Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Book 67: Secrets of a Proper Lady

NUMBER: 67
TITLE: Secrets of a Proper Lady
AUTHOR: Victoria Alexander
STARTED: November 21, 2007
FINISHED: November 24, 2007
PAGES: 375
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "Cursed," Daniel Sinclair said under his breath.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Lady Cordelia Bannister simply cannot marry a man she has not chosen herself, no matter what her father decrees. So, pretending to be her own companion, she decides to seek out information about her intended by meeting with his secretary—a man who soon beguiles her. But Lady Cordelia doesn't know the truth—the man can't resist is really her intended, Daniel Sinclair.

Daniel has nearly won the wager he made with three of London's most eligible bachelors. While two of his compatriots have surrendered to the shackles of marriage, he's remained free to woo any woman he chooses. Yet duty forces him to consider Lady Cordelia, so, determined to find a way to escape honor intact, he continues the masquerade he started.

Each finds the other completely irresistible, but when they uncover their mutual mistaken identities, Daniel and Cordelia must make the most important choice of all...

REASON FOR READING: I like Victoria Alexander.

THOUGHTS: Umm... yeah... I actually don't remember a darned thing about this book. Not good.

MISCELLANEOUS: Once again, I say that I need to remind myself to review the books I read much faster.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.] But only because I can't recall anything about it one way or another.

Book 66: Midsummer Magic

NUMBER: 66
TITLE: Midsummer Magic
AUTHOR: Catherine Coulter
STARTED: November 19, 2007
FINISHED: November 21, 2007
PAGES: 412
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Philip Evelyn Desborough Hawksbury, Earl of Rothermere, handed his gloves and riding cloak to the marquess's butler, Shippe, glanced briefly toward the array of footmen who hovered nearby in the great entryway of Chandos Chase, and said quietly, "How does my father?"

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Good beach reading, Coulter's 1987 historical romance finds the beauteous and brainy Frances Kilbracken forced into marriage with the roguish Hawk (yes, I did say, Hawk). After fulfilling his conquest of Frances, Hawk abandons her and is smitten by a mystery woman, who actually is guess who?

REASON FOR READING: I think there was a review for it over at Smart Bitches.

THOUGHTS: Egads. It has been so long since I read this that I am only able to remember to things:

1. Well, that seems a believable to build a relationship.
2. Ah! Another superfluous plot line. Kill it! Kill it!

MISCELLANEOUS: What was so midsummer about this?

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]

Monday, December 10, 2007

Book 65: The Spy Wore Silk

NUMBER: 65
TITLE: The Spy Wore Silk
AUTHOR: Andrea Pickens
STARTED: November 17, 2007
FINISHED: November 19, 2007
PAGES: 374
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Steel clashed against steel, the blades flashing like quicksilver fire in the afternoon sun.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] They were once orphans from London's roughest slums. Now they are students of Mrs. Merlin's Academy for Select Young Ladies, learning the art of spying and seduction. Bold, beautiful, and oh-so-dangerous, they are England's ultimate secret weapons. The most skilled of Merlin's Maidens, Siena must unmask a traitor lurking among an exclusive club of book collectors. Armed with only her wits, her blades, and her sultry body, she joins the gentlemen at a country house party. But her prime suspect, disgraced ex-army officer Lord Kirtland proves as enigmatic as he is suspicious-and sinfully sensuous. Kirtland's instincts tell him the enticing "Black Dove" is hiding more than a luscious body beneath her fancy silks. Yet as he starts to plumb her secrets, a cunning adversary lays plans to destroy them both. To live, Siena must end her tantalizing dance of deception and desire-and decide whether to trust her head or her heart.

REASON FOR READING: Romance novel binge over Thanksgiving? Yes, please!

THOUGHTS: It took me re-reading the summary to actually remember what this book was about. Whoops.

Now, all I can remember are the bad things. This book feel victim to the "too many characters in too few pages." However(!), I am willing to forgive the book a little because it is setting up a series (which I am interested in following). Even then, the pace was far too fast and the plot overly contrived.

Also, even though the heroine is introduced as some kind of regency spy superhero, she has a couple TSTL moments which had me slapping my hand against my forehead. She has good chemistry with the lead male... even if I don't remember much about him. Wait! I do. I didn't like him because he was too easily swayed.

MISCELLANEOUS: What's the point of keeping a knife strapped to your thigh when you wear 16 layers of skirts and petticoats? Someone needs to explain the rational of that to me.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]

Book 64: A Thousand Splendid Suns

NUMBER: 64
TITLE: A Thousand Splendid Suns
AUTHOR: Khaled Hosseini
STARTED:November 12, 2007
FINISHED: November 16, 2007
PAGES: 372
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman's love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love.

REASON FOR READING: I enjoyed Hosseini's first novel, and my interest was even more piqued when I heard him talk at the National Book Festival a few years back.

THOUGHTS: In the tradition of his first novel, The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini has managed to craft a narrative of relationships that simply sucks the reader into the story. I can't wax poetic about Hosseini's writing style, but his method of storytelling is completely enveloping. Even if Hosseini had decided to set his story in another time or place, the relationships of the main characters would still have been powerful. In placing his story of family in the midst of revolutionary and war-torn Afghanistan, Hosseini creates an unforgettable tale.

Hosseini's skills are best scene in his characterizations. The female leads, Mariam and Laila, come alive. A Thousand Splendid Suns reads almost like a memoir it feels so real. The power struggles and created familial relationships in this novel evolve naturally, without being forced to work to the author's plot. That's what makes this book create such a personal emotional connection with the reader. It just is. There is no forcing of the story, no coercing of sympathies and empathies. A Thousand Splendid Suns is, at it's basic essence, the story of two women try to make a family and survive under some of the harshest of living conditions.

The one real downside I found with this novel was it's predictability. There were no shocking moments. The book may evolve naturally, but Hosseini seems to have the tendency to rely on plot and character conventions. I wanted to be surprised and I did not get that with this book. Even the Big Twist feel flat.

Even with those faults, it was nice to read an author who did not have a sophomore slump. This book was just as good, if not better, than The Kite Runner.


RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Book 63: The Uncommon Reader

NUMBER: 63
TITLE: The Uncommon Reader: A Novella
AUTHOR: Alan Bennett
STARTED: November 10, 2007
FINISHED: November 12, 2007
PAGES: 120
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: At Windsor it was the evening of the state banquet and as the president of France took his place beside Her Majesty, the royal family formed up behind and the procession slowly moved off and through into the Waterloo Chamber.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] A deliciously funny novella that celebrates the pleasure of reading. When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, Bennett describes the Queen’s transformation as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word. With the poignant and mischievous wit of The History Boys, England’s best loved author revels in the power of literature to change even the most uncommon reader’s life.

REASON FOR READING: I heard an interview with Alan Bennett on NPR.org.

THOUGHTS: This was a remarkable little novel. The writing was witty and playful. Bennett was also able to humanize the Queen without condescending to the quarks he gave her character. I particularly enjoyed how he made the Queen into someone I think of as a true reader: they want to read all the time and all they want to talk about with people is what they read.

MISCELLANEOUS: I want a corgi.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Friday, November 30, 2007

Patron of the Moment: Starbucks Fix

I am so far behind in my book review right now... so instead of doing those, I'm going to tell you about my "Patron of the Moment."

Technically, said patron visited the library before Thanksgiving, but things were so busy that I'm just now getting a chance to share.

First, the backstory: Our library used to have policy where all beverages had to be in sealed containers (Screw tops, flip-caps, etc.). This meant that your typical Starbucks or Caribou coffee plastic lid cup was not allowed in the building. Last semester, we learned that we were flighting a losing battle. The University now has a Starbucks so we've basically forgone that rule.

Now for the patron: This lady came back to my office to ask me where she could find Starbucks. I gave her directions to the student union (though it's really a conference center but that's a whole 'nother can a'beans) where the Starbucks is located. She said she didn't want that one. I told her that was the closest Starbucks to the library. We then proceeded to have the following conversation.

Lady: I mean the Starbucks in the library.
Me: There is no Starbucks in the library.
Lady: There are a ton of Starbucks cups in here.
Me: They're from the Starbucks at the student center.
Lady: No, they're not. You don't allow cups like that in the library. They bought their coffee here.
Me: We no longer enforce that policy. Those are from the Starbucks in the student union.
Lady: You're lying. There is a Starbucks in the basement.
Me: I'm sorry ma'am, but the only Starbucks on campus is at the student center.
Lady: *stares me down* Fine. I'll find it myself.

If only all my conversations were so amusing.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Book 62: Blindspot

NUMBER: 62
TITLE: Blindspot
AUTHOR: Kevin C. Pyle
STARTED: November 6, 2007
FINISHED: November 6, 2007
PAGES: 96
GENRE: Graphic Novel

FIRST SENTENCE: When I heard we were moving again I don't remember being particularly upset.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Dean and his friends have created an entire world in the woods behind their suburban housing development. In their army fantasy, they’re at war, and Dean is the daring captain leading his troops through episodes of intrigue and danger. But no fantasy can last forever. A run-in with a homeless man in the woods snaps the boys back to reality, and little by little the real world pervades their imagined universe and drives them apart.

REASON FOR READING: It was on display at the library.

THOUGHTS: Eh. This was just a quick read. The art was decent, but I wasn't wowed by it or the story.

MISCELLANEOUS: Now I want to watch Band of Brothers.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]

Book 61: The Crucible

NUMBER: 61
TITLE: The Crucible
AUTHOR: Arthur Miller
STARTED: November 4, 2007
FINISHED: November 6, 2007
PAGES: 150
GENRE: Drama

FIRST SENTENCE: A small upper bedroom in the home of Reverend Samuel Parris, Salem, Massachusetts, in the spring of the year 1692.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] I believe that the reader will discover here the essential nature of one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history," Arthur Miller wrote in an introduction to The Crucible, his classic play about the witch-hunts and trials in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts. Based on historical people and real events, Miller's drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. In the rigid theocracy of Salem, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town's most basic fears and suspicions; and when a young girl accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, self-righteous church leaders and townspeople insist that Elizabeth be brought to trial. The ruthlessness of the prosecutors and the eagerness of neighbor to testify against neighbor brilliantly illuminate the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence. Written in 1953, The Crucible is a mirror Miller uses to reflect the anti-communist hysteria inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy's "witch-hunts" in the United States. Within the text itself, Miller contemplates the parallels, writing "Political opposition...is given an inhumane overlay, which then justifies the abrogation of all normally applied customs of civilized behavior. A political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence.

REASON FOR READING: It won the Reducing Mt. TBR poll

THOUGHTS: I probably should not have watched the movie version before I read the play. I could not get the scene of Daniel Day Lewis screaming, "It is my name!" out of my head.

I enjoyed Miller's work - mainly because it felt real. The characters came alive in their dialog. I've never read Miller before so this was really a treat for me. He writes with passion and depth and this came out in the text. The play felt rich and while the plot is well known, I still felt connected to the story, as if I was reading/seeing it for the first time.

MISCELLANEOUS: Now I want to see this play on stage.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Book 60: Sorcery and the Single Girl

NUMBER: 60
TITLE: Sorcery and the Single Girl
AUTHOR: Mindy L. Klasky
STARTED: October 30, 2007
FINISHED: November 3, 2007
PAGES: 394
GENRE: Chick Lit

FIRST SENTENCE: Once upon a time, I thought being a witch would make everything easier.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Those TV witches have got it made . . . Wiggle a nose. Dinner's on the table! Hop on a broom. Next stop, Tahiti!

Unfortunately, nose-wiggling doesn't cut it in real life. So witch or not, Jane Madison must deal with her insane work schedule, best-friend drama and romantic dry spell like everyone else.
But now the exclusive Washington Coven wants Jane to join. This could be a dream come true for the magical misfit, or it could be the most humiliating experience of her life. Either way, the crap's gonna hit the cauldron because Jane is about to be tested in ways she's never imagined -- and, pass or fail, nothing will ever be the same.

REASON FOR READING: It's the second book in a series I started awhile back.

THOUGHTS: Klasky hit a sophomore slump with this book. While the story itself was still very interesting, the writing and characters took a turn for the lazy and whiny. At this point, I think the only reason I would read the third book would be see if Jane ends up with her Warder, David.
I just couldn't get past the unbelieveable parts of this story. The whole costumes in the library thing I could overlook in the first book but it really irritated me in this one. Also, Jane dissolved into a selfish, simpering fool instead of being purely human in the first book.

MISCELLANEOUS: I still want a familiar.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Librarian News

Things like this make me happy.

I really enjoyed this section of the commentary:

Q. Hey Library Man: I always seem to find very attractive librarians working the reference desk, but I'm intimidated by how smart they are. Do you know any good librarian pickup lines I could "borrow"? -- Bo

A. Dear "Bo" (if that's your real name): The librarian mystique -- prim, proper and brainy by day, but transforming into wildcats after sunset -- can be intimidating. But don't be too bashful. Remember, Laura Bush was a librarian, and she settled for a smarmy frat boy who never read anything thicker than a Cliff's Notes pamphlet. His opening line was probably "Are you with me or against me?" or "If it's a date you want, bring it on."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Book 59: Self-Made Man

NUMBER: 59
TITLE: Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey Into Manhood and Back Again
AUTHOR: Norah Vincent
STARTED: October 20, 2007
FINISHED: October 28, 2007
PAGES: 290
GENRE: Non-Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Seven years ago, I had my first tutorial in becoming a man.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Norah Vincent became an instant media sensation with the publication of Self-Made Man, her take on just how hard it is to be a man, even in a man's world. Following in the tradition of John Howard Griffin (Black Like Me), Norah spent a year and a half disguised as her male alter ego, Ned, exploring what men are like when women aren't around. As Ned, she joins a bowling team, takes a high-octane sales job, goes on dates with women (and men), visits strip clubs, and even manages to infiltrate a monastery and a men's therapy group. At once thought- provoking and pure fun to read, Self-Made Man is a sympathetic and thrilling tour de force of immersion journalism.

REASON FOR READING: It was the November 2007 This Cake Has A Hole In It selection

THOUGHTS: This is one of my favorite books of the year. The writing and "storytelling" itself are nothing special, but this book has radically changed the way I look at gender (and the male gender in particular). Since this book was November's selection for my book club, I do not want to give a full review. Therefore, I will give just a quick list of things that struck me as I was reading.

1. There is far more to gender than anatomy. Vincent discusses how her transformation into the mask of a male required far more work with the social constructs of gesture, action, and voice than actual physical change. People will see what you want them to see - as long as you can "act like a man" people will believe you to be a man. I love people watching and, as I was reading, I found myself picking up on people's gendered body language more and more.

2. Men have it rough. I never realized how I treated men as "guilty before proven innocent" until I read this book. Women may call men pigs - but I don't think we see how hard we make things on them. Vincent discusses how we ask so much of the the men in our lives without realizing that what we're asking them to be can be two exact opposite things at the same time.

3. This book has me looking at men/their actions in an entirely different light. I don't see them / their actions as any "better" or "worse" than before, but I do read things differently. Actually, this book has me trusting men more (or at least seeing them "at face value" as opposed to reading their actions as something other than they are).

4. Men are "men." There are certain guy stereotypes that just ring true. And, yes, that is why we women give them a harder time than they deserve.

5. Sex and "sex" are two different things. For men, there are two(ish) kinds of sex. The "animalistic urge" sex and the "you mean the world to me" sex. Having the first type of sex does not necessarily negate the sacredness of the second type of sex. For men, sex and emotion are not intertwined as they are for women.
5a. I can now understand the wearing/rationale behind the wearing of veils/burkas.
5b. Boobs are boobs.
5c. If a guy can turn off the need to jump you, it means he really likes you.

6. Men can like another man in the first instance they meet. Men are the more genuine of the two genders. Most women need a warm up period. Seriously, watch two women meet for the first time - you can't help but see how fake the greeting is once you know it's there.

7. Men are more emotionally needy and complex than most people think. I also think that this book proves that men have varying levels of intelligence that they turn on and off according to the specific situation.

8. In regards to Vincent's method, I think she spent much of her time in a specific socio-economic area of "manhood." I wonder if her results would have been different if she had "infiltrated" different communities? Also, while my roomie and I both dislike how Vincent reveals her true self at the end of each "experiment," I think, in doing so, Vincent can more directly show how people react toward gender. We treat people according to their gender and seeing the switch in action was fascinating.

I highly recommend this book.

MISCELLANEOUS: I would have trouble passing as a man. Too much hip sashay.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mine!

*begin Victory Dance to end all Victory Dances*

I've finally done it! MUHAHAHAHAHA.

It has only taken me a few years, but I finally secured myself first edition, hardcover copy of Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. Tis my favorite book and my paperback copy is looking the worse for wear. There are actual creases in the spine - which I never do.

My friends and I were killing time before heading to a bar for another's friends birthday. We were strolling around the bookstores of Dupont Circle when we wandered into Second Story Books. That store is like coming home to me. It just feels so comforting to walk in there and be surrounded by all the used books. It reminds me of the used bookstore I used to work at... with fewer piles on the floor.

I've haunted Second Story for a couple of years now, and I always keep an eye out for certain titles, namely Black Hawk Down. Ever since I read the book back in high school, the book snob in me has wanted to own it in hardcover. As a first edition. In almost pristine condition. And I didn't want to pay a gazillion dollars to get it.

Clearly, that is not to much to ask.

So, every time I was near Second Story, I would pop-in and peruse the military section. Usually to no avail. They had copies, but not that all perfect copy I was looking for.

Then, last Friday, there it was. In fact, there THEY were. That's right - suddenly, Second Story had two first edition copies for me to choose from. Victory.

I sat and compared the copies for condition. I ended up walking out with the slightly more expensive copy because it did not have foxing on the edges of the pages.

Now, it's mine. All mine. And that makes me a very happy lady.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

BOO(K)!

Today, I am bewitching the stacks.

And by bewitching, I mean walking around in a lot of black with a stereotypical nylon witch's hat on. The hat was meant for a kid so we're doing battle. So far the score is 4-1 in favor of the hat. But the sucker is securely on my head right now, so I am going to claim victory.

An e-mail came across the staff listserv today sending us to a website on haunted libraries. You can read about them here. When I've trained staff, a few of them have actually asked me if the stacks are haunted. People do hear odd noises with no apparent cause and, sometimes, there are random shadows that move. I always tell my staff that the stacks are free of ghosts, but that there are Stacks Gremlins about. They're the ones that shelve the books wrong.

We have had an eerie story or two but they usually end up being caused by a practical joker. To me, however, there is nothing creepier than walking around the stacks, alone, late at night - particularly when it is raining outside. The center section of our stacks have huge windows and when the lightning strikes, it's downright terrifying. There are days I really do hate to put in over time hours.

Also there was this one time I was convinced the stacks were haunted. I was shelving a cart and went one aisle over to put a book away. When I came back, the bottom row of books on my cart had moved to the top. So, who knows, maybe my library is haunted.

Does anyone else have any creepy stories?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Librarians Can Be Scary

Tonight, I get to go to the first of two Halloween parties. The other is tomorrow, and both look to be quite a load of fun. I am actually making Witches Hat cookies for the second party.

Because I am oh so creative, I am going as a librarian. Seriously, you really don't want to know the ways I manage to cop out of thinking up a costume. But... not just any librarian - your stereotypical romance novel librarian.

I've got high-heeled black pumps (thank you Target), back-seamed black stockings (thank you Amazon.com - even though I have no idea how to get the seam straight), red plastic frame glasses (thank you again Target), and I will be carrying around a date due stamp (thank you Jennifer). The actual clothes of the outfit are items I already own - because, as I stated before, I think of ways to cop out of coming up with a costume. (I once went as my friend Erin.)

I threw the whole outfit on a few days ago (complete with messy bun) and thought I looked rather cute.

My two roomies are also attending these shindigs. Beth is going as a fairy (inspired by Amy Brown's art) and Jennifer is going as Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction (the overdose scene to be exact). I can't wait to see what sorts of pictures come out of these parties. My friends go all out with the decorations so this weekend promises to be a good time.

Early Election Day

There's a new poll up in the side bar to reduce my Mt. TBR. Here's why:

Kathleen: I don't know if we can be friends anymore

you havent read The Witch of Blackbird Pond, A Wrinkle in Time OR Little Women!!
And you didnt LOVE Emma - gaa!
Go vote! - so Kathleen and I can be friends.

Book 58: Rising Wind

NUMBER: 58
TITLE: Rising Wind
AUTHOR: Cindy Holby
STARTED: October 16, 2007
FINISHED: October 19, 2007
PAGES: 338
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "Ye must go."

SUMMARY: [From Cindy Colby's website] Leaving behind the Highlands for the New World at the tender age of ten, Connor Duncan learned quickly that only the fit and the fortunate survive. He was both, becoming a scout and an expert marksman…a man to be reckoned with. He knew his way through the backwoods as well as any Shawnee, but he was far less comfortable in the drawing rooms of Williamsburg. What was a rough-hewn frontiersman like he to do with a sheltered beauty like the governor’s niece? But there seemed to be no way to avoid the “Virgin Widow,” especially when she insisted on accompanying him on a dangerous mission through the wilderness to Fort Savannah. Neither capture, nor torture, nor the violent birth pangs of a young nation could keep them apart or stop the founding of a brand new dynasty of Duncans.

REASON FOR READING: A colonial romance? I am so there.

THOUGHTS: I wish I wasn't there. This was just plain bad. The author forced the story, forced the interactions, and forced stupid "our lives are intertwined" moments that just made me want to claw my eyes out. There was no chemistry between the leads which led me to ask, "Why do they like each other?" every other page. If you want a lesson is how to mis-use tried and true romance novel characters, plots, and themes, read this book. For me, the story has to have a natural, organic growth and flow to be good. This book's plot was far too contrived to be enjoyable.

The one even remotely interesting aspect of this book was the discussion on the Native Americans as the marched back to camp. That lasted all of 2 pages and then it was back to, "Save me! You Love!" writing.

Oi, so not worth the time.

MISCELLANEOUS: Cover snark!

RATING: 1/10

Book 57: Emma

NUMBER: 57
TITLE: Emma
AUTHOR: Jane Austen
STARTED: October 4, 2007
FINISHED: October 16, 2007
PAGES: 484
GENRE: Literature

FIRST SENTENCE: [From the first chapter] Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Emma is the story of the eponymous Miss Woodhouse who, having lost her close companion Anne Taylor to marriage, sets out on an ill-fated career of match-making in the town of Highbury. Taking as her subject the pretty but dreary Harriet Smith, she manages to cause misunderstandings with every new tactic she employs. Though precious and spoilt, Emma is charming to all around her and so it takes her some time to learn her lesson and profit from spending less time worrying about how other people should live their lives.

REASON FOR READING: It won the Reducing Mt. TBR poll

THOUGHTS: Will the Austen fans of the world hunt me down if I say I didn't love this book? Probably. Well I'm gonna say it anyway: I didn't love this book. I liked it. But I didn't love it. Maybe if I had been able to sit down and read it in two or three sittings I would feel differently. Sadly, I never was able to have a day in bed simply reading. Therefore, the story felt kind of detached and emotionless for me. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy Emma, I just felt a rather large disconnect from Austen's story and the characters in it.

Character wise, I found Emma both endearing and aggravating. Austen wrote her in a way that made you want to shake some sense into her because you liked her so much. This worked perfectly because, as the reader, you were able to see how Knightley felt. As for Knightley, I felt like he needed to be in the story more. Then again, I say this as a romance novel reader. I'm only truly satisfied when the romantic leads are in close proximity to one another. I like the dynamic in the relationship and I felt that this was missing through most of the book. Also, I don't understand why Knightley gets such a bad rap - maybe someone can explain it to me. I loved that he was so patient and portrayed as the perfect suitor for Emma. I only wish he had a bit more of a spine. Knightley did strike me as a mild push over who indulged Emma's whims too much.

The one character I did not like was Harriet. Honestly, she felt like a dumb sock puppet to me. Every time the situation changed she just went along with it without a pause for thought. There were moments I just wanted to scream, "Think, woman!" at her.

As always, Austen's writing style continues to be enjoyable. Unfortunately, I read a lot of this book on the metro, and some passages came across as muddled - but, I think that has more to do with the drunk people sitting next to me than Austen's writing.

MISCELLANEOUS: Corsets are evil.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Shushing - It's Lethal

We travel swiftly in the night... to shush you!

That's What She Said: Faith

American Libraries: Is government sneaking into public libraries to an unacceptable degree in the United States?
Irshad Manji: Librarians in the United States are too alert for an infringement on their freedoms and rights to let it slip by. I have far more faith in the librarians of America than I do in the journalists of America.

-- American Libraries (October 2007, pg. 39)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Book 56: Doubt

NUMBER: 56
TITLE: Doubt: A Parable
AUTHOR: John Patrick Shanley
STARTED: October 3, 2007
FINISHED: October 3, 2007
PAGES: 58
GENRE: Drama

FIRST SENTENCE: [From the preface] What's under a play?

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Chosen as the best play of the year by over 10 newspapers and magazines, Doubt is set in a Bronx Catholic school in 1964, where a strong-minded woman wrestles with conscience and uncertainty as she is faced with concerns about one of her male colleagues. This new play by John Patrick Shanley-the Bronx-born-and-bred playwright and Academy Award-winning author of Moonstruck-dramatizes issues straight from today's headlines within a world re-created with knowing detail and a judicious eye. After a stunning, sold-out production at Manhattan Theatre Club, the play has transferred to Broadway.

REASON FOR READING: It came across my desk at work.

THOUGHTS: First things first: I had to look up the definition of "parable" before I started this play just to be sure I actually knew what it meant. From dictionary.com:
1. a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson.
2. a statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by the use of comparison, analogy, or the like.
Now that that's done, it has been over two weeks since I finished this book and I'm still trying to figure where the "parable" comes in. I'm probably over thinking it, but I honestly wonder how much of this play went over my head because I was reading it either too literally or was too busy actively searching for the parable. The entire time I was reading this play, all I could think was, "How would I understand this differently if it were on stage?"

I enjoyed the writing and the characterizations put forth in this script, but I can't help but think that the whole point of this play went completely over my head.

MISCELLANEOUS: I miss the theatre.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

I'll Top Your Desk

There's a meme thing floating around a number of the book blogs I read, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon. You simply take a screen shot of your desktop and post it (with or without explanation - it's up to you).

This is my desktop at home. I found the image by randomly scrolling through Elfwood.com. That website has some fantastic artists. The background color is red because a) I like red and b) It matches my bedspread. My desk is in my room, so I like things to match.


This is my desktop at work. During Notre Dame football season (Go Irish!) I put up this image. My brother (he will be famous one day) actually compiled the image because he's crafty like that.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Book 55: Last of the Red Hot Vampires

NUMBER: 55
TITLE: Last of the Red Hot Vampires
AUTHOR: Katie MacAlister
STARTED: September 28, 2007
FINISHED: October 1, 2007
PAGES: 354
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "Oh, look, a crop circle."

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] On a trip to England, physicist Portia Harding is stalked by a heart-stoppingly handsome maniac. Theondre North is a nephilim -- the son of a fallen angel -- who needs Portia's help to change his fate. Problem is, Portia's down-to-earth attitude frustrates beings from both heavenly and hellish realms -- and gets Theo turned into a vampire. But at least he has Portia to satisfy his newfound hungers -- and possibly save his soul.

REASON FOR READING: I'm a semi-fan girl for MacAlister's vampire books.

THOUGHTS: This book was not up to snuff with the other works in MacAlister's vampire realm. In fact, I would hesitate to call this one of her Dark One books at all. Instead of being a purely Dark One based plot, MacAlister introduces a whole new world that was not present in any of her books. If she had just stuck with one or the other, this book would have been enjoyable. Instead, MacAlister crams two worlds together and the world building takes over the storyline. I did not enjoy this book because I was too busy saying "WTF is going on?" every five pages.

Since the dominant part of this book is MacAlister experimenting with a new world for a spin-off series, the characters and relationships in the story fall completely flat. MacAlister has made my toes curl with passion in the past, but that was no where to be found with these characters they felt wooden. There was no chemistry between Portia and Theo. No matter how hard MacAlister tried to force a relationship, there was nothing believable about it. The characters had no motivation, they just "did things."

I will say that I am intrigued by the new world MacAlister built in this book, I just wish it had been introduced in its own book instead of being smashed into her Vampire series.

Romance authors take note: It's okay to write stand-alones. I don't need all over your books to be interconnected.

MISCELLANEOUS: MacAlister has been more miss than hit lately.

RATING: 3/10 [Poor, Lost Interest]

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I can haz bst celler?

Book 54: Atonement

NUMBER: 54
TITLE: Atonement
AUTHOR: Ian McEwan
STARTED: September 18, 2007
FINISHED: September 26, 2007
PAGES: 351
GENRE:Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: The play - for which Briony had designed the posters, programs and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in crepe paper - was written by her in a two day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.

On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives–together with her precocious literary gifts–brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.

REASON FOR READING: It was selected for the first book in my reading group that my friends and I formed a month ago.

THOUGHTS: I think I am going to have to find a better way/time to review the books I read for the new book club. After the lengthy discussion we had last week, I have almost nothing left to say about this book. I guess, in the future, I link my reviews of the book to the notes from that night's discussion.

So, since I have no desire to opine about Atonement, I give you the cop-out of the list!

1. I hated the first section of this book. And, when I say hated, I mean HATED. There was almost nothing redeeming to that part of the text for me. The writing was heavy and dragged for pages. I just wanted to smack the characters. I know the section was supposed to be set-up for the rest of the book, but it really made me want to put the novel down. The language was over-done bordering on eye-roll inducing, the characters felt flat, and the plot just left me snoozing.

2. BUT! I loved the rest of the book. After the first section, Atonement turned into a book for me to love. (Love story set during a war? Cha.) The attention to detail that McEwan gave the scenes was masterful. In many ways, I felt like McEwan was writing for film. I could picture the cinematography in my head. The characters finally came to life - they had depth and emotion. I finally found myself drawn to their stories and empathizing with their situations.

3. This book was very meta. It was a story within a book withing a story. While most of this does not reveal itself in its entirety until the very end - there were major hints of the cyclical nature of the book throughout the story. In some ways, however, I felt like McEwan was trying to hard. I know that McEwan is considered a genius by many, but something about the way he writes makes me think he's full of himself. I don't need to be told you're smarter than me. Show me your skill in the writing. The best genius is the subtle genius and there was nothing subtle about this story.

MISCELLANEOUS: I can't wait for the movie. Hello James McAvoy.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Petite Pencils



I have a stash of these in my office. I try to pawn them off on unsuspecting passers-by.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

We have a winner

Jane Austen's Emma won the poll for what book I should read next. It was neck and neck until the end between Emma and Persuasion. Have no fear Persuasion lovers, I will get around to reading that Austen (and, really, all Austens) at some point.

For the new poll, I'm working off of two loves: reading and movies. I've seen a lot of movies... that's probably why one of my undergraduate majors was Media Studies. There is this group on Facebook called "No, I Haven't Read That Great Literary Classic -- But I've Seen the Wishbone" and that basically sums up me and movies. I decided that the next poll should help decrease the number of times I've said, "I've seen the movie, but I haven't read the book."

You've got five books to choose from over in the sidebar. And.... go!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Book Club #1

My friends and I decided that we needed an excuse to get together more often (with Chinese take-out, wine, and dessert). Since we all enjoy reading, we figured a book club would be the way to go. My friend Rose first thought of the idea after our discussion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows went over so well.

Tonight is our first meeting. We will be discussing Ian McEwan's Atonement. I finished the book a few days ago but will forgo my review until after our book club meeting tonight. Needless to say I am very excited... and that's not just because our host Kathleen is making Mississippi mud cake.

We've decided that our book club should meet once every month or so, with one person leading the discussion. The bonus to being the leader is that you get to pick the book (with input of course, but you get the final say). I figure, when my turn finally rolls around, I will throw up a choice between a fiction, non-fiction, and graphic novel. Also, I will totally choose from the books I already own (I need to whittle down my TBR after all).

Speaking of picking books, the current poll of which Jane Austen I should read is tied. Someone go cast a tie breaker. Next vote wins!

Book 53: The Maiden

NUMBER: 53
TITLE: The Maiden
AUTHOR: Jude Deveraux
STARTED: September 12, 2007
FINISHED: September 17, 2007
PAGES: 312
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: William de Bohun stood hidden in the shadows of the castle's stone walls and looked at his nephew, who sat in the window enclosure, Rowan's golden hair bathed in sunlight, his handsome face frowning in concentration as he studied the manuscript before him.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] He was wise, strong, and brave. His destiny was to be king. She was young, beautiful, a warrior princess. Her destiny was to love him. But when first they met, it was not as princess and king - it was as man and woman only, consumed by a passion so sudden, so deep that the very world exploded with one kiss. Only later, with his touch still burning on her lips, did Jura discover that the knight of her secret tryst had been none other than the hated Prince Rowan! Rowan, who had returned from far-away England to usurp her brother's throne... Rowan, who vowed to unite the wild clans under his rule.

REASON FOR READING: It was there.

THOUGHTS: This book was just plain stupid. That's right, I said it, stupid.

MISCELLANEOUS: Thank goodness I didn't pay for it.

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

Book 52: The Kommandant's Girl

NUMBER: 52
TITLE: The Kommandant's Girl
AUTHOR: Pam Jenoff
STARTED: September 5, 2007
FINISHED: September 11, 2007
PAGES: 395
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: As we cut across the wide span of the market square, past the pigeons gathered around fetid puddles, I eye the sky warily and tighten my grip on Lukasz's hand, willing him to walk faster.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Nineteen-year-old Emma Bau has been married only three weeks when Nazi tanks thunder into her native Poland. Within days Emma's husband, Jacob, is forced to disappear underground, leaving her imprisoned within the city's decrepit, moldering Jewish ghetto. But then, in the dead of night, the resistance smuggles her out. Taken to Krakow to live with Jacob's Catholic cousin, Krysia, Emma takes on a new identity as Anna Lipowski, a gentile.

Emma's already precarious situation is complicated by her introduction to Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official who hires her to work as his assistant. Urged by the resistance to use her position to access details of the Nazi occupation, Emma must compromise her safety—and her marriage vows—in order to help Jacob's cause. As the atrocities of war intensify, so does Emma's relationship with the Kommandant, building to a climax that will risk not only her double life, but also the lives of those she loves.

REASON FOR READING: That's a silly question.

THOUGHTS: This book was probably written with the future feature film (staring Naomi Watts) in mind. There were many times I actually found myself mentally staging the actors and framing the cinematography for the scene. There's nothing wrong with that, mind you, I can just tell that the author was writing images and acted emotions.

I enjoyed this book for the simple reason that it made me think. What would I do in Emma's situation? Can the Kommandant possibly be a good person at heart? Can one justify violence if it means stopping a greater evil? Jenoff did a phenomenal job of keeping the melodramatics out of the plot and out of her writing. Sure there were moments when the story trended more toward romance novel than fiction but it was a nonetheless a moving and intelligent book.

Emma is the core of the book. The story is about her internal logical and emotional battles about her outward decisions. Emma may waiver and question her decisions, but Jenoff never waivers in her heroine's essential character. The reader is allowed to see Emma grow and they are taken along for the dramatic ride as she makes life altering decisions that balance her personal sense of self against the greater good. Emma has moments of pure selfishness, but the reader could never fault her choices. She fights for her husband, her parents, and herself - she spends the majority of the book trying to balance all her desires. Jenoff forces her character to make tough decisions and she writes the struggle with apologies.

The Kommandant is a big mess o' gray character. He's a Nazi with a conscience... or at least he seems to have a conscience. Jenoff was actually able to paint his character in very sympathetic shades. Instead of being a Nazi, the Kommandant comes across as a man who was simply caught up in a situation not of his own making. And, like Emma, we see the battle he seems to be conducting with his personal feelings, past history, and morals. While the story is never shown from his point of view, the reader can actual feel the Kommandant's internal emotions and thought process.

The secondary characters in this story are the main plot movers. Instead of seeming superfluous or fully-action oriented, the continue to convey the emotion of the story. Emma was forced into her situation and the secondary characters are their to foster her decisions. The secondary characters are also their to give Emma the questions she must answer.

The plot relies on the traditional question of "How far do you dare to go?" but the story never feels stale. It may just be my personal experience, but I have read no novels structured in such a setting. There are tons of personal narrative novels set in World War II, but this one felt different. This may be due to the fact that story is set entirely from the female's perspective. It's not a spy thriller or really even a war story. It's an internal battle whose actions are externalized.

Jenoff's writing style is very visual. The scenes, while not always described in explicit detail, are nonetheless fully formed in the reader's mind. Perhaps this is why the story feels so cinematic. The scene is not always verbally described or detailed to the reader, Jenoff just hands it over, fully formed. The prose has a nice momentum to it, neither to fast nor too slow. It paces with the emotional fluctuations of the story. And, while giving the reader a complete story, Jenoff somehow makes the book feel as if there is something more than just the plot. Jenoff forces the reader to internalize Emma's struggle and that is what makes the story so endearing.

MISCELLANEOUS: I hear rumor of a sequel. Part of me says "Yes!" the other part says "You don't really need one..."

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Friday, September 14, 2007

Buns and Boots

A couple of the library blogs I read have been all a flurry with a story out of New Zealand. Apparently, just before that countries version of the ALA conference there was much ado about the fact that Paula Ryan, a fashionista, would be delivering a workshop on how librarians could update their wardrobe. New Zealand's TV3 has a video of the story here. There was a "How dare she!" uproar surrounding the event.

While I can understand why some people would be offended by the idea that a non-librarian was selected to speak about what a librarian "should" try to wear, my thinking on this amounts to a single phrase."So what?"

So what if there is a librarian wardrobe stereotype? So what if some librarians want to break out of the Marian mold. So what if some librarians want to and/or need to stick to their comfy wardrobes and shoes. Does it really matter? Every job has it's stereotypes. I don't know what all the fuss is about.

Then again, in the interest of full disclosure, I happen to be one of those young, "hipster" librarians. I wear the knee high boots. I wear the flirty dresses. I can rock the jeans and cute top. I can and do dress outside of the "comfort only" realm of my wardrobe. (My roommate Jennifer always feared I'd revert to pajamas and sweats... much like I did during college.)

I freely admit, I look more like some wearing J.Crew and H&M. But, then again, I also love my bun. It's so darn useful and it keeps the hair out of my face. Sometimes, I like to wear the comfy shoes because I know I will be on my feet all day.

So call me Marian if you want. It makes me smile.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Book 51: The Reader's Advisory Guide to Non-Fiction

NUMBER: 51
TITLE: The Reader's Advisory Guide to Non-Fiction
AUTHOR: Neal Wyatt
STARTED: Not a clue - at least a week ago
FINISHED: September 5, 2007
PAGES: 319
GENRE: Reference / Books about Books

FIRST SENTENCE: Welcome to the world of non-fiction - a heady, vibrant, and often overwhelming realm inhabited by various types of readers, writers, and reasons for reading; a world of uncharted territory we are only now beginning to explore.

SUMMARY: [From ala.org] Navigating what at she calls the “extravagantly rich world of nonfiction,” renowned readers’ advisor Wyatt builds readers’ advisory bridges from fiction to compelling and increasingly popular nonfiction to encompass the library’s entire collection. She focuses on eight popular categories: history, true crime, true adventure, science, memoir, food/cooking, travel, and sports. Within each, she explains the scope, popularity, style, major authors and works, and the subject’s position in readers’ advisory interviews.

Wyatt addresses who is reading nonfiction and why, while providing RAs with the tools and language to incorporate nonfiction into discussions that point readers to what to read next. In easy-to-follow steps, Wyatt
  • Explains the hows and whys of offering fiction and nonfiction suggestions together
  • Illustrates ways to get up to speed fast in nonfiction
  • Shows how to lead readers to a variety of books using her “read-around” and “reading map” strategies
  • Provides tools to build nonfiction subject guides for the collection
This hands-on guide includes nonfiction bibliography, key authors, benchmark books with annotations, and core collections. It is destined to become the nonfiction ‘bible’ for readers’ advisory and collection development, helping librarians, library workers, and patrons select great reading from the entire library collection!

REASON FOR READING: It came across my desk at work... and I have an addiction to anything that makes book suggestions

THOUGHTS: This book was a reference volume, so there really is no characters or plot to discuss. Wyatt does a fantastic job of keeping her writing and logic clear and concise. The organization of this book was also fantastic. I walked away with a full sheet of titles to check out at some point. This was a good read for anyone who is interested in nonfiction as a genre and why some books work the way they do.

MISCELLANEOUS: It's a good thing I work in a library...

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Book 50: Act of Treason

NUMBER: 50
TITLE: Act of Treason
AUTHOR: Vince Flynn
STARTED: August 25, 2007
FINISHED: September 3, 2007
PAGES: 415
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: The motorcade rumbled down the cobblestone street.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] An attack on his motorcade lost Vice President Brian Baxter his wife but gained him the White House as sympathetic voters joined hands to give him a landslide victory. In the aftermath of Baxter's surprise ascension, one man is nursing grave doubts about the apparent assassination attempt. That one man is Mitch Rapp.

REASON FOR READING: I have a character crush on Mitch Rapp.

THOUGHTS: After hearing Vince Flynn speak at the National Book Festival last year, I found myself struggling to disconnect the author from his character, Mitch Rapp. There was just something in the tone of the writing and pacing of this book that had me thinking that Flynn was writing a book that was more "If-I-was-a-Super-Alpha-Military-Man-Who-has-my-Fingers-in -Politics" than a novel unto itself. While the book was entertaining, I struggled to recover the adoring love I once had for this series. Instead of gaining in strength, I believe the Rapp series is slowly going downhill. I think Flynn has been too swayed by his own political leanings and the current (political) mood of the era to actually write a decent, stand alone series. This saddens me because I do think that Flynn has a genuine talent for the political thriller genre. Despite my problems with this particular entry in the Rapp series, Flynn keeps his plot imaginative and his writing is, for the most part, taut and suspenseful.

Just as in the last Rapp book, Consent to Kill, I felt that the shades of gray were no longer present. [You hear me Flynn? Go grayer man! Bring back the fuzzy middle ground.] The books were more interesting when the good versus evil theme didn't wallop you over the head. Oi! I get it. Terrorists are bad - you don't have to drill it into my head anymore. Once again, Flynn writes Rapp as being the penultimate good guy. Since Rapp's "ends" are good and true, his "means" must be as well - even if said "means" are torture and murder. As with Consent to Kill, it took until the very end of the book for the shades of gray in the plots and characters to appear. I wish Flynn would write his books, then chop out the first 200 pages before editing and adding new content.

I also feel that the series' secondary characters are getting the short end of the stick. Rapp takes over the story and, while I understand that the series is about him, he was never the arrogant "celebrity" he comes across as in this book. Instead of Act of Treason focusing on Rapp, it is dominated by him. The secondary characters become mere set pieces for Rapp to use and dispose with at his pleasure. It was not until the very end of the book that CIA Director Irene Kennedy, one of the better characters in the series, did anything noteworthy. Most of the characters readers of the series have come to know simply flounder around in this book. These characters are better when their given breathing room and grow organically with the story instead of being imposed into the plot.

Despite all my misgivings, Flynn left enough enticing open plot lines to leave me wondering how things are going to pan out. The need to know even has me overlooking the obvious flaws in the slow and, sometimes, awkward pacing of this book. Even if I have problems with the book, if I want to read more, there must be some redeeming qualities to the story. I'll definitely read the next volume in the series - but I'm no longer chomping at the bit to get my hands on it.

MISCELLANEOUS: Matt Damon's Jason Bourne vs. Mitch Rapp in a fight to determine who is the most badass... I think it's an awesome idea.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]

Book 49: If This Bed Could Talk

NUMBER: 49
TITLE: If This Bed Could Talk
AUTHOR: Liz Maverick, Kimberly Dean, and Lynn LaFleur
STARTED: August 25, 2007
FINISHED: August 30, 2007
PAGES: 309
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: [From the first story] They say you only get a few seconds to make a good first impression.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Agent Provocateur by Liz Maverick: A deadly agent is assigned to prepare an exotic beauty to be the ultimate seductress and perfect spy - lessons that will require long hours of personal instruction to perfect her ability to pleasure a man and, ultimately, conquer him.

Unrequited by Kimberly Dean: After years of secret longing for his brother's wife, Tyler rejoices when she is set free and ripe for new love - though it may take a prolonged seduction to convince wary Trista to open herself up to pleasure once more.

Victim of Deception by Lynn LaFleur: When a woman moves into an old house, she is suddenly tantalized by erotic dreams that cause her to shed her every inhibition leaving her vulnerable to the very real, very irresistible ministrations of the man who'd once broken her heart.

REASON FOR READING: It was on my shelf, taking up space.

THOUGHTS: Maybe this will be the book that finally reminds me that I don't really like romance anthologies and I really have to be in the mood for erotica to enjoy it. I like my books to have depth and development. There was nothing endearing about the stories in this volume for me. Then again, that might be because I really do hate anthologies. I wish I would learn that before I waste my time. So, in all fairness, my dislike of this book was more of the "It's not you, it's me" variety.

MISCELLANEOUS: I don't want my bed to talk. That would scare the dickens out of me.

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

Book 48: Winter Garden

NUMBER: 48
TITLE: Winter Garden
AUTHOR: Adele Ashworth
STARTED: August 21, 2007
FINISHED: August 24, 2007
PAGES: 344
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: The cold, late-November wind slapped her face and whipped her lightweight skirt against her legs as Madeleine DuMais stepped down from her hired coach and onto solid ground at Winter Garden.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] In 1849, a celebrated French beauty-and British spy-risks her life to expose smugglers with the help of a dashing earl. But it's her heart that's in danger when the local gentry spread gossip of their illicit partnership. Because beneath the veil of secrecy lies a very true passion.

REASON FOR READING: I only heard good things about it.

THOUGHTS: I need to learn to review books within 48 hours of completing them. I don't remember anything about the books in the "meh" range of my mind after that time period. This book wasn't horrible, but it definitely wasn't fantastic. Nothing really jumps out at me save for one thing: the characters talk too much. It seemed that all Madeleine and the British guy (I can't even remember his name) did was talk... or think about talking... or talk to themselves in internal monologues. I wanted to scream "Do something already!" at them. I like it when characters act. The guys didn't act, they talked a lot and it drove me a little insane. Also, the plot was so overly contrived at times that I just had to cringe.

Aside from that, the book was at least mildly entertaining as I read it.

MISCELLANEOUS: I gots nuthin.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]

Monday, September 10, 2007

Slacker!

I feel like such a slacker. Every time I log into my blogger, I just look at the draft entries of books I've read building up and building up. Last Tuesday, I started a new job at my library and have not really had any time to sit down at my desk, let alone blog. And, despite the bags under my eyes and the massive amount of yawns I seem to produce during the day, I continue to read into the night. Therefore, I have a ton of books to talk about, just no time to talk about them. Oi!

I promise to talk about books soon. I should have a full set of staff hired by the end of the week which means I get to spend more time doing my job (at my desk) and less time running around the library like a shelver on speed.

Oh, what is the new job, you may ask?

I am now the Stacks Supervisor of the main university library. Clearly, books need a chaperon.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Topical Obsession

NPR has a fascinating interview with Paul Watson, the photographer who took the Pulitzer Prize winning image of a dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. My friend Kathleen sent me the link to the audio earlier today and I was completely enraptured in what I heard.

Ever since High School, I've had an historical obsession with the Battle of Mogadishu which has led to a need to read everything in print about the incident. This intellectual desire has also led me to read a lot about the media coverage and political atmosphere surrounding genocide, namely Rwanda.

Hearing Paul Watson discuss his personal experience with these incidents (and others) was absolutely fascinating and, in some ways, highly disturbing. Watson is highly articulate and brutally honest about how he was mentally, emotionally, and physically effected by seeing senseless death every day. The interviewer, Terry Gross, covers many of the aspects of Watson's life and work. From the interview, I get the feeling that this man has not only led and unique life but is an extraordinary person.

Watson has authored a book, Where War Lives, that is now at the top of my TBR list.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Book 47: Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce

NUMBER: 47
TITLE: Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce
AUTHOR: Stanley Weintraub
STARTED: August 19, 2007
FINISHED: August 21, 2007
PAGES: 206
GENRE: Military

FIRST SENTENCE: Three myths would arise during the early months of the Great War.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] At Christmas time in 1914, blood enemies emerged from their trenches in Flanders Field in Belgium, shook hands, and wished each other a merry Christmas. In his newest book, Weintraub (A Stillness Heard Round the World: The End of the Great War) draws on letters, diaries, and a variety of other source material to tell the inspiring story of the spontaneous Christmas Truce of World War I, when enemy troops laid down their arms, exchanged gifts, and reveled in their shared humanity. The desperate longing for peace, which Weintraub captures through the words of the soldiers themselves, underscores the poignancy of the ending of the truce, when outraged commanders ordered newly made friends to kill one another.

REASON FOR READING: I saw the film "Joyeux Noel" and was intrigued by the real life incidents on which it was based.

THOUGHTS: This book was a bit scattered and loose in its structure, but was interesting in content nonetheless. Weintraub takes a very academic approach to his material, going so far as to not translate some foreign language passages. While that made the material rather dense, the instances of personal narratives and stories brought the book down to a more accessible level.

The prose, while not overly thick on the academic language, can be a bit difficult to slip into. Weintraub seems to take a very distanced approach to his material. The stories and examples he chooses to include seem passive. The subject matter of this book could have really connected with the reader, but Weintraub's writing puts space between the reader and the history. It was rather annoying - I wanted to get to know these soldiers, but Weintraub merely tossed their stories in before jumping to another example. I think Weintraub's narrative could have benefited greatly if he chose one section of trench to focus on. The way he jumps around, clumping groups together only by actions (i.e. sharing songs, burying the dead, playing soccer), can be very discombobulating.

What this book needed was a decent edit and rewrite. Silent Night has all the makings of a great book, but it reads like a first draft instead of a polished, final manuscript.

MISCELLANEOUS: I think I need to read more about World War I.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]

Book 46: The Sword & The Sheath

NUMBER: 46
TITLE: The Sword & The Sheath
AUTHOR: Bonnie Vanak
STARTED: August 17, 2007
FINISHED: August 19, 2007
PAGES: 342
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: He could not make her cry.

SUMMARY: [From amazon.com] Fatima was one of her tribe's best fighters, but only a man could become a Khamsin Warrior of the Wind. Fatima knew she could be an effective Guardian of the Ages for Tarik, the son of the current sheikh, but tradition also ruled that the job be held by a man. Assuming that she was doomed to live as her tribe demanded, Fatima is, instead, unexpectedly given the chance to prove her worth as a fighter and a guardian for Tarik. But Fatima quickly discovers her biggest challenge will be convincing Tarik, who believes that being his lover is the only role for Fatima, that she can be both a warrior and a woman.

REASON FOR READING: I've the other books in this series.

THOUGHTS: Dear god, woman. If you ram (*snicker) home the meaning of your title one more time I might scream. I get it. Stop. Now. Seriously. I GET WHAT IT MEANS!

This was not Vanak's best. In fact, I think it might be the worst book I have read from her yet. It was just an okay read until I was about 30 pages from the end. Then it took a turn for the loathsome. Vanak just went overboard with the purple prose and meaning of her title. I hate it when author's treat me like I'm stupid. It doesn't take a genius or lover of Catullus to understand what a sheath and a sword can do together.

Sheesh.

Aside from that, the plot was scattered, the writing trite and phoned in, and the characters lacked the all important chemistry.

While I won't rule Vanak out for future reads - this one was definitely more of a trial and than triumph.

MISCELLANEOUS: Who designs these covers?

RATING: 3/10 [Poor, Lost Interest]

Book 45: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

NUMBER: 45
TITLE: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
AUTHOR: Ken Kesey
STARTED: August 10, 2007
FINISHED: August 17, 2007
PAGES: 311
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: They're out there.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Ken Kesey's story of life in a state mental hospital is a classic of American literature.

REASON FOR READING: It won the "What literary classic should I have read in high school" poll

THOUGHTS: For a book I was expecting to have to plod through, this was not that bad. There were definitely moments where I was bored, but they were easily forgotten once McMurphy entered the scene. I really don't have much to say about this novel aside from the fact that I can see why it has become a classic.

Also, I like how the entire thing could be read as an allegory. I found myself making some parallels between the story of good v. evil and the current political climate.

It's not something I would ever pick up again, but it was interesting.

MISCELLANEOUS: I can totally see why Jack Nicholson was chosen to play McMurphy in the movie.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Got Books?

Riiiiiiiiight. We all know what my library loving heart thinks of this recent survey. Still, I'm a bit aghast at the numbers.

One in four people did not read a book last year. (While that statistic should not shock me it does. I also wonder how it ties in with illiteracy rates and public education.)

What really gets me is the this: The average number of books read in a year is only four. FOUR! I know I'm one of those few voracious readers out there, but come one! Four books in a year. That's it!?!? I would think that you would actually have to try to read that little.

Come on people. Pick up a book. Any book. Stop trying to impress your friends by reading Dostoevsky. (No one buys into that facade anyway.) Just pick up a book and read. It's not hard - in fact, it can be rather enjoyable and entertaining. You just have to find the right genre. If you're having trouble finding something, walk up to your local librarian. It's their job to do reader's advisory.

Trust me, if you ask a librarian "Can you give me a book suggestion?" you've just made their day.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Printed Screen

I should have written this entry ages ago but I just have not been in the mood to blog. I'm still not in the mood to blog. Then again, if I don't sit down and write this entry now, it may never see the light of day.

Several weeks ago, some friends and I embarked on a double feature of movies that just happened to related to books. The first movie we saw was "Becoming Jane." I should probably preface by saying that I am addicted to all things romantic. I didn't matter how much this movie could have screwed up fact (and boy did it), I would love it anyway. The film did not disappoint.

I'll be the first to admit that this film took reality and, for the most part, threw it out the window. "Becoming Jane" Austenified Austen. It was fantabulous. From a completely structural standpoint, the movie was beautifully shot and wonderfully scored. The actors had passion and chemistry that simply leaped off the screen - that goes for the Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, and the entire supporting cast. While I did find myself longing for the ever talented Ioan Gruffudd to play Tom Lefroy, McAvoy did a superb job. Hathaway also did a fantastic job or not only nailing the British accent (at least for an American audience) but also making Jane someone you could admire as both person and author. The secondary characters (namely Maggie Smith and James Cromwell) brought a lot of zest and talent to the screen.

As far as the story goes, it definitely helped that I went into this film not expecting it to be true-to-life. I was expecting the romance novel-esque tale of a part of Austen's life. Happily, I got what I was expecting. There were a couple of scenes between Jane and Tom that had me asking, "Is it warm in here?" The story relies entirely on devices ripped straight out of Austen's novels. It lends the story the idea that Austen wrote what she knew. Whether or not this is actually true, it worked quite well for the books. Then again, if you haven't read the novels (and I've only read Pride & Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility - go see the sidebar) a lot will go over your head. I'm wondering how much I missed because I only read two of Austen's works. It's a good things I have plans to read more... and buy the movie.

I saw only one downside to the film, it made Austen seem like she needed a muse, as if she could not come up with her great novels on her own. Boo to that. Then again, if I had the handsome James McAvoy as my muse, I might be inspired in a few ways as well.

The second movie we saw was The Bourne Ultimatum. I've only read The Bourne Identity and there was really no connection (aside from name and general plot ideas) between the book and the movie. While I have not read the third book, I would expect the same. Part of me hopes that they make a fourth movie, but they could also ends the series here and I would be just as happy.

There was fantastic parallelism between the first and third movies. The hair dying scene... yowza! And bless the writers from staying away from the so-easy-to-slip-into-romance plot between Julia Stiles and Damon. Despite my love of romance, that would have killed the movie. I'm glad the stuck with the one man on a mission theme.

Once again, the series wows with fantastic filming that is fraught with tension and grittiness. The camera is in the action and the viewer goes with it. Normally, hand held camera shots make me woozy and generally leave me annoyed. Not so much with this series - it makes the scenes feel more intense without ever stepping into the arena of overly dramatic.

The cast is flawless. Bringing on David Strathairn was a movie of genius. That guy makes villiany look good.

Also, to really draw the parallel between this movie and books I suggest you keep a close eye on the fight scene between Bourne and the assassin Desh.

Matt Damon is a bad ass.