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”.
I ended up at Dominican Joe for several hours a couple weeks ago. A friend was driving me to Houston, but had to go to a pizza contest for work, and I had no where else to go. That’s the kind of slightly bizarre events that make up my existence.
Dominican Joe has the best coffee I’ve ever tasted, with all the obscure fixin’s you could hope for: stevia, sugar in the raw, agave nectar, soy milk, whole milk, skim milk, plus your usual splenda, sugar, half & half, at no charge.
In addition to being smooth and delicious, the coffee is all organic and cheaper than Starbucks. Cardboard to-go cups with compostable lids are the foam on the latte, so to speak. There were plenty of options on the menu, including some snacks that looked tasty, without being overwhelming. Plus, they call the coffee “DoJo”, which made me giggle.
The set up inside is comfy and work-friendly, with a variety of ambiences. You can sit in a broody, dark corner, writing gothic poetry, or at a well-lit table, writing gothic poetry. You can sit smack in the middle of the place directly in front of the door so your friend who’s coming to get you can spot you easily, not realizing the fact that being surrounded by 8 duffel bags and resembling a back-packing hoarder makes you easy to spot, and also an object of staring and confusion. I wish I was joking.
There’s also an ample supply of local free newspapers to keep you occupied in case you didn’t pack a library in your ample luggage. On the Clever Chick Scale it gets a “I wish I lived closer because I’d have a new hang 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”.
As you all know by now, I really love Asian food. Any time we go out to eat, that’s all I want. Awhile ago, me and the girls from work went to Triumph Cafe to test their pho. I love pho, plus this place is cheap and close to work.
Pros: It’s cheap, close to where I work, and the place has a great atmosphere. It’s small, but bright and clean. The grilled meat dishes I sampled were very good, pretty much as good as anywhere else I’ve had them.
Cons: The pho was good, but heavy on the nutmeg and/or cinnamon. Personally, I prefer a more savory broth, with only a hint of sweetness. These guys kind of over-did it. The place is small, and very popular (at least at lunch time), so it was hard to get a table all together.
On the Clever Chick Scale Triumph Cafe gets a “I would definitely eat there again for the good food at good prices, but my quest for the ultimate pho continues”.
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”.
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”.
“Anyone But You” by Jennifer Crusie is kind of a chicky-romance book. It’s definitely a light read, but it was very funny, cute, and enjoyable. It’s about a 40-year-old woman, Nina, who has recently ended a 16 year marriage, and is on her own for the first time. She has a job, an apartment, and decides to get a dog. She finds a basset hound/beagle cross at the shelter, and names him Fred.
Fred is, quite obviously, the star of the novel. There’s even a foreword in my copy where the author talks about the fact that most of the readers feel this way. The way he’s described is hilarious, and completely accurate, as is Nina’s behavior once she becomes a dog-mom.
The romance in the book is cute, even though towards the end it seems like, “Uh oh, I’m running out of pages! Better make stuff resolve itself quickly!” It was definitely worth the read, and I enjoyed it heartily. On the Clever Chick Scale it gets a “I will give it away, but recommend it to others, and remember it fondly”.
“One for the Money” by Janet Evanovich gives me hope. Not for the youth of America, or for the intelligence of our populace, but for my writing career. If this book can get published, as well as to #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list, then anything I write would surely do well.
It’s a decent book. There are no glaring plot-holes or grammatical errors. It’s an easy read, but not very compelling, so I had no problem setting it down when it was time to do other things; it’s the perfect book to take to the doctor’s office, or mechanic.
It’s about a young woman, Stephanie Plum, who loses her job, and can’t find another one. She gets so desperate, she goes to get a job from her cousin Vinnie, a bail bondsman. She has to go out and collect people who have skipped out on their bail, and get them into police custody so she can get paid. She has to go after a guy she slept with as a teenager, who is suspected of murder. Of course, there’s some romance involved, but not a disgusting amount, and she doesn’t get all loopy-headed about the guy.
For most of the book Stephanie wanders around, not really knowing what she’s doing, or what’s going on. There are a couple big red flags that should have told her, “Maybe a murder investigation isn’t for you”. In the last 20 or 30 pages everything comes out, but by then everything is so compacted together it’s mostly one character saying, “This is what happened”, and I’m reading it thinking, “Wait, what? Why would that guy do that? But I thought he…oh the book’s over”.
I had actually acquired this three book set, “One for the Money”, “Two for the Dough”, “Three to get Deadly”, and after reading the first one, I feel no need to read the other two, much less anything else by Janet Evanovich. On the Clever Chick Scale this gets a “It’s an airport book”. Translation: It’s the kind of thing people buy at the last second when they’re about to get on a plane and realize they need something to read; it’s innocuous, inoffensive, and readable. That’s why Janet’s name is so huge on the cover; so you notice it across the terminal. Same goes for Dean Koontz.