Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Meow I help you?


This gives a new meaning to bookstore cat.

When I worked at the Used Bookstore in high school, I always wanted to have some cozy chairs spread through the store. In my head, they were for our customers to relax and the bookstore cat to claim. Sadly, there was no room for those chairs (or the cat). The store used the floor as additionally shelving since our bookcases were stuffed to the bring. Also, that cat would probably have scared away people with allergies.

If I ever own my own bookstore (maybe one day?) I think I'd have to get the bookstore cat. If only I knew what to name it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Book 36: Heat of the Knight

TITLE: Heat of the Knight
AUTHOR: Jackie Ivie
STARTED: July 8, 2008
FINISHED: July 14, 2008
PAGES: 383
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: He remembered the smell... the feel; just about everything.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] In 1747 Scotland, treachery looms as battle lines run deep between the proud, struggling clans and the Highland Rangers who torment them. Here a young widow fights to save her honor-and her life.

Since Lisle MacHugh lost her husband in battle, her clan has barely survived. Now, the MacHughs can reverse their ill fortune if they agree to give Lisle's hand in marriage to their greatest enemy: the notorious Black Monteith.

The wealthy Langston Leed Monteith, aka the Black Monteith, has returned to Scotland after years of banishment. With his father's misdeeds leaving the family name in tatters, no decent lass will marry him. But when Monteith sets eyes upon the fiery Lisle, he knows he must have her...

Once wed, Lisle resists her fierce attraction to the man she loathes. But she has found her match in Monteith, who introduces her to pleasures she never dreamed possible. When their secrets are revealed, Lisle and Monteith will confront their greatest challenge, testing their union as husband and wife.

THOUGHTS: Ivie will never be able to top Lady of the Knight. This book was just a plain mess. There was a basis of something good (I want to galavant around the castle) but the rest was just a muddle of poorly planned plot and flat characters. Worst of all, it just ends. It stops. There is no real resolution to the bulk of the story. I believe I actually uttered, "Dude?" at the end. Not worth it.

RATING: 3/10 [Poor, lost interest]

Book 35: Sunrise Over Fallujah

TITLE: Sunrise Over Fallujah
AUTHOR: Walter Dean Myers
STARTED: July 2, 2008
FINISHED: July 7, 2008
PAGES: 290
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: When I was home on leave I reread the letters you sent from Vietnam to my father.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Operation Iraqi Freedom, that's the code name. But the young men and women in the military's Civil Affairs Battalion have a simpler name for it: WAR.

In this new novel, Walter Dean Myers looks at a contemporary war with the same power and searing insight he brought to the Vietnam war of his classic, Fallen Angels. He creates memorable characters like the book's narrator, Birdy, a young recruit from Harlem who's questioning why he even enlisted; Marla, a blond, tough-talking, wisecracking gunner; Jonesy, a guitar-playing bluesman who just wants to make it back to Georgia and open a club; and a whole unit of other young men and women and drops them incountry in Iraq, where they are supposed to help secure and stabilize Iraq and successfully interact with the Iraqi people. The young civil affairs soldiers soon find their definition of "winning" ever more elusive and their good intentions being replaced by terms like "survival" and "despair."

Caught in the crossfire, Myers' richly rendered characters are just beginning to understand the meaning of war in this powerful, realistic novel of our times.

THOUGHTS: It didn't take me longer to figure out that was a juvenile fiction book. For a war book the language, violence, and gore were at a minimum. The themes of war, however, were still present. Myers does a remarkable job of tailoring adult themes to his younger audience. He gets the emotion and the busy-bored cycle of this war just right. Some passages were confusing but, on the whole, this was a pretty enjoyable book. I would recommend this to younger readers who want an introduction to more mature themes.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Monday, July 14, 2008

Seen on the Metro #7

I noticed her shoes first. They were bright yellow pumps with flower cut outs. Quite stylish.

I then noticed the book she was reading - Sydney Poitier's Measure of a Man.

I don't know how the shoes and book work together, but the sight made me happy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Book 34: Ex Libris

TITLE: Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
AUTHOR: Anne Fadiman
STARTED: June 27, 2008
FINISHED: July 1, 2008
PAGES: 162
GENRE: Books about Books

FIRST SENTENCE: When the Irish novelist John McGahern was a child, his sisters unlaced and removed one of his shoes while he was reading.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Anne Fadiman is--by her own admission--the sort of person who learned about sex from her father's copy of Fanny Hill, whose husband buys her 19 pounds of dusty books for her birthday, and who once found herself poring over her roommate's 1974 Toyota Corolla manual because it was the only written material in the apartment that she had not read at least twice.

This witty collection of essays recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language. For Fadiman, as for many passionate readers, the books she loves have become chapters in her own life story. Writing with remarkable grace, she revives the tradition of the well-crafted personal essay, moving easily from anecdotes about Coleridge and Orwell to tales of her own pathologically literary family. As someone who played at blocks with her father's 22-volume set of Trollope ("My Ancestral Castles") and who only really considered herself married when she and her husband had merged collections ("Marrying Libraries"), she is exquisitely well equipped to expand upon the art of inscriptions, the perverse pleasures of compulsive proof-reading, the allure of long words, and the satisfactions of reading out loud. There is even a foray into pure literary gluttony--Charles Lamb liked buttered muffin crumbs between the leaves, and Fadiman knows of more than one reader who literally consumes page corners. Perfectly balanced between humor and erudition, Ex Libris establishes Fadiman as one of our finest contemporary essayists.

THOUGHTS: What a gem of a book. I smiled and smirked the entire time I read it. Fadiman writes with such effortlessness that her wit and experiences just shine, sparkle, and leap off the page. Fadiman has composed more than just a series of essays, she has written a love story to books, reading, and readers.

I was dazzled by the various stories and themes that run throughout the book. Seemingly without meaning to, Fadiman has broken down the essence of what it means to be a booklover. She covers every facet of reading and books and libraries and and and. It just goes one. Any person who considers themselves a book lover with adore this book. Every essay, even if you've never personally experienced the topic, will resonate with you.

Thank goodness for small books, because this is on I may start toting with me.

RATING: 9/10 [Excellent!]

Book 33: Holy Smokes

TITLE: Holy Smokes
AUTHOR: Katie MacAlister
STARTED: June 21, 2008
FINISHED: June 26, 2008
PAGES: 348
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: I'm gettin' married in the morning!

SUMMARY: [From Katie MacAlister's website] I’m Aisling Grey—but you can call me "frustrated."

The man of my dreams—uber-sexy Drake Vireo, wyvern of the green dragons—has finally decided to make an honest woman of me. That is, if we ever make it to the wedding at the same time! Being left at the altar may have cooled my jets, but not my passion...a good thing when Drake disappears and it's up to me to find him.

Most brides just have in-laws to worry about. Me? I have warring dragons, ticked-off demon lords, eternal damnation, and a mage who wants to challenge me for an otherworldly position I don’t even want. Good thing I have Jim, my doggie-demon at my side. He’s never let me down—yet…

THOUGHTS: Egads! This book was pretty close to a train wreck. Aisling continues her spiral in whinydom and TSTLdom. The only saving crazy this time was Jim, the demon.

I think I'm done with this series.

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

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

EduTube

For one of my summer classes, we've spent a lot of time discussing copyright law and fair use of information. While I'm under the general impression that the law is too vague for it's own good, the discussion has led me to a lot of fun videos.

This serious video posted on the Chronicle of Higher Education, led me to a great parody take on the epic The Ten Commandments.



I love creative people and the parody clause in the Fair Use law.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Book 32: Fire Study

TITLE: Fire Study
AUTHOR: Maria V. Snyder
STARTED: June 13, 2008
FINISHED: June 20, 2008
PAGES: 441
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: "That's pathetic, Yelena."

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] The apprenticeship is over -- now the real test has begun.

When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder -- able to capture and release souls -- spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena's unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena's fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before...

Honor sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself -- and save the land she holds dear.

THOUGHTS: Compared to the rest of the series, this book was a HUGE let down. The plot felt rushed. The characters lost all their emotional connection with one another. And, it was just plain confusing. I felt that Snyder was attempting to throw in all the ideas that were floating around in her head. There were new levels of magic and new levels of world and they did not fit together in a way that made sense. There was a whole new enemy and his appearance was never full explained. Basically, this book felt like the author's attempt to add a third book to her series without thinking it through fully.

The world Snyder created was still amazing to behold, but it did not hold the magic of the first two books.

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

Book 31: Everything Bad is Good for You

TITLE: Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Maing Us Smarter
AUTHOR: Steven Johnson
STARTED: June 9, 2008
FINISHED: June 12, 2008
PAGES: 240
GENRE: Media Studies

FIRST SENTENCE: This book is an old-fashioned work of persuasion that ultimately aims to convince you of one thing: that popular culture has, on average, grown more complex and intellectually challenging over the past thirty years.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Forget everything you've read about the age of dumbed-down, instant-gratification culture. In this provocative, intelligent, and convincing endorsement of today's mass entertainment, national bestselling author Steven Johnson argues that the pop culture we soak in every day-from The Lord of the Rings to Grand Theft Auto to The Simpsons-has been growing more and more sophisticated and, far from rotting our brains, is actually posing new cognitive challenges that are making our minds measurably sharper. You will never regard the glow of the video game or television screen the same way again.

THOUGHTS: Johnson’s arguments may be mainly anecdotal and observational, but they are highly persuasive. As a consumer of pop culture, it is hard to deny the points he makes. Johnson’s work is a thought provoking and fascinating read, but it leaves something to be desired. The downfall of Johnson’s book is that it is unfinished. Popular culture alone cannot make us smarter. It can aid in how we think, but that alone is not enough to make for an intelligent generation of thinkers. When Johnson admits that we need to continue to foster reading and other, tried and true forms of learning, he almost negates the first two hundred pages of his book.

Instead of focusing on the direct benefits of popular culture, Johnson should have spent more pages discussing how popular culture engages collateral learning and how this learning enhances the explicit learning provided from books and classroom instruction. The lessons of the book are never applied to reality; they are simply left for the reader to ponder. Johnson asks his readers too often to make their own conclusions.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Book 30: Good Omens

TITLE: Good Omens
AUTHOR: Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
STARTED: May 29, 2008
FINISHED: June 8, 2008
PAGES: 384
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: It was a nice day.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth's mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist...

THOUGHTS: Egads! It has been almost a month since I read this novel for my book club. I really enjoyed it - particularly the imagery and random yet witty writing. My memory of the read is a muddled since it was so long ago, but I do know that I would recommend it.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

New Poll!

There's a new poll over in the sidebar. This month's question: What gender of author should I read next?

Really, I just got tired about asking about genres. And you'll see there are three options. Yes. Three.

Have at it.