Thursday, January 31, 2008

If only


Great. Now I want a kitty and to re-read the Harry Potter series. Also, I totally played "weasely" as a bingo word in Scrabulous.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Done!

I came back to work today and, lo and behold, what do I see... NO SHELVING!

That's right, my minions had completed the entire backlog of shelving from the end of the semester. And, in all actuality, most of those carts were books returned last week.

Apparently bribing your staff with candy is a good thing.

Book 3: I Am America (And So Can You!)

TITLE: I Am America (And So Can You!)
AUTHOR: Stephen Colbert
STARTED: January 14, 2007
FINISHED: January 17, 2007
PAGES: 230
GENRE: Humor

FIRST SENTENCE: I am no fan of books.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Congratulations -- just by opening the cover of this book you became 25% more patriotic.

From Stephen Colbert, the host of television's highest-rated punditry show The Colbert Report, comes the book to fill the other 23½ hours of your day. I Am America (and So Can You!) contains all of the opinions that Stephen doesn't have time to shoehorn into his nightly broadcast.

Dictated directly into a microcassette recorder over a three-day weekend, this book contains Stephen's most deeply held knee-jerk beliefs on The American Family, Race, Religion, Sex, Sports, and many more topics, conveniently arranged in chapter form.

Always controversial and outspoken, Stephen addresses why Hollywood is destroying America by inches, why evolution is a fraud, and why the elderly should be harnessed to millstones.

You may not agree with everything Stephen says, but at the very least, you'll understand that your differing opinion is wrong.

I Am America (and So Can You!) showcases Stephen Colbert at his most eloquent and impassioned. He is an unrelenting fighter for the soul of America, and in this book he fights the good fight for the traditional values that have served this country so well for so long.

THOUGHTS: The book may not be as good as the show, but it is still terribly entertaining. Colbert and his team do a pretty good job of translating his smarmy, self-assured pundit from television to print. Oftentimes, I could hear Colbert in my head as he narrated the text. There's not much I can say about the actual content of the book. The chapters are pretty self-explanatory and, since Colbert does not once break character, if you're a fan of the show, you know what your in for.

I did love the little margin notes, it was like "The Word" segment and highly amusing.

And, yes, it took all of two weeks for me to break my rule of updating my blog within a week of reading the book. I shall endeavor to try harder this time.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

That's What She Said: Man Titty

"Okay, these books sound hilarious. But, David Manley? Why didn’t she just call him Mr. Sexy Barechest and have done with it?"

-- a commenter on Smart Bitches

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Book 2: Never Deceive a Duke

TITLE: Never Deceive a Duke
AUTHOR: Liz Carlyle
STARTED: January 6, 2007
FINISHED: January 13, 2007
PAGES: 397
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: The strange saga of the Ventnor family began with the tale of a traitor, then rambled aimlessly for better than a century before coming to a near end.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] With her fragile beauty and regal bearing, the Duchess of Warneham knows how to keep her admirers at a distance. Twice wed and twice widowed, Antonia has vowed never again to marry; never again to surrender her freedom. But when her husband's death is deemed suspicious, and his long-lost heir returns to seize control of the dukedom, she finds that fate has placed her future in yet another man's hands -- but not just any man.

Deep in London's docklands, Gareth Lloyd runs Neville Shipping with an iron fist. Unrecognizable as the starving orphan who was abandoned by his family and sent an ocean away from home, Gareth has put his troubled past behind him. That is, until the Duke of Warneham is murdered, and Gareth turns out to be the dynasty's last living heir. Wrenched from his solitude, Gareth neither wants nor needs the honors and obligations of nobility -- especially the Duke's all-too-tempting widow.... Or does he?


THOUGHTS: Despite the fact that I need to go on a romance reading binge to clear my shelves, I really don't want to. Maybe it's because the last few romances I've read have been trite and, basically, bad. This book was no exception. Liz Carlyle wowed me before but she bores me now. Once again, this book suffers from too many unneccesary plots and characters. The only extra character I liked in this book was Kemble, and that may have been because he was so different from anyone else that he brought life to the story.

Half the time, I found myself asking what the hell the characters were doing. A murder plot? A romance? An illness? Bastard children? Wondering why everyone hates the Jews?!?! There was just far too much going on. Not only did I not care to keep it all straight in my head, I don't think I could have to even if I tried.

Gareth/Gabriel is a very compelling character. He was first introduced in Never Lie to a Lady. As a man with a tragic past who just recently saw his childhood love/business partner married off, I was actually intrigued to see how he recovered. What do I get instead? A man whose so uppity for coming from so little that I felt absolutely no compassion for him or his troubles.

And his lady, Antonia, I didn't get her. Carlyle writes her emotions so unevenly that I could never tell if she was going to jump Gareth/Gabriel one minute or jump of the roof the next. The woman, in my mind, came across as bipolar instead of simply recovering from emotional abuse and trauma. When she and Gareth/Gabriel final end up together at the end I felt nothing stronger than a yawn.

On the plus side, as I was reading this book I realized that it was perfect for the BAM Challenge I've decided to participate in this year. This month's theme was "Time." Each chapter of this book begins with a vignette from the childhood of Gareth/Gabriel. In those vignettes, you see how he came to be where he now is in life. While it was interesting to read this part of the character's backstory, I felt like these inserts were just that. They really did not add to the bulk of the story. In fact, the essential bits of Gareth/Gabriel's background and character were repeated in the "present" scenes of the story. I think Carlyle wanted to give her book the feel of an epic. Instead, it just comes across as overwriting.

Also, "Time" plays an essential role in the growth of these characters. Time to heal from old wounds and emotional scars, time to get used to one another, and time to figure out the mystery. Too bad "Time" did not play a more essential role in the book, it probably would have made the story better.

RATING: 3/10 [Poor, Lost Interest]

Friday, January 11, 2008

Epic Fail

After I saw this ad for the first time I thought the following:

A) I vary.
B) Ebooks are doomed to fail. (I could wax poetic about that for quite some time.)
C) Why ya gotta hate on us librarians?
D) The Sony Reader is not sexy

Just be thankful you weren't around when I saw the "Holds 160 romance novels discretely" version of this ad.

There may have been fuming.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Book 1: Sword of Rome

TITLE: Sword of Rome
AUTHOR: Constance O'Banyon
STARTED: December 30, 2007
FINISHED: January 5, 2008
PAGES: 306
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Scattered members of the Badari Bedouin had been gathering from all corners of Egypt, thier numbers swelling as they arrived to pay tribute to their leader.

SUMMARY: [From a random website] When her brother, the prince, sends her to Queen Cleopatra for lessons in decorum, beautiful and sensual Adhania is at home in a city of scandal and intrigue where she catches the eye of Marcellus Valerius, Caesar's Master Architect, who knows how to please a woman.

THOUGHTS: Why must some authors insist on messing with a good thing? The age of Caesar's Rome and Cleopatra's Egypt is one of my favorite time periods. I was stoked to read a romance novel set in and around these historical figures.

Yea. Totally not worth it in the end.

The author messes with both history and these figures in a way that makes me actually dislike them. I also completely dislike the heroine. Adhania is one of those ladies who excels at everything - like running, jumping, and climbing trees - she's also the epitome of TSTL. Throw in the fact that the girl has absolutely no spine and I was kinda hoping that she'd die by the end of the book.

I don't believe the romance. I don't believe that motivations. The writing was dull. In short, this book was bad. Very bad.

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

Friday, January 04, 2008

Thursday, January 03, 2008

2008 Reading/Bookish Resolutions

All of the following reading/bookish resolutions fall under one category: Reducing Mt. TBR

1. I will read 100 books this year.
-- I did not even come close in 2007, but I did it the year before so I am going to try again.

1a. Of those 100 books, 8 will be classics and 15 will be non-fiction.
-- I realize that I set my goals too high last year, so I'm going to try for something more manageable in 2008.

2. I will participate in the Book a Month reading challenge.
-- This is just for fun and also and attempt to get Mt. TBR (at the least the portion in my direct ownership) to a more reasonable level.

3. When I go the Library, I will not walk out with a gazillion books.
-- Since I own "a number" of books (coughseveralhundredcough), I must focus on reading my own books as opposed to pulling the "Oooo Shiny!" method of selecting books at the library. Therefore, I will only check out a maximum of two books at a time (a really, that number should be one, but I know myself far to well) and NONE of those books will be romance novels.

4. I will update my reading blog within one week of completing each book.
-- This rule may be postponed for the following reasons:
a. Homework/Tests
b. Vacations
c. The craziness that is the end of the semester at The Library
And now for the BIG one...

5. I will NOT BUY any books (!!!)
-- That's right, I said it. I will not buy any books in 2008... with the following exceptions:
a. The book is written by one of these authors: Vince Flynn, Diana Gabaldon, Jacqueline Carey, Mark Bowden
b. Books received from Paperbackswap.com do not count (I'm swapping, not buying - that's how I am going to justify that source of bound material to myself)
c. The book is needed for my book club and I have no other method of getting my hands on it.
d. The book is a gift for someone else (I'm not buying it for myself, therefore it does not add to MY reading pile)
e. I need the book for a class

2007 in Review

Well, I didn't come close to meeting any of my 2007 reading goals. I still feel it was a relatively successful year, but I wish I had more hours in the day to curl up with a book.

Reading Goals v. Reality
Read a total of100 books in the year = I only reached 73
Read 25 Non-fiction = Read 17
Read 10 "Classics" = Read 6

The Year in Genres
I read the following number of books in these genres. Assume everything else if fiction. For my purposes, Chick Lits are not romances and "Classics" are anything that is considered a "Must Read" in its genre.

Non-Fiction = 17
Classics = 6
Romance = 20
Graphic Novels = 5

The Year in Ratings
It was a slightly better than average year, but there were no standouts; not a single 10 amongst the bunch.

10 = 0
9 = 1
8 = 8
7 = 17
6 = 14
5 = 19
4 = 3
3 =5
2 = 2
1 = 4

The Ten Best Books of 2007
I am not counting books that are reread. Now for the drum roll.

10. Inventing Human Rights by Lynn Hunt
9. Basilica by R.A. Scotti
8. Queen of Fashion by Caroline Weber
7. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalend Hosseini
6. A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel
5. Atonement by Ian McEwan
4. Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent
3. The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
1. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

Hmm... I find it rather telling that most of this books are non-fiction by the top three are all genre fiction. Intriguing.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Book 73: Restless

NUMBER: 73
TITLE: Restless
AUTHOR: William Boyd
STARTED: December 25, 2007
FINISHED: December 29, 2007
PAGES: 324
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: When I was a child and was being fractious and contrary and generally behaving badly, my mother used to rebuke me by saying: 'One day someone will come and kill me and then you'll be sorry'; or, "They'll appear out of the blue and whisk me away - how would you like that?'; or, "You'll wake up one morning and I'll be gone. Disappeared. You wait and see.'

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Sally Gilmartin can’t escape her past.

Living in the idyllic English countryside in 1976, Sally is haunted by her experiences during the Second World War. She also suspects someone is trying to kill her. With mounting fear, Sally confides with her daughter Ruth; a woman struggling with her own past. Sally drops a bombshell. She is actually Eva Delectorskaya, a Russian émigré recruited as a spy by the British prior to the Second World War. For the past thirty years, Eva has led a second life hiding from the ghosts of her past.

Eva reveals her secret to her daughter through a series of written chapters for a planned book. As Ruth delves into her mother’s writing, she learns the shocking truth. Eva was recruited in Paris prior to the Second World War, following the death of her brother Kolia; also a British spy. Taught by an enigmatic spymaster named Lucas Romer, Eva learned the art of espionage and was made part of a unit specializing in media manipulation. Above all, she was taught ‘Rule Number One’ of spying: trust no one — a rule broken when she and Romer began a dangerous love affair. The affair had tragic consequences.

In 1941, Eva and Romer were assigned to the United States. They were given the task of manipulating the American media into motivating the public to support entry into the war on the Allied side. While in New York, Eva’s affair with Romer set in motion events that culminated in her betrayal and her flight from the British Secret Services. She found eventual refuge in a new life as Sally Gilmartin.

Thirty years later, Eva’s identity unravels with her confession to her daughter. Ruth struggles with the truth, and her own recent past fills her with self-doubt and insecurity. A failed relationship in Germany resulted in a son and an eventual return to England. Her mother’s confession leads Ruth to the realization that her mother is entangling her in one final mission — a showdown with Eva’s past betrayer.

REASON FOR READING: It was January's selection for my book club.

THOUGHTS: This book was the selection for January in my bookclub, and I don't know what we're going to talk about. I spent the entire time asking, "How is this going to end?" Boyd's writing and plotting are very enjoyable, but the ending turned out to be one large, disappointing information dump. What could have been a fantastic novel about human relationships and perceptions turned into a second rate spy thriller.

Boyd has set up his narrative to tell the story of mother and daughter in parallel plotting. He jumps back and forth in time, but never loses the reader because the past events are revealed, paralleled, and expanded by the events taking place in the future. The actual story is nothing surprising or even all that unique. Aside from certain nuances, this is a rather basic story of human deception. What was interesting, was how I found myself thinking "What if you're wrong?" throughout the book. Since the characters can never trust one another, it's something difficult for the reader to understand their motives. In some ways, the reader may also question the narrator's honesty.

The whole book is driven by the ending. We're reading to find out the ultimate end. That end is such a let down it's not even funny. Boyd just dumps a ton of history and out of left field character information on the reader in about three pages worth of space. I closed the book and though that the ending made the novel pointless. Boyd should have just focused on human actions and perceptions. Questioning a characters motives is a whole lot more interesting than actually finding them out.

MISCELLANEOUS: Agent Starrfire. Teehee.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh]

Book 72: Sleeping with the Agent

NUMBER: 72
TITLE: Sleeping with the Agent
AUTHOR: Gennita Low
STARTED: December 23, 2007
FINISHED: December 25, 2007
PAGES: 371
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: Love's like riding a wave dude.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Lily Noretski is as dangerous as she is beautiful. She's also a sleeper in possession of a devastating weapon.
As a sharpshooter, Navy SEAL Reed Vincenzio is as emotionless as they come. Armed with a file on his target, Reed knows what he has to do.
Reed must win Lily's confidence, find the weapon . . . and eliminate her if necessary. Yet his files don't even begin to hint at this extraordinary woman's fire and courage, making this assignment harder than any Reed has ever undertaken.
Lily knows that someone is pulling her strings, but if she is to survive, she must put her life in the hands of this charming, magnetic man who appeared out of nowhere. Her head tells her she's in grave peril, but her heart dares her to put everything on the line. Will the price of her passion prove to be more than she bargained for?
REASON FOR READING: It was part of Almost a Lawyer boyfriend's Christmas gift to me.

THOUGHTS: The story felt forced. I think Low was trying to impress her reader with how much she new about military tactics and politics. The book also suffered from a case of too many characters and too few pages. Throw in the rather unbelievable "love at first sight" connection and we're bordering on a book that should not have been published.

That said, I did like several things. First, the chemistry between the characters was nice and steamy. Secondly, I love it when books are not set in "the usual" locations - a romance set in the war torn Balkans, wha? Thirdly, anything that throws in the military is fine by me.

MISCELLANEOUS: What guy falls in love with a girl who shoots at him?

RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book]

Book 71: A Wrinkle in Time

NUMBER: 71
TITLE: A Wrinkle in Time
AUTHOR: Madeleine L'Engle
STARTED: December 22, 2007
FINISHED: December 22, 2007
PAGES: 198
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: It was a dark and stormy night.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Meg Murry and her friends become involved with unearthly strangers and a search for Meg's father, who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government.

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

THOUGHTS: I like this book for two simple reasons: one, the whole point is that children (and adults for that matter) should not loose their imagination and individuality; second, it's an "everyman" book. The story could be about anyone, set anywhere, or put in any almost part of the human time line. There is very little about this book that makes it a specified story.

MISCELLANEOUS: I love it when I can read whole books in a day.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Book 70: Never Lie to a Lady

NUMBER: 70
TITLE: Never Lie to a Lady
AUTHOR: Liz Carlyle
STARTED: December 6, 2007
FINISHED: December 19, 2007
PAGES: 401
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: The library was hushed in every possible way, its heavy velvet drapes ling since drawn against the flickering gaslight beyond.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Lord Nash is a creature of the night -- his wealth and title provide but a tenuous entrée into polite society. Notorious for his sophisticated manners and a dark, dashing elegance, rumors abound of the men he has bankrupted and the women he's left heartbroken. But when Nash leaves his lair for a rare foray into the ton, he faces a lure of temptation all his own -- an extraordinary moment of passion with a mysterious lady in the moonlight -- and an obsession that will lead him into a hellish world of smugglers, spies, and intrigue. And as for his damsel in disguise, the witty and beautiful Miss Xanthia Neville, he soon learns, is as unattainable as she is tempting. And now Nash must decide if she is also dangerous.

REASON FOR READING: I need to pare down my romance novel piles.

THOUGHTS: I remember one thing about this book: Xanthia? Seriously? That is what you choose to name your character?

MISCELLANEOUS: Alexander seems to be off her game as of late.

RATING: 4/10 [An "okay" book]

Book 68 and 69: Persepolis

NUMBER: 68 and 69
TITLE: Persepolis and Persepolis 2
AUTHOR: Marjane Satrapi
STARTED: November 30, 2007
FINISHED: December 5, 2007
PAGES: 153 and 187
GENRE: Graphic Novel

FIRST SENTENCE: This is me when I was 10 years old.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Originally published to wide critical acclaim in France, where it elicited comparisons to Art Spiegelman's Maus, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi's wise, funny, and heartbreaking memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah's regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran's last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran: of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life and of the enormous toll repressive regimes exact on the individual spirit. Marjane's child's-eye-view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a stunning reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, through laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.

REASON FOR READING: Selection for my bookclub.

THOUGHTS: As with most things, I enjoyed this book for the political and social realities it elicited. Satrapi spends a lot of time discussing what it was like to grow up in a repressive society under a repressive regime. For me, these passages were the strengths of the book. As a person, I found myself taking issue with several of Satrapi's decisions. This made reading her as a character rather difficult. I grew frustrated with her several times, to the point where I wanted to scream, "But why?" However, after I reminded myself that this was a true story, I calmed down a bit and was able to focus on what I liked about the book.

There was one panel that encompasses my enjoyment of this story. In it, Satrapi has drawn one figure surrounded by thought bubbles. In the first part the figure is thinking about the length of her robe, the position of her veil, etc. in the second part, the figure is thinking about her civil liberties, freedoms, etc. The image is captioned, "They know that if you're thinking {First part of image} you're not thinking {second part of the image.} Instances like there, where I was able to think about the ramifications of such a repressive and oppressive society is what made this work enjoyable.

The art was also a key point in my enjoyment of the story. I like that it was stark and simplistic. In using very basic drawings and very similar figures, Satrapi allowed the story and the "major" differences of her characters to shine through. In many ways, this story could almost be read without text. The art does overwhelm the text, it helps highly the narrative.

MISCELLANEOUS: Oh movie...

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]