Saturday, January 28, 2006

Book 12: Prince Charming

TITLE: Prince Charming
AUTHOR: Gaelen Foley
STARTED: January 24, 2006
FINISHED: January 28, 2006
PAGES: 404
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: The greatest lover of all time was at it again, smoothly seducing the artless country girl Zerlina, as Mozart's famed duet "La ci darem la mano" filled the sumptuous theater with a graceful spire of twining voices, tenor and soprano making love to each other in exquisite song.

SUMMARY: [From] Set on the fictional island nation of Ascencion in the early 1800s. When the Masked Rider robs crown prince Rafael de Fiore, he vows revenge. Prince Rafe and his coterie track the thief to an estate, where Rafe meets and becomes interested in the lovely mistress - Lady Daniela Chiaramonte. Prince Rafe is a man with many problems. Although he was raised to rule, he has not been given the opportunities to do so, and for too long he has lived only for his pleasures - until he meets Dani, who does not know if she can believe his sweet words and exotic touch. Soon he discovers that his country's answer to Robin Hood is the lady Dani. The prince is torn between arresting or marrying the spirited young woman whom his countrymen have taken to heart.

REASON FOR READING: Final in the series.

THOUGHTS: Foley is back up to her normal standards with this book. I actually liked both lead characters in this book. The chemistry was there... oh boy was the chemistry there. The plot was fun and not overly cliched or formulaic. Best of all, Foley actually brought in major parts from the other two novels in the series. I like it when an author can carry over facts in a series. The one downside to that, however, was that she made King Lazar seem stupid and old in this book when he was witty and intelligent in is own installment. Aside from that, this was a great read.

MISCELLANEOUS: Foley needs to write more... and soon!

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: THe Runaway Duke by Julie Anne Long
RN: Hopefully the next Sandman book.

Book 11: Leisure: The Basis of Culture

TITLE: Leisure: The Basis of Culture
AUTHOR: Josef Pieper
STARTED: January 27, 2006
FINISHED: January 27, 2006
PAGES: 166
GENRE: Philosophy

FIRST SENTENCE:The complaint is frequently heard that our time has little to boast in the way of philosophy.

SUMMARY: [From] One of the most important philosophy titles published in the twentieth century, Joseph Pieper's Leisure: the Basis of Culture is more significant, even more crucial than it was when it first appeared fifty years ago. Pieper shows that Greeks understood and valued leisure, as did the medieval Europeans. He points out that religion can be born only in leisure, leisure that allows time for the contemplation of the nature of God. Leisure has been, and always will be, the first foundation of any culture. He maintains that our bourgeois world of total labor has vanquished leisure, and issues a startling warning: Unless we regain the art of silence and insight, the ability for nonactivity, unless we substitute true leisure for our hectic amusements, we will destroy our culture and ourselves.

REASON FOR READING: Assigned in HSCP 490: Senior Honors Capstone Seminar

THOUGHTS: I had to read this during one of my freshman philosophy classes and then again this year. I'm still not thrilled. Philosophy and I do not get along... unless it's politically philosophy. I'll be quite frank and admit that most of this book went in one ear and out the other. I will admit that Pieper had a great basic argument (that leisure is the basis of culture) but his writing bored me.

MISCELLANEOUS: Thankfully, I shall never have to read this again.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Going back to the library.
RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book, but I don't recommend it]

CR: Prince Charming by Gaelen Foley
RN: The Runaway Duke by Julie Anne Long

Book 10: Soap, Sex, and Cigarettes: A Cultural History of American Advertising

TITLE: Soap, Sex, and Cigarettes: A Cultural History of American Advertising
AUTHOR: Juliann Sivulka
STARTED: January 21, 2006
FINISHED: January 26, 2006
PAGES: 448
GENRE: Media Studies

FIRST SENTENCE: From the moment our clock radio awakens us in the morning, we are inundated with as many as three thousan commercial messages a day.

SUMMARY: [From] From the first newspaper ad in colonial times to Web sites for advertisers, Soap, Sex, and Cigarettes explores advertising's integral role in both reflecting and shaping American life and how advertising has become a part of our personal habits with roots in popular culture as well as in the popular mind. Sivulka, both an advertising educator and a practicing professional, emphasizes advertising's greatest contribution - how it provides a way for society to learn about an endless stream of new products and in the process, how it shapes what we think, feel, and want.

REASON FOR READING: Assigned in MDIA 524: The Rhetoric of Advertising

THOUGHTS: This was your typical college textbook. The writing was straightforward and easy to follow. The most interesting part of this book was seeing how intertwined advertising and culture are.

MISCELLANEOUS: Not nearly as exciting as America: The Book.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Selling back at the end of the semester.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper
RN: Prince Charming by Gaelen Foley

Book 9: The Sandman: A Game of You

TITLE: The Sandman: A Game of You
AUTHOR: Neil Gaiman
STARTED: January 23, 2006
FINISHED: January 23, 2006
PAGES: 186
GENRE: Graphic Novels


SUMMARY: [From] Take an apartment house, mix in a drag queen, a lesbian couple, some talking animals, a talking severed head, a confused heroine, and the deadly Cuckoo. Stir vigorously with a hurricane and Morpheus himself and you get this fifth installment of the Sandman series. This story stars Barbie, who first makes an appearance in The Doll's House, who here finds herself a princess in a vivid dreamworld.


THOUGHTS: I felt this part of The Sandman series was the easiest to follow. I'm finally used to the art and now I find myself focusing completely on the writing and story content. I love how Gaiman incorporates so many random things to create such a fluid and complete story. His imagination continues to astound me. While parts of this story were gruesome, the overall story is still addictive.

MISCELLANEOUS: I need to bug Pete for the next few in the series.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Giving it back.
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: Soap, Sex, and Cigarettes by Juliann Sivulka
RN: Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper

Book 8: The Sandman: Season of Mists

TITLE: The Sandman: Season of Mists
AUTHOR: Neil Gaiman
STARTED: January 21, 2006
FINISHED: January 23, 2006
PAGES: 218
GENRE: Graphic Novels

FIRST SENTENCE: Possibly the only dismaying aspect of excellence is that it makes living in a world of mediocrity an ongoing prospect of living hell.

SUMMARY: [From] Lucifer has grown tired of being the lord of Hell. He kicks out the demons and the damned alike, closes up shop, and gives the key to Hell to Morpheus. Beings from all the world's mythologies converge on the lord of Dream to seize this instrument of power.

REASON FOR READING: Feeding the craving.

THOUGHTS: Oh man was this a good part of the series. I was hooked from the first page. The plot idea of Lucifer giving up Hell only end with me consuming this book in rapid fashion. I loved the way Gaiman brought together the assorted gods of the world and incorporated them into the story. Marvelous, just marvelous. Once again, Gaiman continues to impress with his skill. I love the way he incorporates all this random details and facts without coming across as a pompous jerk.

MISCELLANEOUS: Again please.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Still has to go back to Pete.
RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

CR: The Sandman: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman
RN: Soap, Sex, and Cigarettes by Juliann Sivulka

Book 7: The Courtesan

TITLE: The Courtesan
AUTHOR: Julia Justiss
STARTED: January 17, 2006
FINISHED: January 20, 2006
PAGES: 379
GENRE: Romance


SUMMARY: [From] After years of dangerous fighting on the Peninsula, Captain Jack Carrington has returned home to take up family duties and find himself a wife. But his life is thrown into turmoil when he views a fencing lesson unlike any other. The talented student is no student at all, but a beautiful young woman, and the most infamous courtesan in all of London - Lady Belle.

Who is the mysterious Belle? A jaded cyprian seeking her next protector? A kind friend helping those in need? Or a mistress of sensual delights that tempt a man to madness? Eager to uncover the true woman behind the facade, Jack wagers he can win a kiss from Belle is he bests her at fencing. And though Belle is a woman he can neither afford to keep nor dare to marry, he's willing to risk it all to win her to his bed.

REASON FOR READING: The book had a sword on the cover.

THOUGHTS: This book was not bad for me not reading the back blurb. I bought this book solely because the heroine was holding a sword on the cover. The plot was a bit contrived to keep the characters together, but it worked in the end. I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed the story. Justiss was not afraid to put unsavory twists in. That made the book more realistic and less romance cliche. Those quirks also helped me enjoy the story more because I was never sure what would happen.

The writing was good but nothing exceptional. The characters lacked a bit of depth but they worked well together. The leads had chemistry and they were bagged up by a hilarious rag-tag of servants.

MISCELLANEOUS: My streak of merely picking books for their covers continues to work.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: The Sandman: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman
RN: The Sandman: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman

Book 6: The Sandman: Dream Country

TITLE: The Sandman: Dream Country
AUTHOR: Neil Gaiman
STARTED: January 16, 2006
FINISHED: January 17, 2006
PAGES: 153
GENRE: Graphic Novels

FIRST SENTENCE: My father died last year.

SUMMARY: [From] The third book of the Sandman collection is a series of four short comic book stories. In each of these otherwise unrelated stories, Morpheus serves only as a minor character. Here we meet the mother of Morpheus's son, find out what cats dream about, and discover the true origin behind Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream. The latter won a World Fantasy Award for best short story, the first time a comic book was given that honor.

REASON FOR READING: I'm addicted to the series.

THOUGHTS: This is my favorite book in the series so far. The random tales were both intriguing and intersting. I believe I am finally used to the art and that allows me to enjoy the stories more. I found the tale about what cats dream to be the most enjoyable. That may be because I have a cat who would clearly rule the world if he were human. Also, the award winning bit about "A Midsummer's Night Dream" was very well done. The way the play and the fairy characters worked together was fantastic. I am beginning to see why Gaiman is such an acclaimed author.

MISCELLANEOUS: My other cat falls off the couch in her sleep.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Sadly, it's going back to Pete.
RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

CR: The Courtesan by Julia Justiss
RN: The Sandman: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman

Book 5: The Sandman: The Doll's House

TITLE: The Sandman: The Doll's House
AUTHOR: Neil Gaiman
STARTED: January 14, 2006
FINISHED: January 16, 2006
PAGES: 227
GENRE: Graphic Novels

FIRST SENTENCE: May we open this celebration of the work in your hand by defining two kinds of fantastic fiction?

SUMMARY: [From] During Morpheus's incarceration, three dreams escaped the Dreaming and are now loose in the waking world. At the same time, a young woman named Rose Walker is searching for her little brother. As their stories converge, a vortex is discovered that could destroy all dreamers, and the world itself.

REASON FOR READING: I became addicted to the series with the first book.

THOUGHTS: This was not as good as the first. I'm still getting used to the art and I was not as drawn into the whole vortex story. My favorite part of this graphic novel was the first part. The tale about the old glass city and Morpheus's love for a queen was phenomenal. I also enjoyed the chapter "Men of Fortune." I found the concept of Death allowing a man to live as long as he wants intriguing. I also enjoyed how the man and Morpheus forged a friendship through it all. Very well done.

The rest of the book was just there for me. Not great but not bad. However, I was really creeped out by the "Cereal" convention. *shudder*

MISCELLANEOUS: More more more!

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Going back to Pete, its rightful owner.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

CR: The Sandman: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman
RN: The Courtesan by Julia Justiss

Book 4: Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell, Disease, Famine, War and Death

TITLE: Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell Disease, Famine, War and Death
AUTHOR: Susan D. Moeller
STARTED: January 3, 2006
FINISHED: January 15, 2006
PAGES: 390
GENRE: Media Studies

FIRST SENTENCE:"The Four Horsemen are up and away, with the press corps stumbling along behind," charged activist Germaine Greer, after a series of debacles in 1994, ranging from ethnic slaughter in Rwanda and Bosnia, famine in the Horn of Africa and an outbreak of flesh-eating bacteria in Britain.

SUMMARY: [From the back of the book] Susan D. Moeller's Compassion Fatigue warns that the American media threaten our ability to understand the world around us. Why do the media cover the world in the way that they do? Are they simply following marketplace demand for tabloid-style international news? Or are they creating an audience that has seen too much - or too little - to care? Through a series of case studies of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" - disease, famine, war and death - Moeller investigates how newspapers, newsmagazines and television have covered international crises ocer the last two decades, identifying the ruts into which the media have fallen and revealing why.

REASON FOR READING: Assigned for my media studies comprehensive exam. (I kicked that test's butt.)

THOUGHTS: Having already written one essay on this book, I'm not really in the mood to write another. That being said, this book succumbs to its own investigation. While Moeller does and amazing job of describing, detailing, and wailing against Compassion Fatigue, I'm left feeling, for lack of a better term, "meh." She does a fine job of talking about compassion fatigue, what it is, how it happens, all the while using examples. But, in the end, she fails to move her readers. There was no passion in the writing or personal story in this book to make the reader care. It was all content and no heart. While the material is extremely important, and Moeller does a great job of writing it, I wish she had not saved her ire for the conclusion. The force and animosity in the conclusions should have permeated the entire work.

MISCELLANEOUS: Why do all my school assignments require me to read books that make me feel like humanity lacks a soul?

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keep (for now)
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: The Sandman: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman
RN: The Sandman: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman

Book 3: Princess

TITLE: Princess
AUTHOR: Gaelen Foley
STARTED: January 10, 2006
FINISHED: January 13, 2006
PAGES: 389
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: The sound of her rapid, shallow panting filled the narrow space between the box-hedge walls of the garden maze.

SUMMARY: [From] Darius Santiago is the King's most trusted man, a master spy and assassin. He is handsome, charming, ruthless, and he has one weakness — the stunning Princess Serafina. She is all he has ever wanted and everything he cannot have. Serafina has worshiped Darius from afar her whole life, knowing that deep in the reaches of her soul, where she is not royalty but a flesh and blood woman, she belongs to this dangerous, untouchable man. Unable to suppress their desire any longer, they are swept into a daring dance of passion destined to consume them both until a deadly enemy threatens to destroy their new love.

REASON FOR READING: It's the second in the series and I *heart* Gaelen Foley

THOUGHTS: This book was not as good as the first in the series. Foley definitely hit a sophomore slump. The writing was her up to her normal standards but I really disliked the heroine. She came across as spoiled and uncaring. She just didn't do it for me. Darius, on the other hand, was a great character. He was dynamic, mainly because he was moody. The chemistry between these too saved the book. The plot, while holding promise, was cliched and overdone. Thankfully, Foley's body of works saved me from hating this particular work.

MISCELLANEOUS: The guy on the back cover scares me.

RATING: 5/10 [I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed review]

CR: Compassion Fatigue by Susan D. Moeller
RN: The Sandman: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman

Book 2: The Other Boleyn Girl

TITLE: The Other Boleyn Girl
AUTHOR: Philippa Gregory
STARTED: January 2, 2006
FINISHED: January 8, 2006
PAGES: 664
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: I could hear a roll of muffled drums.

SUMMARY: [From] When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family's ambitious plots as the king's interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king, and take her fate into her own hands.

REASON FOR READING: I've read Gregory before and like her. Plus, a number of her books are on my TBR pile.

THOUGHTS: Once again, I was overwhelmed with the quality of Gregory's writing. Her characters and plots are HIGHLY addictive. I could not put this book down. The emotions that ran rampant through this book dragged me into the story and refused to let go. Mary's character was well written and complete. It would have been impossible not to like her. Her sister, Anne, though less likable as a person, was just as enjoyable. The dynamic these two had in the story is what made the book great. The were sisters who loved one another and, yet, they were still rivals. Gregory did a fabulous job of writing the love through the tension.

The rest of the cast (i.e., Henry and the other love interests) only made the book more enjoyable. I hurt when they were hurt and laughed when they were happy. Gregory is a wizard with words. Her writing was flawless. The descriptive language and imagery made this book a gem.

MISCELLANEOUS: Katherine of Aragon is in much of this book. Gregory's new book, The Constant Princess, is also about that princess. (That book is already on my TBR pile.) I have to wonder how the two stories are going to overlap.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Keep until I can find it in hardcover.
RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

CR: Princess by Gaelen Foley
RN: Compassion Fatigue by Susan D. Moeller

Monday, January 02, 2006

Book 1: "A Problem From Hell" America and the Age of Genocide

TITLE: "A Problem From Hell" America and the Age of Genocide
AUTHOR: Samantha Power
STARTED: October 2005
FINISHED: January 2, 2006
PAGES: 602
GENRE: Non-Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: My introduction to Sidbela Zimic, a nine-year-old Sarajevo, came unexpectedly one Sunday in June 1995.

SUMMARY: [From] Power, a former journalist for U.S. News and World Report and the Economist and now the executive director of Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights, offers an uncompromising and disturbing examination of 20th-century acts of genocide and U.S responses to them. In clean, unadorned prose, Power revisits the Turkish genocide directed at Armenians in 1915-1916, the Holocaust, Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, Iraqi attacks on Kurdish populations, Rwanda, and Bosnian "ethnic cleansing," and in doing so, argues that U.S. intervention has been shamefully inadequate. The emotional force of Power's argument is carried by moving, sometimes almost unbearable stories of the victims and survivors of such brutality. Her analysis of U.S. politics what she casts as the State Department's unwritten rule that nonaction is better than action with a PR backlash; the Pentagon's unwillingness to see a moral imperative; an isolationist right; a suspicious left and a population unconcerned with distant nations aims to show how ingrained inertia is, even as she argues that the U.S. must reevaluate the principles it applies to foreign policy choices. In the face of firsthand accounts of genocide, invocations of geopolitical considerations and studied and repeated refusals to accept the reality of genocidal campaigns simply fail to convince, she insists. But Power also sees signs that the fight against genocide has made progress. Prominent among those who made a difference are Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew who invented the word genocide and who lobbied the U.N. to make genocide the subject of an international treaty, and Senator William Proxmire, who for 19 years spoke every day on the floor of the U.S. Senate to urge the U.S. to ratify the U.N. treaty inspired by Lemkin's work. This is a well-researched and powerful study that is both a history and a call to action.

REASON FOR READING: I picked up this book as a resource piece for my thesis.

THOUGHTS: This is the most powerful book I have read in ages. I believe the points, themes, and conclusions that Power writes are not only well written but extremely important as well. Power does not shy away from anything. She takes an instance of genocide and explores it from every angle. She tells the inside story from those who lived, the story of those who committed the killings, those who fought against it, and those who ignored it. Most importantly, she makes it abundantly clear that we (in the West) have seen genocide occur and have ignored it. The entire time she is doing this, she does not make you feel personal guilt. She explains without criticizing and this elevates her argument.

What I liked best about Power's book was the way she told the personal story of genocide. Not only did she include the instances of people who lived through genocide; she also included the personal stories of those who struggled to end the apathy and deliberate political pull away from genocide. I never knew how personal the struggle against genocide became for the people who were in a position of power. The personal stories were illuminating and heartbreaking.

Power's writing is clear, concise, and extremely poignant. She creates fabulous sentences and paragraphs that stick with the reader long after they've turned the page. One sentence, in particular, that has stuck with me is: "But the only noise that could be heard was the sound of machetes slicing their way through Rwanda's Tutsi population."

This is an extremely powerful read that often reduced me to tears. "A Problem From Hell" is an amazing book and one that should be widely read.

MISCELLANEOUS: I would like to see Power update this work to include Darfur.

RATING: 10/10 [One of the best books I have ever read]

CR: The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory and Compassion Fatigue by Susan D. Moeller
RN: Probably something for school because my semester starts on Monday.