Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January Round Up

The Numbers:
Total Books Read This Year: 7
Total Books Read This Month: 7
  • Library Books: 7
  • TBR Pile Books: 0
  • Fiction: 5
  • NonFiction: 2


I really enjoyed Geraldine Brooks' March, I so rarely read historical fiction and this was a refreshing book despite the very sad and violent themes!

God's Secretaries by Adam Nicolson was also a great surprise, it reminded me of how much I enjoy non-fiction, especially history!

Pleasant Surprise:

Watchstar by Pamela Sargent, a seemingly tacky sci-fi YA book that I picked up in the free pile at the library...quite enjoyable! I admit, it reminds me somewhat of Tanith Lee.


I probably could have lived without The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe. It wasn't nearly as surreal as I had hoped, but too bizarre for me to otherwise enjoy. Meh.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Reading Through 2012-3

Completed This Week:

The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe
I have read Abe before, back in winter 2009, but his weirdness never fails to surprise me. He is very much a surrealist and was considered part of the avant-garde back when he first began publishing in the 1950s and 1960s. In some ways he is very like Tanith Lee (my favorite author) because he tends to write archetypes instead of characters, in fact even names are missing. The two main characters, usually referred to as "the man" and "the woman," are meant to portray ideals or sentiments rather than people. Sometimes I wonder if something is lost in translation or if I just really don't fully understand the ideals these characters are supposed to represent.
Does anyone have any tips for me?
With that said, I did enjoy this rather bizarre and horrifying tale of a man being held captive in a (literal) pit/hole with a woman. They are responsible for digging sand out every night, to keep it from encroaching any further on the village below. Yes, it's weird. Yes, he schemes to escape...but I think Abe is saying something about the human will to freedom here which makes the final scene of a dangling rope ladder rather unsettling...

Watchstar by Pamela Sargent
Amazon says "Alone in the desert, Daiya is faced with dilemma that will determine her fate. If she can successfully resolve it she will join the Net of her village, but if she fails, her life will be spent will the feared Merged Ones. Confused and torn between worlds near and far, Daiya harbors a secret of her people, and must find a way to move beyond her discoveries to a safe place where she can survive."
I find the summary misleading! Daiya lives on a futuristic Earth populated by telekinetic and telepathic agrarian humans who strive towards becoming one with "The Merged One"/God. "Solitaries" without these abilities are born into their society, and quickly killed, and those who survive are tested upon entering adulthood to see whether or not they can truly enter the village and become Merging Ones themselves. Individuality is, not surprisingly, looked down upon. But Daiya meets a Solitary not of this world, and this threatens not only her worldview but her entire planet with her "separateness." This is a young adult fantasy/sci-fi read from 1980...it's quite enjoyable.

Currently Reading:

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Amazon says "Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all."

Blade of Fortriu by Juliet Marillier
Yup I am still trucking through this one...very slowly.
I love Marillier but for some reason I find this series so...unreadable! I just can't connect with any characters and don't really care about the plot...any tips to get through this because I really want to read it!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Reading Through 2012-2

Completed This Week:

God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson
This meandering piece of popular non-fiction paints a picture of early Jacobean England. While the title may lead you to believe that it is in fact about the writing of the King James Bible, it is actually about an era, a context for, the creation of the King James Bible. It's fascinating. Nicolson describes social, political, and religious customs and debates.
Little is known about the Translators who created the King James Bible using previous English Bibles in addition to Hebrew and Greek originals (now recognized as corrupted copies). But Nicolson provides the context, and what little personal and political information that is available is placed within a general framework.
Nicolson essentially argues that the creation of the King James Bible was possible because of the atmosphere of the new succession-the hope for unity and peace. He also gives King James VI a more positive spin than most historians, painting him as a troubled, eccentric, but ultimately well-meaning, intelligent, and hopeful ruler who wished to give Britain a unity an sense of community that it did not possess.
Overall, if you like nonfiction, Renaissance or British history, or even Biblical histories then I would recommend God's Secretaries.

Everlost by Neal Shusterman
While last Friday I admitted to having a difficult time getting into Everlost, today I have completely changed my mind. After trudging through the first few (admittedly brief) chapters) I found myself rather enthralled with this first book in the Skinjacker trilogy.
This is the story of Allie and Nick, two strangers who die in a car crash and then lose their way into the light (at the end of the tunnel). They find themselves reborn into a limbo that admits only children (aged 16 and under it seems) called Everlost, and are accompanied by a young boy who has isolated himself in a forest.
Nick and Allie are determined to escape, and leave the forest to eventually discover more of the Everlost-which is nearly parallel to, but intersecting with, the living world.
They stumble across leaders and monsters slowly uncovering more of Everlost, and what it means to be forever lost there...

Moses: A Life by Jonathan Kirsch
Another non-fiction title, and also concerning the Bible! I think I quite enjoy non-fiction now that I've graduated from school.
Moses is a historiography that is part clever interpretation and part scholarly discussion that revolves around the Biblical figure of Moses.
I love historiographies, which are basically scholarly summaries of past scholars/trends in scholarship to determine what a certain topic was thought of at different points in time. In this case, the story of Moses is showcased and different opinions over the centuries regarding Moses are discussed in depth in Kirsch's monograph. Naturally, a large part of this book discusses the different authors of the Bible (may I recommend this?) and the stories found in the Bible itself. Kirsch does seem a bit repetitive in Moses, and some points are frustratingly redundant but I think that the overall effect of the book is positive.
Moses is thought-provoking and entertaining, so I recommend it.

Currently Reading:

Blade of Fortriu by Juliet Marillier

This is the second novel in the Bridei Chronicles. I didn't love the first one, but am compelled to read the second since I love Marillier's Daughter of the Forest and Cybele's Secret. This may take me a while to finish, but I did start it...

Amazon says: "Loyalties are tested and truth must be distinguished from dangerous lies in the gritty second book of the Bridei Chronicles (after 2005's The Dark Mirror), set in a land resembling early Scotland. Hoping to gain the support of nearby chieftain Alpin of Briar Wood in the fight against the invading Dalriada, King Bridei of the Priteni sends an offer and a bride: Ana, a fosterling "hostage" from the distant Light Isles raised in his court. Bridei's personal bodyguard and spy, Faolan, accompanies Ana on the arduous journey, saving her life and struggling to control his growing feelings for her. When problems arise at Alpin's rude court, Ana secretly finds solace with Alpin's mysterious brother, Drustan, long believed to be insane, who has been imprisoned for the murder of Alpin's first wife. Skilled world-building and characterization set Marillier's historical fantasy at the head of the pack."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Reading Through 2012-1

Completed This Week:

Alive in Necropolis by Doug Dorst
This is a surprising read, a bit fantastic and urban fantasy-esque, but centered around the (local for me) very real town of Colma, CA. Colma is a massive graveyard town where the rich of San Francisco have historically buried their dead (since space is at a premium in the City). Enter our protagonist, a new cop who patrols the town on the night shift. But the graveyards of Colma aren't so quiet, and the dead are in need of a hero.
You were probably expeccting a ghost story. But it's not, it's a police/life story with failed romances, friendships, injuries, self-doubts, and lingering mysteries about past officers. Really the ghost story is only concluded implicitly, through a typed up incident report.
Dorst writes an interesting story, and I rather liked how under-emphasized the unusual (ghosts) was...but it did leave me with questions (someone give me the details on Root, please, I know what it does...but want to know more). I would recommend if you are looking for a spiced up police story or a subtle ghost story.

Oh, I've also read that they may be making this into a film?

March by Geraldine Brooks
If you've read Little Women you may remember the absence of the March father, as he was away bringing God to the Yanks during the Civil War. Geraldine Brooks has provided us with a rather breathtaking story for this largely fictional character.
I was very impressed with the research evident in the writing of this novel. The Marches were an idealized form of Louisa May Alcott's real family, and so researching her family seemed to be a starting point. Brooks also researched the Civil War as well as the customs and thoughts of the day. She paints such an interesting picture of the times that the novel sucked me right in and didn't let me go until I finished the last page.
While I loved the atmosphere and world, I rather despised Mr. March...such an idealistic, pompous, naive person. This book definitely hasn't encouraged me to reread Little Women! I love a flawed protaganist, but I found him rather insufferable. I also struggled with the portrayal of the Civil War being solely centered around slavery/emancipation...it's a lovely and simplistic way to characterize it, but not an accurate portrayal of why the South succeeded. So it was painful to read a book about an intellectual who only focuses on that one aspect of the war.
Nit-picking aside, I highly recommend this novel! Though be warned, there are bloody battle scenes and I cried at least once in the reading.

Currently Reading:

God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson

I'm only one hundred pages in, but I've loving it so far!

Amazon says: "A network of complex currents flowed across Jacobean England. This was the England of Shakespeare, Jonson, and Bacon; the era of the Gunpowder Plot and the worst outbreak of the plague. Jacobean England was both more godly and less godly than the country had ever been, and the entire culture was drawn taut between these polarities. This was the world that created the King James Bible. It is the greatest work of English prose ever written, and it is no coincidence that the translation was made at the moment "Englishness," specifically the English language itself, had come into its first passionate maturity. The English of Jacobean England has a more encompassing idea of its own scope than any form of the language before or since. It drips with potency and sensitivity. The age, with all its conflicts, explains the book."

Everlost by Neal Shusterman

I'm having a hard time getting into this one, has anyone else read it? What do you think?

Amazon says: "Nick and Allie don’t survive the car accident, but their souls don’t exactly get where they’re supposed to go either. Instead, they’re caught halfway between life and death, in a sort of limbo known as Everlost: a shadow of the living world, filled with all the things and places that no longer exist. It’s a magical, yet dangerous place where bands of lost kids run wild and anyone who stands in the same place too long sinks to the center of the Earth.

When they find Mary, the self-proclaimed queen of lost souls, Nick feels like he’s found a home, but Allie isn’t satisfied spending eternity between worlds. Against all warnings, Allie begins learning the “Criminal Art” of haunting, and ventures into dangerous territory, where a monster called the McGill threatens all the souls of Everlost.

In this imaginative novel, Neal Shusterman explores questions of life, death, and what just might lie in between."