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May. 16th, 2010


A few reviews of what I've read lately

Ballad a Gathering of Faerie is a sequel to Lament by Maggie Stiefvater. Ballad switches focus and James is the narrator, and he and Dee are students at Thornking-Ash school.  Though they survived the faerie dilemma, their friendship is not quite the same and they hardly speak. James is befriended by Nuala, a faerie that lives by sucking out the life of humans, but she gives them amazing talent in exchange. James refuses but things get tougher as more and more faeries arrive waiting for some big Halloween showdown.

I liked James very much and Nuala was an interesting faerie, but like the first novel, I felt that there was a slow build up to a quick end and it felt unsatisfying when it was all done. I recommend Stiefvater, I just don’t rave about her.

Turkish Embassy Letters

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was an interesting woman, a woman of her times, but also some modern views.  Lady Mary and her husband travel to Turkey in 1716 where he has been appointed ambassador. They travel through Europe (though parts are still of the Ottoman Empire), spend a lot of time in Vienna and she criticizes the politics and while they face hardships, they arrive safely. Lady Mary writes in great detail about people, clothing styles, food, politics, there is nothing that doesn’t catch her fancy.  Her letters are addressed to various people, family, friends like Alexander Pope. They stay in Turkey for 2 years and in her later life she and her husband live separate lives and she travels around Europe, dying in London at 73.

I found Lady Mary an interesting woman, intelligent, contrary views, inquisitive and her Turkish Embassy Letters are an interesting read, details of the times and a great insight into early travel.

Letters from India - Eliza Fay

Not much is known about Eliza Fay, but her Letters from India were used by E.M. Forster for information on India and his novel Passage to India.  I found Eliza interesting and her letters detailed about some things and full of adventure. She had an interest in travel even though on her first trip she was chased by brigands,  she was jailed, and then divorced her husband and was left to fend for herself.  She and her husband go to India where he is to be a lawyer, they travel across France in 1779, over the Alps into Italy and then Egypt and over to India where they were held prisoner for several months before being let go and settling in Calcutta.  Her husband proceeds to get involved with the “wrong people” among other things, and they end up splitting.  Eliza heads back to England, and later she takes another trip to India and also the Americas.

I enjoyed this, though I’m not that big on reading letters, I found Eliza interesting and enjoyed her enthusiasm.

Apr. 8th, 2010


My last couple of reads

Impossible by Nancy Werlin

I really wanted to love Impossible by Nancy Werlin, but in the end I didn’t. It had many great parts but overall didn’t come together for me.

Lucy Scarborough is a foster child and at 17 she learns the truth behind her mother’s abandonment. Lucy is the latest in the line of Scarborough women who must fulfill 3 tasks, as mentioned in a version of the ballad Scarborough Fair. After a really quiet normal life, everything changes in a night for Lucy. Her mother returns for a visit, apparently crazy and throwing bottles, and after the prom Lucy is raped by her date, who then dies in a car accident. Lucy learns that she is the next in line to be consort to the Elfin King, after giving birth to another girl, who will have a similar fate unless Lucy can complete the 3 tasks. With the help of her foster parents and friend/boyfriend Zach, it’s a race against time.

I loved the premise and I liked how the Elfin King and the fairy world is just there but out of sight and I liked how it was just sort of ordinary, yet in the end it felt very detached. I didn’t feel the urgency of Lucy’s tasks and the end was just there, and it was over. Didn’t live up to my expectations.

My Journey to Lhasa by Alexandra David-Neel

I am in awe of Alexandra David-Neel. In 1923 at the age of 55 she and a companion trekked through Tibet to become the first Western woman to go to Lhasa.  She traveled over mountains, through snow, surviving on butter tea and tsampa (a barley), part of it without a map, beset by bandits but helped by the locals. She was in Tibet for 8 months, 2 of it in Lhasa. Alexandra had been a student of Buddhism, spoke the language, and had a deep interest in the culture.  She writes about politics, culture, history, being chased by dogs, getting lost, telling fortunes for food and the awe she felt when she finally made it to Lhasa.

My Journey to Lhasa is not a light-hearted tale, she goes into a lot of details about things, but it’s an interesting read about a time and place and a woman who did what she wanted to do.

Mar. 12th, 2010


New Member

Just wanted to post an introduction and say hi. I'm J. I'm an as yet unpublished author of fiction. I'm currently working on a novel adapted from a screenplay a friend of mine wrote, which is a sort of coming of age thriller. After I've finished this I have four more novels in the works, one biography, one paranormal thriller and two vampire romance novels.

I also read a TON of books from all genres; From Stephen KIng and Harry POtter to the Demonica Series and the Dark Series, to the book I'm reading now called the People of the Book.

I am currently writing a blog as well, which will have book reviews as well as reviews of other media and the link for which you can find on my user info page (and which has an RSS feed on my friends page). I am ALWAYS looking for new books to review there as well as topics to discuss, so any recommendations you have are seriously welcome!

I hope to meet and discuss the wonderful world of books with many of you!


Mar. 5th, 2010


Recent purchases

These have become mine:

Reincarnationist - M.J. Rose
Mission - Jason Myers
Unbowed: A Memoir - Wangari Maathai
Dark Fire - C.J. Sansom
Bangkok Tattoo - Burkett

Anyone read and wants to share thoughts or wants to read with me and discuss?

Mar. 29th, 2009


Wicked Lovely - Melissa Marr

In Wicked Lovely we are introduced to Aislinn, a strong, smart 17 year old who just happens to see faeries. Everywhere. And she has to pretend she can’t.

The Winter Queen of the Winter faeries and the Summer King of the Summer Court have a contest going, a power struggle. The Summer King isn’t quite up to his full strength and he can’t fight the powerful Winter Queen on his own. The Winter Queen wants to control all the faeries and perhaps the human world as well. The Summer King needs to find the human girl who will love him and trust him enough to take a test that could either make her the Summer Queen or leave her all but frozen with pain and not quite alive but not dead. After centuries, Kennan thinks he’s finally found the one who will restore his full power. The problem is Aislinn knows about faeries, can see them and doesn’t want to have anything to do with them. She wants to live a normal life, have a boyfriend, finish high school and go to college. While he tries to woo her, Ash is doing everything she can, with the help of her friend Seth, to figure out what they want and how she can get away from them.

I like the evilness of the faeries, I like that Aislinn is a smart, stubborn girl and I liked watching her figure out how to deal with this. I wasn’t totally in love with this, but it was a great new look at the faery world and I am curious to know what else happens. Oh, the covers for the series are beautiful.

Mar. 10th, 2009


Almost French - Sarah Turnbull

Australian journalist Sarah is spending a year or so in Europe working and traveling, when she meets Parisian Frederic in Budapest. What starts out as a short visit ends up being a complete change of life as she moves in with Frederic and struggles to start a new life. In Almost French, Sarah looks at her expat life and the struggles she went through to start a new job, find friends and fit in with the Parisian lifestyle. Much of it she loved, but there were many things she struggled with. She had a hard time understanding why she couldn’t make friends with the women, except other expats, and it turns out French women are always looking at the other women as competition. The French are very big on the appearance of everything, the beauty, that’s why they always dress and are never seen in jogging pants or torn, dirty clothes. Sarah talks about the crazy bureaucracy but also the joy the French take in circumventing it. Sarah writes in great detail her experiences of starting a new life and all the things she’s got to learn, what she changes, what she doesn’t, the compromises with Frederic, the frustrations and the fun times. I enjoyed reading about her experiences but became frustrated with the strictness and attitude of the French and was hoping Sarah would give it all up for the easy times of Australia, but she doesn’t, she stays and marries Frederic.

Feb. 26th, 2009


Summer in Gascony - Martin Calder

Except for the working the farm/hotel part, I’d enjoy spending a little time in Gascony. Summer in Gascony is about a way of life. Young Martin Calder spends a summer working at an auberge, a hotel/restaurant, in Gascony. Martin describes the work on the farm, taking care of the sheep, and the work in the restaurant cooking for the guests. He describes the lifestyle of the people in this area the town of Péguilhan, the festivals, the daily grind and the quiet life. He gives a bit of history, discusses the famous D’Artagnan, the Cagot, and the various groups that came through and settled there. Martin falls in love with the slow pace, the family meals, the character of the Gascons. It was a nice look at the life of the people and a sense of place.

Feb. 21st, 2009


Paper Towns by John Green

I laughed till I cried during parts of this story. Paper Towns is the story of Quentin and his search for Margo. Quentin was the good boy, doing well in school always responsible but underneath he has a crush on the wild girl next door, Margo. As children they were friends, discovering a dead body together, but as high school takes over, they’ve ended up in different groups. Then one crazy night, Margo convinces Quentin to join her in a “mission” that involves fish, depilatory, Sea World and entering but not breaking. Quentin is not the same after that. When Margo leaves suddenly, Quentin becomes obsessed with finding her and confessing his love. Involving his friends in the search of paper towns and deciphering Leaves of Grass Quentin can’t rest until he knows. Part mystery, part coming of age story and part road trip, Paper Towns was great.

Feb. 8th, 2009


Quick Reviews

Here are a few quick, reviews of what I've read lately.

Heartsick - Chelsea Cain

Heartsick is an odd sort of serial killer story. The main serial killer story has already happened and we learn about it through the present search for another serial killer. Archie Sheridan is a cop who spent 10 years on a serial killer case, in the end almost becoming Gretchen Lowell’s last victim. Tortured for days and brought back to life, Archie was ready to die, but for some reason, Gretchen Lowell let him go. Two years later and Archie is addicted to pain killers, divorced and barely getting by, the only thing keeping him going is his weekly meetings in jail with Gretchen.

Now, his old partner comes back, needing his help, young girls are disappearing and they think it’s another serial killer. Archie has some hidden motives of his own for going back to work, and allowing a journalist, Susan Ward, to write stories about him. Through some twists and turns Archie and the team discover who the killer is, but are they too late to save Susan? What does Gretchen have to do with all of this?

Into a Paris Quartier - Diane Johnson

Into a Paris Quartier is a light-hearted historical look at the St.-Germain de Pres part of Paris. Diane Johnson lives there part of the year and her interest in the buildings and lives around her guides her exploration of this quartier. Johnson looks at the royalty, Queen Margot, the writers, De Beauvoir & Sartre, the expatriates and writers who lived in this area over the centuries. We learn about the buildings and how they’ve changed over the years, the cafes, the streets and why it’s such a fascinating section of Paris.

I enjoyed this book, a bit of history, culture and now I want to pack my bags and go explore St.-Germain.

Year My Sister Got Lucky - Friedman

14 yr old Katya and 17 yr old Michaela are sisters, the best of friends and ballerinas in training in NYC. Then the family moves upstate to Fir Lake and more things change than just location. Michaela was the best ballerina, destined for Juilliard and the stage. Katya wanted to follow in her footsteps, but was not quite as good. They also shared everything with each other, had the same dreams but they react differently to the big move. Boyfriends, yoga, and Homecoming are new experiences they have to learn to deal with. Their relationship is strained, secrets are kept, friendships are the special trip to see the Nutcracker reveals more than fantastic ballet. Can 2 ballerinas find happiness in a small town and will their friendship ever be the same?

Buttertea at Sunrise - Britta Das

Buttertea at Sunrise chronicles a year in the life of Britta, a Canadian physiotherapist, who for various reasons decides to go work in Bhutan for a year. Her descriptions of the country are beautiful and depressing. Mangar, where she is working, is a smallish city that is undergoing a growth spurt. The hospital is being expanded, roads are being widened and the changes in lifestyle are slow in coming. Britta loves the beauty of the country, and the friendliness of the people, yet she is miserable with the rain, the fleas, the unreliable electricity and lack of facilities to help the locals.

I enjoyed Britta’s descriptions, though sometimes felt she was a bit simplistic in her view of the people, but it’s a nice introduction . It’s an interesting part of the world, I’ve read one other book - Beyond the Sky and the Earth by Jaime Zeppa - which I enjoyed more, seemed more thoughtful. I’ll be looking for more books about the area, it’s a place I’m sure I’ll never get to but it appears to be an interesting place I’d like to know more about.

Jan. 17th, 2009



I just finished reading Brisingr, the latest book in the Eragon series, and there was one thing that really bothered me.

Spoilers )

Jan. 14th, 2009


xxxHolic v.1 - Clamp

Watanuki gets mysteriously drawn to this shop. The owner Yuko tells him “hitsuzen - a naturally foreordained event, a state in which other outcomes are impossible, a result which can only be obtained by a single causality and other causalities would necessarily create different results”  She also tells him that she grants wishes, for a price. He doesn’t want to believe, doesn’t want to be there, but there is a problem. He sees spirits, has all his life and he’s tired of it, so if there’s a chance that Yuko could rid him of this ability. The price Yuko asks is his help in cleaning the store and running errands and Watanuki feels trapped and he doesn’t trust Yuko. Yuko seems to be training Watanuki for something and at the end two strangers from another world appear.  I’ll have to read the next volume to find out what happens.

I enjoyed this story, I especially enjoyed the drawings. Yuko looked like a woman and not a 5 year old. The drawings were artistic and would look great in color!  This volume was really setting up the story, not a lot happened beyond getting to know the characters but I was intrigued enough, especially by Yuko to continue reading this series.

Goth - Otsuichi

I picked this up on a whim, keeping with the dark theme I seem to have fallen into.  Goth follows two teens who have a more than healthy interest in murder, death and the violent nature of people. Several connected stories, all looking at different violent murders and how the teens solve them, but mostly by thinking like the murderers or victims. There were little interesting things that I liked about this story and the drawings were one of them, they looked like teens and didn’t have the big eyes and the drawings were simple. The overall violence though was hard to look at, there are pictures of dismemberment, hanging, among other things, so this is not for the lighthearted or for those who don’t like to see the ugly side.

Jan. 8th, 2009


TITLE: Devil May Cry 3 Code 1: Dante
AUTHOR: Suguro Chayamachi
CATEGORY: Graphic Novel
OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Code 2: Vergil, Togainu no Chi

I FOUND THIS BOOK BY: Being a fan of the video games
I WOULD RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO: A fan of the video games, anyone who reads graphic novels.

Summary: Dante is a demon slayer and bounty hunter with a demon haritage of his own that haunts him. He's currently unemployed--and bored to death. Opportunity knocks in th eform of a missing-child case, which his friend and manager, Enzo, offers him. But a four-million-dollar reward, an unexpected demon attack and a little girl named Alice all conspire to send Dante through the looking glass on a nightmarish adventure beyond his wildest imagination.

The art of this series is really great, and Dante's potty mouth makes it wonderful to read. Vergil's such an ass, which is more or less to be expected of him anyway. I do like how the manga goes into more specific detail about the opening of the seals and such than the game does.

Jan. 5th, 2009


After School Nightmare

After School Nightmare is a fun and scary. A gender-confused boy/girl, dreams showing your “true” selves and a love triangle in the making. Mashiro is a boy who has recently been told he needs to pass this one class before he can graduate. It’s a mysterious class that no one talks about, it meets in an infirmary in the basement that isn’t always there and during the class, Mashiro dreams strange, scary things.  Mashiro says he’s a boy, but his body says he’s a girl, he meets Kahura, a girl trying to hide from boys and Sou who every girl has a crush on, but he’s not interested and he suspects something about Mashiro.

Lots of confusion about “who am I”, growing emotional attachments, and the odd dreaming class provide lots of fun. I’ll be continuing this series!

Jan. 3rd, 2009


Demon Diary

Demon Diary tells the tale of battle between demons and humans. Or that’s what it’s supposed to be about but this was more about the new demon lord Raenef and his tutor Eclipse and then an unrelated story that didn’t make sense. This one just showed a clownish demon lord trying to learn the ways. I found the drawings annoying, at times the characters were drawn like 5 year olds and Raenef was too childish for me to take seriously and Raenef looked like a girl. Perhaps as the story continues it gets more involved and tells of the battles and the relationship between Raenef and Eclipse, this was just to brief to tell.

Jan. 2nd, 2009


Death Note vol. 1

So thanks to some suggestions here I read my first manga and it was a great success.

Took a little getting used to reading left to right, but once I got the hang of it, it was easy reading.

Death Note is about Light a bright student who discovers a notebook that helps kill people. All you have to do is write their name, optional kind of death otherwise it’s by heart attack, and the person dies. There are strings attached, of course.

Light has decided to make it a better world but will he succeed? The first in a series and I think I will go back to read more, I’m curious about what will happen to Light, and the mysterious L who is out to stop him.

I like the idea of the Death Note and I like how Light thinks he's got it all figured out. I'm guessing in future volumes things don't go quite as planned and that's probably where the fun will come in. I'm also curious about the mysterious L.

I've got some other manga lined up so I won't continue with this series immediately but I will keep it in mind.

Nov. 29th, 2008


Manga suggestions

I was wondering if anyone could recommend some manga. It's an area I know next to nothing about and I'd like to read a little.
I like darker stories, vampires, fantasy, slashy, funny, supernatural sort of stuff, if that helps at all.

Oct. 13th, 2008


How do you organize your books?

First, let me explain why this is an issue for me.
In the past years I have become increasingly displeased with my organization of books of fiction.
I tried to organize them like this: Sorted alphabetically by authors, then chronologically by year of publishing (i.e. of the book, not of the copy). Anthologies and collections would have their own space and be organized by title (alphabetically).

My problem is that my bookshelves are of different height, which ranges from 18cm (approx. 7,2 inches) to more than 35cm (over 1ft). Furthermore, I have many more books than space in my shelves, which means there are stacks of books everywhere...

So I thought of organizing them by publishers' series (which would be something like "Classics of World Literature"). But this would mean that the work of one author is scattered all over the house. Also, only about a third of my books are part of such a series...
But still, it looks nice, as you can see here.

Can you help?
Do you know a good method?
How do you organize your books?

(Oh, and I'm sorry about any mistakes, English is not my native language...)

Jun. 15th, 2008


23. Wonderful Life by Stephen Jay Gould

Wonderful Life is a description of the Burgess Shale fauna, from the early part of the Cambrian Explosion. Gould describes some of the bizarre creatures found in that period such as the 5-eyed Opabina (which, as he puts it, "might grace the set of a science-fiction film, if considerably enlarged beyond its actual length of 43-70 mm") and the mysterious, and suitably-named, Hallucigenia, which we aren't even sure which end is front and which end is back, or even which is the top and which is the bottom!

Gould does more than simply describe these creatures, though. He also describes the history of their interpretations, starting from their discoverer, Wolcott's, attempts to identify them as simply primitive representatives of current animals, and why he made that error. Further investigation has shown that many of them do not fit in any of the current phyla, and those that do often do not fit in any of the subphyla of said phyla. It is a fascinating story of scientific investigation that lead to this radical reinterpretation.

Gould argues that the Burgess Shale fauna demonstrates that major groups often have maximal diversity of forms early in their history, and then those are reduced to a smaller number, with further diversity increasing only within those narrow bounds. The explosion of phyla in the early Cambrian, followed by the reduction to only 30 or so for most of the post-Cambrian world, being a perfect example. Gould's argument is that the creatures who survive are not necessarily superior, but, to a considerable extent, luck. That, if some alien biologist had visited Earth 540 million years ago, they could not have predicted which groups would survive and which would die. There would be no way of predicting that the rare Pikaia would survive to give rise to the dominant large-animal group (the chordates - that is, us) while the rather common and elegant Marella would die out with no descendants, as did the giant (relative to its time - about 2-3 feet in length, at a time when most animals were no more than 3 inches or so) and fiercesome Anamolocaris.

He argues for a much greater role for chance and historical contingency than is commonly accepted (to some extent, his ideas have become more common since he wrote this book).

The book is written with a minimum of technical jargon and should be of interest to any intelligent layman with an interest in the issues covered.

Jun. 6th, 2008


22. Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind by David Berreby

Us and Them discusses how humans divide people up into various groups, how we see people as fitting into such categories as, say, White, Black, Christian, Jewish, rich, poor, gay, straight, American, French, mother, father, etc., and the effects of these categorizations. He discusses experiments that show how easy it is to create a sense of "Usness" in a random group of people, and the methods used by rulers through the ages to shape the Us/Them distinction, for example, attempts to make a group of people permanently "them", to prevent their subjects from empathizing with an oppressed group, and, likewise, the attempts by stigmatized groups to break out of those limitations. He also discusses how perceptions of group identity can shape behavior. For example, one experiment found that Asian-American women asked questions relating to race did better on a math test than those asked questions relating to gender! Their performance was influenced by the stereotypes relating to, respectively, Asians (good at math) and women (bad at math).

His thesis is that this human-kind perception has both good and bad aspects. On the one hand, a sense of being part of a group can encourage one to live up to the ideals of that group. You can try to be a good mother, a good father, a good citizen, a good Christian, etc. On the other hand, it can also create hostility to those seen as Them. It also, as he points out, was probably a crucial development in human evolution, allowing us to form groupings that were too large for personal knowledge of fellow members to work. By allowing symbols to define groups, by allowing groups to be formed by other than personal experience, it allowed humans to create tribes and cities and nations and the like, groups who contain far too many members for anyone to know more than a small portion of.

May. 30th, 2008


21. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, translated by Mirra Ginsburg

We is a dystopian satire, written in 1922, in the early days of the Soviet Union. It is said to have been an influence on 1984 and Brave New World, but it is, I think, superior to those works. It is far less dark than 1984, with a wonderfully satirical feel to it, as opposed to the preachiness of 1984.

We takes place 1,000 years after the establishment of the One State, a worldwide nation, run on the basis of pure logic and mathematical precision. It is written as a diary by the narrator, D-503, chief builder of the spacecraft Integral. The Integral is to bring happiness to alien worlds who may still be living in the "primitive condition of freedom". By way of evangelizing to any aliens who may be discovered, all citizens of the One State who are capable of doing so are ordered to produce writings exalting the joys of the One State.

D-503 begins innocently, enthusiastically, believing in the perfection of the One State and the carefully-regimented, unfree, society. However, he encounters a woman, I-330, who causes him to question his society. Gradually he loses faith in the One State, descending - as he sees it - into sickness, into madness. He develops a sense of individuality, a soul.

Despite his growing discontent, he continues to see the problem as being within himself, not with the One State.

Amidst this discontent, which is shared by a growing number of citizens of the One State, a bold new discovery is announced - State Science has found the location of the imagination in the brain, and has developed an operation which will remove the imagination, removing the last barrier to "happiness".

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