Thursday, March 29, 2007

Way Excited!

Woohoo!

I was actually expecting something much darker - I mean, the subtitle is "and the Deathly Hallows."

As you may have noticed in the sidebar, I have started re-reading the first book in the series. I hope/plan to get through all of them before the new book is out in July.

I'm thinking this for a tentative schedule:

March - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

April - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and Prisoner of Azkaban

May - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

June - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

July (ending on my birthday, July 20th) - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I think I can do it. I want to space the books out so that I don't overdose while, at the same time, whetting my appetite for the final book. Beginning my re-read last night, I realized how much I've missed reading these books. I have not read one since Half-Blood Prince came out. Now I have to (spring) train myself for the bonanza that will be July 21st.

I already have it all planned: I'll get the book at midnight(ish), power walk back to the apartment, read for two hours, sleep, awake at 10, make breakfast and tea, put first movie soundtrack on, read, lunch, read, dinner, read until done. The entire time, I will rotate the movie soundtracks and beverages of choice (tea, hot chocolate, gourmet coffee, red wine, and always with a bottle of water). But I will be huddled in my bed reading and, most likely crying, until I am done.

Sorry for anyone who may visit that weekend - I am ignoring you. Knock on my door and loose a hand.

Book 13: To Serve and Submit

NUMBER: 13
TITLE: To Serve and Submit
AUTHOR: Susan Wright
STARTED: March 21, 2007
FINISHED: March 28, 2007
PAGES: 299
GENRE: Fantasy

FIRST SENTENCE: Do not suppose that I should be discounted because I as born a wild child of the fens.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Marja was born a child of the fens, young, beautiful, and free. Her days were spent working with her poor family and communing with the ethereal olfs-the playful spirits of the land-until Lexander, a procurer for the pleasure house of Vidaris, comes to her small village and purchases her from her father.

At Vidaris, Marja is schooled as a slave in the arts of seduction and carnal delight-and discovers her nature as a true submissive. But when Lexander grants Marja her freedom, she finds herself swept away in a torrent of betrayal and intrigue that threatens her beloved land. And Marja will have to use all her strength, skills, and cunning to survive in the war that is about to engulf them all.

REASON FOR READING: Seemed right up my alley.

THOUGHTS: This book has me evenly divided on enjoyment, yet leaning heavily one way. And, if you can understand that sentence, you can interpret anything I say - congratulations, you've now aced the course in Meghan Linguistics.

Anyway. When I started reading this book I thought, "Hmm, total Kushiel series knock off." The author's case was not helped by the fact that this book was published after the first Kushiel book. Wright's whole plot of girl sold to pleasure slave trader, submissive tendencies, country going to hell in a handbasket seemed right out of Carey's novels. Total knockoff, and a poorly structured one like that.

For the first half of the book, I found myself criticizing the poor character development and lazy writing. I'm fine with books taking ideas from others, but they have to have their own spin to stand on their own. This one did not seem to have any of that. Then somewhere around page 185 something clicked. I was enjoying the book, and it was beginning to take on a life of its own.

Wright's writing (no author's last name should be Wright, makes for awkward phrases) may not be stellar, but her imagination did shine through in the world she was building. The strength of this book is the way she has her main character, Marja, commune with the spirits of the world, namely the olfs. Wright infuses such character and detail into this aspect of the book that it actually begins to permeate the tale when Marja dwells deeper into her need to talk to the otherworld. Since Marja is the focal point her character touches everyone else, whether they believe in the otherworld or not.

Aside from the familiar plot structure, one character made me want to throw her against the wall. Silveta is the freya of Markland, and when her husband is killed by the big hulking oaf Birgir Barfoot, Silveta must flee her adopted homeland and raise a warband to reclaim her rightful position. When phrased that way, it sounds like Silveta is an intelligent, cunning, resourceful, and strong woman. Instead she is just another TSTL character who reaps the benefits of Marja and Lexander's hardwork. Those two should have dumped Silveta off the boat in the first scene. The woman does nothing but whine and sulk. And after she is restored to her rightful place, her thanks to Marja seems lukewarm at best. I just wanted to smack her.

While this is definitely a juvenile attempt to recreate Carey's series, I'll give the sequel a try.

MISCELLANEOUS: Why, oh why, do I have to get sucked into another series?

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Back onto PBS.com it goes
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Oh for the love of...

About a month ago, I joined the American Library Association (ALA) as a student member. One of the perks of being a member is that you received a weekly e-mail filled with shloads (*pause* *pause* - Rose: It's a contraction!) of interesting articles and links about various library related things. Most of the time, I simply read a few articles and move on, but this article really got my dander up.

The article states that schools in the UK have refused gifts of classic literature. Say wha? No, seriously, WTF? I don't know how libraries in the states would deal with this, but I fear it would be the same way.

Why would a library refuse a donation of brand new copies of literary classics? I can understand legitimate reasons (i.e. facilites problems, duplicate copies, etc.), but the article states that these libraries are refusing the books on the grounds that they are "boring" and "too difficult" for their student readers. That reason makes me what to take a tome a Proust and knock those librarians upside the back of their heads.

What the hell are they doing?!? Sure some of those books are indeed dull, and difficult to muddle through, but that does not mean we should turn them away. We should be challenging our students to learn more and try harder. It sickens me that education standards in the world (and specifically in the United States) are so low. I hate the fact that my newspaper is written at a 6th grade level. I hate the fact that we allow a President to destroy a language without blinking. I despise that fact that knowledge is no longer a thing to strive for but is, instead, a thing we decry as antiquated and unnecessary.

We may live in the most technologically advanced society in history, but I would argue we're the dumbest generations of man to walk this Earth. That is a damn shame.

I honestly don't get why we are content to just reach the lowest common denominator. Why, in this world of PCness must we treat everyone the same. There are people who excel, and we should not hold them back. Students should work and struggle for their degrees. Students should feel pressure to learn as much possible. Then their degree will actually mean something.

It's not wrong to be over-educated. Why are we tailoring our society to the idea that being smart is stupid.

Say it with me: I'm smarter than you and proud of it!

Book 12: Warrior or Wife

NUMBER: 12
TITLE: Warrior or Wife
AUTHOR: Lyn Randal
STARTED: March 16, 2007
FINISHED: March 20, 2007
PAGES: 297
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: For the first time in his life, Donatus was glad his father was dead.

SUMMARY: [from Barnesandnoble.com] In the heat and dust of the Roman arena, a woman stands alone. The crowd cheers for Leda, the famed gladiatrix. Watching is the man who loved then left her - Marcus Flavius Donatus.

Leda used to be Lelia, beloved daughter of a Roman senator. Exiled from the riches of her birth, she sold herself into gladiatorial slavery. Donatus is determined to right the wrong he did her and reclaim his bride!

Now Leda faces the ultimate choice - independence and the danger of the arena, or an uncertain future with the man she once adored.

REASON FOR READING: I saw it on someone else's blog and was intrigued by the ancientness.

THOUGHTS: Eh. For a Harlequin, it was pretty good, but I wasn't thrilled. I thought there were way to many plot lines for a 297 page book. First, there was the big misunderstanding of why Donatus left. Then there was the OMG my stolen baby plotline. Then there was the big misunderstanding over whose the baby daddy... blah blah blah. Way to over the top. It was like the author had to throw in every cliched romance novel plot line known to man.

But, I have a hard time panning this book because it was well written and set in a time period I love.

MISCELLANEOUS: My reviews seem very short as of late. Either I'm getting lazy, or the books are just that dull.

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

Friday, March 16, 2007

Book 11: Love, Rosie

NUMBER: 11
TITLE: Love, Rosie
AUTHOR: Cecelia Ahern
STARTED: March 9, 2007
FINISHED: March 15, 2007
PAGES: 464
GENRE: Chick Lit

FIRST SENTENCE: (or in this case, first salutation) "To Alex"

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Rosie and Alex are destined for one another, and everyone seems to know it but them. Best friends since childhood, their relationship gets closer by the day, until Alex gets the news that his family is leaving Dublin and moving to Boston. At 17, Rosie and Alex have just started to see each other in a more romantic light. Devastated, the two make plans for Rosie to apply to colleges in the U.S. She gets into Boston University, Alex gets into Harvard, and everything is falling into place, when on the eve of her departure, Rosie gets news that will change their lives forever: She's pregnant by a boy she'd gone out with while on the rebound from Alex. Her dreams for college, Alex, and a glamorous career dashed, Rosie stays in Dublin to become a single mother, while Alex pursues a medical career and a new love in Boston. But destiny is a funny thing, and in this novel, structured as a series of clever e-mails, letters, notes, and a trail of missed opportunities, Alex and Rosie find out that fate isn't done with them yet.

REASON FOR READING: Kristy gave it to me and said it was enjoyable.

THOUGHTS: Normally I take an automatic irrational dislike to all books told in e-mail, letter, IM, etc. formats. I like rhetoric, dialog, and description, which is difficult to find in books formatted through written conversation. Somehow, Ahern managed to get me to like her book. The story of Alex and Rosie is told almost entirely through e-mail and IM conversations and, somehow, it manages to convey a sense of realism that I enjoyed immensely.

I don't have much else to say about the book because it did not wow me, and I doubt I'll remember it in a few months, but it did surprise me.

MISCELLANEOUS: Oh, gchat.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): It's going back to its owner
RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Book 10: Dance of Desire

NUMBER: 10
TITLE: Dance of Desire
AUTHOR: Catherine Kean
STARTED: March 2, 2007
FINISHED: March 8, 2007
PAGES: 442
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: "I do not like this wretched scheme, milady."

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Desperate to save her brother Rudd from being condemned as a traitor, Lady Rexana Villeaux must dance in disguise at a feast for the High Sheriff of Warringham. Her goal is to distract him so her servant can steal a damning missive from the sheriff’s solar. Dressed in the gauzy costume of a desert courtesan, dancing with all the passion and sensuality in her soul, she succeeds in her mission. And, at the same time, condemns herself.

Fane Linford, the banished son of an English earl, joined King Richard’s crusade only to find himself a captive in a hellish eastern prison. He survived the years of torment, it’s rumored, because of the love of a Saracen courtesan.

Richard has promised Fane an English bride, yet he desires only one woman - the exotic dancer who tempted him. Then he discovers the dancer’s identity. And learns her brother is in his dungeon, accused of plotting against the throne. It is more temptation than Fane can resist.

The last thing Rexana wants is marriage to the dark and brooding Sheriff of Warringham. But her brother is his prisoner, and there may be only one way to save him. Taking the greatest chance of her life, Rexana becomes the sheriff’s bride.

REASON FOR READING: I like anything involving middle eastern stuff or belly dancing.

THOUGHTS: For a book involving two things I tend to love no matter what (belly dancing and the middle ages), I was underwhelmed. While I could get over the plot and characters being cookie cutter, what I could not avoid was asking myself "But why?" every other page. Kean, while her writing is half-way decent, seems to have left out every piece of motivation needed to make this story get off the ground.

Fane, our hero, decides from the moment he sees Rexana that he loves her and wants to marry her. While I'm fine and happy with love at first sight, this was just stupid. There was absolutely no emotion or logical motivation behind this plot device. For me, Fane was all but saying "Durrr... I want woman." It was all lust. Nothing else. I just wish the author had conceded that it was lust that drove Fane as a character.

Rexana plays the TSTL to a tee. The woman just runs in and out of scenes like a chicken with its head cut off. "Help me," she seems to say. "I'm doing this out of kindness and loyalty to my 15-year old brother, despite the fact that no reason behind my blind devotion is given." I just wanted to smack the characters around and tell them to grow a brain.

Then, the random plot devices that just felt cobbled together with twine and paper clips are wrapped up with a bow at the end. Boring.

The saving grace of this book was the writing. I liked it. I didn't love it. But at least I didn't choke on the purple prose.

MISCELLANEOUS: I miss my bellydancing classes.

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

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Book 9: Evita First Lady: A Biography of Eva Peron

NUMBER: 9
TITLE: Evita First Lady: A Biography of Eva Peron
AUTHOR: John Barnes
STARTED: February 22, 2007
FINISHED: March 1, 2007
PAGES: 195
GENRE: Biography

FIRST SENTENCE: In the early hours of October 22, 1976, an Argentine army truck loaded with well-armed troops drove out through the gates of the presidential residence in Olivos and headed towards Buenos Aires, a few miles away.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Eva Peron's life is once more an obsession with the scheduled release of the movie version of Andrew Lloyd Weber's hit Broadway musical, Evita. Now the classic biography of her fascinating life - including 16 pages of photographs - is back in print. Whore, feminist, tyrant, and saint, Evita was the beautiful and legendary woman who rose from poverty to become First lady of Argentina.

REASON FOR READING: I was listening to the Evita movie soundtrack when...

THOUGHTS: For me, this is not so much a book review (outside of the prose style) but a life review. And, since I'd rather not rehash the live of Eva Peron (boy was it interesting), this will probably be the shortest review ever.

Barnes has done a spectacular job of bringing the life and myth of Evita to the page. His style is almost fictional, and this allows Eva's personality to shine bright. She really comes alive on the page, as if one can actual feel her emotions. This style, however, seems to turn Eva into a characterization of herself. She's almost too lively, too emotional, too radical. In an essence, it's almost too much. In some areas, it felt like Barnes was trying to prove how different Eva was from anyone else. His book would have benefited by simply stating her life, not trying to make an argument out of it.

That said, this was a fascinating read. One that did not shy away from showing the poor, controversial, or unflattering side of the Argentine first lady. The book also freaked me out a little because it, in some ways, shows how the military dictatorship of Argentina has shadows in the current Presidential administration.

MISCELLANEOUS: I'm so liberal I'm almost a socialist. Oh democratic party, why do you move to the center?

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): I returned it to the library last week. I'm just now getting around to writing this. I am so lazy.
RATING: 6/10 [Good]