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Royal Bliss

Title: Doctor No

Author: Ian Fleming

Genre: Action/Suspense/Adventure

Length: Hardcover - 188

First Line of the Book: Punctually at six o'clock the sun set with a last yellow flash behind the Blue Mountains, a wave of violet shadow poured down Richmond Road, and the crickets and tree frogs in the fine gardens began to zing and tinkle.

Summary:

- Inside Flap. Kind of lame.

Doctor No had waited a long time for suitable subjects for his experiments in pain. Now he had two of them...two meddlers who dared trespass on his own island of death...two meddlers who dared investigate the disappearance of an entire secret service team...two meddlers who would now be introduced to the most sophisticated, scientifically advanced torture experiments ever devised by a twisted mind! In this spine-tingling adventure set in the exotic tropical islands of the Caribbean, the urbane James Bond rubs his well-tailored shoulders with the cool skin of a lovely nature girl-until the hideously disfigured Doctor No gathers them in as specimens for a fantastic series of experiments!

Opinion: This was a very short read. It was entertaining though... But, don't expect much from it (you would be stupid to). There are a lot of racist comments and sexism in it but you know, it was written in the late 50s so it's understandable that there would be. I wasn't bothered by it. But anyway there was a lot of building up to Bond vs Doctor No throughout but when it came down to it... "tests" were really not bad, they were interesting but didn't amount to much and they were only a few pages worth. One thing I found hilarious... Fleming decided to write a Jamican character with the stereotypical Jamican accent... fucking hilarious. The Bond girl was annoying (but they usually are anyway)... She was like a hippie/earth child. I can't really think of anything to say, if you are a fan of Bond you probably will enjoy this... if you aren't but you are open minded and want to kill time, then give it a chance? blaaahh other than that, I'm already half-way through another one.

Rating: 3/5.

Entertaining.

8/29/2009 #91
Tekla

Title: Blaze of Silver (book three in the De Granville trilogy)

Author: K.M. Grant

Genre: Historical fiction

Length: paperback - 261; +10 with the author's notes.

First Line: "There was no summer chill but Hosanna was restless."

Summary:

Gavin is dead and Will is uncertain about Ellie's feelings for him. King Richard is being held for ransom in Germany, and Will has been chosen to collect and escort part of the ransom to free him. Kamil and Will have become close, united by mutual respect and a love for Hosanna. Hundreds of miles away, the Old Man of the Mountain is plotting his revenge on Kamil, who refused (in Blood Red Horse) to kill Saladin at the Old Man's orders. When Kamil is convinced to betray Will, blood is shed and the ransom stolen. Regardless of the cost to Ellie and Hosanna, Will must race against time to save the king's life and clear Kamil's name. The pace is quick and will keep readers moving from one betrayal to the next. Full of twists and turns, this tale brings the trilogy to a satisfying, though perhaps somewhat contrived, ending.

How you found it: read book 1 and 2. gotta keep goin'!

Opinion: Holy magikarp. This book was infinitely better than the last two books. It started a smidge slow, but it picked up way fast and didn't stop until death made it's appearance. Fabulous. :D

I really have no complaints about the book. Well written, excellent plot, and a fairly quick read. All in all, quite good.

Rating: 9.5/10

nothing is perfect, right? Ellie and Will were rather emotionally stupid. XD

8/30/2009 #92
Sercus Kaynine

Title: Hunger

Author: Michael Grant

Genre: action/supernatural/survival

Length: 590 pages (hardcover)

First line of the book: "Sam Temple was on his board."

Summary: (from the front flap)

It's been three months since everyone under the age of fifteen became trapped in the bubble known as the FAYZ. Three months since all the adults disappeared. Gone.

Food ran out weeks ago. Everyone is starving, but no one wants to figure out a solution. And each day, more and more kids are evolving, developing supernatural abilities that set them apart from kids without powers.

Tension rises and chaos is descending upon the town. It's the normal kids against the mutants. Each kid is out for himself, and even the good ones turn murderous.

But a larger problem looms. The Darkness, a sinister creature that has lived buried in the hills, begins calling to some of the teens in the FAYZ. Calling to them, guiding them, manipulating them.

The Darkness has awakened. And it is hungry.

How you found the book: Borrowed it from a friend.

Opinion: Okay, this book is the sequel to a book I read a long time ago called Gone. And I mean a long time ago like two years ago, so I remembered next to nothing about the previous book besides the main concept: all people over fourteen disappear, and those left have to learn how to survive and cope with strange new powers some of them are developing.

The one thing I love about these books is the plot. It seemed so bizarre to me when I read it at first, but the author makes it very interesting. Basically, these kids are trapped in a giant dome, 20 miles in diameter, with a nuclear power plant at its center. At the very edge of this dome is Perdido Beach, a small town where most of these kids live. However, a few mile away is Coates Academy, a place for "troubled rich kids", as the book puts it. Now give about 50 of the 400 or so kids in the book a superpower, and you have the basic scenario.

This book was definitely a page turner. While the author's style has a bit more telling than necessary, it moves at a fast pace, and the scenarios the characters get into as they try to figure out how to get food, how to stave off the anti-superpower vibes that keep popping up, and, for some of them, how to resist the will of the Darkness are all very entertaining, action-packed scenes. Things are always happening in this book, and characters are always doing things. It's hard to get bored while reading this.

The book is told in third-person, but it switches POV so you can see inside most of the character's heads. The second book introduces more POV characters than the first, so I was really able to connect with some characters that I didn't really think about in the first book. The character designs aren't what I'd call genius or amazingly real (at least, they're nothing compared to the Farseer trilogy I just finished reading), but I could relate to them and I can respect their simplicity. Also, there was a very wide range of characters: characters of all different races, genders, sexual orientation, social classes, different talents, superpowers, etc., that you would no doubt be able to find someone to relate to. In fact, the reason I liked this book better than the previous one is because of the wider cast of characters. I think it set them up to be more human: the protagonist of the previous book didn't have such a center role in this one, and I could relate to him more as a person (even if he did get a little angsty at times), and it allowed more screen time for other characters and their own desires and goals and interactions and such.

Another cool thing to note: the author doesn't stereotype superpowers. Like, the "healer" character wasn't all kind and gentle, and the guy with superstrength wasn't an athlete or whatever.

There were two things that really bothered me about this book. One, a lot of the time the author would simply tell things instead of show them. Like, the protagonist and his girlfriend did not shut up about how they loved each other for the first half of the book, and there were about two religious characters that really got on my nerves because everything had something to do with God. It was only two characters, so they didn't take up too much space in this book of many characters, but still... The second part, and I warn you, this is a SPOILER, there was this part at the end where a bunch of main characters almost died, as in they were seriously injured, but then they didn't. There's a "healer" character, so this makes sense, but, I mean, five characters were on the brink there. You'd think at least one of them wouldn't have made. Ah, well, I suppose they did make some sacrifices, but I do not wish to spoil everything so I'll leave off at that. END SPOILER.

So yes, a very fun read. I'd recommend it for a trip of some sort, or just for fun. I'm definitely getting the next book when it comes out. :D

Rating: 8/10

8/30/2009 . Edited 8/31/2009 #93
Fractured Illusion

Title: Shadow of the Wind

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Genre: Mystery

Length: 478 paperback

First line of the book: "I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time."

Summary: Barcelona, 1945—A great world city lies shrouded in secrets after the war, and a boy mourning the loss of his mother finds solace in his love for an extraordinary book called The Shadow of the Wind, by an author named Julian Carax. When the boy searches for Carax’s other books, it begins to dawn on him, to his horror, that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book the man has ever written. Soon the boy realizes that The Shadow of the Wind is as dangerous to own as it is impossible to forget, for the mystery of its author’s identity holds the key to an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love that someone will go to any lengths to keep secret.

How you found the book: It was the RG book, and naturally I bought it. But also - I have seen The Angel's Game in the stores, which interested me, and regardless of it being RG Book or not, I think I would have eventually made my way to this book because of the angel's game (prequel).

Opinion: There are good and bad things about this book. It's going to be a bit hard to review it, considering how critically acclaimed it is and generally loved. But I still do wish to address some issues...

The portrayal of women were a constant annoyance of mine. They are spoken of as if they were mystical creatures. They always needed saving. They were always mysterious, attractive, and there just for being in a love triangle (because everyone has to have at least two men in love with her, don't cha know?). As a woman, I can't say my gender is that appealing, and so the mystification of it was just flat out tiresome. Women were basically in the book to add trouble by denying love, marrying or getting pregnant. Sometimes all three. No, I wish I was generalizing but alas I am not. The only woman who was not part of this was Fermin's chick, but she was already old and stuff, so who cares. Also, the (male) characters kept adding these "wisdoms" regarding women that somehow always applied to every female creature, ever, and this just enhanced my image that the women were flat. "Never do X to a woman, she will never blabla", "all women like Y", etc. You get it, right? And this was a major issue, because these women kept stealing the spotlight, and thus remind me what sad excuses of characters they were.

The writing. There are several retelling from several people, but they all had the same overall tone as the book had. There was never a real shift in expression.

The main character. Daniel Sempere. What a douchebaggy lametard. That's all I have to say regarding him, really.

The good things;

The plot. Excellent. Especially the last hundred pages! Oh my, the last hundred pages are the reason I would recommend it. Very exciting stuff! Do read! Lovely ending, lovely! It's all a really well woven web.

My favorite characters. One is Fermin, for his loyalty, his suffering, and his good spirits. The other is Carax, for being sort of larger than life - a myth or legend, almost. He definitely interested me, even if I didn't want to be interested in him (because so many already were haha).

The way things slowly unfolds. You think you know something, then BAM. Guess you didn't, squirt. Guess again!

In conclusion - it has good and bad points. Would I read it again? Only selected parts.

Rating: 3.5/5

Rating means: Torn between liking and really liking it.

8/31/2009 #94
Howle

Title: Tropic of Cancer

Author: Henry Miller

Genre: Not really sure. Somehwere between transgressive, to maybe more philosophical. In some ranges it's a comedy. It's very difficult to confine it in a genre

Length: Around 300 pages.

First line of the book: Don't have the book on me, and I don't feel like pirating it just to fill this out.

Summary:A moody, destitue American stumbles through poverty-striken Paris in search of food, money and sex. Very graphic novel. This novel doesn't have a linear plot. It is more of a collections of very abstract impressions made by Henry Miller. Some what biographical to his life. The stories aren't really seperated and flow one into another, which makes the book a bit of a difficult read. The mood of these anecdotes range from desperation in the face of poverty, comedic experiances, portraits of other characters, and deep philosophical revelations.

How you found the book: Browsing through time's 100 best novels in the English language. This one sounded like a cool read.

Opinion: Absolutely love it. You really have to get Miller to enjoy his work. His writing tends to be very abstract, almost to the point of incomprehensible. So once again, this is a bit of a difficult read. Also, very profanity ridden. However, I fell inlove with the protagonist and the rest of the impeccably developed characters. Each one is a little gem.

His use of imagery is quite astounding. And in some parts, it's a fun read. Its also so multifaceted. In other parts, the phlosophcal revelations he undergoes really canged my life. I didn't think the ending was too strong, but I'm planning on rereading it. Definitely one of my favorite works. So, if you have a bit of dark attitude, and a tendency for promiscuity, I really advise you to check out this work.

A very modern novel, and as far as I can tell, very unique for its time period.

Rating: 9/10

Reason: Great work. Loved it.

9/2/2009 #95
The Jab

Title: Everything is Illuminated

Author: Jonathan Safran Foer

Genre: Novel, Fiction, Drama, Comedy

Length: 288 pages

First lines of the book: My legal name is Alexander Perchov. But all of my many friends dub me Alex because that is a more flaccid-to-utter version of my legal name.

Summary: (From the back cover) With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man--- Also named Jonathan Safran Foer-- sets out to find the woman who may or may not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war; an amorous dog named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior; and the unforgettable Alex, a young Ukranian translator who speaks in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past.

How you found the book: My favorite band is Gogol Bordello. I was delighted to find that the colorful lead singer, Eugene Hutz, starred in a movie called Everything is Illuminated with Elijah Wood. I got the movie as fast as I could and I absolutely loved it. Top ten movies for sure. As my recent trip to Costa Rica grew closer, I knew I needed something to occupy my time on the plane and many many bus rides (even though the scenery worked just as well). The library's copy was completely lost and I had no time to pick up the book. I came home from work that night to find that my family had went to the mall and picked up Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. I was thrilled.

Opinion:

The book was thrilling. I had read Foer's other novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and this one was just as good. Foer is a master of the unreliable narrator. In EL & IC, Foer used a nine year old child. In Everything is Illuminated Foer uses narrator and speaker of broken english, Alexander Perchov. The book consists of three main mediums: Alex's book about his "Very Rigid Search", Bits and pieces of Jonathan's (The character, not the author) novel and letters from Alex to Jonathan. The letters serve as a sort of update to tell how everyone had changed after the very rigid search. Alex is a truly loveable character. His stumblings in the english language add so much realness to the book. He's got a big heart and he's one of those characters that you miss after you're finished reading. The story itself is captivating. Reminds the reader and the characters just how terrible people can be. The only thing I didn't like about the book as a whole, was Jonathan's novel. It's strange and I suppose I could've tried harder on it, but I didn't realize until halfway through the book that it was Jonathan's novel. I skipped a lot of novel sections because they weren't important to the main story whatsoever. I'll go back and read them some day.

Rating: 9.9 out of 10

For this book to have kept my attention while rolling through the hills of a tropical country, is a feat in itself. This is one great book. Foer's a superb author and I highly recommend this book.

From the critics' mouths:

"Not since... A Clockwork Orange has the English language been simultaneously mauled and energized with such brilliance and such brio." -- Francine Prose, New York Times Book Review

"Read it, and you'll feel altered, chastened-- seared in the fire of something new." -- Washington Post Book World

"Maybe two or three times in a lifetime, a book transcends its genre to become experience. Everything is Illuminated is an event of this order." -- Baltimore Sun

9/2/2009 #96
The Jab

It's nearing the third anniversary of the day when nature virtuoso Steve Irwin was fatally wounded by a stingray. I miss him a lot. To think that one of the truly good people in the world isn't out there anymore, it still hurts. A lot. I grew up with Steve. I never met him and I never will. But through his many many broadcasts, I feel like I know him. And of course, I can't help to think of his two young children and his wife. I can't imagine what that must be like. I feel obligated to do this review and if one person reads Steve & Me, I'll feel accomplished. RIP, mate.

Title: Steve & Me

Author: Terri Irwin

Genre: Biography/Memoir/Love

Length: 263

First Lines of the Book: The name of the zoo was the Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park. As I crossed the parking area, I prepared myself for disappointment.

Summary: (From Front Inside Flap)

When Terri Raines was twenty seven years old, she took a vacation that changed her life. Leaving behind her wildlife rescue work in Oregon, Terri traveled to Australia and there, at a small wildlife park, she met and fell in love with a tall, blond force of nature named Steve Irwin. They were married in less than a year, and Terri eagerly joined in Steve's conservation work. The footage filmed on their corcodile-trapping honeymoon became the first episode of The Crocodile Hunter, and together, Steve and Terri began to change the world.

In Steve & Me, Terri recounts the unforgettable adventures they shared -- wrangling venomous snakes, saving deadly crocdiles from poachers, swimming among humpack whales. A uniquely gifted naturalist, Steve was first and foremost a wildlife warrior dedicated to rescuing endangered animals-- especially his beloved crocs-- and educating everyone he could reach about the importance of conservation. In the hit TV shows that continue to be broadcast worldwide, Steve's enthusiasmlives on, bringing little-known and often-feared species to light as he reveals and revels in the wonders of our planet.

With grace, wit, and candor, Terri Irwin portrays her husband as he really was-- a devoted family man, a fervently dedicated environmentalist, a modest bloke who spoke to millions on behalf of those who could not speak for themselves. Steve & Me is a nonstop adventure, a real-life love story, and a fitting tribute to a man adored by all those whose lives he touched, written by the woman who knew and loved him best of all.

How I Found the Book:

Being a Steve fan, I knew I was obligated to read this book. My mom was actually able to get it from a local crossing guard. A few days into reading it, a friend of my gave me her copy, because it had been cheap and she had no intention of reading it. Mistake. I gave the borrowed copy back and kept on going.

Opinion:

Terri Irwin is no writer. That's for sure. But I don't care. I was just as attached to this book as any other professionally drafted work on the shelves. I cried like you wouldn't believe through this book. It had been a year after Steve had passed. There's such a variety of stories in the one book. We all know Steve as a fun guy who loved animals, but Terri gives a very accurate (of course) insight into what Steve was really like. It showed him as a father, and a lover, and a man. I learned a lot about Steve. There are funny anecdotes (Like when Steve thinks he ran over a bearded dragon, because I know exactly the feeling of thinking you nailed an animal) or the very serious ones such as Terri's story about Steve's run in with a half dozen of arrogant drunks. The book as a whole was such a humanizing look as such an iconic legend. Read it. Seriously. The book's got some other great features. It has a foreword and a condolence from some lady. It's also got some very nice pictures ranging from Steve's childhood to the family's last trip together. In the back, there's a glossary of Australian terms that Terri uses throughout the book, which was very helpful.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Rest in peace, again, Steve...

9/2/2009 #97
Sercus Kaynine

Title: Kidnapped

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson

Genre: adventure/historical fiction

Length: 250 pages

First line of the book: "I will begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning early in the month of June."

Summary:

Being Memoirs of the Adventures of David Balfour in the Year 1751.

How he was kidnapped and cast away; his sufferings in a desert isle; his journey in the wild highlands; his acquaintance with Alan Breck Stuart and other notorious Highland Jacobites; with all that he suffered at the hands of his uncle, Ebenezer Balfour of Shaws, falsely called.

How you found the book: This is a fun one! This book was given to me by a friend, who bought it at an antique shop, so the book is uber old. The date inside the cover says 1932, but there's no official cover page so that could be the date it was printed or the date it happened to change hands.

Also a note of interest, inside the book I found a newspaper clipping from a Texas newspaper from 1932. It showed the election results of that year (the year Roosevelt was elected). The newspaper name was the Big Spring Texas Daily Herald, and when I googled it apparently it still exists.

Opinion: This was definitely a classic adventure tale. The feel of this book was classic and gung-ho- although it starts a bit slow, one the actual kidnapping for which the book is named takes place, the story goes into a wild adventure mode. Sailing, shipwrecks, and swordfighting play a large part, and so does, surprisingly, the political status of the characters.

I found myself loving both the main characters of this book: David and Alan. David because he was so true to himself, even if he could get whiny at the end, and I could appreciate his personality, and Alan because of his charisma. It's been a long time since I've seen a hot-tempered character pulled off that well. Truly, though, I could appreciate all characters of the book: although some of them didn't play large roles or weren't too notable, there were no annoying or weak characters present.

Also, although there are some historical inaccuracies present, as the author mentions in the dedication, Stevenson used the conflict of the era to his advantage and made the book seem more grounded and the characters more real. For example, Alan's position as a supporter of the French king over King George of England made a huge difference in the way the story played out.

Although it was written in the nineteenth century, the language was surprisingly easy to read and the pace wasn't so slow, either- I imagine the book would've been lightening-fast pace way back when. Sometimes it could be hard to understand or drag on, but for the time it's understandable. As it was, I appreciated this little old book.

Rating: 4/5

9/3/2009 #98
Sercus Kaynine

Title: 'Salem's Lot

Author: Stephen King

Genre: horror/supernatural

Length: 631 pages

First line of the book: "Almost everyone thought the man and the boy were father and son."

Summary:

Stephen King's second book, 'Salem's Lot (1975)--about the slow takeover of an insular hamlet called Jerusalem's Lot by a vampire patterned after Bram Stoker's Dracula--has two elements that he also uses to good effect in later novels: a small American town, usually in Maine, where people are disconnected from each other, quietly nursing their potential for evil; and a mixed bag of rational, goodhearted people, including a writer, who band together to fight that evil.

How you found the book: Don't really remember. Bought it from a bookstore.

Opinion: I had a really hard time getting into this book. Although it is mainly a horror story, there isn't a lot of scariness in the first part of the book. There were chunks and pages going on and on about normal life in the Lot, and this put me off because I, like any other person, expected to find the book, I don't know, at least somewhat creepy. Besides a smattering of random happenings the book didn't start to pick up until about halfway through. Given this, it took me a while to really be able to get into the book and I found myself putting it off for long periods of time, and forgetting the names of most of the characters and the overall impressions they left on me. I think this is what held me back from truly enjoying the book.

Once the book did pick up, though, about halfway through, it managed to live up to its reputation. I read through the last two hundred pages in a single day, while the first half had taken me weeks.

Overall, though, I thought King spent too much time describing the normal lives of the townsfolk and on things that happened in the daytime. Although it was eerie to see how the little town died slowly and without the full comprehension of most of the townspeople, the book tended to drag too much for my taste and I think it could've been a full one hundred pages shorter at least and still have retained a full effect.

A haunting novel, but it didn't have the full-scale horror I was expecting and moved too slowly for me.

Rating: 3/5

9/6/2009 #99
deefective

Title: The Catcher In The Rye

Author: J.D Salinger

Genre: Bildungsroman (Coming of age)

Length: 214 pages [paper back]

First line of the book: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Summary: The Catcher in the Rye is a 1951 novel by J. D. Salinger. Originally published for adults, the novel has become a common part of high school and college curricula throughout the English-speaking world, it has also been translated into almost all of the world's major languages. Around 250,000 copies are sold each year, with total sales of more than sixty-five million. The novel's antihero, Holden Caulfield, has become an icon for teenage rebellion and defiance. (Wikipedia)

How you found the book: I read it last year and I fell in love with Holden and now this year we have to read it for a class but I wanted to leave a review before I had to completely dissect and disinfect it.

Opinion: Apparently, a lot of people don’t like this book. I asked a bunch of my friends who’ve read it already and they all pretty much say the same thing; they didn’t get it. I’m just wondering “Why the hell not?” I actually loved it. Not only is the voice of the main character, Holden, full of wit and charm, but you can really tell that this is one smart kid. DAMN, I loved his character. He had so many dimensions to him that made me want to praise the book gods for the genius that is J.D Salinger. Also, his interaction with other people was always amusing. The situations he got himself into were a wonderful way to show off even more of his fascinating personality. I also found that he was actually a pretty likable character. As much of an anti-hero that he is, I couldn’t help but not only identify with him but sympathize with him as well.

One of the many criticisms I keep hearing about this book, though, deals with the narration. People say that he jumps all over the place and he drones on about nothing but I think that’s what makes this such a great read. You don’t usually see this kind of narration. Actually, you barely see it at all. He’s talking to us as if we were one of his friends and he’s telling us and uncensored version of his story. I think that helps to create a deeper understanding of the person that is Holden. Also, the content of his narration was wonderfully written. All the little things he says just add to the complex pieces of his character.

Another thing, there isn’t really a plot. This was one more criticism that I kept hearing. The story is basically a series of events that happens with no real point, no real climax and no real structure. But I loved that about it. It seemed meaningless but if you look under all that, you see a sort of fragmented kind of plot mixed up in the scheme of things. Kind of poetic in a way.

The only bad thing I have is that I found that the ending came too soon. I would’ve liked to see a bit more of the story. Although, I did adore the ending scene with Holden and his sister. Incredible writing, really. I also didn’t like the ambiguity surrounding where Holden was telling his story from. I think that could’ve been clearer and it would’ve given the reader a better idea of the big picture.

I get that sometimes this book can seem a bit overrated but really, it’s a good read.

Rating: 9/10 - La-la-laved it. I could actually consider reading this book over and over again

9/7/2009 . Edited 10/22/2009 #100
Royal Bliss

Title: From Russia, With Love

Author: Ian Fleming

Genre: Action/Adventure

Length: 191 (hardcover)

First line of the book: "The naked man who lay splayed out on his face beside the swimming pool might have been dead."

Summary: (from inside flap) "SMERSH sets a trap to catch 007 in Istanbul. But the plan backfires when the bait--a beautiful Russian girl--falls in love with Bond. In an incredibly suspenseful climax, only one escape route is open to Bond and the girl. Now, under the arc-lights, the long-chassied German locomotive pants quietly with the labored breath of a dragon. Wisps of steam rise from the couplings between the carriages and die quickly in the warm August air. Only Track No. 3 and its platform throb with the tragic poetry of departure. The trains on the other lines of Istanbul's main station are engineless and unattended--waiting for tomorrow. James Bond gazes vaguely at one of the most romantic signs in the world: Orient Express and underneath, Istanbul--Thessalon--Iki--Milan--Paris. His eyes go to his watch. His hand takes out a handkerchief and wipes his face. Where is the girl? Has she been caught? Had she second thoughts? Had he been too rough with her last night, or rather, this morning? Meanwhile, as perspiration beads on Bond's anxious face, another passenger boards the train--a SMERSH agent trained for years to perform only one task: kill Bond!"

How you found the book: Library. Adult fiction section marked "F FLE"...

Opinion: I started reading this book and got about 30 pages in and then stopped because I had college crap to do. I found those first 30 pages to be damn interesting (focused on the hitman and his background). But anyway, I hadn't touched the book until recently... when I got the best idea in the world. To sum that up: I have been high every night since I have been back in college, when high I like to find entertaining things to do... like watch a movie, tv show, play video games, have an in-depth conversation with a friend or wander around outside. Anyway as I was getting my laptop to watch stuff on, I saw "From Russia, With Love" on the floor. Then I thought, reading right now is either the best idea or the lamest idea in the world.

BUT HOLY SHIT. It was intense. The mission James Bond was on was a little shady, as for the reason the Russians targeted him. But, with this genre, one isn't expected to be mindfucked, they are expected to be entertained. And I was damn entertained. James Bond has many layers. Majority of which are very stereotypical but really fit in with how men these days think they should act/be. Very interesting considering that this was written a very long time ago and still it has held on over the years. Bond is very much a "man's man", but semi-naive and kind of a dumbass (throughout the book). The whole setup of the train was very suspicious but well played out, I'm still not entirely sure if what I believe about it is true or not, if it is...clever. The girl, Tatiana, wasn't exactly the airhead that most Bond girls are. She had an agenda and stuck with it 90% of the time, the movie version of this book did her no justice. Sure, she slipped up, but seriously, if some apparently attractive secret agent came to seduce me... yeah, I would let that happen.

Anyway! Fleming did an amazing job characterizing Grant (SMERSH agent/hitman). I was surprised he actually focused on him in the first half of the book rather than Bond. But it was a plus since the reader was actually able to see where he was coming from and the kind of cold-calculated freak he was. I also liked that he was socially inept, he was a very efficient killer but a dumbass everywhere else. It sounds very cliche but it worked with the way Fleming wrote it. He was very well drawn out. I couldn't wait until Grant met up with Bond. The only thing that turned me off of this was Fleming decided to have Grant explain what his mission was to Bond. Why the hell was that necessary? Lame. In any case, I found myself actually hoping that Bond would die, no matter how cool he was, Grant was cooler. The overall ending was kind of a cliff hanger, but setup nicely for the next edition...

Apparently this book was on the top ten list of President John F. Kennedy, the only piece of fiction on his list. Even though I enjoy playing JFK Reloaded a few times a week, I can't help but think he had decent taste after reading this book.

Rating: 4.5/5

It would definitely be a 5 if this was actually in the book: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jEubPVLPqA ohmygod

9/7/2009 #101
Fractured Illusion

Title: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

Genre: Spiritual | Adventure | Fable

Length: 185 pages (paperback)

First line of the book: The boy's name was Santiago.

Summary: The Alchemist is the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. From his home in Spain he journeys to the markets of Tangiers and across the Egyptian desert to a fateful encounter with the alchemist. The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories have done, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, above all, following our dreams.

How you found the book: Like most books on my shelf - there was a sale, and I couldn't help myself ;_;

Opinion: You know, this book, it didn't start out too shabby. The writing was all fairy tale-esque. Santiago is not referred to as Santiago, but he is called "the boy", and that's how the rest of the cast are "named" too - after what they are. I found this interesting. Also he was a shepherd and that was kind of interesting, even though he kept bringing up all the things the sheep that taught him, which made me go sort of "dude you need to talk to them humans, boooy". But whatever.

But by the time I reached page 100, I couldn't take it anymore. It was too over the top. Everything was telling. Okay, exaggeration. But an alarmingly large part of the majority of the writing was telling.

There were other problems too.

For one, I have sort of given up regarding these spanish speaking men and their depiction of women (because of this guy and Zafon). Haha. Yeah. I am awesomely prejudiced. XD The one woman we get to see in this story constantly stereotypes herself, and is stereotyped by the other cast members. "I am a woman of the desert, therefore I am 1, 2, 3, aka, I am not original one bit, blabla". Yeah that's how it sounded to me.

This story is about following your dreams. Which is fair enough. It is also about faith. Which is also fair enough. But...how do I put this? The preaching became too much, everything works out so swell all the time, and what do you know? The universe works for you! Literally. It wants you to have whatever it is you want! (whether you be a pedophile, rapist, murderer...ahem...but that the book doesn't bring up, of course, but that's how it is). If you want something, the universe wants to make it happen for you, basically.

You want to know what that reminds me of?

You do?

Then click the goddamn link (4:30 and forward)

Did you click it?

Did you see what a freakishly freaky cult that is?!

Holy crapola, I swear, this book is their bible! It must be! It is like some people read this book ten years ago and thought, "damn I like this idea! Lets make it our belief!" And BAM. There you have it. That should put some perspective on things.

Review in one word: Yawn.

Rating: 1/5

Rating means: I did not like it. Too preachy.

9/10/2009 . Edited 9/10/2009 #102
Sercus Kaynine

I'm 99 percent sure we're allowed to do plays, so here it goes...

Title: Cyrano de Bergerac

Author: Edmond Rostand

Genre: play/romance/humor

Length: 227 pages

First line of the book: "THE PORTER: Holloa there! Fifteen sols!"

Summary:

November 17, 2006: Cyrano De Bergerac is a French play written by Edmond Rostand. It is a classic, romantic, tragedy, set in 17th century France during a time of war with Spain. It tells a story of unrequited love between a man named Cyrano, who has a genius for poetry, and an extremely large nose, and the lovely and beautiful, Roxane(sic) . Cyrano loves his cousin, the beautiful Roxane, but Roxane thinks she is in love with another, the young and handsome cadet, Christian.

How you found the book: I read it in my English class.

Opinion: I'm not a big fan of plays, but I rather liked this one. Cyrano was such a humorous and smart character; I totally fell in love with him. All the characters in the book worked rather well together, it seemed, and the result was an amusing yet somewhat sad tale.

It seems to me that romance plays all have a certain point somewhere around three fourths of the way through the book where they have a WTF?!? moment. Such WTF?!? moment likely screws everything up and leads to death and sadness, blah blah blah. For example, in Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is all happy about marrying Juliet and BAM he kills Tybalt and is exiled and blah blah blah. There was a WTF?!? moment in Cyrano, as well, and it seemed kind of anti-climactic to me. It was the big showdown- who would the lovely lady choose? And then BAM. WTF?!? moment. O_o

All in all, though, it was an entertaining and enjoyable play. In my personal opinion, Roxane and Christian needed some smart juice because they both acted very dense throughout the entire play, but then again I suppose that was the point, so whatever. Cyrano was such an epic character. He and all his lines are made of awesome. :P

Rating: 4/5

9/15/2009 . Edited 9/20/2009 #103
Sercus Kaynine

Title: Wicked

Author: Gregory Maguire

Genre: fantasy/other stuff. Not sure how to classify it. :/

Length: 519 pages in my snazzy small paperback version

First line of the book: "A mile above Oz, the Witch balanced on the wind's forward edge, as if she were a green fleck of the land itself, flung and sent wheeling away by the turbulent air."

Summary:

When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her archnemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about the land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West--a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

How you found the book: Went in. Saw it. Bought it. Yeah.

Opinion: This book's been all the rage around here for a while (well, the play has been, anyway), and I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

First off, the writing in the book was excellent. Maguire knows what he's doing. The way the story was told and the style in which is was written could've made this a great book just with those two factors.

Second, this is definitely a book that you have to take a minute to think about it. Maguire does not underestimate his readers and is subtle about everything. This made the book enjoyable but was almost a bother sometimes because I had to stop reading or reread something to think about the bigger picture or message. At the same time, though, this is what made the book a masterpiece because there was a hidden layer to things... you just had to stop and think about it.

The characters are very believable as well. The only problem I had with them is that I had to keep reevaluating my perceptions of them because the book covers all of Elphaba's life in pieces and the characters change over time. Some characters almost disappear completely from the book after they appear and others don't appear until the very end.

Although the way the book was divided into parts the split seven or eight years apart at times could be hazardous because I had to keep rethinking my view of the world, at the same time it made me feel that I was learning about Oz and the nature of the world at the same time Elphaba was.

I'm definitely getting Son of a Witch next.

Rating: 9/10

9/23/2009 . Edited 11/28/2010 #104
Starleaf

Title: Summer

Author: Edith Wharton

Genre: Tragedy / Romance

Length: 144 pages (Thrift Edition--the actual story is about 127 or so)

First line of the book: "A girl came out of Lawyer Royall's house, at the end of the one street of North Dormer, and stood on the doorstep."

Summary: Considered by some to be her finest work, Edith Wharton’s Summer created a sensation when first published in 1917, as it was one of the first novels to deal honestly with a young woman’s sexual awakening. Summer is the story of Charity Royall, a child of mountain moonshiners adopted by a family in a poor New England town, who has a passionate love affair with Lucius Harney, an educated man from the city. Wharton broke the conventions of women’s romantic fiction by making Charity a thoroughly independent modern woman—in touch with her emotions and sexuality, yet kept from love and the larger world she craves by the overwhelming pressures of heredity and society. Praised for its realism and honesty by such writers as Joseph Conrad and Henry James and compared to Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Summer remains as fresh and powerful a novel today as when it was first written.

How you found the book: Had to read it for my Intro to Literary Study class.

Opinion: I loved it. It had just enough romance to feed my fluffy romantic side, but little enough for those who aren't into romance. It's captivating, and although it's considered to be more of a love story, it's short and sadly realistic enough for most people to enjoy, I think.

Rating: 9/10(Would be a 10/10 if it ended all happily-ever-after as I wanted it to. :P)

9/29/2009 . Edited 9/29/2009 #105
Starleaf

Title: The Bluest Eye

Author: Toni Morrison

Genre: Tragedy, I guess.

Length: 206 pages in my paperback version.

First line of the book: "Nuns go by as quiet as lust, and drunken men and sober eyes sing in the lobby of the Greek hotel."

Summary: It's about a young black girl, Pecola Breedlove, who wishes for blue eyes. She's seen as ugly because of her skin, eyes, and hair, and believes that beauty is in blond hair, blue eyes, and creamy skin. The story follows the young girl's deterioration as she obsesses over this, focusing not only on her but the people around her who influence her. Sorry, I didn't want to type out the summary from the back of the book and I'm not very good at giving non-spoiler summaries!

How you found the book: Had to read it for my Forms of Fiction class.

Opinion: I was originally very hesitant to read it, but I really had no choice. I actually liked it a lot, much to my surprise; I generally don't like these kinds of books about race issues, seeing as they're upsetting or sometimes a bit boring, in my opinion. But it was a quick read, at least at face value (there's a looot under the layers of this book), and the story was sad but interesting. I love the way Morrison focuses on different characters, expanding on each of them and, in a way, showing us what made these characters the way they are, so that in a way you can sympathize with them and justify their actions (but, as you read, you'll realize that some of them are nowhere near justifiable). The ending of the book was actually wonderfully written in my opinion, but then again, I'm interested in psychology and the like. I wont go into detail as to what happens, but a lot happens to this poor little girl, and although it's upsetting it's a great read. The only thing I can say about it is that because she pays so much attention to the other characters, Pecola and her story seem somewhat underdeveloped in some areas.

Rating: 9/10

9/29/2009 #106
Starleaf

I'm going to do one of these for each book I have read / have to read for this semester. Haha.

Title: Heart of Darkness

Author: Joseph Conrad

Genre: I'm not even sure, to be honest. I'd put it under General if posting it on FP.

Length: 77 pages; pretty short novella.

First line of the book: "The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails and was at rest."

Summary: "The story reflects the physical and psychological shock Conrad himself experienced in 1890, when he worked briefly in the Belgian Congo. The narrator, Marlow, describes a journey he took on an African river. Assigned by an ivory company to take command of a cargo boat stranded in the interior, Marlow makes his way through the treacherous forest, witnessing the brutalization of the natives by white traders and hearing tantalizing stories of a Mr. Kurtz, the company's most successful representative. He reaches Kurtz's compound in a remote outpost only to see a row of human heads mounted on poles. In this alien context, unbound by the strictures of his own culture, Kurtz has exchanged his soul for a bloody sovereignty, but a mortal illness is bringing his reign of terror to a close. As Marlow transports him downriver, Kurtz delivers an arrogant and empty explanation of his deeds as a visionary quest. To the narrator Kurtz's dying words, "The horror! The horror!" represent despair at the encounter with human depravity--the heart of darkness."

How you found the book: Had to read it for my Forms of Fiction class.

Opinion: Eh. What can I say? A bit of a slow read for my tastes, and sort of boring. I have to read it a second time for my Intro to Literary Study class, and I will (hopefully it'll sink in a bit better the 2nd time around), but I really am not looking forward to it. Definitely not the book for me. It was really interesting to see where that line "the horror, the horror!" came from, and the last few pages were really interesting to me, but that was about it. Maybe if it were less of a dense read I'd be more into it, but the book really didn't do much for me.

Rating: 4/10. This might be a bit harsh and I'll edit this if I like it more the second time, but this is how I feel about it for now.

9/29/2009 #107
Starleaf

Title: The Turn of the Screw

Author: Henry James

Genre: Horror?

Length: about 85 pages. Another novella.

First line of the book: "The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be, I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to say that it was the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a child."

Summary: A young governess joins a household to help take care of two children, who were left in the care of their uncle, who cannot be bothered with them. She starts to see "ghosts" of the former governess and her tryst, a man who lived in the house, and strives to "save" the children from these corrupting souls.

How you found the book: Had to read it for my Intro to Literary Study class.

Opinion: Good, but a bit of a tough read. I like how open to interpretation it is. I'll probably read it again in the future, but it didn't stun me or anything... I just want to reread it because I didn't get much out of it; had to rush it for my deadline. I recommend it if you are into literature. If you just want a nice quick read, this won't be for you, despite the length. It could be chilling at times, but boring at others.

Rating: 6.5/10. Yeah, I had to include the half. haha.

9/29/2009 #108
Sercus Kaynine

Title: City of Thieves

Author: David Benioff

Genre: Historical/Adventure/War/Friendship

Length: 272 pages

First line of the book: "You have never been so hungry; you have never been so cold."

Summary:

Four months into the siege of Leningrad, the city is starving. Seventeen-year-old Lev fears for his life when he is arrested for looting the body of a dead German paratrooper, while his charismatic cellmate, Kolya, a handsome young soldier arrested for desertion, seems bizarrely unafraid. Dawn brings, instead of an execution squad, an impossible challenge, complete it and live. Or fail, and die.

How you found the book: Saw it. Bought it. Read it.

Opinion: Usually I avoid WWII books because the subject has been sucked dry, but this one looked interesting and Frac supported it, so I though I'd give it a shot.

This is an amazingly well-written novel, but what really pulls it off is the two main characters. They're just the crazy duo to make this book work. Although they may seem as different as night and day at first sight, as the story goes on I see more of them in each other. What they have to do and the way they pull it off, not to mention the amusing encounters and conversations they have along the way, make sure that there's never a dull moment. The other characters in the book played their roles convincingly, but these two are the main focus.

The concept is unique, as well. In the book, you see a lot of WWII's horrors firsthand, but the quirkiness and humor peppering the story give it a completely different atmosphere that I liked.

The entire book just kind of clicked. The characters, concept, and interlinking ideas just made sense. And it made a great story.

Loved it. :)

Rating: 9/10

9/30/2009 #109
Royal Bliss

Title: Ender's Game

Author: Orson Scott Card

Genre: Sci-Fi/Adventure

Length: 324 pages (Mass Market Paperback)

First line of the book: "I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one."

Summary: "Aliens have attacked Earth twice and almost destroyed the human species. To make sure humans win the next encounter, the world government has taken to breeding military geniuses -- and training them in the arts of war." (from the back of the book)

How you found the book: A friend bought me it.

Opinion: I've been told to read this book by several different people within the past year. I avoided it because it was a sci-fi novel, and I tend to think sci-fi is flaming gay. In any case, aside from several instances in this book, I forgot that it was sci-fi. I was too engulfed in the story. Card's characterization of the main character Andrew "Ender" Wiggin can be a little "mary-sue" at times, but the way it was written, it didn't matter. It was just too interesting to waste time being sidetracked by nit-picking. The book starts when Ender is 6 years old, even stating that right away, it isn't obvious he is 6. He speaks like an adult and thinks like one as well... sounds far-fetched but it furthers the whole "breeding military geniuses" plotline. BAH... anyway, this reads very easily, anyone can finish it within at least 1 or 2 days. The book doesn't focus too much on the alien aspect, it's more character based and it flows nicely, revealing a very well rounded Ender.

I was a little put off by the near-end... it seemed too hasty and some things said earlier didn't really measure out... Don't want to be too specific on the details because it is a good book and I would recommend it to a friend. But yeah... I'll probably be reading the other books in this series.

Rating: 4.5/5

If the "big battle" wasn't rushed and vague, it would definitely be a 5/5.

10/8/2009 #110
deefective

Title: Lullabies for Little Criminals

Author: Heather O’Neill

Genre: Young Adult/Adult Fiction. Close enough.

Length: 330 [paper back]

First line of the book: “Right before my twelfth birthday, my dad, Jules, and I moved into a two-room apartment in a building that we called the Ostrich Hotel.”

Summary: At thirteen, Baby vacillates between childhood comforts and adult temptation: still young enough to drag her dolls around in a vinyl suitcase yet old enough to know more than she should about urban cruelties. Motherless, she lives with her father, Jules, who takes better care of his heroin habit than he does of his daughter. Baby's gift is a genius for spinning stories and for cherishing the small crumbs of happiness that fall into her lap. But her blossoming beauty has captured the attention of a charismatic and dangerous local pimp who runs an army of sad, slavishly devoted girls—a volatile situation even the normally oblivious Jules cannot ignore. And when an escape disguised as betrayal threatens to crush Baby's spirit, she will ultimately realize that the power of salvation rests in her hands alone. (Back of book)

How you found the book: A friend of mine read it and recommended it.

Opinion: Hmm, well I’m really on the fence with this book actually. Firstly, it is a great story if that’s what you’re looking for in a book. It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It makes you outraged and keeps you laughing. Overall, it’s a good read. The part that I’m on the fence about is whether or not it’s a good book. The beginning was kind of slow for me. I understand that it was through the eyes of a young girl but I do think the author could’ve done a better job with the writing there. Doesn’t matter how old the person in the book is. Good writing should be good writing. After the first 20-40 pages, the writing started to pick up and the author was making all these sorts of metaphors and links and poetic comparisons and statements. It started to flow more and the writing just picked up and went away with the wind at one point. But then I found that it came in waves. At some points it would be amazing then at others I wondered if it was the same person who wrote the whole book. Not very consistent, so that bothered me.

As for the characters, hmm. The main character, Baby, is actually really interesting. I kind of liked her perspective on things and the way she thought and said and did things fascinated me. She was very young throughout the book and yet all these awful things were happening to and around her so that was an interesting dynamic. But besides that, the other characters were more interesting sometimes. Baby seemed dull in comparison to their personas, which is really a shame because I think she could’ve been so much more but once again, it was just the writing. I think that the author wrote her the way she thought she should’ve been written but not the way she should’ve been written, if that makes any sense.

As for content, it’s all around not that graphic but it does mention a lot of things that could bother you if you’re a more conservative person. Just a heads up.

I was kind of disappointed a bit in the story itself because the back of the page promised a story that was not like the one that I read. I expected something different, even though the actual story wasn’t that bad though. I think it was the writing again…

Anyway, I know that the book does have something special about it. I didn’t really want to put it down, even though all these little things annoyed me. This is Heather O’Neil’s first novel and I have to say it was pretty good for a first try. I have a feeling that other books by her will be better though.

Rating: 7/10. It was good but not ama-za-zing. I really wanted to like it, but oh well.

Extra, Extra:The book takes place in Montreal, Quebec. Whoot, whoot for CANADIAN authors! We be takin’ over, bitches.

10/22/2009 . Edited 10/22/2009 #111
Royal Bliss

Title: World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Author: Max Brooks

Genre: Action/Horror/noidea

Length: 352 pages (Paperback)

First line of the book: "The first outbreak I saw was in a remote village that officially had no name."

Summary: "The Crisis nearly wiped out humanity. Brooks has taken it upon himself to document the "first hand" experiences and testimonies of those lucky to survive 10 years after the fictitious zombie war. The format gives Brooks room to explore the zombie plague from numerous different views and characters. Brooks details zombie incidents from isolated attacks to full-scale military combat: "what if the enemy can't be shocked and awed? Not just won't, but biologically can't!" (part of an Amazon "summary"...)

How you found the book: My roommate had it laying around.

Opinion: The whole book is setup in an interview format. At the start of each interview the author gives a little info about the character being interviewed so the reader knows what's up. It sounds a little iffy when I explain it but the author pulled it off real well. He could have easily picked one character and centered a whole book around them. It was effective to do it his way because it showed the impact of the zombie invasion from all angles, from a doctor's view, civilian, general, and so on.

At first I wasn't sure if I liked the interview format... but shit, it just worked out, it makes me want to experiment with that kind of style. This book was a quick read but it was damn entertaining and pretty cool. There really wasn't anything scary about it.

Rating: 4/5

It's badass, but it was missing something... I'm still not quite sure what. I have recommended it to friends though.

10/23/2009 #112
Sercus Kaynine

Title: Dubliners

Author: James Joyce

Genre: historical fiction/life/satire?/other stuff, maybe

Length: 192 pages

First line of the book: "There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke." (from the first story, The Sisters)

Summary:

Declared by their author to be a chapter in the moral history of Ireland, this collection of 15 tales offers vivid, tightly focused observations of the lives of Dublin's poorer classes. A fine and accessible introduction to the work of one of the 20th century's most influential writers, it includes a masterpiece of the short-story genre, "The Dead."

How you found the book: In my English class, we read a sort quip from a biography of the author. We weren't actually supposed to read it (my teacher copied the wrong thing), and the page had a few risque details. XD Over the weekend I saw this book and remembered the author, so I decided to give it a shot.

Opinion: For those of you who haven't heard of this book, it's a collection of rather famous short stories. It was actually a clever way to organize the story because I saw characters from different stories show up again in others, although they were no longer in the spotlight.

Joyce's writing style is clear and straightforward, which can be considered a good thing, but you have to pay attention when you read it. Try to skim and you will be left staring blankly wondering what it was you just read. You must focus.

Then, although the events happening in the book are easy to understand, you feel like there's an underlying message somewhere, so you have to sit and think about what you just read, or else it will just seem like you're reading random events. Then you start think and you go, "Oh!" and slap yourself on the forehead because you just got it. Interpreted literally, Joyce's stories just seem like random events, but there are probably tons of metaphors/satires/epiphanies/etc. that can be gleamed from them when you know the history and attitude around them.

On that note, some parts of the book were confusing because I didn't understand all of the history mentioned in the story and I wasn't familiar with all the Dublin slang used.

Dubliners was a good book and you can get a lot out of it, but it takes time to read and understand. Read on a quiet day at home by yourself. Not for light beach reading. :)

Rating: 3.5/5 for the droning and making it too complicated for uneducated folks like me to understand.

10/27/2009 #113
VelvetyCheerio

Title: Bone by Bone by Bone

Author: Tony Johnston

Genre: Historical Fiction

Length: 184 pages

First line of the book: "The ghost had the liveliest eyes I had ever seen."

Summary: A coming of age story, about a little white boy growing up in Tennessee in the 1940's with a fiercely racist father. The boy, David Church, was destined from birth to become a doctor just like his father, but when he befriends a black boy, Malcolm Deeter, things change. Drastically. When Mr. Church forbids Malcolm enter the house lest he shoot Malcolm, David is suddenly thrust into bitter conflict with his father.

How you found the book: Needed something to read, thought it was different; it was nothing I ever expected it to be.

Opinion: Wow. This book was amazing from start to finish. There were times when it just had me flat out tearing up because of the childish simplicity of David and Malcolm's friendship and their struggle to stay friends. It's just about like any racial segragation type fiction book, except for the extravagent symbolism used in it.

A touching tale of a ten year old boy just growing up in a difficult time and making friends on the wrong side of the fence. He does his best to preserve his friendship with Malcolm despite his father's rules and just about succeeds, even coming up with a secret language so they could communicate when it was too dangerous to be out.

This is a story about contrasts, too. In that, there is death. The death of a white man, who's passing was celebrated with a wake and the entire town going to it; and the death o a black man, who was brutally murdered by the KKK and left out to rot in a horrible fashion. I suppose this just set the scene for the attitude and mindset of the people then.

Hate/love is another theme in the book. And let me tell you, there is a lot of hate. The character that I disliked the most was Gold Ma. She was a terrible old woman and I wished at some point in the book she would just die. Of course, she never does, but... the ending left alot up for the imagination.

At one particular scene, when David and Malcolm are making a tar baby from the tale Brer Rabbit, Malcolm says the tar baby is missing something, so he adds a belly button. Moments later, he says he wonders if that's how God gets the light inside people. I didn't undertnd this until David has a dream about the skeleton, Fats, that hangs up by his bed. Not to give anything away, but in the dream, Fats is alive, and he chants "Love!" at David as he ascends into Heaven.

That's my guess on what the light is. Who knows?

All in all, the book was great, down to the very end.

Rating: 4.5/5. I'd give it a 5, but nothing's perfect, right?

10/28/2009 #114
Sercus Kaynine

Title: Ishmael

Author: Daniel Quinn

Genre: geez... philosophy? adventure? spiritual?

Length: 263 pages

First line of the book: "The first time I read the ad, I choked and cursed and spat and threw the paper on the floor."

Summary: (from the back of the book)

TEACHER SEEKS PUPIL. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.

How you found the book: It was an assignment for my AP environmental science class.

Opinion: I loved this book. :) It was probably a personal preference thing, but I enjoyed it. The story is told in a unique, almost all dialogue way that reads well. The book doesn't focus much on character development and such, save for the two main characters, but it works well for the style of this story. I think Quinn did a really good job with explaining the message and idea he wanted to give the world.

I don't really want to give any details away, since it would spoil the book if you read it. XD Although the book is told from an evolutionist POV, I don't think it would offend anyone religious or whatever, save maybe for pages 151-184, which give Ishmael's opinion on the Book of Genesis and other such religious texts, but none of the book or the way the ideas are presented are brashly offensive.

Other than the unique ideas presented and the easy to understand way they are presented, nothing much sparkles in this book, but I don't think it has to because the way the book is written just works for it.

Also, it was... positive. It made me think and puzzle and compare and contrast and reevaluate, but it didn't make me depressed. I can appreciate that in an environmental book, you know? :)

Rating: 9/10 just because I liked it.

11/2/2009 #115
Sercus Kaynine

Title: Son of a Witch (sequel to Wicked)

Author: Gregory Maguire

Genre: fantasy/fairytale

Length: 444 pages in paperback

First line of the book: "So the talk of random brutality wasn't just talk."

Summary:

Son picks up where Maguires highly successful Wicked (HarperCollins, 1995) left off, with the death of Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West. She left behind a daughter, Nor, and Liir, who may or may not be her son. After her death, he enters into a decade of listless soul searching. He travels for a time and then joins the military, enjoying the structure it provides his life. But eventually his rearing by the Witch as well as his possible heritage catch up to him and he finds himself in demand to start a new revolution against the tyranny of Emerald City. An odd series of disfiguring murders starts occurring all across Oz. Liir discovers that the new Emperor sits behind the machinations and uses the strange killings to spread distrust among the various races of the land. Wielding Elphabas flying broom and donning her magical cape, Liir makes some small but bold gestures that help the populace of Oz and replants the seeds of hope that Elphaba spread a generation before. Son is a tighter work than Wicked, making deft use of flashbacks and varying viewpoints to create a quicker pace. And Liirs quest–both to find himself and to save the people of Oz–is easier to believe than the motivations that drove the bitter yet heroic Elphaba. A well-written, well-crafted fantasy that can stand on its own.–Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale

How you found the book: I liked Wicked, so I thought I'd try the sequel.

Opinion: 'Twas a good book, though I didn't find Liir as dynamic a character as Elphaba. Son of a Witch followed the main ideas of Wicked, though as I was reading I kept comparing the two and I usually found Wicked more likable... eventually I threw out the comparison and decided to judge the book by it's own merits and forget Wicked. So...

One of my favorite random tics about this book was the fact that Liir (and in turn, the reader) was never certain of his relationship to Elphaba. To me, it seemed it put him out of her shadow and into a world of his own creation, and I respected that. I also liked how his decisions in his early life were so different from Elphaba's.

On the other hand, the book started out really slow... I couldn't get attached to the nuns at the beginning, and Dorothy and co. didn't seem all that solid to me, though from Liir's POV, he didn't understand anything at first. I had trouble liking Candle, too, for some reason. She was just kind of, well, there.

I think that was my main problem with this book: I had trouble connecting with most of the characters, save for Liir. Maybe his army upstart friend was an exception because he had some spunk, but everyone else didn't really grab my attention. Maybe it's because Liir didn't stay in one place and keep the same friends for long. Another thing that bothered me was that Liir didn't accomplish much that he set out to do, so the book seemed roundabout-ish.

However, I did find Liir an interesting contrast to Elphaba and unique in his own right. I think his story has a lot of merit to it, and the way he manages to change himself and the world around him is remarkable in itself.

Rating: 7/10

11/16/2009 . Edited 11/28/2010 #116
deefective

Title: Annie John

Author: Jamaica Kincaid

Genre: Coming of age-like.

Length: 148 pages [paper back]

First line of the book: "For a short while during the year I was ten, I thought only people I did not know died."

Summary: Couldn't find a real summary but basically it's a coming of age novel about a girl who lived in Antigua. Her name is Annie, and the book chronicles different parts of her life.

How you found the book: Found it among a box of books someone (I forget) gave to me a while before. Apparently, this book is read widely throughout high schools in the US.

Opinion: Hmm... It's hard to really describe how I felt reading this book because in all honesty it didn't really do much for me. The writing wasn't that bad and the scenarios were believable and all but something about it was just boring. I think it's because after reading it you realize there is no plot at all. And not in the good way but in the way that makes you wonder where the rest of the book is.

The beginning was interesting enough, I guess. But then after that the story kind of drags on. The ending was painful in the sense that it was a good idea but it wasn't written properly. It could've been much better. Especially that last sentence. That just killed me. It ended like it was right in the middle of a decent piece of poetry but then the author decided "Okay, I'm just going to stop here for no reason."

As for the characters, they're alright. The main character, Annie, is weird but endearing. She's written believably but at some points I felt like the author was trying too hard to make her seem young/naive and therefore sacrificed some potentially good parts. But I do have to say that she's relateable, or at least easy to sympathize with. The author does a good job of creating that pathos for her. Also, there's this whole sort of undertone to everything she does/says/thinks that suggests she's a lesbian but at the same time it can be seen as normal child behavior. I liked the fact it could be seen in two ways but I didn't like the way the author chose to show it, if that makes any sense. We don't get to know much about the other characters but they were alright as well. Not generic enough to call cliche but not so outlandish they're not believable.

I don't know, something about the book just made me not like it. It's not that it was bad, because it wasn't. It was a good read and a good little story. But something about it felt like it was lacking and trying really hard. Maybe if I re-read it I might feel differently but I don't think I can bring myself to do that. It's just not interesting enough. Yeah, that's probably it.

Rating: 6.5/10. Meh.

11/18/2009 #117
Sercus Kaynine

Title: Motherless Brooklyn

Author: Jonathan Lethem

Genre: crime/detective/action/contemporary?

Length: 311 pages

First line of the book: "Context is everything."

Summary:

While some of us claim to have a mind-body problem, Lionel Essrog, the anti-hero of Motherless Brooklyn and a sufferer of Tourette's syndrome, has a more fundamental quandary: a mind-mind problem. It is as if he is inhabited by an army of words crazily refracted through inversions, improvisations, and profanity that occasionally succeed in mounting a coup and escape into the world, "tickling reality like fingers on piano keys." In addition to the full-time occupation of keeping his unusual disorder under control, Lionel has another problem to worry about: someone has killed his boss and he has to unravel who is responsible — that is, before he unravels into a spaghetti of fantastic nonsensical utterances.

How you found the book: Half Price Bookstore! It was only five bucks. :P

Opinion: I loved Lionel's narrative voice. It gave the story a different life, one that illuminated Lionel's crazy world, and it made the story more entertaining. This was my mian reason for enjoying it.

As a detective story, I can respect it. The "evil plot" was simple, but not easy to guess. The tale was made more confusing because the reader sees it from Lionel's point of view, where we have to first decode his language and then see how it fits into the real world.

The problem was with the pace. It seemed to move at a crawl at times, and while some of the backstory provided is crucial regarding the plot, I found it long-winded. The beginning and end moved fine, but there was a drag point in the middle.

Each character had their own quirks and ideas in this book, and I found them enjoyable to read about. :)

I'd recommend this to anyone looking for something outside the box.

Rating: 8/10

11/24/2009 #118
Sercus Kaynine

Title: The Other Queen

Author: Philippa Gregory

Genre: romance/historical fiction

Length: 433 pages

First line of the book: "Every woman should marry to her own advantage since her husband will represent her, as visible as her front door, for the rest of his life."

Summary:

Two women competing for a man’s heart… Two queens fighting to the death for dominance… The untold story of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Fleeing rebels in Scotland on Queen Elizabeth’s false promise of sanctuary, Mary, Queen of Scots, finds herself imprisoned as the “guest” of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and his indomitable wife, Bess of Hardwick. Soon the newly married couple’s home becomes the center of intrigue and rebellion against Elizabeth, and their loyalty to each other and to their sovereign comes into question. If Mary succeeds in seducing the earl into her own web of treason, or if the great spymaster William Cecil links them to the growing conspiracy to free Mary from her illegal imprisonment, they will all face the headsman. Using new research and her passion for historical accuracy, Gregory places the doomed queen into a completely new tale of suspense, passion, and political intrigue.

How you found the book: Saw it. Liked it. Bought it.

Opinion: I adored this book! It was beautifully written, and although not much happened during Queen Mary's stay, the writing was always lively and the pace stunning.

The story is told from three different POVs: Mary, George, and Bess. The three have conflicting views on what's going on, so it's interesting to see all sides of the story. I have to say I found myself siding with Bess more often than not, although I don't understand why she trusted Cecil as much as she did. Even so, I could understand the motives all of all three characters. I almost wish there was a POV for Queen Elizabeth or Cecil because I was often in the dark about why they were doing what they were doing... but then again, that might've given me a clearer view on the ignorance and thought processes of the three featured characters.

Also, Gregory managed to pull off a love triangle of sorts (and it made sense!), and now I know a thing or two about British history. God knows they don't bother to teach me this stuff in school. I feel edumacated. :)

Now, to read some other books by Philippa Gregory!

Rating: 9/10 :)

11/29/2009 #119
karma-dollie

Title: The Fairy Godmother

Author: Mercedes Lackey

Genre: Fantasy/Romance (Harlequin apparently)

Length: 417 pages (hard cover)

First line of the book: This is not the way to spend a beautiful spring morning! Elena Klovis thought, as she peered around the pile of bandboxes in her arms.

Summary: In the land of Five Hundred Kingdoms, if you can't carry out your legendary role, life is no fairy tale...Elena Klovis was supposed to be her kingdom's Cinderella--until an accident of fate left her with a completely inappropriate prince! Determined not to remain with her stepfamily, Elena set out to get a new job--and ended up becoming the Fairy Godmother for the land.

But "Breaking with Tradition" was no easy matter. True, she didn't have to sleep in the chimney, but she had to deal with arrogant, stuffed-shirt princes who kept trying to rise above their place in the tale. In fact, one of them was so ornery that Elena could do nothing but change him into a donkey.

Still, her practical nature couldn't let him roam the country, so she brought the donkey--er, the prince!--home to her cottage to teach him some lessons. All the while keeping in mind that breaking with tradition can land everyone into a kettle of fish--sometimes literally!

And so begins a whole new tale...

How you found the book: My friend, an avid reader, recommended it to me.

Opinion: At first I was afraid it was just another Cinderella story (and heaven knows there are far too many tellings of that!) but after a slightly slow and info-dumpy first chapter, the way this story becomes different from other fairytale retellings is fantastic! The idea behind The Tradition that guides every "tale" to be what it is is very unique and very cleverly used. This story basically mixes up every fairytale into one world and makes fabulous set ups for each one mentioned. It becomes a realistic fairytale.

There are some parts not involving the fairytales that are a bit predictable and the author sometimes seems to go on a tangent during descriptions. They're beautiful descriptions, bordering on purple, but once they're out of the way, they aren't repeated in as intense detail again.

The characters are wonderful. Rather than using predictable character types in a boring way, the author sort of lampshades the idea of the typical fairytale princes and princess in a humorous way. The job of the Fairy Godmothers is to keep these stories we all know by heart with the obvious endings running smoothly and to stop the dark magicians from interfering. The characters working behind the scenes of the fairytales are interesting and fun to read about.

It's a must read for any fantasy lover and a fun read for those who may not be as addicted. I was up until after three in the morning to finish it. Yes, it's great. :)

Rating: 8.5/10

11/29/2009 #120
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