Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Book 82: Looking for Information

TITLE: Looking for Information: A Survey of Research on Information Seeking, Needs, and Behavior (2nd Edition)
AUTHOR: Donald O. Case
STARTED: Do not recall
FINISHED: November 16, 2009
PAGES: 423
GENRE: Library Science

FIRST SENTENCE: Looking for Information explores human information seeking and use.

SUMMARY: [From] Looking for Information explores human information seeking and use. It provides examples of methods, models and theories used in information behavior research, and reviews more than four decades of research on the topic. The book should prove useful for scholars in related fields, but also for students at the graduate and advanced undergraduate levels. It is intended for use not only in information studies and communication, but also in the disciplines of education, management, business, medicine, nursing, public health, and social work.

THOUGHTS: Chapters or this book were incredible interesting and others were mind-numbingly dull. That is what I get for taking a class about user studies. Apparently I like definitions, theories, and flow-charts... but not so much with the breaking down of actual case studies. I'd rather read the actual case study than run through page after page after page (after page) of summaries of case studies. So, more with the actual theory and history, less with the examples.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh.]

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book 81: The Lost Symbol

TITLE:The Lost Symbol

AUTHOR: Dan Brown
STARTED: November 2, 2009
FINISHED: November 11, 2009
PAGES: 528
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: The secret is how to die.

SUMMARY: [From] In this stunning follow-up to the global phenomenon The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown demonstrates once again why he is the world's most popular thriller writer. The Lost Symbol is a masterstroke of storytelling -- a deadly race through a real-world labyrinth of codes, secrets, and unseen truths - all under the watchful eye of Brown's most terrifying villain to date. Set within the hidden chambers, tunnels, and temples of Washington, D.C., The Lost Symbol accelerates through a startling landscape toward an unthinkable finale.

As the story opens, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned unexpectedly to deliver an evening lecture in the U.S. Capitol Building. Within minutes of his arrival, however, the night takes a bizarre turn. A disturbing object -- artfully encoded with five symbols -- is discovered in the Capitol Building. Langdon recognizes the object as an ancient invitation - one meant to usher its recipient into a long-lost world of esoteric wisdom.

When Langdon's beloved mentor, Peter Solomon -- a prominent Mason and philanthropist -- is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes his only hope of saving Peter is to accept this mystical invitation and follow wherever it leads him. Langdon is instantly plunged into a clandestine world of Masonic secrets, hidden history, and never-before-seen locations -- all of which seem to be dragging him toward a single, inconceivable truth.

As the world discovered in The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, Dan Brown's novels are brilliant tapestries of veiled histories, arcane symbols, and enigmatic codes. In this new novel, he again challenges readers with an intelligent, lightning-paced story that offers surprises at every turn. The Lost Symbol is exactly what Brown's fans have been waiting for... his most thrilling novel yet.

THOUGHTS: Lacking.

This book felt chaotic, disjointed, and poorly written. Whereas The DaVinci Code had inherent drama and clear, forward-moving plot, The Lost Symbol simply felt sloppy. Brown has written one of those books where the author has done so much research that they feel they must include everything. This book would have been better served with a strong editing pen.

Also, Langdon was a wuss in this book. His character was weak, easily misled, and stupid. Seriously stupid. For a man that is supposed to be some well-educated, highly-regarded professor, he was a just a dummie in this one. Sure he spouted out facts left and right, but all of that just made him seem out of touch.

I felt like Brown threw logic and organization out of the window with this book. Langdon and Katherine Solomon are thrown into a situation and their stupid carcasses are dragged through the story by secondary, set-piece characters. The villian was the most interesting part of the book - but it's hard to really like a character when he is so darn one-dimensional.

What irked me the most was that DC and her landmarks were slighted in this book. The author and publisher made such a big deal about The Lost Symbol being set in Washington and the city was not there. Sure they visited landmarks, but Brown was so interested in sounding smart that he didn't get it. His sent his characters running all over the city and it simply didn't matter. There was no connection between them, the city, and the plot.

This novel was just poorly laid out in plot and execution.

Also, the big OMGWTFBBQ twist - saw it coming from the page it was introduced.

RATING: 3/10 [Poor, Lost Interest]

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book 80: The Giving Tree

TITLE: The Giving Tree

AUTHOR: Shel Silverstein
STARTED: November 2, 2009
FINISHED: November 2, 2009
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: Once there was a tree...

SUMMARY: [From] A classic book for all ages—for mothers and fathers! A moving parable about the gift of giving and the capacity to love, told throughout the life of a boy who grows to manhood and a tree that selflessly gives him her bounty through the years.

THOUGHTS: I remember liking this book as a child, but I thin its even more important to read as an adult. It holds more meaning when you can actually see the sacrifice (and the selfishness) in this book. This is one of those stories where the meaning changes every time your read it.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Book 79: Enigma

TITLE: Enigma

AUTHOR: Robert Harris
STARTED: October 20, 2009
FINISHED: November 2, 2009
PAGES: 322
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Cambridge in the fourth winter of the war: a ghost town.

SUMMARY: [From] March 1943, the war hangs in the balance, and at Bletchley Park a brilliant young codebreaker is facing a double nightmare. The Germans have unaccountably changed their U-boat Enigma code, threatening a massive Allied defeat. And as suspicion grows that there may be a spy inside Bletchley, Jericho's girlfriend, the beautiful and mysterious Claire Romilly, suddenly disappears.

THOUGHTS: There were so many names and mysteries involved with this book that I got lost. Way lost. I think they solved the problem by the end of the book - but I was still left scratching my head and asking, "What just happened?"

I love novels set during World War II. I love novels set around the Enigma. This one just felt off.

RATING: 5/10 [Meh]

Friday, November 13, 2009

Book 78: Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas

TITLE: Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas
AUTHOR: John Baxter
STARTED: October 18, 2009
FINISHED: October 19, 2009
PAGES: 270
GENRE: Memoir / Food

FIRST SENTENCE: Most years, the first queries from the United States or Australia arrive just after Thanksgiving.

SUMMARY: [From] A witty cultural and culinary education, Immoveable Feast is the charming, funny, and improbable tale of how a man who was raised on white bread—and didn't speak a word of French—unexpectedly ended up with the sacred duty of preparing the annual Christmas dinner for a venerable Parisian family.

Ernest Hemingway called Paris "a moveable feast"—a city ready to embrace you at any time in life. For Los Angeles–based film critic John Baxter, that moment came when he fell in love with a French woman and impulsively moved to Paris to marry her. As a test of his love, his skeptical in-laws charged him with cooking the next Christmas banquet—for eighteen people in their ancestral country home. Baxter's memoir of his yearlong quest takes readers along his misadventures and delicious triumphs as he visits the farthest corners of France in search of the country's best recipes and ingredients. Irresistible and fascinating, Immoveable Feast is a warmhearted tale of good food, romance, family, and the Christmas spirit, Parisian style
THOUGHTS: Do not read this book on an empty stomach. I grew so hungry after the pages upon pages of food and cooking descriptions that my stomach growls probably awoke my neighbors.

I know Baxter as a writer of books about books - so I was quite curious to read about his relationship with food and cooking. His writing in Immoveable Feast meandered and wandered and took its time to get where it was meant to be. In may ways, this style reminded me of the kind of conversation that occurs at a long, sit-down meal. No one feels rushed and stories and themes wander in and out of the conversation. That style created an emotion of comfort as I read. I didn't know where Baxter was headed with this book, but I didn't care. I was along for the ride and enjoyed it immensely.

The food. Dear god, the food. Baxter has a way with description and this book practically drips with succulent sauces and wafts with aromas of fresh bread and cooked meat. In may ways, the text breaths because its constantly emitting such vivid description that I could clearly picture the scenes and the emotions therein. Baxter made me miss France and Paris in a way I never thought possible. He also made me long for Thanksgiving - the next time I will sit down with my family and share such a meal.

Baxter says he is writing about the crafting of a specific meal, but I think its more than that. I think he's writing about home - and all that entails.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book 77: Hunger Games

TITLE: Hunger Games

AUTHOR: Suzanne Collins
STARTED: October 14, 2009
FINISHED: October 16, 2009
PAGES: 374
GENRE: Juvenile

FIRST SENTENCE: When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.

SUMMARY: [From] Sixteen-year-old Katniss is smart, athletic, and fast. She can take down a rabbit with a bow and arrow, hitting it straight through the eye. Will these skills be enough to survive the Hunger Games?

Suzanne Collins, the author of the middle-grade fantasy series The Underland Chronicles begins anew, exploring a future landscape that will be familiar to devotees of science fiction's dystopic strain. In a nation called Panem, which occupies the landmass that is the present United States, a parasitical fascist Capitol dominates 12 conquered districts. There was a thirteenth district but it was obliterated during a rebellion. The totalitarian government keeps the subjected populations in line by threatened devastation, starvation, and brutality.

THOUGHTS: Katie, my dear, THANK YOU!

Katie recommended this book to me and it was utterly spectacular. This is why you should always be open to reading recommendations; you'll be steered toward spectacular books that you may otherwise completely miss. Hunger Games is the perfect blend of drama, thriller, romance, and kick-ass heroine who solves the problem of how to show young girls strong female leads. I adored this book.

Collins has crafted the type of book that I don't seem to find anymore. I read it in two days. In fact, I was angry that I had stuff to do because all I wanted to do was read this book. I even made The Boyfriend wait as I finished up the final pages.

Katniss is a complex and complicated girl on the cusp of woman hood. She is thrown into a completely dramatic and deadly situation. Not only does she have to fight to survive physically, she has to manage to remain true to herself. On top of that, she's worried about her own understanding of the world and people around her. Katniss is a strong heroine who also has doubts and second guesses herself. She can also be completely obtuse. Her character is totally believable and I cannot wait to see how she handles herself and grows in the next two books.

The additional cast of characters all blend and mesh perfectly. (You know people are raring at the bit to make a move out of this one.) Unlike other novels with strong leads, Collins gives her secondary characters back stories and complex emotions. They are not set pieces in anyway. Sometimes, the secondary characters - particularly Peeta and Haymitch - are more complex than Katniss. Each character acts and reacts in a fashion that is both true to their characters and advances the plot. There is no unnecessary drama or plot twists that come out of left field. The characters are allowed to be who they are and it's magic to watch them interact.

Collins has crafted a book that is both and entertaining read and a study of life that does not come across as preachy or condescending. In many ways, Hunger Games is allegorical. It speaks of the dangers of entertainment society and oppressive, big-brother government without being superior or fatalistic. The story feels completely raw and offers a view into what could be.

I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book.

RATING: 9/10 [Excellent!]

Book 76: No Man's Mistress

TITLE: No Man's Mistress

AUTHOR: Mary Balogh
STARTED: October 4, 2009
FINISHED: October 13, 2009
PAGES: 360
GENRE: Romance

FIRST SENTENCE: The picturesque village of Trellick, nestled in a river valley in Somersetshire, was usually a quiet little backwater.

SUMMARY: [From] Lord Ferdinand Dudley is accustomed to getting what he wants...that is, until he appears at the door of Pinewood Manor, attempting to claim his rightful estate, and is met by the bewitching fury of Lady Viola Thornhill. She refuses to cede him the home she calls her own. He refuses to leave. So the contest begins. Each day under the same roof brings its share of frustration...and temptation. But Viola knows it is a battle she cannot afford to lose. Marriage is out of the question, and she will be no man’s mistress even as Dudley’s unnerving presence threatens to melt her resolve. Against his better judgment, Lord Ferdinand Dudley is beguiled. This maddening beauty has stirred him as no woman had before. And now he is bound and determined to make her his own.

THOUGHTS: Gah! I need to remember to update closer to the date I finish the book. I can't remember anything about this. Wait.... wait.... no... maybe... gah! It's all gone. Since I gave it a 6 out of 10 when I put in my placeholder entry I must have liked something about it.

What little I can pry from my brain right now screams drama. As in unnecessary, page-filling angst. That does not bode well.

Maybe there was chemistry.

Eh, I don't recall anything. Definitely a mediocre read then.

Oh wait! Reading the summary above spurred my memory. Yup. Just a mediocre read.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]