Thursday, December 29, 2005

Book 92: The Elusive Flame

TITLE: The Elusive Flame
AUTHOR: Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
STARTED: December 22, 2005
FINISHED: December 29, 2005
PAGES: 488
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Cerynise Edlyn Kendall stood at the lofty windows of the front parlor and, through a wealth of tears, gloomily observed the people scurrying along the lane traversing Berkley Square.

SUMMARY: [From] Cerynise Kendall has been left destitute and in dire need following the death of her doting patron and protectress. A brilliant young artist tossed from her home with only the clothes on her back, Cerynise must now turn to a childhood companion for assistance - the dashing sea captain Beauregard Birmingham - and beg him to provide her with passage to the Carolinas. She seeks a new home and a new life across the waters, but all depends upon the kindness of a charming adventurer who was once the object of her youthful infatuation.

Beneath Birmingham's rugged exterior beats a heart as large and wild as the Atlantic, and Beau readily agrees to aid Cerynise — even offering her his name in marriage, albeit temporarily, to protect his longtime friend from scandal. But perilous secrets, determined enemies and tempests of the sea and soul threaten their future and safe passage even as bonds of camaraderie are miraculously reforged as bonds of desire and affection becomes passion and love.

The long-awaited sequel to one of the most cherished love stories of our time!

REASON FOR READING: It is indeed a sequel to a book I loved, so I decided to read it.

THOUGHTS: This book was not as good as the first. The characters seemed bland, as if they were card board cut-outs. The plot was the usual; there was nothing unique about it. I didn't feel any passion or chemistry between the characters and, for me, that is a key point of a romance novel.

That being said, Woodiwiss' writing is still very enjoyable. Her skill with words makes up for the lack of everything else.

MISCELLANEOUS: I just bought another Woodiwiss novel, we'll see how she fares.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: "A Problem from Hell" America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power
RN: The Othe Boelyn Girl by Philippa Gregory and Compassion Fatigue by Susan D. Moeller

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Book 91: One Night For Love

TITLE: One Night For Love
AUTHOR: Mary Balogh
STARTED: December 17, 2005
FINISHED: December 21, 2005
PAGES: 375
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Despite the early hour and the chilly weather, the yard of the White Horse Inn in Fetter Lane, London, was crowded and noisy.

SUMMARY: [From] It was a perfect morning in May...

Neville Wyatt, Earl of Kilbourne, awaited his bride at the altar - when a ragged beggar woman raced down the aisle instead. The cream of the ton saw him stare, shocked, then declare that this was his wife! One night of passion was all he remembered as he beheld Lily, the woman he'd wed, loved, and lost on the battlefield in Portugal. Now he said he'd honor his commitment to her - regardless of the gulf that lay between them.

Then Lily spoke her mind...

She said she wanted only to start a new life - wanted only a husband who truly loved her. She had to leave him to learn how to meet his world on her terms. So Lily agreed to earn her keep as his aunt's companion and study the genteel arts. Soon she was the toast of the ton, every inch a countess fit for the earl, who vowed to prove to his remarkable wife that what he felt for her was far more than desire, that what he wanted from her was much more than... One Night for Love.

REASON FOR READING: I needed something for the plane ride.

THOUGHTS: Like usual, I continue to love Mary Balogh's work. The characters were unique and so was the plot line. The fact that neither character was incredibly flawed in their view was a great support for the novel. Both Neville and Lily had an inner strength that is often missing from most romance novel characters. The chemistry between the two was not spectacular, but it was present.

The one downside, I couldn't get over the fact that it was the woman who had to changed to fit the man's world. For some reason that bothered me. The twist in the end was also relatively easy to see early in the book.

MISCELLANEOUS: I got nuthin...

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: The Elusive Flame by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
RN: "A Problem From Hell" America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power

Monday, December 19, 2005

Book 90: The Devil You Know

TITLE: The Devil You Know
AUTHOR: Liz Carlyle
STARTED: December 12, 2005
FINISHED: December 17, 2005
PAGES: 407
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Do you believe in universal truths?

SUMMARY: Frederica d'Avillez is sure she will never marry. She's had a disastrous London season, and now her longtime beau has thrown her over for a more eligible miss. But if Freddie can't have a husband, she's hell-bent on experiencing at least one night of unforgettable passion. Where better than in the arms of the dashing rogue Bentley "Hell-Bent" Rutledge? So what if he's a rake, scoundrel, and all-round devil?

Scandal trails in Bentley's wake and fair maidens usually steer well clear of him - and vice versa. But when the opportunity presents itself, Bentley can't resist Freddie's exotic beauty. When their wild, reckless passion has dire consequences, Bentley is forced to choose between honor and freedom. And Freddie soon realizes that Bentley's devil-may-care facade is just that - for she has unwittingly unleashed his dark secrets... and secret desires.

REASON FOR READING: She's a new author who had been sitting on my bookshelf for quite some time.

THOUGHTS: Wow, this was a good book. The writing and multiple story levels were amazing. Carlyle had a web of intricate plots going that, instead of falling into chaos, meshed quite nicely. Her writing seemed to be more sophisticated than most other romance novels and the book benefited because of it. The two lead characters were written with such depth that it was difficult not to be drawn into their lives.

The one critique I had with this book is that Carlyle introduced characters left and right with little time left for the reader to remember the role they play. This book had so many characters that I almost had trouble keeping up with the role they played in the plot.

Overall, a great read. I'm glad that I have one more book by her waiting for me at home.

MISCELLANEOUS: Yes, I do believe in universal truths.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keep, at least for now.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: One Night For Love by Mary Balogh
RN: I have no clue. I'm limited in my own reading choices because I am on winter break right now. My grandmother, however, keeps on telling me of books I should read before I go home. Most of my fun reading, however, is going to get pushed aside for books I need to get through for my thesis and Media Studies Comprehensive exams.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Book 89: A Pirate of Her Own

TITLE: A Pirate of Her Own
AUTHOR: Kinley MacGregor
STARTED: December 11, 2005
FINISHED: December 12, 2005
PAGES: 307
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: I have been told, by sources most reliable, of an incredible hero.

SUMMARY: [From] He is the Sea Wolf, a dreaded pirate who stops English navy ships and frees impressed American sailors. Few know Morgan Drake's name, and none guesses at his past. Except, that is, a nosy Savannah reporter named Serenity James. Determined to protect his secrets at any cost, Morgan sets sail for Savannah... and Serenity.

All her life, Serenity has longed for adventure. As a woman, though, she's lucky even to be tolerated in her father's newspaper office. Then she's kidnapped by the bold, sexy pirate whose story fired her imagination, and his embrace Serenity finds adventure beyond her wildest dreams.

REASON FOR READING: I seem to be in a "Pirate books written by Scottish authors" kick.

THOUGHTS: Not bad, not great. The story was old with only a few new twists. The characters were well written and multi-dimensional. They did not, however, leap off the pages. The writing was mediocre but included some descriptive detail. To me, the best part of the novel was the dialog. MacGregor can write arguments like no one else.

MISCELLANEOUS: The guy on the cover was really not attractive in the least.

RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book, but I don't recommend it]

CR: The Devil You Know by Liz Carlyle
RN: One Night For Love by Mary Balogh

Book 88: Blow Me Down

TITLE: Blow Me Down
AUTHOR: Katie MacAlister
STARTED: December 8, 2005
FINISHED: December 10, 2005
PAGES: 359
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "You know what your problem is?"

SUMMARY: [From] In the Internet game of "Buckling Swashes," two die-hard enemies find themselves comrades at arms against a merciless rival, and discover that-on the virtual high seas and in real life-love can tame the most fearsome of pirates.

REASON FOR READING: I *heart* Katie MacAlister

THOUGHTS: I *did not heart* MacAlister in this lackluster work. The plot was flat and extremely unbelievable. It takes a lot to get me to say that. The characters were boring and so was the story. I just keep reading in hope that MacAlister's usual wit would shine through. While there were a few lines that made me laugh, this book, overall, was not worth the read. I was disappointed. I just wish she had written a pirate novel set in the usual pirate times. Turning it into a video game world doomed the story from the start. All the modern storylines just made me want to gag. They were useless, poorly devised, and poorly written.

MISCELLANEOUS: The pirate on the cover is so a Jack Sparrow rip-off.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): PBSing as soon as I'm home from Winter Break.
RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book, but I don't recommend it]

CR: A Pirate of Her Own by Kinley MacGregor
RN: The Devil You Know by Liz Carlyle

Book 87: Let it Be Love

TITLE: Let It Be Love
AUTHOR: Victoria Alexander
STARTED: December 6, 2005
FINISHED: December 8, 2005
PAGES: 373
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "We are a rather grim group today," Oliver Leighton, the Earl of Norcroft, noted to no one in particular and gazed idly at the usual gathering of his closest friends in the lounge of their favorite club.

SUMMARY: [From] Dashing Jonathon Effington, the Marquess of Helmsley, has had more than one lady willingly fall into his arms. But he's so delicious none has ever complained at their inevitable parting. And while Jonathon's no stranger to passion of the flesh, his heart has remained untouched. Until now...

At each Christmas Ball, Jonathon selects a delectable lady to share the pleasures of the evening - after all, it's a holiday tradition! But he is shocked to discover that his choice is replaced by an enchanting stranger who surprises him with a proposal of marriage. Beautiful Fiona Fairchild is desperate - only a wedding will save her sisters and her inheritance. But Jonathon has no interest in marriage, and what starts as a shocking proposal turns into a scandalous proposition that might ruin them both...

REASON FOR READING: It seemed seasonal.

THOUGHTS: Alexander continues to amaze me with her books. I was reading this for a fluff piece to help get me through finals week. I couldn't put it down. For me romance novels, and I won't lie about this, really are not about the plot. This book, however, it was the plot that kept me reading. Alexander created an inventive story that had me flipping the pages late into the night.

Her writing, as always, was superb. The one-liners were the most witty she's ever written. The characters had such a chemistry between them that I felt it leaping off the page.

This was one of her best works.

MISCELLANEOUS: I want to own the book the wrote in the story.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Definitely a keeper.
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: Blow Me Down by Katie MacAlister
RN: A Pirate of Her Own by Kinley MacGregor

Book 86: The Pirate Prince

TITLE: The Pirate Prince
AUTHOR: Gaelen Foley
STARTED: December 3, 2005
FINISHED: December 6, 2005
PAGES: 407
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: He took a faceful of sea brine, flung the stinging salt water out of his eyes with a furious blink, and hauled back on the oars again and again with all his strength.

SUMMARY: [From] On a calm moonlit night, as the scent of jasmine and pine embraced the island of Ascension, the pirate prince Lazar di Fiori returns with lethal grace to avenge what was stolen from him: his kingdom, his birthright, his soul.

Allegra Monteverdi, the daughter of Lazar's sworn enemy, proves an uncommonly powerful adversary. She throws herself on his mercy, her courage and beauty touching his cold, unforgiving heart. He agrees to spare the lives of her family - but only if Allegra sails away with him as his captive. For his quest for vengeance still burns fiercely, and he will settle for nothing less than Allegra's body and soul.

Alone at sea with this dark, intriguing man, moving between seduction and fear, Allegra gazes into eyes as deep and mysterious as the night and sees who this pirate really is. Lazar - the prince of her childhood dreams. Though he was rumored to be murdered years ago, she always believed someday he would return. But it will take more than her love for this pirate prince to bring peace to her beloved home. For Lazar must face the demons of his shattered past - if he is to forge the destiny that is theirs to claim.

REASON FOR READING: It was new and there.

THOUGHTS: As much as I love Foley's books, this one was surprisingly good. I did not go in expecting much and came out loving this book. The characters were fascinating and so were the back stories Foley created for them. Her writing was above par once again. The only downside to this book was that things felt rushed.

MISCELLANEOUS: I must now read the rest of the books in the series.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): I plan on keeping it for the time being.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: Let It Be Love by Victoria Alexander
RN: Blow Me Down by Katie MacAlister

Monday, December 05, 2005

Book 85: The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes

TITLE: The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes
AUTHOR: Neil Gaiman
STARTED: November 30, 2005
FINISHED: December 3, 2005
PAGES: 234
GENRE: Graphic Novel

FIRST SENTENCE: Wake up, sir.

SUMMARY: [From] A wizard attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. Fearful for his safety, the wizard kept him imprisoned in a glass bottle for decades. After his escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On the way, Morpheus encounters Lucifer and demons from Hell, the Justice League, and John Constantine, the Hellblazer. This book also includes the story "The Sound of Her Wings" which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl, Death.

REASON FOR READING: I came across it while and work in the library and just decided to check it out. Some nagging voice in the back of my head *coughPetecough* told me I had to read it.

THOUGHTS: I'm not in love with the art, but the story is fantastic. This is my first experience with Gaiman (all my friends love him) and it was quite the enjoyable. The plot line was extremely interesting. I particularly like the world Gaiman created. The final chapter about Death was the most addictive. I want to know more about her.

I will clearly continue reading this series and shall endeavor to try a Gaiman novel at some point.

MISCELLANEOUS: Thank goodness Pete has the rest of the books in the series because the library does not.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Back to the stacks it goes.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: The Pirate Prince by Gaelen Foley
RN: Probably another romance novel.

Book 84: Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order

TITLE: Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order
AUTHOR: Mark Crispin Miller
STARTED: November 24, 2005
FINISHED: Decemeber 3, 2005
PAGES: 343
GENRE: Political Science

FIRST SENTENCE: On Independence Day of 2001, back when it was still permissible - indeed, obligatory - to mock the President's substandard English, Bush visited the Jefferson Memorial, ostensibly to venerate the Father of American Democray.

SUMMARY: [From] Read an American newspaper or catch the news on U.S. television and you might get the impression that America's current leadership is "mainstream:" perhaps a bit more conservative and in its foreign policy more belligerent than its predecessors but still a federal authority that functions well within America's political traditions. But as Mark Crispin Miller argues here with great clarity and effect, we are in fact living in a state that would appall the Founding Fathers: a state that is neither democratic nor republican, and no more "conservative" than it is liberal. He exposes the Bush Republicans' unprecedented lawlessness, their bullying religiosity, their reckless militarism, their apocalyptic views of the economy and the planet, their emotional dependence on sheer hatefulness, and, above all, their long campaign against American democracy. Abraham Lincoln once observed that if the United States should ever be subverted, it would be conquered from within. That, Miller argues, is what will finally happen here, unless Americans - left, right, and center - become aware of this regime's intentions and work together to reclaim the nation for republican democracy.

REASON FOR READING: Assigned in MDIA 530: The Rhetoric of Propaganda.

THOUGHTS: While I agree with most of Miller's arguments (I consider myself an insanely liberal democrat), I take great issue with his methods. Miller sets out to explain to his readers how the whole of the American public is being duped by one man's administration. Unfortunately, he takes one too many harsh digs at the President and his administration. He crosses from critic to harasser and basically nullifies his entire argument. The second half of the book consists almost entirely of bashing Bush. While I don't support most of the President's policies and plans, I would never deem to take as many below the belt pot shots as this man does.

There were many parts of the book where I thought Miller made a great point about the Bush administration's use of media and political manipulation but then proceeded to cross the line into personal attack rhetoric. If Miller was attempting to convince anyone he failed utterly. I support most of his points, but I was disgusted with the way he wrote this book.

This book would be a phenomenal read and argument, but it was too much of a partisan attack for me. The writing and factual content were amazing. The digs killed it.

MISCELLANEOUS: I still can't believe this book was assigned at my school.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Selling back to the bookstore.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
RN: The Pirate Prince by Gaelen Foley

Book 83: Not Quite a Gentleman

TITLE: Not Quite A Gentleman
AUTHOR: Jacquie D'Alessandro
STARTED: November 27, 2005
FINISHED: November 29, 2005
PAGES: 374
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Nathan Oliver gripped the worn leather cache of stolen jewels to his chest and leaned back against the rough bark of the towering elm to catch his breath.

SUMMARY: [From] Three years ago, Lady Victoria Wexhall was humiliated when Nathan Oliver waltzed brazenly out of her life after favoring her with one glorious kiss... her very first!

Now, when her father insists she pay a visit to Nathan's family estate in Cornwall, the pampered Society beauty devises a plan to drive the heartless rake mad with desire, then drop him cold. Because the man is a cad - and he will rue the day he trifled with her affections!

But Victoria's plan isn't the only plot that's afoot. Nathan's sworn duty to the Crown has immersed him in a perilous intrigue, and he is certain this infuriatingly tempting lady is somehow involved. Using his winning charm and sensuous allure, Nathan intends to discover the lady's secrets.

And the dashing rogue is bound and determined to prove that, while not quite a gentleman, he is every bit a lover!

REASON FOR READING: I'm not quite a lady...

THOUGHTS: I shall definitely try this author again. The story was interesting and the writing was both addictive and well done. D'Alessandro did a great job of creating multifaceted characters without making them overly dramatic. Some of the scenes she paints were just plain wonderful; she has a talent for descriptive language. My main complaint, the supporting characters did not hold up as well to the main characters and that made some of the plot points weak.

MISCELLANEOUS: Her name his hard to type.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keeping for possible use in a paper next semester.
RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: Cruel and Unusual by Mark Crispin Miller
RN: The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

Book 82: A Christmas Carol

TITLE: A Christmas Carol
AUTHOR: Charles Dickens
STARTED: November 9, 2005
FINISHED: November 28, 2005
GENRE: Literature

FIRST SENTENCE: Marley was dead: to begin with.

SUMMARY: [From] A miser learns the true meaning of Christmas when three ghostly visitors review his past and foretell his future.

REASON FOR READING: Twas assigned in my ENG 205: The Literature of Fantasy class.

THOUGHTS: I've done a staged reading of this book so many times that it was nice to just sit down and read it. I love this classic tale. It's the only Dickens I've actually been able to make it through thus far. Dickens may be overly word (in my opinion) but I can't get enough of this story. I may have to make it a tradition to read it every holiday season.

MISCELLANEOUS: I love the movie version with the Disney characters.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Selling back to the bookstore. I want my own copy but I want a nice copy.
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: Not Quite a Gentleman by Jacquie D'Alessandro
RN: Cruel and Unusual by Mark Crispin Miller

Book 81: The Reluctant Bride

TITLE: The Reluctant Bride
AUTHOR: Leigh Greenwood
STARTED: November 23, 2005
FINISHED: November 27, 2005
PAGES: 373
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Tanzy Gallant watched with relief and awe as the towering mountains drew near.

SUMMARY: [From] Can a mail order bride find love with her future husband, even if he seems to be a dangerous rogue?

REASON FOR READING: I was in the mood for some fluffy mcfluffsalot.

THOUGHTS: Now, I'm not saying men can't write romance novels... I'm just saying that this man can't write romance novels. The characters were flat, the plot was dull, and the writing lacked depth. I thought something was off after the first fifty pages, it took me flipping to the author's page to realize why. I was surprised to see a man's picture on the back flap. Perhaps it's just this author, but part of me felt weird reading a romance novel written by a guy. I don't know why, but I felt as if my father had walked in on me reading something I shouldn't.

I've read a lot of romance novels and, to me, this one just felt sterile. It was too difficult to feel the characters emotions. It was like the Greenwood took an okay plot and then tried his damnedest to remove any sense of depth and emotion.

MISCELLANEOUS: Part of me wants to find another romance novel written by a man just to contrast and compare. Perhaps I shall make that my next bookstore mission.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): On to PBS it goes.
RATING: 3/10 [Poor, lost interest]

CR: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
RN: Not Quite A Gentleman by Jacquie D'Alessandro

Book 80: The Duke

TITLE: The Duke
AUTHOR: Gaelen Foley
STARTED: November 20, 2005
FINISHED: November 23, 2005
PAGES: 400
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Many years ago, as a curly-headed youth on grand tour, he had fallen madly in love with beauty and so had stopped in Florence to take drafting lessons from a bonafide Italian master.

SUMMARY: [From] Driven to uncover the truth about the mysterious death of his ladylove, the Duke of Hawkscliffe will go to any lengths to unmask a murderer. Even if it means jeopardizing his reputation by engaging in a scandalous affair with London's most provocative courtesan - the desirable but aloof Belinda Hamilton.

Bel has used her intelligence and wit to charm the city's titled gentlemen, while struggling to put the pieces of her life back together. She needs a protector, so she accepts Hawk's invitation to become his mistress in name only. He asks nothing of her body, but seeks her help in snaring the same man who shattered her virtue. Together they tempt the unforgiving wrath of society - until their risky charade turns into a dangerous attraction, and Bel must make a devastating decision that could ruin her last chance at love.

REASON FOR READING: I *heart* this series.

THOUGHTS: I should have read the series in order. This book, while a decent read, paled in comparison to the other books in the series, namely Lord of Fire and Lord of Ice. The plot was inventive and the characters were fine, but it just seemed lackluster. Not Foley's best work, but still enjoyable. Some of the scenes *coughlibrarycough* will stick with me merely because they were written quite well. Foley has a knack for writing emotions.

MISCELLANEOUS: Such an inventive title...

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): On to the PBS it goes.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: The Reluctant Bride by Leigh Greenwood
RN: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Book Spree

So.... I decided to hit Borders before meeting my friends for a movie earlier this evening. Bad idea. I went on a bit of a spree. I haven't been to a bookstore in so long that I guess I felt that I had to make up for lost time.

I bought:

Blow Me Down by Katie MacAlister
Let It Be Love by Victoria Alexander
The Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh
The Pirate Prince by Gaelen Foley
Talk to the Hand by Lynne Truss
Jarhead by Anthony Swofford
Casanova in Bolzano by Sandor Marai
Courtesan by Dora Levy Mossanen

I actually finished my current read earlier today so now all my new purchases are screaming out at me to read them next. I don't know which book will be the lucky winner.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Book 79: Somewhere in Time

TITLE: Somewhere in Time
AUTHOR: Merline Lovelace
STARTED: November 19, 2005
FINISHED: November 20, 2005
PAGES: 248
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Captain Aurora Durant understood that flying was a dangerous occupation.

SUMMARY: [From] Air force pilot Aurora Durant was lucky to be alive. It hadn't been easy to bring her jet down in the bizarre windstorm, but the savvy captain had managed. Now she had to figure out where she'd landed - and when.

Lucius Antonius, senior centurion of the Roman Empire, couldn't believe his incredible fortune. A beautiful woman had literally dropped out of the sky. But before Lucius could claim the willful, impertinent creature, he had to tame her.

Soon Aurora discovered the true test of her spirit wasn't learning to live in a time two thousand years in the past, but resisting the powerful allure of an ancient warrior. Her agenda could only be returning to her own time, and falling for Lucius could make that mission impossible to accomplish.

REASON FOR READING: I like things set in ancient times.

THOUGHTS: This book was so good until the end. Then it went all cliche on me. However, it was quite the welcome distraction from studying. It got me through four years worth of politics classes. I wish the book had been longer and the plot fleshed out. The basic characters and story were great but they needed more depth.

MISCELLANEOUS: Short man skirt... indeed.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: The Duke by Gaelen Foley
RN: Something that will get me through finals week.

Book 78: Rebel Angels

TITLE: Rebel Angels
AUTHOR: Libba Bray
STARTED: November 7, 2005
FINISHED: November 19, 2005
PAGES: 548
GENRE: Fantasy

FIRST SENTENCE: Herein lies the faithful and true account of my last sixty days, by Kartik, brother of Amar, loyal son of the Rakshana, and of the strange visitation I received that has left me wary on this cold Enlish night.

SUMMARY: [From] Ah, Christmas! Gemma Doyle is looking forward to a holiday from Spence Academy, spending time with her friends in the city, attending ritzy balls, and on a somber note, tending to her ailing father. As she prepares to ring in the New Year, 1896, a handsome young man, Lord Denby, has set his sights on Gemma, or so it seems. Yet amidst the distractions of London, Gemma's visions intensify - visions of three girls dressed in white, to whom something horrific has happened, something only the realms can explain.

The lure is strong, and before long, Gemma, Felicity, and Ann are turning flowers into butterflies in the enchanted world of the realms that Gemma alone can bring them to. To the girls' great joy, their beloved Pippa is there as well, eager to complete their circle of friendship.

But all is not well in the realms - or out. The mysterious Kartik has reappeared, telling Gemma she must find the Temple and bind the magic, else great disaster will befall her. Gemma's willing to do his intrusive bidding, despite the dangers it brings, for it means she will meet up with her mother's greatest friend - and now her foe, Circe. Until Circe is destroyed, Gemma cannot live out her destiny. But finding Circe proves a most perilous task.

REASON FOR READING: Rose had it and I wanted it.

THOUGHTS: I thought this book was much better than the first and I enjoyed A Great and Terrible Beauty quite a bit. I thought the characters, plot, and world were much more developed. The extra fleshing out added to the depth of the story and, thus, increased my enjoyment. I actually felt emotionally attached to this story. Gemma and Kartik are great characters. Also, learning the back stories of some of the supporting characters has only added to the book.

I am actively looking forward to the next in the series.

MISCELLANEOUS: Now I'll have to buy my own copy.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): It belongs to Rose's sister...
RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

CR: Somewhere in Time by Merline Lovelace
RN: The Duke by Gaelen Foley

Book 77: Grendel

TITLE: Grendel
AUTHOR: John Gardner
FINISHED: November 9, 2005
PAGES: 174
GENRE: Literature

FIRST SENTENCE: The old ram stands looking down over rockslides, stupidly triumphant.

SUMMARY: [From] The first and most terrifying monster in English literature, from the great early epic "Beowulf," tells his side of the story.

REASON FOR READING: Assigned in ENG 205: The Literature of Fantasy

THOUGHTS: The story was fun and more enjoyable than "Beowulf" but I did not love the way it was written. The writing was too stream of consciousness and scatterbrained for my taste. I felt lost and confused more than once. However, Gardner made me like the characters of "Beowulf" a lot more in this story. I have not idea how that happened but, for some reason, they seemed more alive and real.

MISCELLANEOUS: Oh the analysis I've done...

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Sell back.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: Rebel Angels by Libba Bray
RN: Somewhere in Time by Merline Lovelace

Book 76: Sweet Release

TITLE: Sweet Release
AUTHOR: Pamela Clare
STARTED: November 4, 2005
FINISHED: November 7, 2005
PAGES: 374
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Alec Kenleigh tossed back the last of his brandy and savored its heat as it scorched a path to his stomach.

SUMMARY: [From] Though Cassie hated the slave trade, her Virginia plantation demanded the labor, so for five pounds in cash, the convict was hers. Little did she know that Cole Braden had been beaten, abducted and sent to the American colonies as an indentured servant. He must prove his true identity to win his freedom and earn her love.

REASON FOR READING: It came in PBS and I love this author.

THOUGHTS: I don't know what it is about Clare's writing, but I just can't book her books down. Aside from this novel, I've read to others from her and loved them both. This story and the characters were just addictive. She can take a cliched plot and add twists to it that just reinvent the story. It also helps that Clare adds in details most authors wouldn't think about it.

She presents a cliched scene and then enhances it with description. Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that had nothing to do with the romance. I love how she shows the characters under "normal" conditions.

MISCELLANEOUS: Believe it or not, but I just may be able to use this book for a paper next semester. I rule.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keep (at least for the time being)
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: Grendel by John Gardner
RN: Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

Book 75: The Elements of Dramatism

TITLE: The Elements of Dramatism
AUTHOR: David Blakesley
STARTED: October 27, 2005
FINISHED: November 6, 2005
PAGES: 212
GENRE: Non-Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: I studied physics, astronomy, and mathematics as an undergraduate student - not ver well, I admit.

SUMMARY: [From] The Elements of Dramatism is the first pragmatic introduction to the work of Kenneth Burke for those interested in communication and language. This brief paperback focuses on the analytical methods Burke coined as dramatism, which has exerted an enormous influence for many years on people interested in the dynamics of human communication and symbol-use in many areas of study, particularly composition and speech communication. Each chapter includes discussions of key concepts in the context of dramatism and rhetoric, extended applications of these concepts to a variety of rhetorical problems and forms (including literature, photography, and film), and clear guidelines for applying these strategies. Longer applications and illustrations of key concepts are accompanied by readings that elaborate them or serve as sources of analysis. The book makes available some of Burke's most important and accessible discussions and applications of dramatism. For those interested in communication and language

REASON FOR READING: Assigned in MDIA 530: The Rhetoric of Propaganda

THOUGHTS: Blah. I struggled to keep my eyes open while reading this one. The only parts I found intriguing were when the author puts Burke's thoughts to use. I could understand and enjoy the book when the information was made relevant to a specific case. Aside for that, this was a dull read.

MISCELLANEOUS: My professor turned this into a powerpoint with mixed results.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Selling back.
RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: Sweet Release by Pamela Clare
RN: Grendel by John Gardner

Book 74: A Kiss of Shadows

TITLE: A Kiss of Shadows
AUTHOR: Laurell K. Hamilton
STARTED: October 27, 2005
FINISHED: November 3, 2005
PAGES: 468
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Twenty-three stories up and all I could see out the windows was grey smog.

SUMMARY: [From] Here, the world is populated with various magical faerie races along with humans. The most supreme of the fey are the immortal sidhe, so beautiful and powerful they were once worshiped as gods. The fey are not only lusty but incredibly accomplished lovers; those of the royal sidhe bloodline are literally addictively sexy. Full-blooded fey are, for the most part, intolerant of cities, metal and technology. They seldom live for long among humans. Mixed-blood Princess Meredith NicEssus, however, has fled the faerie world to pass for three years as Merry Gentry, a human with some fey blood who works in Los Angeles with a detective agency that specializes in supernatural problems and magical solutions. Suddenly outed as the missing princess and fearing that her aunt, the Queen of Air and Darkness, will kill her, she makes a desperate run aided by her detective pals. The queen does want her, but not in the way Merry expects. Ultimately, Meredith must fulfill the queen's designs for the future of her court, even if it means having to bed the most beautiful studs in the universe. Through constant danger and adventure, Meredith finds herself in a variety of sexual encounters that make it easy to see why her ancestors were so worthy of worship.

REASON FOR READING: Beth (one of my roomies) has been screaming at me to read it for weeks.

THOUGHTS: I was not enthralled with it until the end. In fact, I was bored by it. I thought the world was amazing and the characters interesting, but I was not wowed. Beth kept on telling me it was a fantastic book, but just wasn't seeing it. I can't say why I disliked the first 300 pages, I just did.

The ending, however, gives me hopes for the series. I finally became caught up in the characters and the story. The scene in the bathroom only helped matters.

But, and this is big thing for me, the rest of the series still leaves me worried. I don't like the idea of the male harem. For some reason it disturbs me.

MISCELLANEOUS: I won't buy the rest of the series, but I know Beth will. I will read them on her dime. Or, barring that, PBS them.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): It's going back to Beth.
RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: The Elements of Dramatism by David Blakesley
RN: Sweet Release by Pamela Clare

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Book 73: The Hobbit

TITLE: The Hobbit
AUTHOR: J.R.R. Tolkein
FINISHED: October 29, 2005
PAGES: 306
GENRE: Fantasy

FIRST SENTENCE: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

SUMMARY: [From] Whisked away from his comfortable, unambitious life in his hobbit-hole by Gandalf the wizard and a company of dwarves, Bilbo Baggins finds himself caught up in a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon.

REASON FOR READING: Assigned in my ENG 205: The Literature of Fantasy class

THOUGHTS: Not bad. I've been afraid of Tolkein for quite some time. I saw the movies and loved them, but for some reason the books daunted me. I hated the animated version of The Hobbit and was scared that I would detest the book. That was not to be. The professor had the reading spread out in such a manner that I actually looked forward to reading the chapters. That does not happen to often.

I thought that the book was a cute story, kind of like a fairy tale for adults. The characters and world that Tolkein creates is absolutely fascinating. In some ways, I'm glad that I hated the movie because it allowed me to be pleasantly surprised by the book.

I now look forward to reading the trilogy.

MISCELLANEOUS: What would you do with a ring that makes you invisible?

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton
RN: The Elements of Dramatism by David Blakesley

Saturday, October 29, 2005

National Book Festival

I should have done this update a month ago, but I have been lazy

* * *

On Saturday morning, September 24th, I was up way too early (8 a.m.!) for such a late night like the one I had before. But it was for a good reason.

My friend Melanie was up for the weekend and the two of use were headed to the National Mall for the National Book Festival. This is the second year I've gone to the festival and it was better than the last time. Last year, I went because it was a program for my campus housing. This year I went with a purpose. One of my favorite fiction authors, Diana Gabaldon, was scheduled to speek and sign copies of her new book, A Breath of Snow and Ashes. The book was, technically, not supposed to be released until September 27th, but she talked her publisher into releasing a few copies early. Bless them both.

Gabaldon is the author of the "Outlander" series and Melanie introduced me to it during our freshman year of college. I've read all the books in the series since then... more than once in fact.

So! Melanie and I trek out to the Mall on our mission. The metro trains were crowded beyond all reason. (I don't know who decided it would be fun to schedule the Book Festival, Anti-War Rally, and Greenpeace Festival on the same day, near the same area... but I would like to have a word with them. Several in fact.)

Melanie and I jumped off the train at the Smithsonian stop and it was like entering a magical world. There were signs for the Festival everywhere, people handing out fliers, and book nerds galore. We were in our element. We grabbed a map of the Festival grounds and proceeded to plan our attack. First stop, the book sales tent. We actually arrived 45 minutes before the Festival was to officially open, but it was a good thing we did. The Sales tent was open and hopping. We were able to purchase ourselves copies of A Breath of Snow and Ashes before they sold out. We bought our copies at 9:45a.m. and they sold out at 10:15 a.m.. You should have seen the pair of us, petting our books and craddling them as if they were some precious gem. I noticed that almost every one (and more than some of the men) in the sales line also had their own copy of the book. Mel and I bonded with the people around us because we all had a common love of the series. (For anyone who has not read the books, try them. You won't regret it.) I also picked up a copy of Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons. I've read it before but loved it so much that I just couldn't turn it down.

After we made our purchases, we noticed the Target tent was handing out seat cushions. Clearly, twenty-one year olds are attracted to random things. We then proceeded to the “Fiction and Fantasy” tent to claim our seats for our favorite author’s talk. We ended up walking in on the middle of another author’s talk. The tent was pretty full but (unfortunately for this author) it was clear that most of the audience was waiting for Diana Gabaldon. After she finished a reading from her book, most of the audience stayed and the rest of the chairs rapidly filled. It was standing room only in less than 5 minutes.

The best part of the morning followed when we heard Diana Gabaldon speak. She is much shorter than I expected. Also, I – for some reason – expected her voice to be different. I don’t know why I thought that, but I’ll blame that dream I had earlier this year. (See a previous entry for more on that.) The applause for her entrance took forever to die down. Gabaldon started out talking about how her height and brightly colored scarf ensured that she got to stand in front, next to First Lady Laura Bush for the official portrait of authors. Well done. I will say one main thing for Gabaldon, she is witty and knows a number of dirty limericks. One of which I have reproduced below:

In days of old,
When knights were bold,
And condoms not invented….[dramatic pause]

They wrapped old socks
Around their cocks,
And babies were prevented!

She followed with another, dirtier one, but I don’t remember it.

The best part about hearing her speak was that she went EVERYWHERE with her talk. She discussed how her fans sent her the most random things while she was writing and how they brought her beautiful gifts when she was signing. Gabaldon talked about the new book and the editing process it has to go through. (As a side note: I have read the new book and, sadly, there are a number of typos in it. No word I know of has ‘rrr’ in it.) She talked about the release process of the book and how she’s going to be on tour forever. At one point, Gabaldon mentioned that the Sales tent nearest her talk was already sold out and I would guess that at least 20 women got up and sprinted to the other side of the Festival grounds to get to the other Sales tent. Gabaldon finished with a reading from her new book before taking questions.

Melanie left me at the beginning of the questions to see if she could get a last minute signature from the guy who draws Eloise. I stood on the edge of the tent until the questions finished before I power walked by but down to the other end of the Festival grounds to get in line for the Gabaldon signing.

The rain that had been threatening all day started to release a few drops. There was no way I was going to let it damage my precious new books. I whipped out my umbrella and protected those things within an inch of my life as I dodged other Festival goers. The rain actually stopped and the books were safe and cozy in the bright green Festival bag they handed out this year.

Then it was time to wait in line for an hour. It was a good thing I sprinted down there when I did… the line reached a 3 hour wait in a matter of minutes. I heard that the Festival workers cut it off after an hour wait because Gabaldon was on a tight schedule. Melanie was unable to get her author’s signature so she joined me in line and we commenced our giddiness. The line was in two parts… the long long long line, and the short line across a gravel path of doom that was right in front of the tent. We inched along and once we crossed the gravel path of doom, we knew that our books would be signed. (Eep! Happy Meghan.) It was quite the exciting. When we finally got to the table I had no idea what to say. I think I said something stupid about how I now knew where all the witty one-liners came from. It was awesome. *does happy meeting the author dance* Not only was she smiley and gracious, but she had cute shoes (and writes great books,) so I can't complain.

Melanie and I did our crazy little excited hopping and gabbing all at once before we wandered around the rest of the festival. We were mainly tent hopping to get all the free stuff. The second best part of the Festival is the fact that one can accumulate massive amounts of bookmarks and free pens. Most of the tents were kid oriented so we avoided the, but we did get in line with toddlers to have our picture taken in a giant chair that looked like it was made out of books - it's now on my door.)

That photo concluded our adventures in National Book Festival land and we hopped back on the metro smiling in the way that only booklovers can. I should probably mention that we also stopped at the bookstore in Union Station before returning home… a booklovers wallet is never safe.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Book 72: Black Horses for the King

TITLE: Black Horses For The King
AUTHOR: Anne McCaffrey
STARTED: October 21, 2005
FINISHED: October 26, 2005
PAGES: 206
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: "Galwyn's feeding the fishes again," the mate called as I emptied the odious bucket overboard.

SUMMARY: [From] After his father's death, young Galwyn Varianus is apprenticed to his uncle, who puts the boy to work on the high seas. But horses, not ships, are Galwyn's passion. Luckily, a passenger aboard, Lord Artos (later to rule as the legendary King Arthur), is bound for the great horse fair at Septimania. Risking his life, Galwyn abandons his uncle to serve the gallant leader. Galywn's calming way with horses quickly impresses Lord Artos and his men. But what no one expects is how crucial Galwyn will be to their upcoming battles - as he masters the secrets of the iron shoes that will protect the exotic horses' delicate hooves.

REASON FOR READING: At first, I was going to use the book for a project in my Literature of Fantasy Class. That idea fell through but I decided to finish the book anyway.

THOUGHTS: This my roommate's favorite book; she's been telling me about it for quite some time. I thought it was an interesting tale, but I didn't fall in love with it. The subject matter made for a great story and anyone whose been around horses (like me) will love the descriptions of the animals. But, it felt to compressed for me. I need more description, more details, more plot, more whatever, just more.

MISCELLANEOUS: Horses are so like that.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Beth is getting it back; she'd kill me if I kept it.
RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton
RN: Consent to Kill by Vince Flynn

Book 71: The Trouble with Harry

TITLE: The Trouble With Harry
AUTHOR: Katie MacAlister
STARTED: October 17, 2005
FINISHED: October 21, 2005
PAGES: 353
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Harry wished he was dead.

SUMMARY: [From] When a Regency lady answers an advertisement for a wife, she may have found the love of her life - if she can keep her new husband out of trouble long enough to find out.

REASON FOR READING: I like Katie MacAlister's stuff.

THOUGHTS: This was not her best. It was cute but I read it write after and author that I love. There was no way this book could have lived up to the standards that I was in the mood for. The story was cute, the characters were cute, really... it was just a cute book. Nothing great, nothing horrible.

MISCELLANEOUS: Rubber ducky...

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Going on PBS because someone has it on their wish list... in fact, I got it off PBS so it just seems right.
RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: Black Horses For the King by Anne McCaffrey
RN: A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Library / Book Hell

Late Returners
Circle I Limbo

Circle II Whirling in a Dark & Stormy Wind

Spine benders and breakers
Circle III Mud, Rain, Cold, Hail & Snow

Dog Earers
Circle IV Rolling Weights

Excessive and/or Inapporpriate Marginalia-ers
Circle V Stuck in Mud, Mangled

River Styx

Circle VI Buried for Eternity

River Phlegyas

Circle VII Burning Sands

Book Burners
Circle IIX Immersed in Excrement

Circle IX Frozen in Ice

Design your own hell

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Book 70: A Breath of Snow and Ashes

TITLE: A Breath of Snow and Ashes
AUTHOR: Diana Gabaldon
STARTED: September 26, 2005
FINISHED: October 17, 2005
PAGES: 980
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Time is a lot of things people say that God is.

SUMMARY: [From] Eagerly anticipated by her legions of fans, this sixth novel in Diana Gabaldon's bestselling Outlander saga is a masterpiece of historical fiction from one of the most popular authors of our time.

Since the initial publication of Outlander fifteen years ago, Diana Gabaldon's New York Times-bestselling saga has won the hearts of readers the world over - and sold more than twelve million books. Now, A Breath of Snow and Ashes continues the extraordinary story of 18th-century Scotsman Jamie Fraser and his 20th-century wife, Claire.

The year is 1772, and on the eve of the American Revolution, the long fuse of rebellion has already been lit. Men lie dead in the streets of Boston, and in the backwoods of North Carolina, isolated cabins burn in the forest.

With chaos brewing, the governor calls upon Jamie Fraser to unite the backcountry and safeguard the colony for King and Crown. But from his wife Jamie knows that three years hence the shot heard round the world will be fired, and the result will be independence - with those loyal to the King either dead or in exile. And there is also the matter of a tiny clipping from The Wilmington Gazette, dated 1776, which reports Jamie's death, along with his kin. For once, he hopes, his time-traveling family may be wrong about the future.


THOUGHTS: I've been waiting for this book to come out for over a year. The wait was driving me nuts. Now that I've read the novel, I have mixed feelings. While the book was an enjoyable and interesting read, it was not up to Diana Gabaldon's usual "Outlander" standards. Normally her books, while lengthy and detail infused, have an overarching plot to the novel. This particularly member of the series seemed more like a character study. It lacked that all-encompassing plot to bring all the details together. I'm sure that this book will fit well when the series is completed (for there will be more books), but right now I feel slightly disappointed.

I will say that it was nice to get to know the characters even more. I feel as if I've grown closer to Jamie, Claire, Roger, and Brianna while reading this. There were so many different sub-plots occurring in this book that it was difficult not to notice the changes taking place in the characters. I also think that Colonial America and life in that time came more to life for me in this book. One thing I really disliked about this book was some of the "twists" Gabaldon threw in. I felt as if they were in their for the shock factor only. I would have preferred she remained "true" to the essence of the series that she created in the first few novels. Then again, I repeat, all of these things will probably play a more complete role once the series is done.

Her prose and ideas are still top caliber. I will never be disappointed in them. It takes a master to craft the ideas and feelings that she does. And, she is consistent in her literary narrative throughout the book. Her writing, as writing, never disappoints.

Overall, this book was very readable but a bit of a let down. I was expecting something different. That said, I'm still going to wait on pins and needles of the next book in the series.

MISCELLANEOUS: The should have edited the final text better. At my count there were at least 13 errors in the text. And glaring errors at that. Words never have "rrr" in them.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keep of course.
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: The Trouble With Harry by Katie MacAlister
RN: "A Problem From Hell" by Samantha Power

Book 69: Munitions of the Mind: A History of Propaganda from the Ancient World to the Present Day

TITLE: Munitions of the Mind: A History of Propaganda from the Ancient World to the Present Day
AUTHOR: Philip M. Taylor
FINISHED: October 16, 2005
PAGES: 344
GENRE: Non-Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: From the perspective of our modern information and communications age, the word 'propaganda' continues to imply something evil.

SUMMARY: [From] A classic work, Munitions of the mind traces how propaganda has formed part of the fabric of conflict since the dawn of warfare, and how in its broadest definition it has also been part of a process of persuasion at the heart of human communication. Stone monuments, coins, broadsheets, paintings and pamphlets, posters, radio, film, television, computers and satellite communications - propaganda has had access to ever more complex and versatile media. This third edition has been revised and expanded to include a new preface, new chapters on the Gulf War, information age conflict in the post-Cold War era, and the world after the terrorist attacks of September 11. It also offers a new epilogue and comprehensive bibliographical essay. The extraordinary range of this book, as well as the original and cohesive analysis it offers, makes it an ideal text for all international courses covering media and communications studies, cultural history, military history and politics. It will prove fascinating and accessible to the general reader.

REASON FOR READING: Assigned in MDIA 530: The Rhetoric of Propaganda

THOUGHTS: This was a very interesting read. Not only did it give a fantastic review of propaganda throughout history, it also included details about propaganda that I would never think about. Military uniforms would never once have crossed my mind as being bits of propaganda. Taylor shows how war and propaganda as so intertwined that they are almost indistinguishable from one another. I enjoyed reading about how propaganda has changed over time and situated itself into our every day lives. I don't know if I will ever be able to look at anything without thinking if I'm being handled.

This class is fascinating and this book is one of the reasons why. Taylor goes out of his way to incorporate as much detail as possible into this book. It reads fluidly and has a broad spectrum of information.

MISCELLANEOUS: The british spelling threw me for a loop at first, but I got used to it.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Probably sell back, but that could change.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
RN: The Trouble With Harry by Katie MacAlister

Book 68: "We're a Peaceful Nation": War Rhetoric After September 11th

TITLE: "We're A Peaceful Nation": War Rhetoric After September 11th
AUTHOR: Brigitte Mral
STARTED: October 12, 2005
FINISHED: October 15, 2005
PAGES: 127
GENRE: Political Science

FIRST SENTENCE: When an extreme and revolutionary event takes place, people want decisions and demand that politicians speak to them.

SUMMARY: [From the back of the book] This study highlights the rhetorical devices that were used during the two military operartions that were a direct consequence of the events on September 11.

The purpose is to create a better understanding of the war strategists' efforts to define tour [sic] world.

REASON FOR READING: Assigned in MDIA 530: The Rhetoric of Propaganda

THOUGHTS: I've heard all of the speeches that this book talks about. Thus, it was nice to see someone break down the rhetoric line by line and discuss how this fits into the current presidential administration's overarching themes. This was not a groundbreaking book by any means, but it does layout the rhetoric of speeches that most people overlook.

What I found most interesting, however, was who put this book out. It was published by the Swedish Emergency Management Association (their equivalent of our FEMA). What I want to know is why they felt this was needed.

MISCELLANEOUS: Any book that talks about the presidency and rhetoric is okay by me.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Don't know. It was free.
RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: Munitions of the Mind by Philip M. Taylor
RN: A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

Book 67: Beowulf

TITLE: Beowulf
AUTHOR: Seamus Heaney (translator)
STARTED: September 26, 2005
FINISHED: October 9, 2005
PAGES: 213
GENRE: Literature

FIRST SENTENCE: The poem called Beowulf was composed sometime between the middle of the seventh and the end of the tenth century of the first millennium, in the language that is to-day called Anglo-Saxon or Old English. [From the introduction]

SUMMARY: [From] Composed toward the end of the first millennium of our era, Beowulf is the elegiac narrative of the adventures of Beowulf, a Scandinavian hero who saves the Danes from the seemingly invincible monster Grendel and, later, from Grendel's mother. He then returns to his own country and dies in old age in a vivid fight against a dragon.

The poem is about encountering the monstrous, defeating it, and then having to live on in the exhausted aftermath. In the contours of this story, at once remote and uncannily familiar at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Seamus Heaney finds a resonance that summons power to the poetry from deep beneath its surface.

Drawn to what he has called the "four-squareness of the utterance" in Beowulf and its immense emotional credibility, Heaney gives these epic qualities new and convincing reality for the contemporary reader.

REASON FOR READING: Assigned in ENG 205: The Literature of Fantasy

THOUGHTS: This was one of the better class reads I've been assigned. I was not in love with the story, nor did I hate it. It was just there for me. Beowulf, as a character, did not pull me in any direction. For me, the poem lacked a depth and complexity that I need to care about it. There was a massive debate in my class whether Beowulf was cocky or magnanimous. I could have cared less either way. I thought the character was appropriate in the situation.

For me, the strength of the epic was Grendel's mother. I saw her as a monster with human emotions.

MISCELLANEOUS: Chain mail is cool.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Selling back.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: "We're a peaceful nation" by Brigitte Mral
RN: Munitions of the Mind by Philip M. Taylor

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Book 66: Public Opinion

TITLE: Public Opinion
AUTHOR: Walter Lippmann
STARTED: September 22, 2005
FINISHED: October 2, 2005
PAGES: 262
GENRE: Non-Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Walter Lippmann deliberately gave this book a bland title because its contents are so explosive. [from the forward]

SUMMARY: [From] In what is widely considered the most influential book ever written by Walter Lippmann, the late journalist and social critic provides a fundamental treatise on the nature of human information and communication. As Michael Curtis indicates in his introduction to this edition. Public Opinion qualifies as a classic by virtue of its systematic brilliance and literary grace. The work is divided into eight parts, covering such varied issues as stereotypes, image making, and organized intelligence. The study begins with an analysis of "the world outside and the pictures in our heads," a leitmotif that starts with issues of censorship and privacy, speed, words, and clarity, and ends with a careful survey of the modern newspaper. The work is a showcase for Lippmann's vast erudition. He easily integrated the historical, psychological, and philosophical literature of his day, and in every instance showed how relevant intellectual formations were to the ordinary operations of everyday life. Public Opinion is of enduring significance for communications scholars, historians, sociologists, and political scientists.

REASON FOR READING: Assigned in MDIA 530: The Rhetoric of Propaganda.

THOUGHTS: I should state first that remember very little of this book. That is not a good sign... seeing as how we have to discuss it in class tomorrow. The writing was dry and slow and, because it was written in the early 1920s, I've encountered many of its arguments before.

That being said, I think that Lippmann made some remarkable points about how we perceive the so-called "public opinion." His chapter on stereotypes was fantastic. He may have been stating things that most people already new, but the fact that he took the time to think out why people stereotype put a whole new spin on the issue for me.

Since I could only focus on parts of this book, most of the content comes to me in waves. As a media studies and politics major, this book was right up my alley. I might try to read it again one day, when I can concentrate more on the content.

MISCELLANEOUS: Polling data is a sham.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Will probably get sold back.
RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book, but I don't recommend it]

CR: A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
RN: Tons of stuff for school.

Book 65: Camera Lucida

TITLE: Camera Lucida
AUTHOR: Roland Barthes
STARTED: September 26, 2005
FINISHED: September 26, 2005
PAGES: 119
GENRE: Non-Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: One day, quite some time ago, I happened on a photograph of Napoleon's youngest brother, Jerome, taken in 1852.

SUMMARY: [From] This personal, wide-ranging, and contemplative volume--and the last book Barthes published--finds the author applying his influential perceptiveness and associative insight to the subject of photography.

REASON FOR READING: Assigned in MDIA 499: Senior Seminar.

THOUGHTS: The content of this book could have been summed up like this: Photography strikes everyone differently. It's essence is never the same.

That's all it needed. I thought that Barthes made some good points about how photography strikes everyone differently and is vehicle to the past, beyond that, it bored me. We hashed out the text for 2 and a half hours in class and I left feeling no different than when I went in. Essentially, I think Barthes was writing a dialog for himself. He wanted to know if photography could be defined and this is what resulted. It was not the worst book for class that I've read, but I don't think it was anywhere near the best.

The one passage I enjoyed the most: "In this glum desert, suddenly a specific photograph reaches me; it animates me, and I animate it. So that is how I must name the attraction which makes it exist: an animation. The photograph itself is in now way animated (I do not believe in "lifelike" photographs), but it animates me: this is what creates every adventure."

I love perusing photographs where ever I find them. I could actually agree and understand Barthes when he made this point.

MISCELLANEOUS: At least it was short.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Getting sold back at the end of the semester.
RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book, but I don't recommend it]

CR: Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann
RN: A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

Book 64: Highlander in Love

TITLE: Highlander in Love
AUTHOR: Julia London
STARTED: September 19, 2005
FINISHED: September 23, 2005
PAGES: 367
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: My dear Miss Lockhart:

SUMMARY: [From] The Lockhart brothers' quest for an ancient family heirloom has proved fruitless...and an unpaid loan has left them indebted to their rival, Payton Douglas. With no recourse, the Lockharts offer Payton their most valuable commodity: their sister Mared's hand in marriage.

Raised to despise the Douglas name, Mared outwardly agrees to the marital bargain for the sake of her family; secretly, she concocts a plan to ensure Payton will not wish to marry her. Seeing the handsome, virile laird Payton face-to-face, however, threatens a centuries-long enmity - and awakens Mared's deepest desires. But she will not be swayed. Choosing to repay her family's debt by working as his housekeeper instead of wedding him, she finds herself inexorably drawn to the man she vowed to resist. Then a profound discovery changes everything. Now, no longer bound by a promise to her family, Mared must let her heart decide if the laird Payton is the enemy of past legend - or if he holds the key to a future filled with a passion beyond her wildest dreams.

REASON FOR READING: It was the conclusion to a trilogy I started earlier this summer.

THOUGHTS: This was by far my favorite book in the series. I actually felt like the characters came to live and reacted realistically to each other. I knew the romance between these two was coming from book 1 and it was fun to see how it all finally played out.

I actually liked how the quest for the beastie took a backseat in the story. This book was more character driven than the others and I think that's why I like it the most.

And the tension, my goodness, the tension. That's all that needs to be said. I think I'll go take a cold shower now.

MISCELLANEOUS: That kilt was so painted on.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): This one's going to
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes
RN: Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann

Book 63: Captain Alatriste

TITLE: Captain Alatriste
AUTHOR: Arturo Perez-Reverte
STARTED: September 7, 2005
FINISHED: September 18, 2005
PAGES: 253
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE:He was not the most honest or pious of men, but he was courageous.

SUMMARY: [From] It is the height of Spain's celebrated golden century - but beyond the walls of the Royal Palace there is little on the streets of Madrid that glitters. The Invincible Armada has been defeated. The shadow of the Inquisition looms large. And the Thirty Years' War rages on in Flanders. When a courageous soldier of this war, Captain Diego Alatriste, is forced to retire after being wounded in battle, he returns home to live the comparatively tame - though hardly quiet - life of a swordsman-for-hire. In this dangerous city where a thrust of steel settles all matters, there is no stronger blade than Alatriste's." The captain is approached with an offer of work that involves giving a scare to some strangers soon to arrive in Madrid. But on the night of the attack, it becomes clear that these aren't ordinary travelers - and that someone is out for their blood. What happens next is the first in a series of riveting twists, with implications that will reverberate throughout the courts of Europe.

REASON FOR READING: It jumped out at me at the time.

THOUGHTS: [This is actually the review for my university's paper, The Tower] Spanish author Arutro Perez-Reverte has created a fabulous character in Captain Diego Alatriste, in his novel "Captain Alatriste." Unfortunately this novel, which is meant to be the first in series, lacks the action and suspense the swashbuckler needs to survive. The novel comes off as an extended prologue, but it leaves a small glimmer of hope that the following novels will live up to the masterful and daring lead character.

"Captain Alatriste" begins the tale of a swordsman for hire during the Spanish inquisition. The novel is told primarily from the viewpoint Inigo Balboa, the captain's ward. The book chronicles how Alatriste is hired by Inquisition officials to assassinate two foreigners as the enter Madrid. He is accompanied by another swordsman, a swarthy Italian named Gualterio Malatesta who has questionable motives and morals. During the attack, when one of the travelers cries mercy for his friend. Alatriste is able to stop Malatesta before he can finish off one of the foreigners. The action ends up complicating his life more than he could ever foresee. One of the travelers turns out to be the Prince of Wales; he has come to Madrid in order to romance Spain's princess. The story that follows is an uneven narrative that documents how Alatriste is dogged by danger as the men who hired him attempt to silence him - permanently.

Captain Altriste is the strength of the novel. He is an aging soldier whose only source of income is his skill with a sword. Alatriste comes across as an inquisition era James Bond who is always just escaping death. The reader never develops an emotional rapport with the swordsman and thus his escapes from grievous injury are not nearly as exhilarating. Balboa, Alatriste's ward and main companion, comes across as a naive and starry-eyed follower of Alatriste. During the first few pages of the novel, Balboa develops a youthful infatuation for a beautiful lady-in-waiting to the Spanish princess. While this plot line never fully develops in "Captain Alatriste," Balboa constantly implies that the beauty will play a more prominent role in following novels. Aside from Alatriste and Balboa there is an entire cast of characters that are in and out of the story. The plot swirls with so many names that the reader is left dizzy and more than a little bit confused.

Perez-Reverte's writing style is quite different from most American fiction. It has a definite unfamiliar quality to it that helps to set the novel on the streets of Madrid. The author uses an extensive vocabulary to describe his characters and plot lines. Also scattered throughout the novel are poems that the characters spin enhance the depth of the novel. Sadly, they stall the narrative more than they advance it. Perez-Reverte's writing is intricate and rich but it fails to produce a continuously enjoyable novel.

Any reader picking up this book would expect exciting swordfights between Alatriste and his many enemies. Regrettably, they are few and far between. The reader must plod through a quagmire of politics and names to get to these all too infrequent moments of gratification in the book. Perez-Reverte attempts to cram too many characters and back stories into the short novel. While the novel as a whole is uninspiring, the author's story is intriguing enough to leave most readers wondering what will happen to the characters in the rest of the series. "Captain Alatriste" is not worth purchasing but is worth borrowing from a local library.

MISCELLANEOUS: Knowing me, I'll buy the rest of the series anyways.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keep, at least for now.
RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: Highlander in Love by Julia London
RN: Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes

Book 62: The Prince

TITLE: The Prince
AUTHOR: Niccolo Machiavelli
STARTED: September 18, 2005
FINISHED: Septemeber 18, 2005
PAGES: 106
GENRE: Philosophy

FIRST SENTENCE: The tyrant terrifies his subjects. [from the introduction]

SUMMARY: [From] The book has been variously described as the first to analyze the role of the political elite; as the one that established the independence of politics from theology; as an early formulation of the political 'myth' required to galvanize apolitical masses into revolutionary action; as a practical rule-book containing timeless precepts for the diplomat; and, most frequently, as the handbook of evil. Based upon Machiavelli's firsthand experience as an emissary of the Florentine Republic to the courts of Europe, The Prince analyzes the often-violent means by which political power is seized and retained, and the circumstances in which it is lost. Above all, it provides a remarkably uncompromising picture of the true nature of power, no matter in what era or by whom it is exercised.

REASON FOR READING: Assigned in POL 211: Introduction to Political Theory.

THOUGHTS: This man needs to grow a heart. I know he had a rough life and all, but come on! Whatever happened to helping your common man and relying on diplomacy. Even though I disagreed with most of Machiavelli's ideas, I must say that of all the political philosophy I've read, his was the easiest to understand.

What truly terrifies me is how many of my coworkers (from when I interned on Capitol Hill) would quote this book. I don't want a tyrant in Congress. No sir.

MISCELLANEOUS: At least it was short.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): This will be sold back to the book store at the end of the semester.
RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: Captain Alatriste by Arturo Perez-Reverte
RN: Highlander in Love by Julia London

Monday, October 03, 2005

Book 61: Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down

TITLE: Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down
AUTHOR: Sherrilyn Kenyon, Melanie George, and Jaid Black
STARTED: September 4, 2005
FINISHED: September 6, 2005
PAGES: 281
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: In her life as a cover agent Rhea Stevenson had done a lot of things she hated: cozy up to cold-blooded killers, make goo-goo eyes at drug lords, pretend to be a Russian mail-order bride, walk unarmed in a low-cut, almost nonexistent dress into a nuclear arms deal.

SUMMARY: [From] In this sexy erotica anthology, three hot authors reel you in with sizzling novellas about alpha heroes who will do anything to get the women they want - even kidnap them!

Bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon presents "'Captivated' by You," the second sexy story in her series featuring the Bureau of American Defense. Rhea Stevenson is a "BAD" agent who has just been handed her most challenging assignment. She must go undercover as a dominatrix to bring in a deadly terrorist. The only upside is that her fellow agent, "Ace" Krux, whom she has long desired, is her training partner. Almost immediately the roles of master and slave are wonderfully blurred and Rhea and Ace unleash a wealth of hidden desire.

From bestselling romance author Melanie George comes "Promise Me Forever," the story of Savannah Harper, who has finally put her breakup with pro-football player Donovan Jerricho behind her. But when Tristan comes home to Mississippi on the eve of Savannah's wedding, he still wants her. And when he carries her off and holds her hostage, Savannah's surprised to find that the desire's deliciously mutual.

From Jaid Black comes "Hunter's Right," the fantastical story of Corporal Ronda Tipton of the U.S. Army, whose chopper goes down in the Arctic Circle. The only survivor of the crash, Ronda happens upon a hidden civilization of Vikings - where she must face the bridal auction block. Only Nikolas Ericsson, the man who found Ronda, can save her by claiming her as his own according to sacred rights. But will she and this primitive brute give in to the sparks made when their worlds collide?

REASON FOR READING: Beth told me to.

THOUGHTS: The first and third stories were the best. The second was too bland for my taste. I just wish they weren't novellas. The first story has a lot of back story that would have made a great series. Who doesn't love secret agents? The third story cut out a whole chunk of things that could have been amazing had it been a whole novel. On the whole, it was a fun read.

MISCELLANEOUS: Tie me up... ha!

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): It's Beth's.
RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book, but I don't recommend it]

CR: The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
RN: Captain Alatriste by Arturo Perez-Reverte

Book 60: Devil Takes a Bride

TITLE: Devil Takes a Bride
AUTHOR: Gaelen Foley
STARTED: August 28, 2005
FINISHED: September 3, 2005
PAGES: 469
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Moonlight flashed on three black racing-drags tearing up the Oxford Road, a heedless cavalcade - whips cracking, snorting blood-horses wild eyed and flecked with foam.

SUMMARY: [From] In the quiet English countryside, far from the intrigues of London, Lizzie Carlisle slowly mends her broken heart, devoting herself to her new position as lady's companion to the Dowager Viscountess Strathmore - until her peaceful life is turned upside down by a visit from "Devil" Strathmore, the old woman's untamed nephew - a dangerously handsome man whose wicked reputation hides a tortured soul.

Devlin Kimball, Lord Strathmore, has spent years adventuring on the high seas, struggling to make his peace with the tragedy that claimed the lives of his family. But now he has uncovered the dark truth behind the so-called accident and swears retribution. He has no intention of taking a bride - until his eccentric aunt's will forces he and Lizzie together, and Devlin finds his path to vengeance blocked by the stubborn but oh-so-tempting Miss Carlisle. Her passionate nature rivals his own. But disillusioned once by love, Lizzie will accept nothing less than his true devotion.

REASON FOR READING: It's one of my favorite romance series.

THOUGHTS: This was not as good as Lord of Fire of Lord of Ice but it was still enjoyable. I had a hard time believing the tension in the plot, but overall it was an enjoyable read. I think that comes from my love of wounded male lead characters. I'm such a sucker for those. I think this story merely served to wrap up the loose ends of "Lizzie." Had this been a stand alone book I might have enjoyed it even more.

I do like how Lizzie refused to give in. Some of the scenes were hilarious, like when Dev kidnapped Lizzie from her school using a ladder. That was just plain comical.

MISCELLANEOUS: I finally got the first book of the series, The Duke off of

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): It's going on PBS.
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down by Sherrilyn Kenyon et al.
RN: The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

A (Stress ?) Dream About the National Book Festival

A few weeks back I had an odd dream about the National Book Festival. It started out normally and just turned weird from there. I remember walking to the Mall from Union Station and entering one of the book sales tents. Completely normal. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Diana Gabaldon (whose book I was after) staring at me. Not so normal. Instead of feeling creeped out, I was kinda thrilled that DG saw me voraciously going after the table where her books were. Well, when I get there I notice that her newly release book, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, has the same cover as her last book, The Fiery Cross. Not only are the covers the same, they're all damaged in some way; either bumped, ripped, chipped, creased, folded, what have you, none of them are new. So, clearly, I'm miffed.

Somewhere in my head, I hear someone say, "Her publisher only released a few of the books with the right covers. You can buy one with the wrong cover, then send it in the the company and they will replaced it with a new dust jacket." Still miffed, but I wanted the book. So I dig and dig and dig and still can't find one of the few books with the appropriate cover. Meanwhile, this whole time DG is in my line of sight, watching me. Oddly enough, it still does not creep me out. I know that there is another book sales tent at the end of the Festival grounds so I live the one tent to head for it.

But, somehow, I wander off the Mall into this residential neighborhood. Why and how, I don't know. So, I find myself standing on this deck that overlooks this medium sized cliff the drops off into the rest of the neighborhood. Keep in mind that there are no cliffs in southeast DC. I see this ladder that drops off the deck, so I decide to climb down it and proceed on my way to the other end of the book festival. Half-way down the ladder I notice someone following me. It's not DG like I expect. Instead, it's Clive Cussler. How I knew it was Clive Cussler is beyond me. I've only read one of his books (Raise the Titanic) and have no idea what he looks like. But I knew it was him, and I knew I had to get away.

So I scramble down the ladder, run through this neighborhood and emerge on the Mall by the Lincoln Monument. The National Book Festival takes place between the Capitol building and the Washington Monument. I clearly had overshot my mark. For some reason this did not disgruntle me. I just trudge my way along the Mall (which lacks all its Monuments now) towards my goal.

I finally get there, after dodging vans (who knows why), and discover that the other book sales tent is underground. So I enter this staircase and it takes me another staircase and gift shop that looks like its from the National Art Gallery. I find myself, once again, digging to find the right copy of DG's new book. Once again, I see DG out of my eye. This time she smiles and goes back to perusing her books. I never do find the right copy but I remember looking longingly at some books on Egypt.

I live and DG follows me. Somehow I find myself sitting down at a table digging through the free tote bags they hand out. DG sits next to me and other people join us at the table. I don't remember what we talked about, but I remember waking up thinking that DG had talked for a long time.

I never did find the right copy of her book.