Thursday, April 30, 2009

Setting up the game plan...

I actually got through a lot of my April goal. About half way through. I am somewhat slow reader compared to some of the other bloggers I read, but April was a good month for me. Let's hope this momentum continues on through May. new reading goal...

To Be Read by the End of May
The Crimson Petal and the White - Michel Faber
Gods Behaving Badly - Marie Phillips
Phantom of the Opera - Gaston Leroux
The Rose Rent - Ellis Peters
The Tsarina's Daughter - Carolly Erikson
Agnes Gray - Anne Bronte
The Year of Living Biblically - AJ Jacobs
The Woman in Black - Susan Hill
The Aleph and Other Stories - Jorge Luis Borges
Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan

Once again, my goal is pretty laughable. But it's one less than last months goal, so...slowly but surely I'm catching up!

The Shape of Mercy - Susan Meissner

the shape of mercy
susan meissner
c. 2008
305 pages
completed 4/27/2009

read for: read your own books challenge

*may contain spoilers*

Lauren Durough, a 20 year old heiress to a prominent Southern California family, tries to dance to the beat of her own drum. Instead of going to the prestigious Stanford, she chooses a local state school. Instead of living in a family paid apartment, she chooses to live in the dorms with her roommate Clarissa. And instead of spending her time working for her father, she chooses to find her own job. The job she finds is in the home of the elderly Miss Abigail Boyles, transcribing a diary written during the time of the Salem Witch Trials by Mercy Hayworth, a distant relative of Abigail's who was tried and convicted of witchcraft. It is during the transcription of this diary and the discovery of some of the secrets of Abigail's past that Lauren learns the problems with her preconceived notions.

It's been a while since I've read a book that I just felt I could not put it down. There have been books recently that I've enjoyed, but this one just held my attention and wouldn't let go. Which is sometimes frustrating when I'm at work!

This period of history terrifies me. I haven't read too much about it because of that. It's definitely interesting thinking about what could possibly be the reason these events started, but it's also horrifying reading about the lives that were destroyed. I don't like to read about it too much. So it was nice that this book was broken up with the stories of Lauren and Abigail as well as Mercy.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book. I liked the way all of Lauren's snap judgments and preconceived notions were my same thoughts. After the description of his outfit, I totally thought Raul was part of the catering staff. I was also sure the Mercy was executed and that what came between Abigail and Tom, the gardener's son, was money. But no. All wrong! I also really liked Lauren's father. He was an interesting character. Not quite the stereotypical old money patriarch that Lauren led us to believe. And he had one of the best lines (though I don't have the book in front of me so I'm going to have to paraphrase). When Lauren told him she tries so hard to judge people by their actions and not on their circumstances, he says, 'yeah, that would be better, except you're still judging them.' Quite a revelation for Lauren.

The only thing I didn't really like was the relationship between Lauren and Raul. The beginning wasn't that believable. I don't understand how he fell for her.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Haroun and the Sea of Stories - Salman Rushdie

haroun and the sea of stories
salman rushdie
c. 1990
224 pages
completed 4/24/2009

read for: TBR challenge, orbis terrarum challenge, and 100 greatest novels

*may contain spoilers*

Haroun and the Sea of Stories begins in a sad city, where Haroun lives with his mother and father. His father is a famous story teller, often called upon by important men to entertain and help promote them to the public. When Haroun's mother runs away with another man, Haroun's father claims he doesn't want to tell stories anymore. Haroun wakes up in the middle of the night to find a water genie taking back a magic story-water faucet, that which enables Haroun's father to tell stories. Thinking his father had spoken without thinking, Haroun determines to go with the water genie to one of the Earth's moons in order to plead his father's case. He is followed to the moon by his father, and the two get caught up in a war between the cities of Gup, a land of eternal sunshine and chatter, and Chup, a land of perpetual darkness and silence. With the new friends they have made along the way, (Iff, Butt, Blabbermouth, and more) Haroun and his father try to take a stand and end the war.

I really enjoyed this book. The story was engaging and the characters were quirky and entertaining. I was thrown occasionally by some of the puns...for example in the land of Gup all the top scientists were known as "Eggheads" and their leader was known as "the Walrus." And not thrown in a bad way, just...I was surprised at some of the cleverness. My favorite thing was the description of the royal pages in the army. Their uniforms were thin rectangular outfits, with stories written on the front. And instead of being grouped into units and brigades, they were grouped into chapters and volumes. Like I said, very clever.

This is an author I have been wanting to look into for a while and I'm glad I finally did.


Friday, April 24, 2009

The Raven in the Foregate - Ellis Peters

the raven in the foregate
ellis peters
c. 1986
216 pages
completed 4/21/2009

read for: brother cadfael chronicles

*may contain spoilers*

This is book twelve in the Brother Cadfael mysteries. Set in 1141, this series takes place in medieval England during the civil between King Stephen and his cousin, the Empress Maude. In this book, Father Adam, a kindly parish priest, passes away. Abbot Radulfus, the head of Shrewsbury Abbey, appoints Father Ailnoth, a former clerk of Bishop Henry, to fill the position. Father Ailnoth looks good on paper, he is scholarly and well versed in Latin, but he is completely lacking in human compassion and immediately alienates and ostracizes his parishioners, making enemies at every turn. Then he turns up dead, drowned in the mill pond with a blow to the back of the head, as Hugh Berringer, the acting sheriff of Shropshire, is called away to spend Christmas with the King and hopefully be confirmed in office. Add to the mix the news that two spies for the Empress Maude may be loose in the county, one of whom may have been unknowingly brought to the abbey as a groom by Father Ailnoth himself, and the deputy sheriff has no idea where to begin to uncover the culprit.

(In case anyone is wondering, I am trying to add a little more plot synopsis into my reviews instead of just diving in.)

This addition to the series went back to the tried and true formula that had been missing from the previous two. Cadfael was the one who discovered the dead body, Cadfael discussed the mystery with Radulfus, the deputy sheriff, and then Hugh upon his return, and it was Cadfael who inevitably solved the mystery. Yea for Cadfael!

I love it when they reference past books and characters. We got to briefly hear about Brother John, one of Cadfael's assistants before he left the order to marry a Welsh girl (seen in A Morbid Taste for Bones). And we got to get a little update on Godith Adeney and Torold Blund who were seen and helped by Cadfael in One Corpse Too Many. They have since gotten married. And it's nice to know Torold is still running around Shrewsbury doing secret missions for the Empress.

For this particular installment, the conclusion of the murder (or lack there of) was a bit of a downer. A bit anti-climactic. Up until that point everything was very exciting, but the actually conclusion itself was a bit of a let down. I had all sorts of wild conspiracy theories going on, but in the


Monday, April 20, 2009

The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

the wind in the willows
kenneth grahame
c. 1908
156 pages
completed 4/18/2009

read for: decades challenge

*may contain spoilers*

The story of four friends, Rat, Mole, Badger, and Mr. Toad, living their lives and adventures on the banks of the river.

This book was super cute. I loved Mole the best. He was just so genuine and earnest and new to everything. I was so sad when he got depressed because he smelled his old home and Rat didn't want to stop. I definitely got annoyed during the Mr. Toad chapters. I really didn't like him (even though his is my second favorite ride at Disneyland)! He was just so conceited and a jackass. And I really thought he belonged in jail. He stole someone's car! So a little less Toad would have been nice. All I really need are cute stories about Mole.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Royal Escape - Georgette Heyer

royal escape
georgette heyer
c. 1938
464 pages
completed 4/7/2009

read for: read your own books challenge

*may contain spoilers*

This was an area of history I've never really read about so I was pretty excited going in. Royal Escape tells the story of King Charles II's flight out of England after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester. I was somewhat disappointed. I think this book could have been better if it had covered more time...more of what led up to the battle of Worcester or more of what happened after he made his way to France. Why did Charles II have to battle at Worcester for his crown? Did he ever come to power after he fled England? I know the answer to these questions, but I think the book might have been better had it tried to cover them a little more.

As it was, just the escaping and hiding all over England, the book was pretty repetitive. The King needs to get to France, he's taken to a safe house near a port of some kind, they make plans, the plans fail, start again. Several times over. At each stop we lost the last set of characters and gained a new set, but soon it was hard to distinguish between each stop. There's always a old mother who treats the King more like a son than royalty, there's a wife who's afraid for or angry with her husband for endangering himself and his family, there's a young girl who wants an adventure with the King, there's a gentleman who is in some kind of legal trouble who's making the plans, etc. Even some of the mishaps that happened were similar. By the third time the King and his party had to ride through a troop of soldiers, hoping the King wouldn't be recognized, it just wasn't exciting anymore.

I don't imagine my disappointment will deter me from reading more by Georgette Heyer. Before I realized the book was so repetitive, I was enjoying it quite a bit. I just think this was not the best bit of history to single out.


It's Tuesday, where are you?

Brighton, England

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein

the art of racing in the rain
garth stein
c. 2008
336 pages
completed 4/1/2009

read for: TBR challenge

*may contain spoilers*

This is the second book in a row now that I've read where other people have absolutely RAVED and I've been less than thrilled. I suppose this is an interesting concept, reading the story of Dennis Swift, his marriage to Eve and his fight for his daughter Zoe, as seen through the eyes of Enzo the family dog. And all the talk about race car driving and comparing it to life was different. But unfortunately, to be totally honest, I was bored. By the end of the book I was skipping skimming over all Enzo's rhapsodizing about how he was more man than dog, and even a lot of the race car stuff. I will admit that POSSIBLY some of my dislike might have to do with the fact that I am deathly terrified somewhat skittish around dogs. So maybe that should have given me a heads up that this was not the book for me.

I will also say that I was somewhat less than thrilled with some of the sexual stuff. Not that sex doesn't have its place in literature, believe me I was fine with what went on involving Eve or Annika. That went along with the story. That made sense. That had a purpose. What I had a problem with was Zoe's randomly..."erotically charged" stuffed zebra that liked to molest other stuffed animals. It just felt so bizarre and out of place. So I was put off.

I am really struggling with my grade for this book. I think I'm going to have to give it my first half grade.


To be read...

Ten Cents a Dance - Christine Fletcher
Bleeding Heart Square - Andrew Taylor
The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart
An Abundance of Katherines - John Green
What I Saw and How I Lied - Judy Blundill
Pobby and Dingan - Ben Rice
A Place Beyond Courage - Elizabeth Chadwick
A Boy of Good Breeding - Miriam Toews
The Outsiders - SE Hinton
The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Reading in the Dark - Seamus Deane
Silk - Alessandro Baricco
Galway Bay - Mary Pat Kelly
Honolulu - Alan Brennert
A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian - Marina Lewycka
The Last Days of the Romanovs - Helen Rappaport
Pomegranate Soup - Marsha Mehran
The Monsters of Templeton - Lauren Groff
Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry - Leanne Shapton
Psyche in a Dress - Francesca Lia Block
The Ivy Tree - Mary Stewart
Luncheon of the Boating Party - Susan Vreeland
Giovanni's Room - James Baldwin
Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta
The Book of Love - Sarah Bower
Palace Circle - Rebecca Dean

Wow. 26 new books! That's a lot.