Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Unfinished Challenges

Oh the sadness of the unfinished challenge. I swear I'm learning a lesson from this, really.
So the Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge ends today. I have about 200 pages left in the final book for that challenge, so I almost did it! I didn't feel like forcing the issue though, so I'll just do a late wrap-up post when I finish it.
The other challenge that ends today is the first quarter of the Martel-Harper Challenge for 2009. I will be participating for the second quarter, so the book that I would have read for the first quarter will be put off for that challenge. So I will not be doing an official wrap-up for this one, as it basically just carries over.
The good news is that I have no more challenge deadlines until the end of June! Huzzah! There is hope that I will finish at least one of these challenges before the end!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark by Donna Lea Simpson

Lady Anne Addison arrives late one night to the Darkefell estate, on a mission to see her recently married friend who has sent her frantic letters demanding she come. But when Anne arrives, she discovers that no one is available to escort her to the manor, and she must travel up the road in the dark, by herself. On her way she hears a blood-curdling howl, and then screaming, followed by groans of pain. She follows the sound, intending to help the woman whose scream she heard, and instead finds her dead body. She does make it safely to the estate to report the death, but after this welcome she wonders what the rest of her stay has in store for her.
Lady Anne's friend, the Lady Lydia Bestwick, married to the younger brother of the Lord of Darkefell, has apparently not told anyone that Anne is to be expected, and no one knows quite what to make of her. She is not a typically feminine woman, and being plain-looking and independantly wealthy, she has decided she has no need of marriage or men. She finds herself rather ridiculously attracted to Lord Anthony, the marquess of Darkefell, and he is typically arrogant and gruff, with smoldering good-looks, as many heroes are. Anne is determined to find out what killed the girl that she found, and she is equally determined to not believe in any of the stories of werewolves that the locals insist are real. Lord Darkefell is determined to keep his family's secrets safely hidden from the destructively inquisitive Lady Anne, at the same time as finding himself strangely attracted to her. They are continually at odds with each other as they both try to solve the mystery of the maid's death.
This was a rather entertaining read, although disappointing in some respects. The mystery itself is not very well written, and resolved a bit too quickly at the end. The romance that obviously develops between Lord Darkefell and Lady Anne is well done, but left unfinished, I suppose to set it up for a sequel. Lady Anne's character is entertaining, as is Lord Darkefell's, while most of the rest of the characters are necessary stereotypes. A few exceptions are there of course - Lord Darkefell's secretary, a rescued slave, is an interesting addition, and Lady Anne's cat, Irusan, adds humor and depth to her character. Overall this book was a fun, quick read.
This is the first book for my participation in the Romance Reading Challenge. I only need to read five, and I have that many in the stacks of books waiting to be read, so I think it will work out! This book also qualifies for the RYOB Challenge and New Author Challenge.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Martel-Harper Challenge - Second Quarter, 2009

The Martel-Harper Challenge follows the list of books that Yann Martel sends to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to read. Martel sends Harper a new book every two weeks, along with a personalized letter about why he should read that particular book. So far, Harper doesn't appear to have read them, or at least he has not responded. But we can read along!
I have participated in this challenge since the last quarter of 2008, I think, so this will be the third time for me. I am still not sure I will be able to finish for the first quarter. I have Maus (#12) sitting on top of my stack of books, but I may not get to it in the next couple of days!! We shall see.
The goal of the quarterly challenge is to read two books from the list. My list:
  • Gilgamesh (either # 41 or #42 from the list, I'm not sure which translation I'll pick up)
  • The Bhagavad Gita (#5)
Hopefully I will get to Maus before the month ends (I have three more days!), but if not, it will certainly be on this list.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Walking Through Walls by Philip Smith

Walking Through Walls is the memoir of Philip Smith, an artist and former managing editor of GQ. It follows his upbringing in Miami with his decorator father, Lew Smith, who also just happened to be a very powerful psychic healer. Philip begins his story when he is a child and his parents are the social butterflies of the town. Lew's initiation into the world of natural healing comes first through diet changes, when he decides that his family needs to eat a macrobiotic diet. From there he continues his exploration into mind-body connections, and begins to learn how to contact and be contacted by spirits. It is these spirits that share with him the revolutionary healing techniques that he will use to perform miracles.
I enjoyed this book at the beginning, reading about his parents' lives in Miami, and his father's decorating business. It was interesting to see how Philip's mother reacted to his father's explorations - she continued her coffee and cigarette habit even while her husband and son were living almost exclusively on brown rice. And Lew's spiritual journey was fascinating, whether or not you believe in any of the things he participated in. But after Philip's parents split up, and his father began to use his "pendulum" the book lost me. Lew just got too far out there, and while he may have performed miraculous healings, the explanations of his methods were just beyond kooky. The lengths that Philip went to as a teenager to try to escape his father and the spirit guides was entertaining, and gave a glimpse of what it must have been like to live with a man who performed excorcisms and received communications from the spirits on a regular basis. I know this was not the author's intention, but the book left me feeling sorry for Lew Smith, the man whose life was hijacked by "spirit guides" who left him no time for himself or his family.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Library Loot - March 25, 2009

Well, I try not to do two posts a day, but I forgot about Library Loot! And wouldn't it be nice if I had managed to not pick up anything this week? Ah well, one can hope to catch up someday . . .
So, what did I get?
  • The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (Someday I really will get around to reading all of these books that I have for the Really Old Classics Challenge)
  • The Singing by Alison Croggon (this is the fourth and final book in the Book of Pellinor series)
  • Hunter's Death by Michelle West (the sequel to Hunter's Oath, I'm reading this one for the Reading My Name Challenge)

I am really excited about both The Singing and Hunter's Death, and I will probably eventually get to The Divine Comedy. And I didn't have to return anything without reading it this week. Yay!

The Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick

I am still not quite sure what to make of this book, although I certainly enjoyed it. The Dragons of Babel takes place in a post-industrial Faerie, fully inhabited by so many types of mythical creatures I didn't even recognize them all. The main character is Will le Fey, a young man who has grown up in a village with his aunt. Then one day a wounded dragon shows up in the village and takes over. In this world, dragons are great mechanical beasts of immense power, but they need a lieutenant with mortal blood to help carry out their orders. Will becomes that lieutenant, allowing the dragon to become a petty tyrant over the village. When he finally breaks free of the dragon's control, he is banished from his village, becoming just one refugee among many fleeing the coming war. His wanderings eventually take him to the Tower of Babel, the capital of Faerie. There he struggles to find his destiny, while being continually manipulated by those who would find it for him.
I really enjoyed both the world-building of this book and the character development. The world of Faerie in this book is so different from what we are used to seeing. It reminded me of Tad Williams' The War of the Flowers, although this book is much more dark and grim. There are no real heroes or villains, all of the characters Will meets are conflicted in multiple ways. I was never quite sure where the story was going to end up, though the ending was quite satisfying. I have never read Swanwick's other book that takes place in this same world, The Iron Dragon's Daughter. I am not sure if there are any connections between the two books, but it would be interesting to read it now and find out.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fortune's Magic Farm by Suzanne Selfors

This is a sweet, fun little fantasy for kids ages eight to twelve. The main character is Isabelle, a ten-year-old girl who lives in the town of Runny Cove, and like everyone else in the town, works at Mr. Supreme's Umbrella Factory. She lives with her Grandma Maxine at Mama Lu's boarding house. Grandma Maxine found Isabelle on the doorstep when she was a baby, and no one knows where she came from. Runny Cove is a very depressing town, where it always rains, and everyone must work at the factory, but they can barely afford their rent. The women who run the boarding houses, Mama Lu in particular, are terribly mean and petty, and constantly accuse their tenants of stealing. Isabelle knows that she is someone special, she just wishes she knew where she was from, and why she was left on the doorstep.
It isn't until a sea monster shows up and sneezes an apple into her lap that her adventure truly begins, however. No one has seen an apple in years, and Isabelle can't wait to share this one with her sick grandmother and her best friends. Then she meets Sage, the boy who brought the apple to Runny Cove, and she discovers Fortune's Farm. But now that Isabelle has discovered where she belongs, she must keep her promise to her friends, and help make Runny Cove the town it once was - Sunny Cove - again.
This is a charming, magical tale that many children would enjoy. It could easily be read to kids under eight, and would be enjoyed by older kids as well.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Everything is Fine by Ann Dee Ellis

This little book affected me more than I thought it would. It is the story of Mazzy, a girl of twelve or so (it's kind of hard to tell, maybe thirteen?), who is trying to pretend that her life is fine, that she and her mother don't need any help. The story is told in short, staccato sentences, and short chapters, almost verse form, but not quite. It really gave me the feeling of being inside Mazzy's head, which is not always a pleasant place to be.
The story is hard to piece together at first, but you get a better idea of what has happened the farther you go along. There has been a tragedy, involving Olivia, who seems to be Mazzy's younger sister - a character who is obviously no longer in the story. This tragedy has sent Mazzy's mother into a downward spiral of severe depression, so that she no longer gets out of bed or responds to her daughter. Meanwhile, Mazzy's dad got a job offer that took him to another state, so he basically flees, leaving Mazzy to make sense of everything. And in order to protect her mother and herself, Mazzy tells everyone, from neighbors to social workers, that everything is fine.
I really loved this book, although it is very difficult. It is very sad, although there is hope at the end. Ellis does a fantastic job putting us inside Mazzy's brain; from her thought process to the illustrations that Mazzy begins when she breaks into her mom's art studio, you can see how difficult life is for her. This book would be great for a lot of teens, although I would definitely not recommend it for anyone who would have difficulty reading about the tragedy involving a small child. I found it incredibly upsetting, but I guess that's why Mazzy's mom doesn't get out of bed anymore. So, recommended, but with that reservation.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

The Martel-Harper Challenge is based on a list of books that the Canadian author Yann Martel has sent to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to read. I find this list fascinating, and I love the letters that Martel sends along with his book choices. He sends a new one every two weeks, which I think is a little unfair, as the Prime Minister is probably a busy man. But it doesn't really matter, since it doesn't seem like he even looks at them. He certainly does not bother to respond to the letters. But it gives the rest of us a good reason to stretch our horizons when it comes to reading. You can find more information on the website.
I honestly have no idea what made me choose Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges, out of the entire list of books. I did not think that I had even heard of Borges, let alone read any of his stories. On that point, I was wrong.
Fictions is a book of short stories, fantasies mostly, but not the kind of fantasy that I am prone to read. They are flights of fancy, literary plays, that I found really enjoyable, even though half the time I did feel a little lost. Martel does a much better job describing this book in his letter to Stephen Harper, so you should read that if you want a better description than the one I can give. One of my favorite quotes from the letter is describing a quote from the book: "That’s intellectually droll, in a nerdy way." That quote basically sums up how I felt while reading the book. I would find something amusing, and feel kind of nerdy for "getting it", but at the same time I wasn't quite sure if I actually got it at all. Another good quote from the letter: "One of the games involved in Fictions is: do you get the references? If you do, you feel intelligent; if you don’t, no worries, it’s probably an invention, because much of the erudition in the book is invented." I found reading these stories very enjoyable, mainly for their subtle absurdity, but I am glad they were short stories only. I think that I would have gotten very bored reading an entire novel written in this way.
There was probably only one story that really made me stop and say "Woah" when I had finished it - "Three Versions of Judas". That's also the only story that Martel felt made an intellectually thought-provoking point. The other stories are thought-provoking (at least I found them to be), but it is hard to find the point. Overall, this book stretched my reading boundaries, and I think it is worth reading for that purpose. Also, I realized that I had already read at least two of these short stories in English classes in the past. Obviously English teachers find them thought-provoking as well.
This book is on one of the lists (maybe both) of the 1000 books you must read before you die. I used this combined list to find books to read for the 1% Well-Read Challenge. And because this book is translated from the Spanish, it qualifies for the Lost in Translation Challenge.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

As much as I'd heard about this book, I really wasn't prepared to get sucked into quite so much. I read it in a day, which I would highly recommend. But if you don't have the time or inclination to do that, you will definitely have something to look forward to as you read some each day. This is a fantastic book. It had me captured within the first 20 pages - I was already telling my husband "You have got to read this book!"
The Hunger Games takes place in a future that has been ravaged by environmental and political storms, where the area that used to be known as North America is now known as Panem. Panem is divided up into twelve districts. These twelve districts are controlled by the Capital. They basically exist in order to provide food and other raw materials to satisfy the Capital's needs. District 12 is the poorest, the coal-mining district. Katniss is a sixteen-year-old resident of District 12, where she illegally hunts to provide food for her family, and she is allowed to because the powers that be in District 12 buy what she hunts as well. Katniss has been the "bread-winner" since her father died, taking care of her mother and 12-year-old sister, Prim.
So what are the Hunger Games? The Hunger Games are one of the ways that the Capital shows the Districts that it has complete power and control over them. Each year one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are taken from each district. They are brought to an arena where they are forced to fight each other to the death. This is the best entertainment that the Capital can imagine, and the rest of the Districts are forced to watch as well. No one from District 12 has won in decades. Everyone prays that no one in their family will be have their name drawn. When Prim's name is drawn, Katniss knows that she must volunteer - she will not let her sister face that fate. And so the games begin.
I don't really want to say any more than that, although most people already know at least that much of the story. I'll just say that the games were a lot more like reality TV than I had expected, which raised the shock-value for me. Also, I loved the politics. Really good dystopian fiction always makes us question those things that our culture values. The Hunger Games does that for sure. Really I can't recommend this book enough. It is fantastic, and I can't wait to see where the next one (not out until September!) takes us.

A Rose by Any Name by Douglas Brenner & Stephen Scanniello

This lovely little book is all about the history of roses and their names. As someone who knows almost nothing about roses, this book was a fascinating read. Each chapter is titled with the name of a rose, and the authors tell the story of that particular rose's name. The rest of each chapter is then spent explaining the names of other roses which got their names for similar reasons. Each chapter ends up with at least a dozen rose names explained. There are chapters on roses named after Presidents, royalty, celebrities, food, sports, and saints. I had no idea that there was a world of rose creators out there, vying for the right to name their hybrid creations. It gives me the urge to create a garden based on all peace-related rose names, or a garden full of Shakespeare-themed roses. The book has a very handy index in the back, so that you can look up any rose you are curious about. This book would be a terrific gift for any garden or rose-lover.
This is the first adult book that I've read that was published in 2009, so it counts for the Pub 2009 Challenge. The 2009 Pub Challenge is to read at least nine books that are published in 2009. I never manage to stay on top of new books, so this challenge might get me to read some new ones. This one is also for the RYOB 2009 Challenge, which is "read your own books". This is also something I need help with.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Library Loot - March 18, 2009

Yay! A small week! I think I actually completed the same number of books this week that I checked out. So I'm staying even with my piles. I know that I already have two more books that are on hold for me that I will be picking up in the next week, but that's not many. So maybe I will catch up someday.
Except for one, all of this week's books were for the 999 challenge. I am reading award-winners for that one, so two of them won either Hugo or Nebula awards (now I can't remember which) and one won the National Book Award for books for young adults. The fourth book is simply one that I had on hold for so long it was about to expire if I didn't unfreeze the hold.
So here they are:
  • Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
  • Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge
  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, traitor to the nation: the Pox Party by M T Anderson
  • Consumed: how markets corrupt children, infantilize adults, and swallow citizens whole by Benjamin R Barber
I also checked out four Portland, OR travel guides, one of which is geared specifically to Portland's literary history (City of Readers by Gabriel H Boehmer). We're planning a weekend in Portland in a couple of weeks, so I'm excited to browse through these.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I had to return The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society without having read it. I almost returned The Hunger Games as well, but I decided to just sit down and read the whole thing instead. I think I can handle the late fees! And it was soooo worth it. I would have had a review up already, but school is making me a little bit brain-dead lately.
If you would like to see what others are picking up from their library, or join in the fun, head over to A Striped Armchair.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Mousehunter by Alex Milway

The Mousehunter is the story of Emiline, a mousekeeper for the richest man in Old Town. In Old Town, and the surrounding world, everything seems to revolve around mice. There are thousands of species of mice, some of which are common, some of which are only kept in the collections of the very rich. Many mice can be trained to use their natural abilities to help people - there are the highly trained Boffin Mice, who can manage mechanical controls; the dog-sized Elephant Mice who work as servers and carriers; the Powder Mouse, which can carefully carry gunpowder for use in cannons; and the Long-Eared Mouse, that turns into a frightening monster called a Grak when it is submerged in water. These mice, plus thousands more, populate the world that Emiline lives in, which is why mousekeepers are needed. Mousekeepers tend the mouse collections of others - in Emiline's case, it is the famous Isiah Lovelock's collection. But Emiline dreams of becoming a famous mousehunter, so she leaves Lovelock's employ to join the crew of The Flying Fox, run by Captain Drewshank. Captain Drewshank has just been given the task of capturing the infamous pirate Mousebeard. But as Emiline, and the rest of the crew of the Flying Fox, soon find out, not everything is as it seems in the cutthroat world of mousehunting.
This book was tremendously entertaining, and would be enjoyed by many older children, ages 10 and up. The world created by Milway is a unique one, being focused on mice as it is. Because of this it almost felt too shallow - there is no glimpse of what life is like for anyone not associated with mice. But maybe no such people exist in this world. It's hard to tell. The characters are rather shallow as well, although there is a good amount of question about who is good and who is evil, and what makes a person such. Overall this is a fun book, and is set up for a sequel, so undoubtedly we will learn more about this strange world as the story continues.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hunter's Oath by Michelle West

This is the first book that I picked up specifically for this challenge. The goal of the challenge is to read at least two books by authors who share my name, or with my name in the title. They can share first or last name, so I went with last name, at least for the first two. If I find that I'm reading any books throughout the year that also share my first name, I'll go ahead and go above my goal.
Hunter's Oath is the first book in a two-book series by Michelle West. I actually picked this book up and read it several years ago, and then I never managed to find the sequel. At some point, I sort of forgot about the book, but I would see it occasionally at the library and want to pick it up again. I am so glad I finally did. I honestly do not remember liking it this much the first time I read it, but I loved it this time around.
The Hunter Lords of Breodanir have sworn a pact with their god. The Hunter God gives his people plentiful food in both the hunt and their farms, but once a year all of the Hunter Lords and their huntbrothers must participate in the Sacred Hunt, where they become the hunted, and one of them will suffer the Hunter's Death. Not too long ago, the King refused to call the Sacred Hunt, and his people were sorely punished for it. When the Prince finally killed the King and became King himself, that year the Sacred Hunt claimed many more than its usual one life. The Hunter God showed his anger, but he also gave back to his people, bringing them out of the famine the old king had left them in. The Hunter Lords know their burden, but they are also given special gifts by the god - they have the ability to communicate with their hunting dogs, to enter the hunter's trance and become more than simply human. Each Hunter Lord must have a huntbrother, someone chosen from the common people at the age of eight - the huntbrothers keep the Lords grounded, and they share a bond that is stronger than any other. The Queen and the Hunter Ladies are the ones that truly run the kingdom, while the King (Master of the Hunt) and his Hunter Lords provide for them.
Stephen was a thief in the King's City until he was chosen by Lord Elseth to become huntbrother to Gilliam, Lord Elseth's son. But Stephen has been marked by the gods for much more. The story continues to get complicated as we learn of the world outside of Breodanir, and of the Darkness that rises. Somehow the Hunter God, and Stephen and Gilliam, are involved in the coming battle, where all of their oaths will be put to the test.
I loved this book, and I am tremendously excited to read the next one, Hunter's Death. The world that West has created is different from many other fantasy worlds, and she does an excellent job of sharing that world with her readers. The characters are also very well written. Even though you want to hit them for making stupid mistakes sometimes, you still love them all the way. This book is highly recommended for anyone who loves fantasy and is looking for an interesting read.
Another fun challenge that I read this book for is the What's In A Name Challenge. This one includes six categories to read from, all relating to words in the title. I've already read books for the building and body parts categories. This one is for the "profession" category. I feel like I'm bending each one just a tiny bit, but I think it's okay. It certainly makes the challenge more interesting.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Medieval Challenge Wrap-Up

At last, I have finished this challenge. The official end date was February 8, 2009. I think that I had only read three of my books by then. Which I think qualified for a lower level of the challenge, but not the six books I had signed up to read. The goal of the challenge was to read books related to the Medieval time period. These could be historical fiction set in that time period, non-fiction about the time, or books actually written in the middle ages. I chose to do two books from each category.
For the historical fiction books I read:
For the non-fiction I read:
And the texts actually written during medieval times:
Participating in a challenge that covers a specific time period is a great way to learn more about the time. Reading from the non-fiction and the fiction, as well as reading books written during that time really gave me some new ideas, and a greater understanding of the medieval time period.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

I have finished the books that I had set aside for this challenge! Yay! Sure, it's a month late, but I have enjoyed sticking with it. I'll have a challenge wrap-up post up soon.
For the Medieval Challenge, two of the books I read were texts that were written during the medieval period: Le Morte D'Arthur and The Canterbury Tales. I learned my lesson after the first one, and decided to go with a Modern English version for Chaucer. I chose David Wright's Modern English prose translation, written in 1964. I decided on a prose version because I really just wanted to know the stories, and if I'm reading a translation anyway, I might as well read it in prose form. As Wright points out in his introduction, it can be difficult to translate poetry while trying to maintain the poem, creating difficulties for the reader. One thing I found interesting was that for two of the tales, Wright simply gives the reader the gist of it, and does not bother including them in the book. He seems to feel that, even translated, these pieces are unnecessarily long-winded and unwieldy, and we would be better off without them. These are "The Tale of Melibeus" and "The Parson's Tale".
I was so surprised by the vulgarity, sex, and humor that were present in these tales. It was fascinating how the tales swung back and forth between morality stories about the saints and stories about wayward wives and their sexual exploits. I found some of the stories very very funny, which was another surprise. It's fantastic that even though this was written over 600 years ago, we still can find so many points of commonality. Of course, our views of women have changed (for the most part), and the overall culture's views towards God and the Church are different, but these details only make the tales more intriguing. I think it is truly incredible that we have this opportunity to read stories that give us a glimpse of what life was like centuries ago. And it is so much fun to read. Really, this is a very highly recommended translation for anyone who is considering reading The Canterbury Tales.
Reading classics is so much fun, I'm doing it for multiple challenges! This book fits right in with the Really Old Classics Challenge and the Centuries Challenge. It is also my "C" book for the A-Z Reading Challenge.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Library Loot - March 11, 2009

Ugh . . . I can't even keep my stacks of books together anymore. But truthfully, and I know I say this a lot, I will not continue to get this many books in the weeks to come. I will catch up.
So here they are:
  • Bhagavad Gita (for the Really Old Classics Challenge)
  • The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli (see above)
  • Notebooks by Leonardo Da Vinci (see above)
  • The Known World by Edward P Jones (for the 999 Challenge - its a Pulitzer Prize Winner)
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (see above)
  • Legacy of Ashes by Time Weiner (another award winner for my 999 Challenge)
  • The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan (see above)
  • Spin by Robert Charles Wilson (see above)
  • Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge (see above)
  • Octavian Nothing - The Pox Party by M T Anderson (see above)
  • The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti (I can't even remember why I had this one on hold - so sad)
  • City of Thieves by David Benioff (another one I'm not sure about, but I have it now!)
And this week I took back Graceling and The Given Day without getting to read them. So they're back on the to-read list.
If you would like to see what others are getting or participate, head over here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Amber and Blood by Margaret Weis

Amber and Blood is the third book in the post-War of the Souls trilogy in the Dragonlance series of books. This trilogy is called Dark Disciple, and it focuses on Mina, a character that was introduced in the War of the Souls trilogy. For those who know nothing about Dragonlance lore, this review is not going to make a whole lot of sense, and I feel compelled to tell you that there are series spoilers in this review.
In the last book in the trilogy we discovered that Mina was actually a god - all this time she thought the gods were working through her, but it was really her power that was working. She was created at the beginning of time as a god of Light, but as her existence upset the balance between Darkness and Light, she was put into eternal slumber. She awoke when Takhisis stole the world, which precipitated the War of the Souls. Takhisis convinced Mina to work for Darkness, and Mina never discovered that she was meant to be a goddess on the side of Light. It's no wonder that at the beginning of Amber and Blood, she goes crazy and appears as the aspect of a six-year-old child, before she became a vehicle of Takhisis' will. Amber and Blood follows Mina's journey to Godshome, where she is drawn for some inexplicable purpose. She is joined by Brother Rhys, a monk, and Nightshade, a kender (with common sense), and their dog Atta. The choices she makes could upset the balance of power in the universe, but no one seems to no what she might do.
I really only finished this book because I wanted to see how Weis would end the trilogy. The book itself was definitely not great. I enjoyed it for the Dragonlance storyline, but even that really wasn't enough to make me care about what happened. It's disappointing, because I know that Weis can do better, at least I have read better books by her and Tracy Hickman together (The Deathgate Cycle is a must read for anyone who enjoys fantasy). But the latest Dragonlance books, especially this series, have really been a let-down.
This book qualifies for a few challenges I am participating in. For the What's in a Name Challenge, it serves as the "body part" category. For the Read Your Name Challenge, it is my "A" book (now I just need J-E-S-S-I). And it is also my "W" book for the A-Z Reading Challenge - I'm reading authors a to z.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Library Loot - March 4, 2009

I did not have any library loot last week, as I was out of town, but this week I once again make up for it by adding more books to my list than I can manage to read in a week.
  • The Aeneid by Virgil (Another one that will eventually get read for the Really Old Classics Challenge)
  • Metamorphoses by Ovid (see above)
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (I have read so much about this book, I am looking forward to reading it)
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (on a Best of 2008 list, and still one of the most popular books at my library - I'm predicting now that I will not get it read before it's due back)
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman (I already saw the movie, and I loved it, so now I finally have the book to compare it to)
  • Warriors: Tigerstar & Sasha #1 by Dan Jolley & Don Hudson, created by Erin Hunter (this is a manga that covers some of the back story of a few characters in the Warriors series - should be entertaining)
So there we are - as a note, it is obvious that I do not read quite this many books every week. Maybe I should start keeping track of the books that get returned when I can't even start them before they're due back. In that vein, this last week I returned Anathem by Neal Stephenson and Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. They have both since been added to my to-read list, rather than my physical to-read stack.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Suddenly Supernatural: Scaredy Kat by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Scaredy Kat is the second book in the Suddenly Supernatural series; the first book was School Spirit. I didn't read School Spirit, but I still enjoyed Scaredy Kat. I did not feel like I was behind on the story at all.
Scaredy Kat takes place over Kat's spring break from school. She has recently turned thirteen, and with her thirteenth birthday she came in to her supernatural ability to see and communicate with spirits. When this book opens Kat has already had some experience dealing with ghosts. Now she's by herself on spring break, her best friend Jac off at a music conference, and she becomes interested in the abandoned house next door. She takes a few pictures of it, but when she loads them on to her computer, she sees something that wasn't there before: a boy looking out from one of the windows. When Kat decides to investigate, she realizes that sometimes spirits can be really scary.
I really enjoyed reading this book, and it seems like it will be a fun series. Kimmel does a great job of creating suspense for the reader. This is one of those books where almost every chapter ends in a way that makes it almost impossible to stop reading. And it is set up nicely for the next ghostly encounter in the next book. I liked the fact that even while Kat was dealing with the spirit world, she and her best friend were also dealing with being thirteen. They both had to make decisions about being their own person and relying on themselves rather than on their parents. The only difficulty I had with the book was that I felt it went into more detail about some of the supernatural stuff than was entirely necessary. Younger kids might have a hard time understanding all of the spirit world speak, like "energy work" and auras. But it's hard to say whether or not the story could be told without that. So it's a minor complaint.
This was a fun read, and would be enjoyed by older kids and middle schoolers.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The 1% Well-Read Challenge

I had read about this challenge on other blogs, and thought it sounded interesting, so I'm excited to join for 2009. The challenge begins today, and ends March 31, 2010. There are three different levels you can do it at, the first two have the challenge ending on December 31st, 2009. I will be reading 13 titles from both the original and updated lists. This is the combined list that I used to choose my books from.
For more information, head to the challenge page here.
This is my list, in no particular order (except that Ficciones is at the top, because that's the next book on my to-read pile!). There are more than 13 here, so in case I give up on one, I have another to choose from. I certainly won't be reading them in this order, so I have not bothered to number them.
  • Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
  • The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
  • The Sea by John Banville
  • 2666 by Roberto Bolano
  • Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan
  • The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay by Michael Chabon
  • The Hours by Michael Cunningham
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • American Pastoral by Phillip Roth
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virgina Woolf
  • Metamorphoses by Ovid
  • Aesop's Fables by Aesopus
Reading this list was fun, as I realized that I've read dozens of the books on there already. I like to think I'm well-read, but it's nice to have it confirmed from time to time. And it's always good to have a place to go to find classics.