Thursday, January 29, 2009

Medieval Britain: The Age of Chivalry by Lloyd and Jennifer Laing

This book is my second read for the Medieval Challenge, and the first of the non-fiction books that I have chosen to read for it.
Medieval Britain: The Age of Chivalry is laid out like a text book, and covers the time period from the Norman Conquest in the 1000's to the 1500's. Each chapter focuses on a different area of Medieval life, focusing on Britain, but also giving details about Europe at points. The chapter headings are Society; Castles; The Countryside; The Church; Towns; Trade and Communications; Science and Technology, Superstition and Medicine; Leisure and Fashion; and Intellectual and Artistic Endeavor. This gives you an idea of what information this text has to offer.
Although the information given in this book is interesting, I found it to be too broad of an overview for what I was hoping. This book is definitely a good starting point for someone looking to read more about medieval times. I will have to explore further for a book that delves more deeply into this time period, however.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Library Loot - January 28, 2009

This week brought more family planning books, another textbook, a couple sci-fi/fantasy titles, and a book that I had checked out before, but had to return without reading.
Here they are:
  • Scribes, Script and Books by Leila Avrin (for my History of Books and Libraries class)
  • Anathem by Neal Stephenson (this is a large, large science fiction book)
  • Hunter's Oath by Michelle West (for the Reading My Name Challenge, and because I wanted to re-read it)
  • Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (for the second time, maybe I'll actually get around to reading it!)
  • Before Your Pregnancy by Amy Ogle and Lisa Mazzullo
  • Fully Fertile by Tamara Quinn, Elisabeth Heller and Jeanie Lee Bussell
My stacks keep growing, and I'm not finishing books as fast right now! Ack. I'll just hope my Library Loot posts get smaller, because otherwise I'll never finish everything.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Themed Reading Challenge 2009

Okay, another challenge beginning in February, and I can't help but join. This is the Themed Reading Challenge, running from February 1st to July 31st.
The goal is to read books from your TBR pile that have a theme. These challenges have been really good for me, totally helping me get through this bookcase full of books that I own that I've never read.
There are three levels of participation, and I am joining at the lowest: four books focusing on one theme. My theme is, in one word, consumerism. The four books are non-fiction, and are in one way or another connected to the idea of consumerism or globalization.
So, here they are (in no particular order):
  • The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman
  • Branded by Alissa Quart
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  • Not Buying It by Judith Levine
I'm expecting good things. These are all books that I want to read. I've had Branded lying around for more than five years now, but I do want to read it. Yay for challenges!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reading My Name Challenge

I made a rule for myself that I would not sign up for any more challenges, with the exception of challenges that have not yet started. Hence my signing up for the Reading My Name Challenge - it begins February 1st! The goal is to read at least two books by authors who share your first name or book titles with your name in them. I decided to go with my married last name, West. It's easier to search in the library catalog, and a little more common, so I have more to choose from.

I will be reading two fantasy books my Michelle Sagara West: Hunter's Oath and Hunter's Death.
I read Hunter's Oath years ago, but at the time I was not able to find the sequel (maybe it wasn't out yet?), so now I can re-read it and finish the series! This could change, but this is what I plan on doing at this point.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Library Loot - January 21, 2009

Another fairly big library week, although this should be the last big one for awhile. So what did I get?
  • Women in Early Medieval Europe by Lisa M Bitel (for the Medieval Challenge)
  • Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (also for the Medieval Challenge)
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (I can't seem to stop reading books that will be made into movies - even though I usually hate the movies!)
  • Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman (this one was on a best of 2008 list for teens, so I thought I'd check it out)
  • The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles (I think this one may have been from a best of 2007 list for kids)
  • Developing Library and Information Center Collections by G Edward Evans (for a class, Collection Development)
  • The Book: the life story of a technology by Nicole Howard (another book for my History of Books and Libraries class)
And there you have it. I do anticipate actually getting to all of these, although I may not be able to get the medieval ones read by the time the challenge is up. But it won't be for lack of trying!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Seeker Chronicles by Betsy James

The Seeker Chronicles is the name of the series including the books Long Night Dance, Dark Heart, and Listening at the Gate, by Betsy James. These books have been in my to-read pile for months, and I am so glad that I finally got around to reading them. The series as a whole is tremendous, but I think that my favorite book of the three is the last one.
In Long Night Dance, the first book of the series, we meet Kat. Kat is the daughter of an Upslope man, a Leagueman. The culture of the Leaguemen is incredibly restrictive - singing and dancing are forbidden, women are kept covered and do not speak to strangers. Kat has taken care of her father and brother since her mother died, and she knows that she will be expected to do the same for a husband someday. Then when she is twelve she hears the Rigi's song. And her life changes. Long Night Dance begins when Kat is 15. It is a relatively short book, easy to read in just a sitting or two. I'm going to give away some of the plot in order to talk about the series as a whole, but I don't think it will change how you read the book.
The second book in series is Dark Heart, and it begins a year or so after Long Night Dance finishes. Kat discovers her mother's people at the end of Long Night Dance and travels with them to the hills where they live, in order to learn better who she is. But she does not fit in well in the town of Creek, and she struggles with their rules and rites of passage. There she also meets a young man who makes her question her love for Nall, the man she left in Downshore. Dark Heart is the story of her seeking who she is, and what she must do.
Listening at the Gate could almost be read without reading the first two books. It is much longer than either of them - three times as long probably, and contains an opening section that describes what happened in the two books that came before it. This book is the story of Kat's return to Downshore. She thinks that she has figured herself out, that she is ready to be a woman on her own terms. She leaves her family in Creek to return to Nall, the man she loves. But war and strife have come to Downshore, in the form of her father's people, the leaguemen. And the Rigi have their own war brewing. Kat and Nall must work together to try and heal their home.
Describing the plots of the books does not to much to explain how beautiful they are, how immersive to read. James is incredibly poetic, her words are a joy to read, not just for the story they tell. But the story is universal - it is of a girl who is trying to find who she is for herself, but who keeps settling for what other people tell her she is, or must be. Every time she thinks she has the answer, she is proved wrong again, and must finally learn to accept herself as the flawed human being that she is. She also must learn that everyone is flawed in some way, but that does not keep us from loving each other. The world that James creates, with all of its myths and songs and culture is very satisfying. These are books about how love and hope can bring peace to struggle and madness - highly recommended to anyone who enjoys fantasy, or a lyrical and poetic writing style.

Monday, January 19, 2009

From the Stacks Challenge Wrap-Up

The From the Stacks Challenge was a great first challenge for me, perfect for forcing myself to pick up those books that I otherwise would not have read. This challenge ran from November 1st 2008 to January 31st of this year. So I finished with a week or two to spare. The goal was to read five books that we have on our shelves at home, that we've been meaning to read but haven't managed to get to, for whatever reason. I have a lot more than five books that qualify, but I the books I chose were mostly gifts that I was given, some more than two years ago. I think it is very necessary to read the books that are given to you as gifts, because somebody obviously went out of their way to choose that book for you.
The first book that I read for this challenge was actually not a gift, but one that I picked up because I had heard so much about it. It was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. This one became one of my favorite reads of 2008 - I just loved it! And I'm so glad that I forced myself to read my copy of it. What a great way to begin this challenge!
The next book I read was also not a gift, but a signed first-edition that I had picked up for myself when I saw it on sale at the book store. It was Dragons of the Dwarven Depths by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I have to say that I do consider myself a Dragonlance fan, although not a huge one. I have enjoyed their books, but there are other series that I have loved more (The Deathgate Cycle is incredible, all fantasy fans should pick that one up at some point). This book was fun, very Dragonlance-y, but not great. Adding it to my collection of signed first editions meant more to me than reading the book itself, even after reading it.
I read Under the Net by Iris Murdoch for this challenge in December. This was a gift, one I received from my brother-in-law and his girlfriend for Christmas last year. They always choose thoughtful and interesting books, so I felt terrible for never getting around to reading their gifts. This was a fun read, very enjoyable both for the writing style and for the story.
I began the new year with another gift from J and A - Life of Pi by Yann Martel. This book is definitely on my list of favorite books now, and is probably the best book I've read so far this year. They actually got this book for me at least two Christmases ago! I can't believe I let it sit on my shelves for so long!
The final book I read for this challenge was a gift from my dad last Christmas - Crimes Against Nature by Robert F Kennedy Jr. I really enjoyed this one, and now when my dad asks me about it, I can actually discuss it with him, rather than making excuses for why I haven't read it yet!
I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for challenges in the future that are like this one. Anything that encourages me to read books that I own, rather than books from the library, is good. I still get tons from the library (just check out my Library Loot posts!) but at least my own bookshelf is not as neglected. Now I just have to figure out a way to encourage myself to read those books that I borrow from friends . . .

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Crimes Against Nature by Robert F Kennedy Jr

The subtitle to this book is "How George W Bush and His Corporate Pals are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy." There's not really much more that needs to be said about what this book is about. Kennedy has a tremendous amount of data to back up this statement, and his writing lets you know that he feels pretty strongly about it. I would say he's pissed, as we should all be. I already knew vaguely of some instances where Bush's appointments for various government positions allowed corporate interests to basically take over, but Kennedy brings to light many many more perversions of power. This is an incredibly well-researched book, Kennedy obviously went to great lengths to make sure that he had the facts to back up what he knows was happening in our government.
It would be really interesting to see what has changed in the four years since this book was written. Parts of it have an almost mournful tone: Kennedy is telling us about what the Bush administration has done so far, and he is concerned about what is going to be affected in the future. It will also be interesting to see what will change with the new administration - most of Obama's environmental and scientific appointments seem to be people who can make the necessary changes. But there is still a big connection with the corporations, and in today's politics, that seems hard to change. This is an interesting factual read, although much has probably changed since the book first was published.
I read this book to finish up the From the Stack Challenge, and it also qualifies for the RYOB Challenge, since they're pretty much the same thing. I am also using this book for the Read Your Name Challenge. For reading my name, I am doing my full first name - Jessica. So this is my "C".

Friday, January 16, 2009

The News From Paraguay by Lily Tuck

This National Book Award Winner is historical fiction that takes place mostly in Paraguay, in the 1860's. The story mainly follows Ella Lynch, the young, beautiful Irish woman who comes home with the president's son after his trip to Europe. It is difficult to say whether or not Ella and Franco actually love each other, but they do stay together, though never marry, throughout the fifteen years that Ella is in Paraguay. During those fifteen years Ella gives birth to seven children, five of which live to be teenagers. Franco's father dies, giving him the opportunity to take control of the country and embroil it in a seemingly senseless war against the surrounding countries. Franco becomes a dictator, forcing his people to give up everything for his pointless war, becoming more and more paranoid, arresting and killing people for no reason. Ella continues to support him, more because she doesn't know what else to do, than because she actually believes in the cause. She considers leaving many times, but always stays, until the war has destroyed the entire country, killing almost all the men, including Franco himself.
I really enjoyed reading this book, although it wasn't necessarily due to the story. The book is written in a very interesting way - we are given brief glimpses of parts of the characters' lives, usually in short sections that are only a handful of paragraphs or less. This makes the story feel like it is moving very quickly. Tuck does not just focus on Ella and Franco, either, but gives us pictures of many of the other characters, major and minor, and leaves it up to the reader to make a whole story out of it. Her choices of what to show about each character are very deliberate - some of the characterizations seem rather shallow at first, but get deeper as we get more glimpses of them. This is one of those books that is more interesting to read for the way it is written, rather than for the story itself.
About the story - it is about real events, Ella and Franco did exist, as did many of the other characters in the book. I always find it fascinating to learn about history in this way, and also to learn about what came from history and what came from the mind of the author. In this case, events of the war are not particularly well documented, and many of the minor events were never documented. But the book is obviously well researched, and I think that Tuck does an excellent job of describing Paraguay during the 19th century. In the Author's Note she quotes a friend who says, "Nouns always trump adjectives, and in the phrase 'historical fiction' it is important to remember which of the two words is which."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Library Loot - January 14, 2009

Okay, so this week was a big one too. Last week it was seven, and I said that I normally only pick up three or four, but mysteriously I had nine waiting for me this week. So here they are:
  • The Oresteia by Aeschylus - for the Really Old Classics Challenge
  • The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett - for the Medieval Challenge
  • Le Morte D'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory - also the Medieval Challenge
  • Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges - I think I picked up this one for the Martel-Harper Challenge, not sure
  • History of Libraries in the Western World by Michael H Harris - first textbook of the new year! For the class History of Books and Libraries
  • Home by Marilynne Robinson - because I loved Gilead
  • Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert - I love checking out good seasonal cookbooks
  • Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler - a little bit personal, but we are planning our family now! This one was recommended to me by my currently-pregnant cousin
  • Amber and Blood by Margaret Weis - because I love fantasy, and I'm always reading something from one series or another
Okay, that's that. Crazy list this week. We'll see how many of them I get read before having to take them back!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Robot Dreams by Sara Varon

Robot Dreams was so different from what I expected. It is a story told entirely in pictures, and as it has no words to read, it can be "read" in less than half an hour. At my library this book is shelved with the older children's materials - with the chapter books actually. This makes no sense, as not only is it not a chapter book, but it tells a different sort of story than most kid's books. The pictures are sort of childish, but I think if you're expecting a childish story, as I was, you will be surprised.
Robot Dreams is a story of friendship lost and found. Dog (obviously none of the characters have names, as their are no words) builds Robot from a kit, and they become best friends, doing everything together. Until they go to the beach, where Robot makes the mistake of getting wet. His entire body freezes up so that he cannot get back on the bus to go home with Dog. So Dog leaves, saddened and wondering how to help his friend. Unfortunately, he is unable to save Robot, and Robot gets left on the beach for months all by himself. Meanwhile, Dog tries to find a friend with which he can spend all of his time, like he did with Robot. Although the story has an uplifting and rather hopeful ending, I found Robot's fate to be rather tragic. This was a strange and enchanting little book, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a rather different sort of graphic novel.
I used this book for my first post over at the Graphic Novels Challenge blog. So far I don't really have any kind of list for this challenge - I definitely plan on reading Maus (which is sitting in my pile of books right now), and probably a Sandman book, but besides that, I have not decided. Don't worry though, I'll keep you posted!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

I picked up this book because it was on a list of best children's books for 2007. So far, this has been the best of the books that were on that list. The list is for older kids, ages 8-12, but this book would be enjoyed by younger teens as well.
Elijah is an eleven-year-old boy who was the first free-born child of the freed slave settlement of Buxton. Buxton was a real place in Canada, where freed slaves could live without fear of being taken back into slavery. It also served as a place for the Underground Railroad to deliver runaway slaves to. The settlement had strict rules of conduct, a well-regarded school, and a very strong sense of community among the residents. Elijah is a fictional character, but Curtis does an excellent job of describing what Elijah's life might have been like in Buxton.
The story begins with Elijah telling of his meeting Frederick Douglass, when he was an infant. The part of the story that no one in town will let him forget is that fact that he threw up while being held aloft by the former slave. It is little anecdotes like these that tell you what kind of community Buxton is, and what life is like there. The majority of the story takes place in Buxton, where we learn about Elijah's school, his chores, and how the community welcomes new members. It gave me chills to read about how the members of the community would ring the Liberty Bell when when they were joined by newly-free former slaves. What a place of hope Buxton must have been.
The cover of this book will tell you that Elijah learns about what it really means to be a slave in America when one of the community members steals from another, money that was supposed to be used to buy the second man's family out of slavery. But that event does not take place until the end of the book, while the rest of the story is setting up for it. One of the things that I loved most about Elijah was his voice, and how he was always trying to understand what it meant to be "growned". He has to learn fast when he is alone across the border in America, but he finds the strength to do what needs to be done. This is an excellent book that is a great read for any kid who likes adventure or historical fiction.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra

The first thing that I noticed about this book was before I even began reading it. It was originally written in French, translated by John Cullen. And the woman's name Yasmina is actually a pseudonym for an Algerian army officer. He used the name Yasmina Khadra so that he would not have to submit his work to army censors while he was still in the army. Knowing who the author of a book is is not always important when you're reading a book, but I found this detail intriguing.
The Swallows of Kabul is a story about two couples in Kabul under the rule of the Taliban. The book begins with an execution, another death that has almost no effect on anyone, as death has become so normal. War is the normality, and the Taliban has taken such control over everyone's lives that Mohsen, one of the main characters, has to convince himself that it was not always this way. He remembers being able to laugh in public, entertaining guests with his family, being happy. But he has not experienced these things in so long, they seem like the swallows of the title - they have fled with the arrival of war.
This book is a quick read. The almost 200 pages fly by. Yet it is not easy to read. It is tragic, the way the main characters' lives are torn apart by the week or so the story covers. In a sense, this is a book that mourns for all of the things that were lost because of the wars Afghanistan has endured: beauty, freedom, the ability to love, Kabul itself. It is a eulogy.
I have owned this book for awhile, but of course it took the RYOB Challenge to get me to read it. This is another book that I am using for the A-Z Reading Challenge as well (it's my "K" book). It also qualifies for two challenges that I have not yet read anything for: The Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge and the Lost in Translation Challenge. For the Well-Seasoned Reader, I have chosen books that have the name of a place I have never been in the title. And of course Lost in Translation is rather self-explanatory.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Library Loot!!

This is a fun weekly event that was thought up by Eva at A Striped Armchair. I have never really been interested in these sorts of weekly blog events before, but this one is perfect for me. I get probably 80% of the books I read for my blog from the library, and I pick up several every week. I'm not sure what day of the week will be Library Loot day. But for this week's loot, it's today!
This week I got Europe Central by William T Vollmann and The News From Paraguay by Lily Tuck, both of which qualify for the Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge and at least one of my other challenges. I also picked up Maus by Art Spiegelman and Robot Dreams by Sarah Varon for the Graphic Novels Challenge. The other three books I picked up may qualify for one challenge or another, but I didn't pick them up specifically for that. They are Heir to Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier (because I will read anything new by her), Firestar's Quest by Erin Hunter (is there something wrong with me that I love these warrior cats so much?), and Socially Responsible Investing by Amy Domini (I had this one checked out awhile ago, but had to return it without reading it - so we'll see if I get it read this time around).
Seven is a larger amount than is typical for me, I guess. I think I actually usually get three or four a week. Either way, this should be a fun way to keep track!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

To begin this review, I have to say that I am a big Geraldine Brooks fan, this being the only novel by her that I had not previously read. Unfortunately, this is not her best book.
Year of Wonders takes place in the 1600's, in a tiny mining village in England. The narrator is Anna, a young woman who has lived through the year, and helped to bury more than half the people in this town. Her lodger was the first person to die of the Plague, which takes her children and many others as well, eventually. In an effort to confine the disease, the town decides to cut itself off, allowing no one in or out, and receiving help from the neighboring towns only when that help can be left at a distance. Their efforts keep the disease from spreading any further, yet perhaps causes more deaths in their own village.
The heroic efforts of this small village come at a great cost. This book is definitely more violent than I had expected. Some of it is simply the violence of the time: witch trials, punishments for theft. But some of it seems unnecessary, although I understand that Brooks was trying to convey the madness that some of the villagers struggled with in their grief. The book is wonderfully well researched, which makes for a story that feels true. It is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the Plague, or in this time period, but it it not easy to read about what these people went through. Life was hard enough in the Medieval Period without the Plague.
This is my first review for the Medieval Challenge. I am really looking forward to the other books I'm reading for this challenge. Hopefully I can get it done by February 8th! This book also qualifies for the A-Z Challenge. As I am doing a to z authors, this book will stand for my "B" author.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose

I was honestly surprised by just how much I got out of reading this book. It's not that I expected it to be unhelpful, but the wealth of information, and the way Prose conveys it, adds up to a terrific book. In Reading Like A Writer, Prose walks us through classic works of fiction, dissecting passages and pointing out how it is that the masters became masters. In each of the chapters she tackles a different part of writing (sentences, chapters, descriptions, dialogue, etc) and shows through example how great authors used these same story features. With all of the excerpts and detailed information, you might expect the reading to be tedious and dull, or maybe at least pedantic, but it is nothing of the sort. This book was truly a joy to read, one that I would love to actually own a copy of, as it has made me a better reader.
The book's subtitle is "A guide for people who love books and for those who want to write them". I definitely fall into the first group, though not really in the second. While reading the book, it does seem like Prose is speaking to future writers more than she is to lovers of books, but the wisdom that she passes along is no less useful. I have already noticed how my reading has improved, just over the week or two that I was reading this book. I feel that I've been able to get more out of books like Life of Pi and Year of Wonders. Reading this book also helped me to better articulate what was truly missing from The Exchange. The main rule it seems that Prose sets for new writers is that there are no rules, and look to the masters as your teachers. For readers, however, I think that this book is even more invaluable. And on a final note, I thought I should mention that I have not read most of the works that Prose quotes as she makes her explanations, but the quotes that she chooses, and the way she explains them, makes it so that anyone can understand and grasp her meaning. I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

First book of the New Year! This is a wonderful book that I finished in three days. I was honestly not expecting it to affect me as much as it did, although when it was given to me, or course I knew that it had been very well received in general. I was a little bit put-off by the premise of it: sixteen-year-old Pi Patel is trapped in a lifeboat crossing the Pacific Ocean with a 450-pound Bengal tiger. But this book is about so much more than that.
The fact that the first third of the book has nothing to do with being stranded out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger is something that I think needs to be mentioned. Everything I've read about this book gives you the idea that that is the only important part of the plot. But the whole first part of Life of Pi is about Pi's life and family before the accident that strands him on the lifeboat. Pi's full name is Piscine Molitor Patel, Piscine Molitor being the name of a pool in Paris. Pi's family has never been to Paris. The fact of Pi's full name is just one of the ways that Martel does an incredible job characterizing Pi and his family. Pi himself chooses his nickname, in full awareness of the fact that it is a Greek letter that is used in mathematics. With this nickname he takes control over his life by taking control of the use of his name. Pi's father runs the zoo in their formerly French town, Pondicherry, in India. It is the 1970's, and Pi's father is increasingly concerned with the way his country is going. So he decides to pack up and move his family to Canada. Along with his family, he has made arrangements for the sale of most of the animals in the zoo, who will be coming along on the trip with them, at least as they cross the ocean.
I really can't say enough about what a wonderful story this is. Martel is an amazing storyteller, one who can make the simplest details profound, and who can make you feel like you are a part of his story. When reading this book, it is important to pay attention to how he is telling the story, as well as what he is saying. The chapter breakdown alone is something that leads you to think more about what it means to tell a story. This truly is a beautiful book that I expect is only more enjoyable the more times you read it.
This is the fourth book I've read for the From the Stacks Challenge. I got it as a gift at least two Christmases ago. So far this is my favorite read from this challenge. I am also using it for the RYOB (read-your-own-books) challenge, which is obviously very similar. I need help when it comes to reading the books that are on my shelves, as opposed to library books, so these challenges are excellent for me.
This book also qualifies for two other challenges that I signed up for. One of those is the A-Z Challenge, where I signed up to read books by authors a to z. So this is my "M" book.
The final challenge that I read this book for is the only challenge that I picked books out for ahead of time. Generally I dislike making specific booklists for challenges, but in this case, I decided to do it. The challenge is the 999 Challenge, a Librarything group challenge. The idea is to pick nine categories, and then read nine books in each category. I picked prizewinners as my categories. So one category is the Man Booker Prize, which Life of Pi won in 2002.
Here's hoping that more of my books will fulfill so many challenges.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Exchange by Inga C Ellzey

"The right murder. The wrong person. The perfect love story." So proclaims the cover of this novel, written by someone who mainly seems to have written it simply so that she can say she did. This book suffers so much from the fact the Ellzey does not seem to particularly care about producing something readable. Her author bio states that it was her dream to write a novel, and now she has. Congratulations to her for achieving her dream.
There are many reasons why this book was difficult to read: ridiculous expository dialogue, bad sex scenes, a predictable, yet not very believable plot. Jewelle is a complete work of fantasy. She is in the Witness Protection Program, which has taken her away from the oh-so-glamorous world of the medical billing industry. To try to recapture some of that excitement that her life has lost, she goes on a cruise. Immediately, every character that she meets becomes her best friend, if female, or new sexy love interest, if male. Within days she is closer to these people than she has ever been to anyone, and they all love each other dearly. So when Jewelle's identity is discovered, and she is once again in danger from the Mob, these friends will sacrifice everything to save her. I didn't even like Jewelle that much, but I suppose that wasn't the point.
It is clear that this book did not get any help from writing workshops or editors. And if it did, they were not doing a very good job. When something is described as being from a picture out of an "I-Maxx" movie, you know that both the author and the editor are not trying very hard.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 Challenges

Hello, my name is Jeska, and I'm a challenge-oholic. Yes, it's true, I have signed up for entirely too many challenges this year. When I began signing up for them, I think I thought that I would have a lot of cross-over books. I still believe that many will be crossovers, but I may be a little bit overwhelmed. Oh well, it's an awesome way to encourage reading new books. And I have a new rule for myself. I will not be signing up for any challenges that have already started, which means I will not add any more that start Jan 1st! I also typically do not sign up for challenges that require me to do a blog post specifically about the challenge. (I was even removed from a couple when they added that rule! How rude and stifling! This blog is about books, and I am not interested in doing that many miscellaneous posts.)
I have already mentioned some of the challenges that will be appearing in my blog posts. Other challenges that you will likely be seeing soon are the new Martel-Harper Challenge and the Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge. There are many types of challenges on my list, some of which are to read from a specific genre, read a specific author, and many that are kookier and harder to describe. There are the read-a-new-author or read-a-new-book challenges, and the read from your tbr stack challenges. All of these will be helping me to push the limits of my reading and discover new books and authors, and maybe even genres. I will be tracking my progress on my sidebar for each challenge. Each challenge will also be linked on the sidebar, and in the posts about the books for that challenge, so if you would like to join, please do so! I'm really looking forward to all of the great books I will be reading this year!