Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Dilemma

Right, so I don't really feel like I'm entitled to do a "March reflection" post this month. The reason is that I haven't yet posted reviews for all the books that I read this month. I actually read 45 books in March. It would feel like lying if I just posted a list of the books read this March that I've posted so far, and it would be pointless to post the full list, as you can't read all the reviews yet.

It's an interesting dilemma, actually, because I really feel like I can't post more than 1 review a day because firstly, it would clutter up my blog with multiple posts a day, and secondly, I wouldn't expect anyone to read that many reviews in one day. But if you want me to post more than 1 review a day, just tell me...

Abandon, Meg Cabot

Anything can happen in the blink of an eye. Anything at all. One. Two. Three. Blink. A girl is laughing with friends. Suddenly, a crater splits apart the earth. Through it bursts a man in an ink black chariot forged in the deepest pits of hell, drawn by stallions with hooves of steel and eyes of flame. 

Sound familiar? This is a re-imagining of the Greek legend of Persephone. Pierce has returned from a near death experience, and she just can't seem to fit back into the world of the living. Especially since there's someone in the realm of the dead who wants her back. And he always appears when she least expects it but when she needs him most. But if she goes any further, she may find herself back in the place she fears most: the Underworld.

Ooh!! Interesting sounding plot, huh? Actually, I was really looking forward to reading this book for ages. Like, since last spring. And it pretty much met my expectations. It wasn't a great book or anything, but I enjoyed it. Sometimes I wished that Cabot would have revealed a little more of what actually happened to Pierce before the book begins, but still, an enjoyable read. And the book ends on a cliffhanger, making me want to read the next book in the series when it comes out...

Read Abandon:

  • if you like Meg Cabot
  • if you are interested in Greek myths
  • if you are interested in the myth of Persephone
  • if you like retellings of old tales in general
  • if you like dark YA romance/fantasy
304 pages.

Very Good! I would recommend this book!

Friday, March 30, 2012

1984, George Orwell

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him. 

This is such a grim, frightening and scary book by George Orwell. Set in 1984, it depicts a horrible society where Big Brother (the government) is always watching and you can be punished for "thought crimes." There is no freedom at all, and it is just a really punishing and strict society. Winston Smith tries to rebel against the government, and meets two people, Julia, a young woman who hands him a note reading, "I love you" and O'Brien, a mysterious man at his workplace. One of these people betrays him, and, against his own instincts, he betrays the other.

This is a pretty engaging and suspenseful book, though like I said, it was quite grim, and I think I preferred Animal Farm, as it was more effective in terms of the point Orwell was trying to make and was not quite so grim. However, still a good book.

Read 1984:

  • if you like George Orwell
  • if you like science fiction
308 pages.

Very Good! I would recommend this book!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga

Mr. Premier, Sir. Neither you nor I speak English, but there are some things that can be said only in English. My ex-employer the late Mr. Ashok's ex-wife, Pinky Madam, taught me one of these things; and at 11:32 p.m. today, which was about ten minutes ago, when the lady on All India Radio announced, "Premier Jiabao is coming to Bangalore next week," I said that thing once. 

This was such a great book, funny and interesting. Balram Halwai, a complicated man (servant, philosopher, entrepreneur, murderer), tells the reader his story over seven nights. His story, of how he became a success- with only his own wits. I really loved this book. I did. I loved it. Adiga has a really great writing style, so funny but matter-of-fact. This was a much better book than The Great Indian Novel, though with a sort of similar writing style and prupose.  I'm even tempted to purchase a copy for myself, though I probably won't...

Read The White Tiger:
  • if you are interested in India
  • if you are looking for a great, funny, thought-provoking novel
276 pages.

Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx

Here is an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of dreary upstate towns.

Quoyle is a thirty-six year old third rate reporter. When his horrible wife dies in a car accident, he takes his two daughters, Bunny and Sunshine, to his ancestral homeland of Newfoundland. There, a whole host of odd characters meet Quoyle and help him to confront his fears and reclaim his life.

This book was funny and sad at the same time. At the beginning of each chapter, something to do with sailing and ropes is detailed, whether it's a type of knot or an old saying or the definition of Quoyle (a coil of rope.) This was an interesting story.

Read The Shipping News:

  • if you are interested in knots
  • if you are interested in sailing/the sea
  • if you are looking for a quirky sort of novel
337 pages.

Very Good! I would recommend this book!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Moby Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them, Donovan Hohn

At the outset, I felt no need to acquaint myself with the six degrees of freedom. I'd never heard of the Great North Pacific Garbage the outset, I figured I'd interview a few oceanographers, talk to a few beachcombers, read up on ocean currents and Arctic geography, and then write an account of the incredible journey of the bath toys lost at sea, and account more detailed and whimsical than the tantalizingly brief summaries that had previously appeared in news stories. 

That, however, is not what happened. Donovan Hohn ended up traveling the globe following the trail of some rubber duckies (and other rubber animal toys) which were lost at sea. This was a pretty funny book. I mean, seriously, think about it: rubber duckies at sea! And yet, it was still a scientific kind of book. When a ship wrecks, we don't really think about the cargo that it was carrying. But that stuff has to go somewhere. This book addresses where some of that cargo went. It was quite engaging and humorous at times.

This book is kind of depressing, though, as it talks a lot about how the ocean is horribly polluted by plastic and how sleazy politicians are, always cutting corners and pretending that they're "helping the environment" when they're not (that I knew already.) But I really enjoyed reading it.

Read Moby Duck:

  • if you like humorous nonfiction/science books
  • if you are interested in ocean currents/science
  • if you like rubber duckies (?) maybe?
378 pages.

Very Good! I would recommend this book!

Monday, March 26, 2012

This Boy's Life: A Memoir, Tobias Wolff

Our car boiled over again just after my mother and I crossed the Continental Divide. While we were waiting for it to cool we heard, from somewhere above us, the bawling of an airhorn. 

I read Tobias Wolff's novel Old School and thought it was just okay, but his memoir was really great. He recounts his childhood from Florida to a small town in Washington State. His narratives are extremely interesting, from forging checks, planning to run away to Alaska, and stealing cars. It was not only an entertaining book, but also an interesting look at one boy's childhood. And personally, I just love the memoir genre. Memoirs are so interesting.

Read This Boy's Life:

  • if you like memoirs
  • if you like Tobias Wolff's books
288 pages.

Very Good! I would recommend this book!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Paris, Paris: Journey Into the City of Light, David Downie

No single element of Paris evokes the city's ambiguous allure more poignantly than the Seine. A slow arcing gray-green curve, the river reflects the raked tin rooftops arrayed along its embankments, and the temperamental skies of the Ile-de-France...each day when I step out for my constitutional around the Ile Saint-Louis I ask myself what Paris would be without the Seine. The answer is simple: it wouldn't. 

David Downie came to Paris in 1986, full of romantic notions about the city. He ended up living there and writing extensively about Paris. This book has 31 prose sketches of "Paris Places," "Paris People," and "Paris Phenomena," including one about the Luxembourg Gardens, one of my favorite parks in Paris.

This was a really great book, and I loved Downie's various essays and the subjects he chose to write about. This book will probably stay on my bookshelf, and I'll probably revisit some of his essays.

Read Paris, Paris:

  • if you are interested in travel books
  • if you are interested in Paris
303 pages.

Very Good! I would recommend this book!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris, Edmund White

Paris is a big city, in the sense that London and New York are big cities and that Rome is a village, Los Angeles a collection of villages and Zurich a backwater. 

Heh heh. I get what White means about Los Angeles being a collection of villages; a lot of West Coast cities (like Seattle) seem to be structured that way and you have to drive from "village" to "village." In any case, this was an amazing book.

From the jacket: A flaneur is a stroller, a loiterer, someone who ambles through city streets in search of adventure and fulfillment. Edmund White, who lived in Paris for 16 years, embraces this sobriquet and wanders through the streets and avenues, along the quays, and into parts of Paris virtually unknown to visitors and indeed to many Parisians. In the company of the learned White, a walk through Paris is both a tour of its lush, sometimes prurient, history and an evocation of the city's spirit. The Flaneur leads us to bookshops and boutiques, monuments and palaces, giving us a glimpse into their inner human drama. Along the way we learn everything from the latest debates among French lawmakers to the juicy details of Colette's life. 

White manages to evoke the flaneur in his writing style very well; he wanders from subject to subject as a flaneur might wander from street to street. He had interesting facts to impart about the history of Paris. I quite enjoyed reading this book, especially as I'm interested in the concept of the flaneur. I really loved a lot of the narratives that White imparted to the reader.

Read The Flaneur:

  • if you like travel/history books
  • if you are interested in Paris or France in general
  • if you are interested in the concept of the flaneur
193 pages.

Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach

Schwartz didn't notice the kid during the game. Or rather, he noticed only what everyone else did-that he was the smallest player on the field, a scrawny novelty of a shortstop, quick of foot but weak with the bat. Only after the game ended, when the kid returned to the sun-scorched diamond to take extra grounders, did Schwartz see the grace that shaped Henry's every move.

This was an okay book. Yes, it was about baseball, but it wasn't just about baseball. It was about more than that. It's set in Westish college, a small school near Lake Michigan. Henry Skrimshander is a star shortstop at the college, but when a routine throw goes off disastrously of course, the lives of five people are upended: Henry himself, the college president Guert Affenlight, Henry's roommate Own, the team captain Mike Schwartz and Pella Affenlight, Guert's daughter. I liked the writing style in this book, as well as the descriptions of baseball and the various characters. The second half of the book was very disappointing, though; the book started out really strongly, and I thought it would be a 5 star, but it got progressively weaker, and the ending was just terrible in my opinion. The last 200 pages or so were really lame; it seemed like Harbach just didn't know where he wanted to go with the book.

However, if you like baseball, I think you'll really like certain parts of this book. It talked a lot about baseball, players, baseball techniques, mindsets, etc, which I enjoyed reading.

Read The Art of Fielding:
  • if you are interested in baseball
However, if you have no interest in baseball, there's no point really in you reading it. I was so frustrated by this book! It could have been a really great novel. I mean, I thought it would be great, and the first 200 pages were, but then it fizzled...
    512 pages.

    Okay book, but it left me wanting more!

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    At the Water's Edge, Pradeep Jeganathan

    The seats in the front were better than those in the back. First, because you could see and hear the teacher better, and also, because the benches weren't wobbly like those at the back of the classroom.

    This is an interesting collection of short stories by Pradeep Jeganathan, a Sri Lankan writer. There are 7 stories all told, respectively, "The Front Row," "The Watch," "The Street," "Sri Lanka," "The Train from Batticoloa," "A Man from Jaffna," and "At the Water's Edge." The seven stories are all interlinked, with major and minor characters interwoven. It was quite compelling. Normally, a short story collection has stories about different by the same author. But in At the Water's Edge, the stories were all connected. I enjoyed reading it very much, and the stories themselves were interesting too.

    Read At the Water's Edge:

    • if you are interested in Sri Lanka
    • if you like short stories, particularly interwoven ones
    119 pages.

    Very Good! I would recommend this book!

    Wednesday, March 21, 2012

    Not Quite Paradise: An American Sojourn in Sri Lanka, Adele Barker

    An Italian named Marignolli was the first European tourist to be robbed in Ceylon. In the mid-fourteenth century, he was on his way back to Florence from China with the various treasures he had amassed. Blown off course, his ship landed in Seyllan (Ceylon), where it fell into the hands of a devious Saracen robber who proceeded to strip him of all the finery he was bringing back from China. Apart from that incident, Marignolli found the island quite to his liking. 

    Shortly after 9/11, Adele Barker and her son Noah moved to Sri Lanka for 18 months (she was teaching there.) They experienced the cultural and natural elements of this wonderful country. I really hope to travel to Sri Lanka some day. In any case, they experienced Sri Lanka's customs, cultures and various landscapes. However, in December 2004, when a terrible tsunami struck southeast Asia, Adele Barker decided that she had to go back. That's the not quite paradise part. Sri Lanka is such a beautiful country, but so many human tragedies have occurred there, including the long, bloody civil war and the uprisings before it. Barker chronicles how she hears locals tell about their experiences during the uprisings as well.

    One thing I enjoyed about the book was that Barker not only included her own experiences living in Sri Lanka, but she also included some of its history (as you can see from the first few sentences.) I found the mix of history and personal experience quite interesting and effective.

    Read Not Quite Paradise:

    • if you like travel books
    • if you are interested in Sri Lanka
    300 pages.

    Very Good! I would recommend this book!

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    Running with Scissors, Augusten Burroughs

    My mother is standing in front of the bathroom mirror smelling polished and ready; like Jean Nate, Dippity Do and the waxy sweetness of lipstic. Her white, handgun-shaped blow-dryer is lying on top of the wicker clothes hamper, ticking as it cools. 

    This was an interesting and sad but also hilarious memoir. At the age of 12 Augusten Borrough's mother gave him to her crazy psychiatrist to raise. Augusten finds himself in a strange old house with a whole bizarre cast of characters.

    I was quite intrigued by this story, and horrified and amazed that it was actually true; that his mother left him to live there. But I suppose there's nothing technically illegal about it. Anyways, it was an incredible story of survival in extraordinary circumstances, and I enjoyed the way Burroughs described the different people he meets at the psychiatrist's house.

    Read Running with Scissors:

    • if you like memoirs
    • if you like survival stories
    304 pages.

    Very Good! I would recommend this book!

    Monday, March 19, 2012

    A Girl of the Limberlost, Gene Stratton-Porter

    "Elnora Comstock, have you lost your senses?" demanded the angry voice of Catherine Comstock as she glared at her daughter."

    Elnora Comstock is determined to finish high school, despite her mother's mysterious cruelty to her. She sets out to earn enough money to solve her financial problems, and her spirit and cheerfulness win her many friends along the way. This book is sort of similar to Anne of Green Gables in that it features a smart and determined heroine, though Elnora is older than Anne was at the beginning of the book.

    I quite enjoyed this book, and it was a pretty good story. One thing that was super annoying though was that Elnora was collecting caterpillars and moths from the swamps to sell. Then it says that every year, there are less and less moths. And who's fault do you think that is? It's Elnora who's capturing and killing them. Though I don't blame her; she has to earn money some way. Also, the book talked about God in a very annoying way. Apparently the author didn't believe in evolution. The overall story was good, however.

    Read A Girl of the Limberlost:

    • if you like books with determined heroines
    • if you enjoyed Anne of Green Gables
    • if you are looking for a story about following your dreams and never giving up 
    370 pages.

    Very Good! I would recommend this book!

    Sunday, March 18, 2012

    Enchantress from the Stars, Sylvia Engdahl

    At the edge of the Enchanted Forest there lived a poor woodcutter who had four sons, the youngest of whom was named Georyn. 

    This is a really amazing book, which, though it started out kind of slow, quickly picked up and was quite interesting. I'd say that Enchantress from the Stars is three parts science fiction, one part fantasy. It centers around three people on the planet Andrecia. One is Elana, a member of a very advanced interstellar civilization. She is on a mission to the "primitive" Andrecia to save it from a "Youngling" attack. Then there's Apprentice Medical Officer Jarel, a Youngling, who starts to have doubts about whether what his people are doing is right. And Georyn, the son of an Andrecian woodcutter. He only knows that there is a dragon on the other side of the Enchanted Forest, and he must defeat it. He believes that Elana is an enchantress from the stars who has come test him. That is sort of the fantasy element.

    The style of the book is really interesting. Jarel and Elana's sections are obviously science fiction, and are told in a science fiction style. But Georyn believes in magic, and his chapters are told in a style similar to an old fantasy tale.

    This was a very engaging book, and I loved it.

    Read Enchantress from the Stars:
    • if you like science fiction
    • if you like fantasy
    • if you like fairy tales
    • if you like adventures and quests
    286 pages.


    Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

    Saturday, March 17, 2012

    Almost a Woman, Esmeralda Santiago

    In the twenty-one years I lived with my mother, we moved at least twenty times. we stuffed our belongs into ragged suitcases, boxes with bold advertising on the sides, pillowcases, empty rice sacks, cracker tins that smelled of flour and yeast.

    As a child, Esmeralda Santiago moved from Puerto Rico to New York City. This is her second memoir, and though I haven't read the first one, I found this quite interesting. It tells mainly of her confusion as a teenager; is she Puerto Rican or is she American? And of course, the book tells about her life. I enjoyed this book; it was a great coming-of-age story as Santiago struggled to determine who she was.

    Read Almost a Woman:
    • if you like memoirs
    • if you are interested in immigration
    • if you are interested in Puerto Rican immigrants specifically
    311 pages.

    Very Good! I would recommend this book!

    Friday, March 16, 2012

    Robin Hood: The True History Behind the Legend, Nigel Cawthorne

    Everyone knows Robin Hood. He was a famous outlaw and unrivalled archer living with his band of yeomen in Sherwood Forest, near the own of Nottingham, where they feasted on the King's venison washed down with warm English ale. 

    Most people have heard of Robin Hood, the famous medieval outlaw who lived in Sherwood Forest and robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. But do you know who Robin Hood really was? Well, this book explains. It tells the tale of Robin Hood at the beginning, and then delves deeper into actual historical references, stories, and performances. It tells about different versions of the story too, and where Maid Marian came from. This book was fairly interesting, though the author's writing style wasn't that great and I think he could have made it much more interesting. I mean seriously, Robin Hood was a swashbuckling outlaw, surely it could have been a bit more engaging? And the ending was really abrupt and weird; without any sort of wrap-up or conclusion really.

    Read Robin Hood: The True History Behind the Legend:
    • if you are interested in the medieval era
    • if you are particularly interested in outlaws like Robin Hood
    215 pages.

    Okay book, but it left me wanting more!

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer

    Before I discovered the miracles of science, magic ruled the world. Magic and its many mysteries were a presence that hovered about constantly, giving me my earliest memory as a boy- my father saved me from certain death and became the hero he is today. 

    William Kamkwamba grew up in Malawi, where magic still ruled and modern science was a mystery. But he dreamed of using a windmill to provide something that most people in Malawi didn't have- running water and electricity. This is the story of his childhood and adolescence spent in Malawi. One thing that I enjoyed about the book was the combining of magic and science. Kamkwamba describes the magical and cultural beliefs of the people, as well as the new scientific technology that was just arriving in Malawi. Also, he describes a terrible famine that occurred in 2001 with great, heartbreaking detail.

    Read The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind:

    • if you like stories about progress in poor countries
    • if you like stories about people trying to fulfill their dreams
    286 pages.

    Very Good! I would recommend this book!

    Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Bel Canto, Ann Patchett

    When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her. Maybe he had been turning towards her just before it was completely dark, maybe he was lifting his hands. There must have been some movement, a gesture, because every person in the living room would later remember a kiss. They did not see a kiss, that would have been impossible. The darkness that came on them was startling and complete. 

    "Somewhere in South America, a lavish party is taking place thrown by the vice president of the country for a Japanese businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Rosanne Coss, a famous opera soprano, has dazzled the audience with her singing. It's a perfect evening- until the lights go out and an armed band of terrorists take the whole party hostage. But what starts out as a terrifying experience becomes something more when unexpected bonds form between different people, terrorists and hostages alike." But they forget that they have started something quite dangerous-something that cannot be stopped.

    One thing I really loved about this book was the premise. Doesn't that just sound like such an interesting story? And it was; Patchett's unique writing style brought the story to life. The entire story was set in the same house, but that didn't make it dull; quite the opposite. You didn't have to worry about the setting and could focus on the fascinating characters. But, do not read Bel Canto if you like books with lots of action; not much actually happens and it's more of a reflective book than an action-packed one, despite the gun-wielding terrorists.

    Read Bel Canto:

    • if you are interested opera
    • if you like intriguing plots in books 
    • if you like books about unexpected situations
    318 pages.

    Very Good! I would recommend this book!

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    The Wager, Donna Jo Napoli

    Don Giovanni looked out the castle window over the strait that separated the island of Sicily from the mainland. He fingered the fine silk of his shirtsleeves and smiled. "The sea is bluer because it's mine." "Don't be absurd." He turned. A maidservant carried a tray into the room. The scent of honey and sheep's milk ricotta promised such sweet satisfaction that his smile lingered, despite her words. 

    Hmm, I seem to be reading a lot of Donna Jo Napoli lately, even though I don't particularly like her writing. But her stories always sound so interesting.

    This story is based loosely on the story of Don Giovanni de la Fortuna. Don Giovanni (no relationship to the Don Giovanni Mozart wrote his opera about) is a wealthy and handsome young man in Sicily. But when a earthquake and tsunami destroys everything he owns, he must wander as a beggar. He still has his good looks, but winter is coming, and he has nowhere to go. When a stranger offers him as much money as he wants if he doesn't wash for three years, three months, and three days, he agrees, though he knows he shouldn't accept. And if he loses, he will lose his soul. This was definitely my favorite Donna Jo Napoli book that I've read so far.

    I wasn't familiar with the original myth, which you can find here. However, this was an engaging and interesting tale.

    Read The Wager:

    • if you like Donna Jo Napoli
    • if you enjoy retellings of myths and fairy tales 
    259 pages.

    Very Good! I would recommend this book!

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    Ice Land, Betsy Tobin

    When I was sixteen, I was given a cloak made entirely of feathers. It was made from pale grey falcon wings, unthinkably soft, with no more weight than a handful of ash. 

    It is 1000 AD in Iceland. Freya, the goddess of love, goes on a dangerous journey to find a gold necklace that supposedly can alter history. Meanwhile, the country is on the brink of war as a new religion, Christianity, threatens the old ways of the Icelandic people. Tangled amid it is Fulla, a girl who falls in love with someone who her family is determined to tear her apart from. I loved the way that Tobin combined the Norse gods and goddesses with regular Icelandic people (she alternates between Freya and Fulla's narrative, as well as other characters.) This book has a really great plot, and describes the world of Iceland very well. This is a book full of magic and love. It sort of reminded me of The Sea of Trolls, in that it is set in the same general area and time period, where the old faith is colliding with the new.

    Read Ice Land:

    • if you are interested in Norse mythology
    • if you like fantasy 
    350 pages.

    Very Good! I would recommend this book!

    Sunday, March 11, 2012

    Blood Red Road, Moira Young

    The day's hot. So hot an so dry that all I can taste in my mouth is dust. The kinda white heat day when you can hear th'earth crack. We ain't had a drop of rain fer near six months now. Even the spring that feeds the lake's startin to run dry. You gotta walk some ways out now to fill a bucket. Pretty soon, there won't be no point in calling it by its name. Silverlake. 

    Saba lives in a sheltered world with her family, but it is shattered when her twin brother, Lugh is captured by four cloaked horsemen. Saba sets off into a lawless, wasted landscape left behind by the "Wreckers" (us), along with her younger sister, Emmi (who she blames for their mother's death) to try and rescue her brother. She teams up with a boy named Jack and a gang of girl warriors called the Free Hawks. She's off to save her brother- and possibly her whole world from evil. I really liked the characters of the Free Hawks- they were brave and roguish.This was a deeply disturbing book, which I think was kind of the point, so in that respect, the author succeeded very well.Young's writing style is interesting; as you can see from the opening paragraph, Saba narrates her story in a colloquial, ungrammatical way. I like the idea of this, but it was kind of difficult to get through the book- at first. But it worked well and sounded genuine. This book was sort of similar to The Hunger Games. I did really enjoy this book, once I got used to the writing style. This book actually grew on me as I went on, because the book had really great suspense and buildup. I actually changed my rating from 4.25 to 4.5, to 4.75, to finally, 5 stars.

    Read Blood Red Road:

    • if you like science fiction and are looking for a great sci-fi read
    • if you like female heroines
    459 pages.


    Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

    Saturday, March 10, 2012

    Paula: A Memoir, Isabel Allende

    Listen, Paula. I am going to tell you a story, so that when you wake up you will not feel so lost. 

    This is a really hearbreaking and great work. Allende wrote this book in a hospital in Madrid, when her daughter Paula fell into a coma. It's sort of like a letter to Paula, telling her about the Allende family, and Isabel's own childhood and life. This was such a moving book, especially since Paula never woke up from her coma. It sort of has the feel of The House of the Spirits, because Allende accepts magical and spiritual worlds as a matter of course. I just love Allende's writing, and I really felt for her throughout this book. It was more immediate; it was her own daughter. (Though I did find out that The House of the Spirits was written as a tribute to her grandfather.) Her writing just feels to real and true; it's just wonderful. You really must read at least one of her books.

    Read Paula:

    • if you like emotional memoirs
    • if you like Isabel Allende
    330 pages.


    Outstanding Book That Will Stay On My Bookshelf For Rereading (jf I own it)!

    Friday, March 9, 2012

    B For Buster, Iain Lawrence

    I left a town where fewer than a thousand people lived. I traveled half the world, in the middle of a war, to get away from there...but the first thing I saw when I walked through the door of the sergeants' mess was a guy I knew from home. 

    Sixteen year old Kak is underage when he enlists in the Canadian Air Force during World War II. He wants to see action, and finds himself in England. But the world of war that he enters isn't anything like the comic book adventures he loves. Of course not. He realizes that he and his six crewmates on B for Buster, their bomber could be killed at any time. Kak is terrified, naturally. But in Bert, the keeper of the homing pigeons, Kak finds an unlikely friend. Bert seems to understand things that the other men don't talk about. Kak also bonds with the pigeons, one named Percy in particular. This wasn't the greatest book; the writing wasn't that impressive, nor was the plot. But it was okay. I did like the descriptions of the pigeons.

    Read B For Buster:

    • if you like books about war and the army
    • if you like books about finding your true self
    305 pages.

    Very Good! I would recommend this book!

    Thursday, March 8, 2012

    Dracula, Bram Stoker

    Left Munich at 8:35 PM on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late.

    Dracula is the original vampire story. I'm sure most of you have heard of the story of Dracula and maybe seen the film with Bela Lugosi, but have you ever read the original book? If you read Twilight and such things, you should read its predecessor, Dracula. The original book is told in the form of diary entries from various characters and letters. It is quite an interesting style of narration, especially for a horror book. You would expect the narration to be different, but I enjoyed the way diary entries were used; you got to see the perspectives of the various characters. Also, the way Stoker built up suspense, mystery, and dread was really great. As a horror story, it was quite effective. The story didn't start out that scarily, but gradually, ever so gradually, the horror creeped up on you and caught by surprise, until finally, you were totally chilled to the bone by the dreadfulness of it. Though I'm not generally a fan of horror, this book kept me engaged and I liked it. If you like scary horror stories, this is definitely the book for you.

    Read Dracula:

    • if you like vampire stories
    • if you like horror in general 
    400 pages.

    Very Good! I would recommend this book!

    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    The Great Indian Novel, Shashi Tharoor

    They tell me India is an underdeveloped country. They attend seminars, appear on television, even com to see me, creasing their eight-hundred-rupee suits and clutching their moulded plastic briefcases, to announce in tones of infinite understanding that India has to yet to develop. Stuff and nonsense, of course. These are the kind of fellows who couldn't tell their kundalini from a decomposing earthworm, and I don't hesitate to tell them so. 

    I don't know if this really is the great Indian novel, but it was a good one. I think the title is a bit presumptuous, though. I liked the story-line of this sometimes humorous novel, but it was also a work of satire, and Tharoor directed his satire as  much against Indian foibles, failings, and quirks, as against the bumblings of British colonist rulers. Tharoor recast the epic the Mahabharata with fictionalized- but very recognizable- events and characters from 20th century Indian politics. For example, Gandhi is recast as similar character named Gangaji. Even though I don't know that much about Indian history (only the basics) I still enjoyed reading this book. It is narrated by Ved Vyas, who supposedly spent time with "Gangaji" and is dictating his memoir. I really liked the format of the book. Ved Vyas is dictating his memoir to someone named Ganapathi, and thus it is humorous, because he sometimes argues with Ganapathi, and it is included in the memoir. If that makes any sense.

    Read The Great Indian Novel:

    • if you are interested in Indian history
    • if you like satire
    418 pages.

    Very Good! I would recommend this book!

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    The Runaway Princess, Kate Coombs

    From the prologue: When Meg was small, her mother used to tell her bedtime stories. Meg would sit up amid a pile of embroidered pillows, her five satin comforters already turned back by the castle maids. 

    Meg is a princess. But not an ordinary princess. She prefers to play with frogs instead of embroidering and she hates frilly dresses. So when her father the king decides to give her hand in marriage to whoever can rid the kingdom of its "evils" (witches, dragons, bandits), she has no intention of going along. Meg sets out to win the contest herself, with the help of her good friend, her maid, a guardsman, a wizard, and a witch. This is a really familiar story; it has all the elements of fantasy, especially the type with untraditional princesses: annoying princes, enchanted frogs, magical items like invisibility juice. But I still enjoyed the book, with its playful writing style. This was overall a pretty fun book, with light adventure and intrigue. There is a sequel to it, entitled The Runaway Dragon.

    Read The Runaway Princess:

    • if you like fantasy, particularly with untraditional princesses
    • if you enjoyed The Enchanted Forest Series by Patricia Wrede
    • if you're looking for a light, fun, fantasy
    279 pages.

    Very Good! I would recommend this book!

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    The Riddle-Master of Hed, Patricia McKillip

    Morgon of Hed met the High One's harpist one autumn day when the trade-ships docked at Tol for the season's exchange of goods. 

    Thus begins a fairly interesting fantasy book. It tells of Morgon, prince of the simple farmers of Hed, who must escape evil forces and journey to the High One on the mysterious Erlenstar Mountain.With him comes Deth, the High One's harper. No one is who they seem and no one can be trusted. Typical fantasy plot, right? This book has the feel of an old fantasy tale too; there is a distinctive writing style throughout the book. Though the book was sort of confusing, for the most part it was a fairly enjoyable read. The Riddle-Master of Hed is the first of three books about the land that Morgon lives in. And the book ends on a cliff-hanger, so now I feel really compelled to read the second book, just to see what happens.

    Read The Riddle-Master of Hed:

    • if you like fantasy
    • if you like adventure
    • if you've read and liked The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (one of McKillip's other books)
    222 pages.

    Very Good! I would recommend this book!

    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    White Oleander, Janet Fitch

    The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert, shriveling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw. Only the oleanders thrived, their delicate poisonous blooms, their dagger green leaves.

    I really loved the wonderful imagery in this book. You can already see the landscape from the first two sentences. This book tells the story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet in prison for murder, and her daughter Astrid, who travels through a series of LA foster homes. Each of the homes is its own universe, with separate laws, separate dangers and hard lessons to be learned. But it becomes a surprising journey of self-discovery, and I really enjoyed traveling with Astrid through the various places that she lives. Astrid has happy moments and sad moments, moments when she doesn't quite know who she is or what she believes in. And I really loved that. Also, Astrid's narration is so moving, and her character is quite distinctive. It was a really great book.

    Read White Oleander:

    • if you like books about journeys (symbolic, metaphorical or otherwise)
    • if you're looking for a great emotional novel 
    446 pages, 5 stars.

    Saturday, March 3, 2012

    The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde

    My father had a face that could stop a clock. I don't mean that he was ugly or anything; it was a phrase the ChronoGuard used to describe someone who had the power to reduce time to an ultra-slow trickle. 

    If you're a fan of Inkheart and of science fiction or alternate reality, this is the perfect for you. In this alternated world in 1985 in Britain, time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos have been resurrected,) and literature is taken very seriously. People can get lost in poems and stories, and first editions are forged. This is all usual for Thursday Next, a literary detective. But then someone begins kidnapping characters from stories. And when Jane Eyre is kidnapped, Thursday has to track down the villain and go into the novel herself.

    This is a really great book; playful and wonderful. I loved the world-building in the book, though there were a lot of specialized terms that you had to learn to make sense of the story. Also, I really liked the character of the villain, Acheron Hades. He was so deliciously evil. And seemingly invincible. Fforde's writing style was really great too; you know, that British style. It was straightforward but also had dry humor. And action, but not too much action. Fforde is actually from Wales, I think.

    I actually looked this book up on Amazon and it had mixed reviews from the customers. Some people just loved it, and some people thought that it was the stupidest thing ever. Though it was a little silly at times, it had a good premise and I think that I'm one of those people who just loved it. It had very clever moments, though at times it was a bit over-the-top. But still, a great book.

    This is the first book in the Thursday Next series, which includes Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, and Something Rotten.

    Read The Eyre Affair:

    • if you are a fan of alternate realities
    • if you enjoy fantasy, especially Inkheart
    • if you like science fiction 
    • if you like thrillers 
    • if you like mysteries (especially with female detectives)
    374 pages, 5 stars.

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    The Story of Beautiful Girl, Rachel Simon

    At the end of the night that would change everything, the widow stood on her porch and watched as the young woman was marched down her front drive and shoved into the sedan. The girl did not fight back, bound and tied as she was, nor did she cry out into the chill autumn rain, so surely the doctor and his attendants thought they had won. They did not know, as the car doors slammed shut, the engine came on, and the driver steered them down the muddy hill toward the road, that the widow and the girl in the backseat had just defied them right under their noses.

    What a compelling beginning. It just made me want to read more. This was such a great book, but also such as sad book. It deals mainly with three people: two people who try to escape from a mental asylum and the widow who helps them and takes in the woman's baby daughter. The woman can't speak and the man is deaf, but they're not "crazy" or "retarded," like the people running the asylum seem to think. They have feelings and emotions too. All three of the main characters have flashbacks, remembrances of events past. I loved the flowing style of Rachel Simon, and this was such a wonderful book. It made me want to cry at times. It was really a bit too sad. Actually, the deaf man in the story is based upon a real person who was committed to a mental asylum at the age of 15. The book did have a satisfying ending, though.

    Read The Story of Beautiful Girl:

    • if you enjoy sad stories
    • if you are interested in stories about cruel, unjust situations, specifically about mental asylums
    • if you're looking for a great emotional novel
    340 pages, 4.5 stars.

    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    Sorcery and Cecilia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

    "Dearest Kate, It is dreadfully flat here since you have been gone, and it only makes it worse to imagine all the things I shall be missing."

    Thus begins an enchanting fantasy story told in letters between two cousins, Kate and Cecilia. Many strange things are happening in London. Magical things. This was a great book, especially as I love Patricia Wrede's other books. And, the two authors wrote this as letters between each other, so they didn't really know where the book was going. They find out new developments as soon as their characters do. The two girls might fear for their lives- if they weren't having such fun! This is a wonderful lighthearted fantasy with a cute title too. And it also had a really whimsical and enjoyable writing style.

    Read Sorcery and Cecilia:

    • if you've read and liked Wrede's Enchanted Forest chronicles
    • if you enjoy light fantasy. 
    316 pages, 4.25 stars.