes. Through his eyes we witness the tragedy of Stalinist domination where people are randomly deported to labour camps or tortured in Zovty Prison in Pinsk. The author's individual gift that sets him apart from his contemporaries is the range of his sympathies and his unromantic, unsentimental approach to the sensual lives of females. His debt to Chekhov is obvious in his ability to capture the internal drama of his characters with psychological concision

WWW Wednesdays

What are you currently reading?
Heirs of Mars by Joseph Robert Lewis. Enjoying it so far.

I'm also reading The Ale Boy's Feast by Jeffrey Overstreet.

What did you recently finish reading?
Just finished Laird of Darkness by Nicole North

What do you think you'll read next?
I have so many books it's hard to predict, but I might go with Dirty Little Angels by Chris Tusa

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chance to Read an Intriguing Non-Fiction

I was contacted this morning by the author of a non-fiction book called Tremble the Devil. He has done something that is very unusual in the writing community: he's posted his complete book up, for free.
Of course, you can buy a copy for your e-reader, but I think it is admirable to care so much about getting your thoughts across that you're willing to make the sacrifice of payment.

Here is a bit about the book:

Fear is the lifeblood of terrorism, and we all fear the unknown. So there’s no better counter to terrorism than simply spreading understanding.

Because terrorism only works when you freak out. And people only freak out when they don’t understand what’s going on – the true nature of the threat, where it’s really coming from. When they don’t realize that terrorists as individuals are – often as not – pretty freaking dim. And that terrorism as a concept only gains any meaning when it’s discussed in a specific context, that it can only be examined from one perspective at a time.

That’s why Tremble the Devil is posted up online for free: in the hope that when the next attacks hit they’ll be a little less effective, because after reading the book you’ll understand terrorism a little bit better and freak out a little bit less.

The author remains anonymous, but he was a was
employed by the Department of Defense for five-years, and worked in some of the DoD’s most sensitive and salient missions.

I will be reading it in the next few weeks and I'll be posting my review up for all you lovelies to read. If you'd like to join me you can find the book here

30 Day Challenge

Day 06 – A book that makes you sad

I have quite a few of these, but one that i recently read and that has really stayed with me was Caribou Island by David Vann

The prize-winning author of Legend of a Suicide delivers his highly anticipated debut novel.

On a small island in a glacier-fed lake on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, a marriage is unraveling. Gary, driven by thirty years of diverted plans, and Irene, haunted by a tragedy in her past, are trying to rebuild their life together. Following the outline of Gary's old dream, they're hauling logs to Caribou Island in good weather and in terrible storms, in sickness and in health, to build the kind of cabin that drew them to Alaska in the first place.

But this island is not right for Irene. They are building without plans or advice, and when winter comes early, the overwhelming isolation of the prehistoric wilderness threatens their bond to the core. Caught in the emotional maelstrom is their adult daughter, Rhoda, who is wrestling with the hopes and disappointments of her own life. Devoted to her parents, she watches helplessly as they drift further apart.

Brilliantly drawn and fiercely honest, Caribou Island captures the drama and pathos of a husband and wife whose bitter love, failed dreams, and tragic past push them to the edge of destruction. A portrait of desolation, violence, and the darkness of the soul, it is an explosive and unforgettable novel from a writer of limitless possibility.

From Heirs of Mars by Joseph Robert Lewis pg. 159

"Hon, I can see and hear your hesitation. Clone or human, social clues are pretty clear."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Laird of Darkness by Nicole North

Half-Fae Laird Duncan MacDougall is cursed. His nights are haunted by Otherworld creatures sent to kill him. The only way to stop them is to possess the magic bow currently in the hands of his enemy half brother, Kinnon MacClaren. In desperation, Duncan plans to take MacClaren's bride-to-be hostage and exchange her for the bow.

Lady Alana Forbes has never met her intended, but she hopes he is handsome—and a good lover, for Alana is no innocent virgin. On her way to Castle Claren, Alana and her escorts are intercepted, and she is kidnapped by a man with extraordinary abilities—and every attribute she longs for in a mate.

Duncan didn't expect the woman he thought of as a mere pawn to be so beautiful, and so arousing. Alana is drawn to him as well—but Duncan still needs the bow, and Alana is betrothed to another. How far will Alana go to save the life of the man she's come to love?

The idea behind this book is promising, a Fae lord who captures a maiden after which chaos ensues, but the results leave something to be desired.
Characterization is sorely lacking, all the readers get is cardboard characters that do not have any life in them. Their actions are bizarre and their mood shifts verging on the psychotic. I could not understand how the supposed kidnapped woman could fall madly in love with her captor in the space of two pages. It just boggles the mind and makes me wonder at how the author’s head works. I know that a romance novel is all about the romance, but I think we still need plot development and believable dialogue.
A lot of the issues could have been solved by adding pages to this short novel. It all feels much too rushed, the resolutions to problems appearing so quickly we are left reeling in disbelief. Perhaps if the author had taken a bit more time with the story it would have been better. As it is, I’m hesitant to recommend it.

30 Day Challenge

Day 05 – A book that makes you happy

I had to think about this one a bit. I don't usually read any "feel good" books, my choices are full of woe and misfortune, but one book that really sticks in my mind as a light, wonderful read is Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Pratchett (of Discworld fame) and Gaiman (of Sandman fame) may seem an unlikely combination, but the topic (Armageddon) of this fast-paced novel is old hat to both. Pratchett's wackiness collaborates with Gaiman's morbid humor; the result is a humanist delight to be savored and reread again and again. You see, there was a bit of a mixup when the Antichrist was born, due in part to the machinations of Crowley, who did not so much fall as saunter downwards, and in part to the mysterious ways as manifested in the form of a part-time rare book dealer, an angel named Aziraphale. Like top agents everywhere, they've long had more in common with each other than the sides they represent, or the conflict they are nominally engaged in. The only person who knows how it will all end is Agnes Nutter, a witch whose prophecies all come true, if one can only manage to decipher them. The minor characters along the way (Famine makes an appearance as diet crazes, no-calorie food and anorexia epidemics) are as much fun as the story as a whole, which adds up to one of those rare books which is enormous fun to read the first time, and the second time, and the third time...

Musing Mondays

This week’s Musing asks…
Do you read books while you…
…eat? … bathe?… watch movies or tv?… listen to music?… While you’re on the computer?

I sometimes eat while I read, but that gets comlicated, because I forget what I'm doing and I end up with a plate of very cold food.
Bubble-baths and books go well together, so that's a yes, but I can't read while the Tv is on or while music is playing. Something I do, however, which may be a bit bizarre is that I "walk" my pet snake Barbossa around the pool. He enjoys being outside and I enjoy reading next to him. (Forgive the pjs in the picture)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

30 Day Challenge

Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series

Ok, to continue with the Dragonlance extravaganza (mega-geek alert!)here is my favorite book from the series. The blurb won't make much sense if you haven't read the rest of them, but suffice it to say there is magic and time travelling involved. Yay!

War of the Twins by Margaret Weis and Tracy HickmanOne hundred years have passed since the fiery Cataclysm that changed the face of Krynn forever. For one hundred years, the people of Krynn have struggled to survive.

But for some, those one hundred years have passed in the blink of an eye.

Catapulted forward in time by Raistlin's powerful magic, Caramon and Crysania find themselves aiding the mage's unholy quest to master the Queen of Darkness. To his dismay, Raistlin discovers along the way that the annals of time are not so easily bent to his will.

Neither are the longings of his heart.

In My Mailbox

This meme is hosted by The Story Siren every Sunday. Just let everyone know what books you've received this week, they don't necessarily need to have arrived by mail.

Wounded Earth by Mary Anna Evans
Larabeth McLeod has beauty, money, several patents, a Ph.D., a successful environmental firm, and some very old secrets. When a man with the uncomfortable name of Babykiller begins stalking her, terrorizing her with stories of her darkest days in Vietnam, stories no one else knows, she feels compelled to fight back...until he exposes her most tender secret of all by threatening the daughter she has never met.She turns to private detective J.D. Hatten for help, breaking five years of separation and silence between quarreling friends. And then Babykiller shows his true capabilities. He is the head of an illicity business offering but one service--moving cargo worldwide for criminals who need their drugs or cash or smuggled goods shipped safely and anonymously--so he is capable of putting anything anywhere. He quietly explains to Larabeth, a well-known environmental executive, that he can even put defective gauges in nuclear power plants, and he will, just to get her attention. If she goes to the police for protection, people will die. Lots and lots of people will die. And one of them will be her daughter.Larabeth and J.D. are just a normal man and woman, up against a babykiller. But then, Babykiller doesn't know who he's dealing with...

Laird of Darkness by Nicole North
This one's a little out of my comfort zone, but I promised myself I would be a little more adventurous in my reading this year.

Half-Fae Laird Duncan MacDougall is cursed. His nights are haunted by Otherworld creatures sent to kill him. The only way to stop them is to possess the magic bow currently in the hands of his enemy half brother, Kinnon MacClaren. In desperation, Duncan plans to take MacClaren's bride-to-be hostage and exchange her for the bow.

Lady Alana Forbes has never met her intended, but she hopes he is handsome—and a good lover, for Alana is no innocent virgin. On her way to Castle Claren, Alana and her escorts are intercepted, and she is kidnapped by a man with extraordinary abilities—and every attribute she longs for in a mate.

Duncan didn't expect the woman he thought of as a mere pawn to be so beautiful, and so arousing. Alana is drawn to him as well—but Duncan still needs the bow, and Alana is betrothed to another. How far will Alana go to save the life of the man she's come to love?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

30 Day Challenge

Day 03 – Your favorite series

Wasn't I just speaking of this?

Of course, the Dragonlance Series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, specifically the first six books, which include Chronicles and Legends. After that, not so much.

Book Blogger Hop

This week's question comes from Mina who blogs at Mina Burrows:

"If you could physically put yourself into a book or series…which one would it be and why?"

I am pretty infatuated with the world of Dragonlance, circa War of the Lance (yes, I am a geek, deal with it). Everything about the Dragonlance series appeals to me, but of course, as most every reader of these books, my main obsession is with Raistlin Majere, a mage with a complicated life, to say the least.
I could go on and on about this series, but let is suffice that I would hop into that world in a heartbeat.

This Week's Question: Would you bungee jump, go hang gliding, jump out of a plane, etc? Which one and why? If not, how come?

I would LOVE to learn to milk venemous snakes. I love snakes in general and I'm the owner of seven beautiful reptilian babies, but a goal of mine is at some point to learn to handle and milk venemous snakes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Behind the Mask by David Gelber, MD

Do not be deterred by the cold medical cover or the fear of multisyllabic medical lingo, this book is a little gem and a must read.

It’s amazing how clear the writing is, how concise the phrases are and how interesting it all is. It’s hard to think a book about surgeons could be a page turner, but it truly is. In particular I enjoyed the chapter called The Villain, which deals mainly with post-operative infections and how the doctors have managed throughout the ages to combat them. There are so many interesting facts.
I learned, for example, about an organ I’d never heard about that protects our abdominal cavities, wrapping itself around our injuries like a blanket to keep infections from spreading further. That is just one example of the myriad of facts I gleamed from this book.

If you are like me, and non-fiction is not your first choice, I urge you to not turn this book aside; it is well worth your time. You just might learn something, I know, the horror!

How to play along: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments. Include the title and the author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and let us know if you liked or did not like the sentence. The link-up will be at A Few More Pages every Friday and will be open for the entire week.

From Behind the Maske by David Gelber, MD
"For more than twenty years I have made my living as a general surgeon, spending hours, almost every day, rummaging around inside people's bodies."

I love how direct it is, no muss no fuss to the writing. Bodes well for the rest of teh book.

30 Day Challenge

Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times

That's easy, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Through the story of the brilliant but conflicted young Raskolnikov and the murder he commits, Fyodor Dostoevsky explores the theme of redemption through suffering. Crime and Punishment put Dostoevsky at the forefront of Russian writers when it appeared in 1866 and is now one of the most famous and influential novels in world literature.

The poverty-stricken Raskolnikov, a talented student, devises a theory about extraordinary men being above the law, since in their brilliance they think “new thoughts” and so contribute to society. He then sets out to prove his theory by murdering a vile, cynical old pawnbroker and her sister. The act brings Raskolnikov into contact with his own buried conscience and with two characters — the deeply religious Sonia, who has endured great suffering, and Porfiry, the intelligent and discerning official who is charged with investigating the murder — both of whom compel Raskolnikov to feel the split in his nature. Dostoevsky provides readers with a suspenseful, penetrating psychological analysis that goes beyond the crime — which in the course of the novel demands drastic punishment — to reveal something about the human condition: The more we intellectualize, the more imprisoned we become.