My dear friend Kornberg is going through an insane level of purging her house: she’s getting rid of almost all of her books. While I think this is nuts, I profiteered from it guiltlessly. She gave me at least 30 to 40 books I’ve never read before, and I can’t wait to dig into them! The first one I read was “Alas, Babylon”, by Pat Frank.
This novel, from 1959, is about a small group of people in Florida who survive World War III. The Russians nuke the US almost into oblivion. We then follow this group through the immediate panic, and later privations and difficulties of survival.
The characters are very well-written, and do their absolute best in a tough situation. I’m often frustrated with books like these because the plot seems to be driven forward by the main character doing something stupid: “I should really call someone and tell them I’m going to investigate this abandoned mine shaft….no, they’d just tell me it’s a bad idea. Down I go!” This book had none of those problems.
This book very realistically portrays what would happen if the infrastructure of the US was destroyed, and it all holds true today. It made me want to start hoarding canned goods and medical supplies. I highly recommend it, and this is one I’m definitely keeping.
My plan for the new year is not necessarily to review every book I read, but instead to focus on the fantatstically good or fantastically bad ones. This one is terrible.
The Tale of Murasaki is about a real woman that lived in Japan 1000 years ago. She wrote a book called The Tale of Genji that is still translated today. I have never heard of Genji, but it’s supposed to be a big deal. This novel is based on the diary of Murasaki, and the author’s knowledge of the time period.
After reading this, I am very glad that I don’t live in fuedal Japan. Either it was massively boring, or Liza Dalby managed to suck all the fun out of it. Even when the palace burns down (which seems to happen once a week), or main characters die, very little actually occurs. There is no drama.
I can’t really word it any other way: this book is BORING. I think this and other Asian-esque books benefit from the success of Amy Tan and Memoirs of a Geisha. Readers love those books and want more like it, so they pick up something with Asian art on the cover. I know that’s why I grabbed this, but don’t make the same mistake I did! Save yourself!!
I even fought my way all the way through this one, thinking eventually something noteworthy would happen. Nope. On the Clever Chick Scale this gets a “Not even good when you have insomnia”. That’s pretty bad.
While I was sick awhile ago, I did a bit of reading. Here are a few of my “reviews”, for lack of a better word. It’s more of a chronology of things I’ve read, with vague descriptions and my useless, barely literate opinions attached. Lucky you!
Tuck Everlasting is about a young girl in the 1800′s that stumbles upon an immortal family. Here’s the thing about this book; it’s for little kids. I didn’t like it, but I’m not necessarily supposed to. It’s simplistic, and pointless. There are some kids’ books I do enjoy though, so maybe this book is actually boring? On the Clever Chick Scale it gets a “I am giving it away as soon as this post is published”.
This book is an easy read, a little bit sci-fi, and a little bit smutty. It’s about a family of telepathic individuals who are in an on-going war with another such family. A random girl with similar abilities that she knows nothing about gets mixed up in the hoopla. It’s fast-paced, and great for if your brain needs a vacation. If you enjoy the True Blood books, you’ll probably love this. On the Clever Chick Scale it gets a “Giving it away immediately”.
This is another of the Elemental Masters series by Mercedes Lackey, which I LOVE. If you have read any others in this series, you will recognize the character Lord Alderscroft. This book is about two young girls who have telepathic powers, who are being targeted by an unknown magic assailant. Lackey’s great writing style and story telling hold true, so if you’re a fan of hers, grab this one too. On the Clever Chick Scale it gets a “Has earned a place in the collection on my sacred shelves”.
This book is basically about one year in the life of the main character. Very little happens to her during that year, but it’s a slow-paced, restful book. The writing is good, and it’s slightly funny, but uneventful. On the Clever Chick Scale this gets a “Crap! I forgot to give it to Mi Madre when she was visiting!”
This puts me at 44 books so far for the year, which averages to one book every 8.3 days. Not bad! Maybe next year I can get it to one a week!
We all know that I have a problem collecting books. In the past year I have reduced my purchases dramatically, and started giving books away to friends regularly, all to reduce the clutter. The Witching Hour, by Anne Rice, is a massive book, that I started reading in HIGH SCHOOL, then set it down and never got back to it. That’s right, I have been hauling this 965 page book around for at least
ten three years!
It took forever to read, which is understandable considering its girth. This book the the story of a family of witches in New Orleans who have been working with a demonic spirit for 300 years or so. The book actually has another book inside it that is the history of the family over those 300 years.
The book is very well written, with a massive depth of detail and fleshed out characters. Imagine my disappointment when I got to the end, and nothing had been resolved!! My immediate opinion was, “If there’s no sequel, this book was terrible”. There are, in fact, TWO sequels! I can’t imagine writing a 965 page book, let alone one with two sequels.
If you’ve read any of her other books, the writing is just as good, but the plot is much more intricate than the vampire books. I enjoyed it, for the most part, but I’m currently withholding judgement. I doubt I will acquire the sequels all that soon, but I will do so as soon as possible, or else I’m going to forget everything. On the Clever Chick Scale this gets a “I doubt I’ll keep it, but I still want to see how it turns out”.
So far this year I have read and blogged 35 books. This post will bring me to 39, which makes an average of almost one per week. The following book is the one book that has continually hampered my progress the whole year. Let’s start this off with a “blah…..”
I thought this was going to be a book discussing the cons of a literal translation of the Bible (i.e. the Earth is only 6000 years old), versus a metaphorical understanding where science and religion can coexist easily. Nope, not even close. The author, Tom Harpur, is constantly referencing other books and authors as though you have read and are equally familiar with their texts. He gives no context, and often makes statements such as “I read Carlson’s take on this, and I agree with him”. How is that helpful or illuminating?
I cannot believe someone got paid to write a book saying he read other books. I persevered as much as humanly possible, but I cannot BEAR to waste another instant with this irritatingly vague book. And the cover art is terrible. I said it! On the Clever Chick Scale this gets a “Huge over-dramatic groan and eye-roll anytime this book is mentioned in my presence”.
Penny Pinchers Club
This book was kind of disappointing. Yes, it’s about someone who spends ridiculous amounts of money and then has to go on a budget, which is cool, but it’s one of those books that could go either way up until the end. Then it ends. Poof! Deadline reached! Uck, and I don’t know what else I can tell you about the book that won’t ruin the plot. Regardless, I felt the ending was anti-climactic, and too abrupt to be believable. On the Clever Chick Scale this gets a “I’ll sell it and probably forget it immediately”.
The Goddess of Yesterday
This book is straight up fantastic. It’s historical fiction set during the time of the Trojan War. The main character is a young girl from an isolated island. She gets abducted by pirates, and then again leading to joining Helen of Troy’s household. The war breaks out soon after. The young girl is an awesome character, and the whole story is entertaining and compelling the whole way through. On the Clever Chick Scale this gets a “I will recommend it to all my friends and minions, and it has earned a place on my sacred shelves”.
The Further Adventures of Batman
By now, it’s pretty obvious that I love Batman, so it should be no surprise that this book found its way to my house. It was published immediately after the release of the original Batman movie. It’s a series of 14 short stories, one of which is by Isaac Asimov, all about Batman. A few of the stories were great, but several including the Asimov one, were terrible. They were boring and cheesy, and much more like the Adam West Batman series than the dark world Tim Burton created. On the Clever Chick Scale it gets a “I may keep it just because it’s Batman”.
After all that heavy reading, I wanted a break. Fortunately, Living Dead in Dallas, by Charlaine Harris was available. Season 2 of True Blood is based on this book, but it kind of goes off on a crazy tangent. The plot in the book makes a lot more sense, and is more consistent with the way the other book is written.
I’m sorry if I don’t sound that coherent right now, but I am being TERRORIZED by a mosquito! I can’t even find it. I’ve gotten bit 5 or 6 times, through blue jeans, once on the toosh!! All I can think about is finishing this post so I can flee. So, if you liked the other book you’ll like this one. The End.
Oh wait, on the Clever Chick Scale it gets a “If you liked the other book you’ll like this one”. I AM SO ITCHY.
Just to “bookend” Banned Books Week, I decided to read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This book is a dark vision of a dystopian future where everyone is conditioned for their specific slot in life. It starts out simply giving detailed descriptions of this world and the people that live in it, and I loved it.
Then, it kind of veered off track. Some of the “civilized” people find a “savage” living out on a reservation, and bring him back to civilization and parade him around at parties. There’s a Matrix-style “confrontation” (meaning one guy asks a lot of questions and the other guy explains it, for pages and pages), and then it ends, rather abruptly.
Overall, it was very creative, but anti-climactic. It also has some sex stuff in it, so I understand why people try to keep this book out of schools. I liked the world Huxley created, but I feel like he under-utilized it; it became a vehicle for an overly simple story. On the Clever Chick Scale this gets a “somewhat disappointing, but I’m glad I read it”.
Banned Books Week runs from September 24th to October 1st this year. You may have noticed my most recent post was a review of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is one of the most banned books of all time, which I even discussed in the post. Was this all a part of some subtle plan of mine to raise awareness about the dangers of censorship in our society? I wish. I can barely plan dinner from day to day lately, much less picking up a book WEEKS in advance of an event. But let’s all pretend that was on purpose, mmkay?
Banned Books Week is a celebration of our right to read, and to bring awareness to books that are challenged in our school systems. On their official website they list the ten most challenged books of 2010. One of them was Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich. I have read that book, and it’s fantastic. The excuses people use for challenging some of these books are so specious it’s insulting, however number 10 on the list is the Twilight series, so I can’t dismiss all the challenges.
Here are a few links for your edification:
I honestly don’t understand the reasoning behind some of these challenges. The Great Gatsby is a terrible book, but that doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t have access to it. By the way, I cannot honestly believe that anyone thinks The Great Gatsby is the best novel of the 20th century. Have these people actually read beyond the dust jacket??
Anyway, as I said in my blog post the other day, the people who want to ban books often miss the point of the actual book. To Kill a Mockingbird is a record of how black people were actually treated in the deep south during that time period, and the whole book is dedicated to showing this as injustice. Why would anyone, especially black people, want to ban it? Unfortunately, that was the case: “After unsuccessfully trying to ban Lee’s novel, three black parents resigned from the township human relations advisory council.”
I wish people could look beyond the surface of the novel, and actually understand what it’s about. It’s unfortunate that people lash out in their ignorance. For that reason alone, I can’t imagine ever trying to ban a book.
Let’s all defy the people who would reduce our choice of reading material. Yes, even you Twi-hards. Let’s all read and buy and love books that other people think we aren’t smart enough or mature enough to read. Forget those people! Do what you want! (But, still do what I say, obviously). Read lots of books! BOOKS ARE THE GREATEST!!
Let’s just get all of this out of the way right now: No, I have never read To Kill a Mockingbird before. No, I did not have to read it in high school. Yes, I went to a normal high school. I don’t know why I didn’t have to read it. Anymore repetitive, asinine questions?? No? Good. The answers are now a matter of public record, so no one can ask me any of that ever again without getting redirected to the blog. Now let’s get down to business.
Some books are classics seemingly only because people are continuously forced to read them. It’s like group bonding through shared suffering, and has little to do with the actual merits of the book (I’m looking at you Great Gatsby, and Madame Bovary). This is not one of those books.
In case you don’t know, To Kill a Mockingbird is about a white family living in a small Southern town in the 1930′s. The whole story is told from the point of view of the youngest child, Scout. The father is a lawyer, who is court-appointed to defend a black man against rape charges from a white woman.
Much of the book focuses on racial issues of the time period, and has often been banned for that reason. Yes, there is offensive language, but everything about it, including the way black people are treated in the town, is accurate to the sentiments at the time; there are probably still people in the deep south that feel that way to this day. The book shows the injustice and indignities black people have had to endure, and the entire book is dedicated to erradicating these wrongs. I have no idea why people would want to ban a book that is completely in favor of equality for all people. It just goes to show that people get distracted by bad language, and miss the point entirely when they focus on such useless minutea.
The plot builds slowly, according to modern standards, but the entire length is absorbing. The plot of the trial is skillfully woven through the entire novel, just hints and bits at first, until your shoulders are tense with anticipation of the verdict. Every part of the book has a purpose, and is written both fluidly, and realistically.
On the Clever Chick Scale this gets a “This book redeems the term ‘Classic’”. Oh, and I’m keeping it. Find your own copy!
Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris, is the first book in the series that the HBO show TrueBlood is based on. I’m going to start off by saying I am almost at the end of season 2 of the show, so NO ONE TELL ME WHAT’S HAPPENING!!! I hate spoilers! Don’t tell me what’s coming up in the books or the show. At all. I hope everyone is clear on that point.
The book is about a girl named Sookie Stackhouse who lives in a small town in Louisiana. She’s a waitress, and psychic, but hardly anyone knows she can read minds. The main premise of the books is that an artificial blood substitute has been created that can sustain vampires instead of human blood. As a result, vampires have come out of the closet (coffin?), and are now living openly in human society.
I have enjoyed both the first season and first book, and I’m withholding judgement (me?? I know, I was surprised, too!) until I finish season 2.
The show is kind of good/bad, like reading a trashy romance novel, even though I wouldn’t categorize the novels it’s based on as trashy at all. Season 1 seems to follow this first book fairly closely, but (I’m told) after that it gets kind of crazy. This is an HBO show, so there are boobs, like, every ten minutes, and everyone swears like they just discovered bad words.
This is supposed to be about the book, however, so I’ll get back on track. The heroine, Sookie, is actually a really charming character. She’s very practical, and no-nonsense, and she’s genuinely nice and thoughtful. Even though super-natural things are occurring all around her, and she falls for a vampire of all things, she has her head on straight, and keeps it that way.
I hate it when the main characters in books go haring off doing stupid crap that makes no sense simply to make the plot move forward. That may have been my problem with the Stephanie Plum novel I read recently. Sookie does not do that crap; she approaches everything with common sense, and a “Well, may as well get this done” approach. I appreciate that the author can write an intelligent character, and I plan to read more of this series, even if the show goes all to hell. On the Clever Chick Scale this gets an “I’m intrigued; let’s see what happens”.
You probably know by now that books tend to just show up at my house. They might be breeding; I’m not sure yet, but we’re looking into it. “The Perfect Princess” by Irene Radford is one of those that spontaneously generated.
Unfortunately, this is book 2 in a 3 book series. I have never heard of the others, so I kind of started out at a disadvantage. The author does a good job of reiterating what happened in the previous book, but I still felt really behind on the events through most of the book.
Taking that into account, the book was fine. It wasn’t super-fantastic, or terrible, just your run-of-the-mill fantasy novel. I’m sure she has some die-hard fans out there, but I’m not currently in that category. On the Clever Chick Scale it gets a “I’m selling it, but I may consider reading more by the author in the future”.