Sunday, January 23, 2005

Book 6: Double Standards

TITLE: Double Standards
AUTHOR: Judith McNaught
STARTED: January 23, 2005
FINISHED: January 23, 2005
PAGES: 310
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Philip Whitworth glanced up, his attention drawn by the sound of swift footsteps sinking into the luxurious Oriental carpet that stretched across his presidential office.

SUMMARY: [From] In the exclusive, glittering world of business superstars, Nick Sinclair was a legend...

The ruggedly handsome president of Global Industries handled his business the way he handled his women -- with charm, daring and ruthless self-control. A man used to the very best, Nick hired Lauren Danner, and assumed the proud beauty would soon be another easy conquest. But Lauren's flashing wit and rare spirit dazzled him -- and slowly, against his will, he was intrigued, challenged -- and in love.

Yet Lauren was living a lie, a charade that became more dangerous with every passing moment. Trapped in a web of deceit, she fought her growing love for Nick. Her secret could destroy his fragile trust -- and the promise of life with the most compelling man she had ever met!

REASON FOR READING: I needed a quick romance read.

THOUGHTS: Judith McNaught was not her best with this one. Aside from the fact that I devoured this in one sitting without thinking, I found myself outwardly cringing. The roomie had already read this one and we got a kick out of how bad it actually was. We both enjoy Judith McNaught tremendously, but this is the worse book of hers that we've read. It was cheesy, overly dramatic, completely unbelievable, and just plain silly.

And, oh God, I kept on having to remind myself that this was published in 1984. The clothes made me want to gag.

Really, I like reforming a rogue as much as the next girl, but Nick Sinclair was just a womanizing ass.

MISCELLANEOUS: Not re-read worthy.

RATING: 1/10 [Don't waste your time / Awful]

CR: The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great by Steven Pressfield
RN: Remember When by Judith McNaught

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Book 5: The Time Traveler's Wife

TITLE: The Time Traveler's Wife
AUTHOR: Audrey Niffenegger
STARTED: January 14, 2005
FINISHED: January 22, 2005
PAGES: 546
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Clare: The library is cool and smells like carpet cleaner, although all I can see is marble.

SUMMARY: [From] A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare's passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger's cinematic storytelling that makes the novel's unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.

REASON FOR READING: I've heard so many positive things about the story, how could I not?

THOUGHTS: I decided to read this book because every online reading group I'm on has raved. I saw it at Barnes & Noble and it was on sale. Add in my membership discount and you've got yourself a deal.

To be honest, I was disappointed. I thought it was a good book, but I think all of the positive recommendations ruined it for me. I was expecting to read the story of my life. I was prepared to read the best book ever written. My standards were too high.

The story was inventive. I liked the way the plot was chronological while still bouncing back and forth. It's very difficult to write a story like that and still keep the reader feeling coherent. I never once lost track of the story. In fact, I liked how each present/past change over highlighted different aspects of the story.

The characters were amazing as well. Henry and Clare were actually believable. Toward the end, I felt Henry's anguish and fear. I danced in high school (in many ways I'm still a dancer). If I went through what he went through, I would feel utterly devastated. Clare, while she bothered me sometimes, was the best character in the book. She understood her mission. In some ways I feel as if she was the rock, the focal point of the whole story.

At the end, the author actually had me on the verge of tears but I couldn't actually cry. I was still expecting... something.

The book had all of that, but there was still something missing. I have yet to figure out what it is. I could, and will, recommend this book to my friends, but I won't hype it. I think this is a book that should be read on the basis of desire alone. Readers should not go in expecting anything. They need to be a blank slate.

I think the story may improve on a re-read at a later date.

MISCELLANEOUS: I get to discuss this book in an online group soon. Lucky for me I've actually read this month's book.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

CR: Double Standards by Judith McKnaught
RN: Have not yet thought that far ahead.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

I should follow these

Bookish Resolutions from Pages Magazine

1. I only will finish the books I am enjoying to give me time to explore more books this year.

2. I will keep a logbook of the books I read so at the end of the year I can look back and see my reading history for the year.

3. I will give the gift of a book to at least one friend each month this year.

4. I will donate a book for a children's book drive.

5. I will read to a child once a month so I can share my love of reading with a new reader and perhaps create a lifelong reader.

6. I will suggest that my book club try something new -- a new genre or a new author.

7. I will organize my books on my bookshelves in any of the following manners -- by title, by author, by genre, or even by size -- and feel good about it.

8. I will read one author who right now intimidates me.

9. Instead of baking or bringing a covered dish to an ill friend, I will seek out a book.

10. I will stop criticizing and judging others for their reading choices and instead embrace the idea that they too are enjoying a love of reading.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Book 4: Masquerading the Marquess

TITLE: Masquerading the Marquess
AUTHOR: Anne Mallory
STARTED: January 12, 2005
FINISHED: January 13, 2005
PAGES: 369
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: What was a caricaturist to do when she ran out of material?

SUMMARY: [From] Calliope Minton is never far from scandal. And her greatest pleasure is capturing the nobility at their worst. Donning a daring disguise, she poses as a society courtesan to get closer to London's leading bachelor. However, her ruse might have brought Calliope too close to her favorite target: James Trenton, Marquess of Angelford, a man who appears less foolish and more dashing with every meeting ...

James is certain the enchantress is hiding something — and she is driving him mad ... with desire and curiosity. Already occupied with trying to expose the "artist" who has been humiliating him in the papers, James does not need another mystery! But all the lady's secrets will be revealed when they are forced to join together to find a vanished mutual acquaintance — and perilous circumstance tosses the marquess's bewitching, irresistible adversary into his arms.

REASON FOR READING: Catching up on the fluff.

THOUGHTS: Who would have thought... a romance novel with plot. I was so confused when there was actually a story (with twists and everything). Granted, it was hard to follow at times but at least there was an attempt. This is a debut book for the author and I would gladly read her again.

I must admit that I became frustrated for the characters. I hate un-acted on sexual tension!

MISCELLANEOUS: Another cute guy on the cover. Yum.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): This belongs to the roomie. Sadly, I can't keep it.
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
RN: Haven't thought that far ahead.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Book 3: Duke of Sin

TITLE: Duke of Sin
AUTHOR: Adele Ashworth
STARTED: January 8, 2005
FINISHED: January 11, 2005
PAGES: 373
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Vivian stared at the handwritten note: His grace desires...

SUMMARY: [From] He is called the "Duke of Sin"

... a notorious rogue and recluse whose reputation is as black as the Cornish night. They speak of his conquests, his past, and his mysteries in breathless whispers. And now lovely and desperate Vivian Rael-Lamont has no choice but to enter William Raleigh's lair.

Vivian prayed that the scandal that drove her from London would never be revealed -- but now she will be exposed to the world ... unless William can protect her. She has heard the rumors about the infamous Duke of Sin, yet she is unprepared for the man's raw, sensuous power ... or for the traitorous response of her own body. Surrender, however, could prove most dangerous indeed -- for both of them. For while the duke is intrigued by the guarded, intoxicating lady who has invaded his solitude -- and fully intends to discern her every secret through sweet, unhurried seduction -- it is his own heart that will be imperiled when passion takes them farther than he ever intended.

REASON FOR READING: I haven't read a trashy romance in a few weeks. I had to start my fluff reading for the year.

THOUGHTS: This book confused me beyond all reason. The plot was clear and inventive, but the way it played out was almost humorous. Some scenes were sweet, some read like a script for a porno, and others were just plain cliche. There were some scenes that just made me blush and feel like an intruder. A romance novel has not made me feel like that in a long time. I almost wanted to tell the characters to get a room. Also, the author tried to throw in politics and the workings of society at the time and I think it hurt the book.

I guess this is what I get for buying a book on the basis of the title and the cuteness of the man on the back cover. (Though it was difficult to read the book when the guy on the back was so dreamy.)

MISCELLANEOUS: Me want man on back cover.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): This one is going in a box to Mel.
RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book, but I don't recommend it]

CR: Masquerading the Marquess by Anne Mallory
RN: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Reinstating America

It would really suck to be on the Mississippi library board right now.

* * *

Library board puts Jon Stewart's book back on shelves

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) -- A library board reversed a ban on comedian Jon Stewart's best-selling satirical book, which it had passed because of its image of Supreme Court justices' faces superimposed on naked bodies.

The Jackson-George Regional Library System board of trustees was criticized by local residents and in e-mails from out of state after it banned "America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction" last month. The trustees had said they objected to the image.

But the board voted 5-2 Monday to lift the ban, and the book was returned to circulation in the system's eight libraries Tuesday.

"We have come under intense scrutiny by the outside community," said David Ables, board chairman. "We don't decide for the community whether to read this book or not, but whether to make it available."

The book was written by Stewart and the writers of "The Daily Show," the Comedy Central fake-news program Stewart hosts. Released in September, it has spent 15 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list and was named Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly, the industry trade magazine.

Wal-Mart declined to stock the book because of the image, which includes full frontal nudity. The facing page has cutouts of the nine justices' robes, with a caption asking readers to "restore their dignity by matching each justice with his or her respective robe."

Board member David Ogborn opposed lifting the ban. "Our libraries are not a trash bin for pornographic materials," he said.

Robert Willits, the library system director, said Tuesday that the board members acted promptly and fittingly.

"There were 12 to 15 people in the audience and most spoke up in defense of the book," he said. "The board responds to community input and they made that decision."

He said majority of the messages criticizing the move came from out of state.

"We got some absolutely nasty e-mails and telephone calls that you would not believe," Willits said.

"We were communists and fascists at the same time."

Monday, January 10, 2005

Banning America

I got this story off the AP wire. I never understood the concept of banning books. It doesn't stop people from reading them. Usually, it actually increases the readership of that particular work.

Besides, it's Jon Stewart. He is both humorous and harmless.

* * *

Some Miss. Libraries Ban Jon Stewart Book

GULFPORT, Miss. - Library officials in two southern Mississippi counties have banned Jon Stewart's best-selling "America (The Book)" over the satirical textbook's nude depictions of the nine U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) justices.

"I've been a librarian for 40 years and this is the only book I've objected to so strongly that I wouldn't allow it to circulate," said Robert Willits, director of the Jackson-George Regional Library System of eight libraries in Jackson and George counties.

"We're not an adult bookstore. Our entire collection is open to the entire public," Willits said. "If they had published the book without that one picture, that one page, we'd have the book."

Wal-Mart has declined to stock the book because of the page, which features the faces of the nine Supreme Court justices superimposed over naked bodies. The facing page has cutouts of the justices' robes, complete with a caption asking readers to "restore their dignity by matching each justice with his or her respective robe."

The book by Stewart and the writers of "The Daily Show," the Comedy Central fake-news program he hosts, was released in September. It has spent 15 weeks on The New York Times best seller list for hardcover nonfiction, and was named Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly, the industry trade magazine.

Former English teacher Tara Skelton of Ocean Springs said the libraries shouldn't decide what is in poor taste.

"It just really seemed kind of silly to me," she said. "I don't think the Supreme Court justices have filed any defamation of character or libel suits. It's humor."

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Book 2: Killing Pablo

TITLE: Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw
AUTHOR: Mark Bowden
STARTED: January 7, 2005
FINISHED: January 8, 2005
PAGES: 296
GENRE: Non-Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: There was no more exciting place in South America to be in April 1948 than Bogata, Columbia.

SUMMARY: [From] Here is the inside story of the brutal rise and fall of Colombian cocaine cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar, whose criminal empire held a nation of thirty million hostage -- a reign of terror that would only end with Escobar's death. In an intense, up-close account, award-winning journalist Mark Bowden exposes the never-before-revealed details of how U.S. operatives covertly led the sixteen-month manhunt. Drawing on unprecedented access to the soldiers, field agents, and key Colombian and U.S. officials involved in the chase, as well as top-secret documents and transcripts of Escobar's intercepted phone conversations, Bowden creates a gripping narrative that is epic in scope, a tour de force of investigative journalism, and a stark portrayal of rough justice in the real world.

REASON FOR READING: Mark Bowden is my favorite non-fiction author. This book has been in my TBR pile for quite some time and I needed to read it before I went back to school.

THOUGHTS: Once again, Mark Bowden takes a single dramatic point in history and turns it into a "must-read." He has an amazing ability to use language and prose to tell a story. After reading Black Hawk Down, I knew that I had to read the rest of his works. His books have a richness to them that makes them unlike other non-fiction books. I find the many of today's non-fiction books are dull and dry. They are full of ideas, theories, and facts but lack movement. Bowden, on the other hands, includes all the facts and details but gives them body. He crafts sentences such as "Violence stalks Columbia like a Biblical Plague." The book is active and flows in a seamless motion of history and narrative.

Killing Pablo shows how Bowden takes a point in history and draws out as many details and narratives as possible. The book reads as quickly as a clancy and has as much action as a Hollywood action flick. The fact that it is all fact makes the story compelling. Like his other books, Killing Pablo not only shows history, it also has a meaning. In this case, Bowden pinpoints how governments interact with each other and parts of their country. When one point breaks down, everything else begins to crumble.

MISCELLANEOUS: I kept on thinking of Tom Clancy's Clear and Present Danger (both the book and the movie) while I was reading this.

RATING: 9/10 [Excellent! Couldn't put it down]

CR: Duke of Sin by Adele Ashworth
RN: Something on my bookcase at school.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Book 1: The Fiery Cross

TITLE: The Fiery Cross
AUTHOR: Diana Gabaldon
STARTED: January 1, 2005
FINISHED: January 7, 2005
PAGES: 979
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: I woke to the patter of rain on canvas, with the feel of my first husband's kiss on my lips.

SUMMARY: [from] In this fifth book of the "Outlander" series, time traveler Claire Randall, now firmly ensconced in the past with her daughter, Brianna, and Brianna's husband, Roger, finds herself and her dashing husband, Jamie, at a critical juncture. It is 1771, and the first stirrings of the American Revolution are being felt in the mountains of North Carolina where Jamie, despite being a Catholic, has been given an enormous tract of land by the governor and is ordered to raise a militia. Having learned about the Revolution from his 20th-century wife and daughter, Jamie uneasily complies with the governor's orders and is immensely relieved when the crisis passes and the militia is disbanded. Both he and the reader know, however, that this reprieve is only temporary; the still unfinished strands of this complex and engrossing tale, coupled with the impending Revolution, give hope to Gabaldon's fans that the saga is not yet finished.

REASON FOR READING: Gabaldon is my favorite fiction author and I wanted to re-read the series before the next book is published.

THOUGHTS: While the "Outlander" series is my favorite fictional series, I can't help put think that this book is the weak link in the story. While the writing level and drama are the same, I feel as if there ia flow lacking from the story. Gabaldon always places her characters in dramatic and dangerous moments. Usually these flow from one to the other and seem as if they are a seamless movement of action and life. In The Fiery Cross, the events seem disconnected. Disconnected in the literary and written sense, not in the plot sense. I felt as if each chapter was its own vignette of action. I still love the book but I think it could have been edited for flow.

In another line of thinking, this book makes me realize how very young I feel. There are a number of characters in this book who are my age (20-years old) and their lives make mine seem so simple. They've seen war, survived in the wilderness, navigated early politics, been married, and started families. I, on the other hand, have merely been educated and worked with books. My life seems so damn simply after this book. While some may call the story overly dramatic, I think it does a phenomenal job of portraying life before the American Revolution. Life was not pretty, it was harsh, dirty, and more than a little violent. I feel so naive after reading this book. Each chapter reminds me of my own coddled upbringing. Each death and violent scene reminds of the fragility of life. The book reminds me of how I have lived, and how it is so different from how I would have lived in centuries past.

It takes a lot for a book to move me emotionally. While I often scream/rant/talk to books while I read them, it is rare that I actually mean it. Diana Gabaldon has always been able to more me emotionally. I think it shows her skill as both a writer and story teller. I cannot wait for the next book in the series.

MISCELLANEOUS: Book 5 in the "Outlander" series. I hate waiting for the next books in the series (make that any series) to be published.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

CR: Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden
RN: Not a clue.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

On Logic and Reason

I've decided that it is high-time that I actually start a journal based on nothing but books, reading, and writing. Those subjects are such a big part of my life that I need a personal outlet for my feelings, thoughts, etc. (I say "etc" because I will inevitable rant and curse about something in the future. Better to leave it open then to close options off for me in the future. Then again, this is my journal so it really doesn't matter. Gatesbooks is my domain to do with it what I will. *insert evil librarian laugh here.)

Basically, I need a place to cataloge what I read. This past year I read over a hundred books and I can already tell you that I have forgotten the plots, stories, and/or lessons of most of them. That's a sad thought. All that knowledge (or fluff) has gone in one ear and out the other. Thus, to keep my brain from leaking I will use this journal as a database as well as an open forum of discussion on matters related to the topics mentioned in paragraph one.

Recently, I have joined a number of book groups online. I *heart* them. Although some days I feel inundated with a ton of mail, I enjoy discussing books and reading. While I've known that I'm not the only book nerd on the planet (looks at father) it's nice to see it confirmed that there are other bookworms out there. Most of whom are much more wormish than myself. I strive to compete with them. Watch out... there is nothing scarier than a Meghan bent fully on competing with others in a literarybookreading war extravaganza. Heed my wrath or I may call upon members of my book mafia to come a steal your paperbacks.

For the future reference for myself and any others who may actually read this. My journal will have the following format, ratings system, and abbreviations.

Book Entry Heading
PICTURE OF BOOK: (If Possible)
NUMBER: (I'll be tracking the number of books I read in a year.)
TITLE: (Hello, My name is _____ )
AUTHOR: (I wrote the above.)
STARTED: (Probably sometime around midnight...)
FINISHED: (Probably finished sometime in the early morning a few days later)
PAGES: (I am either verbose or a word weakling)
GENRE: (Self-explanatory)

SUMMARY: (I'll be stealing this from either B&N,, or the publisher)

REASON FOR READING: (Self-explanatory)
THOUGHTS: (I like to rant... read at your own risk.)
MISCELLANEOUS: (You never know.)

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): (This is so know whether I kept the book, gave it to Melanie/Beth/Mom, or hide it so as never to read it again)
RATING: (See below)

CR: (See further below)
RN: (See above)

Rating System

10...One of the best books I have ever read
9....Excellent! Couldn't put it down
7....Very Good
5....I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review
4....An "okay" book, but I don't recommend it
3....Poor, lost interest
1....Don't waste your time
0....One of the worst books I have ever read

TBR: To Be Read (Refers to the pile and/or boxes of books that I'm thinking about.)
CR: Currently Reading
RN: Reading Next

I have truly have no idea how this journal is going to turn-out and/or work (despite all my planning). It ought to be an interesting experience.

Check back soon.

CR: The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon
RN: Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden