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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Booking Through Thursday


This week’s question is suggested by (blogless) JMutford:
Sometimes I find eccentric characters quirky and fun, other times I find them too unbelievable and annoying. What are some of the more outrageous characters you’ve read, and how do you feel about them?


I read The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, which had a number of eccentric characters, but I really enjoyed the book because I believed in the characters, and they made logical sense. However, when I tried reading her next book, The Mermaid Chair, I could not believe the contrast. First off, it just wasn't as good of a book, second of all, there were those quirky, eccentric characters, but this time they just didn't make any sense. It was like the author sat down and said to herself, "okay, I'll give these characters this quirk and that quirk" and the point was to make them quirky, not to give them any relevance to the plot. They felt like flat caricatures. I don't have the book in front of me, so I'm going on memory here, but one of the characters was Kat, and the book kept mentioning that she wore socks with high heels? The main character's mom, Nell, kept slicing off her own fingers out of guilt. There was one character who gave tours of old slave graveyards, but there was never anything that she added to the plot.

Anyhow, that's my $.02.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What Is to Come

Here's what you can expect in the next few days:

  • A review of Great Expectations (I will be finishing it tomorrow, come hell or high water).
  • A report on how my gym membership is going.
  • My review of Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman.
  • The story of how I almost threw my computer out the window (but didn't).
  • And as always, a Weekend Fiction Break.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Blogging is hard work...

If you blog regularly, you know doubt have realized this already. I'm still a newbie, figuring things out as I go, and I'm realizing that to come up with new topics to blog about, keep up with the blogs I have been reading, and responding to comments takes up some time. Not to mention my other goals this year of doing my own original writing. On top of my new YMCA membership (fyi, I already lost my ID card).

Today was a big day for me blogging wise. I tried (unsuccessfully) to add my bloglines subscriptions to my blog, gave up and added them manually (I may not be a computer expert, but I did manage that much, yay for me). So you can now see which book blogs I have been enjoying. I also received my first ever request to review a new book (I will post reviews soon hopefully).

The career woes continue. Upgrading computers is much more hassle and stress than I really wanted today.

Wish me luck as I do my best to finish Great Expectations today and tomorrow!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Review: American Gods

Author: Neil Gaiman
Rating: 4/5
Challenge: Mythopoeic Award Challenge

I’m planning on reading Anansi Boys for the Mythopoeic Award Challenge, but I figured while I was at it, I would read American Gods first, since it was written first. I have this weird thing about wanting to read first books first.

Anyhow, American Gods starts out by introducing us to Shadow, who is a man down on his luck. He’s on the verge of being released from jail when he learns that his wife, Laura was killed in a car accident. On his way to her funeral, he receives an unusual job offer from a man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. Mr. Wednesday needs a bodyguard and Shadow reluctantly accepts, figuring he has nothing else better to do. While accompanying Mr. Wednesday, Shadow meets a number of people who turn out to actually be gods. Yes, gods. We learn that even when belief in the mythological gods of old waned in America, the gods themselves live on. They may blend in with the rest of us normal folks, they may be down on their luck, but they are still here.

Wednesday is rallying the troops (so to speak) to battle against the new gods (Media, Internet, Highway, anything else Americans really believe in, etc., etc.) but it is not as easy as it sounds; most of the gods don’t really want to fight. Mr. Wednesday’s main compadres in his mission are Mr. Nancy (Anansi, the African trickster god) and Czernobog ( a dualistic Slavic god). Shadow accompanies Mr. Wednesday on a number of missions to convince the gods to fight, but things really get rolling when Wednesday is murdered. Furious, all the gods gather together for a last dramatic battle.

All sorts of gods, folk heroes and legendary creatures of all sorts of cultures populate this book, and Gaiman brings them to life unforgettably. What would it be like to have dinner with Easter, now living as a hippie in San Francisco? How about running into a leprechaun in a bar?

The bearded man lit his cigarette. “I’m a leprechaun,” he said, with a grin.
Shadow did not smile. “Really?” he said. “Shouldn’t you be drinking Guiness?”
“Stereotypes. You have to think outside the box,” said the bearded man. “There’s a lot more to Ireland than Guiness.”
“You don’t have an Irish accent.”
“I’ve been over here too f-ing long.”
“I told you. I’m a leprechaun. We don’t come from f-ing Moscow.”
“I guess not.”

The book is structured as an action book, and a mystery. Shadow hardly has a moment to recover from the shock of learning his wife is dead before he is being whisked away to convince other gods to join Wednesday's cause, all the while being pursued by a shadowy agency who seem determined to kidnap him. It is also structured like a mystery, because we are trying to determine as we read along why a dead character who keeps popping up won’t stay dead, how the gods came to America, what the true nature of the ultimate battle between the gods will be like, what Shadow’s mysterious dreams about a buffalo-headed god really mean, and most importantly, why exactly Shadow is so important to both the old and new gods. We get little hints dropped tantalizingly throughout the book, and I was impressed by how each thread was tied up by the end.

There were a number of interesting themes woven throughout this book. First and foremost, the book explores what Americans worship nowadays. Shadow is faced with this when Lucille Ball starts talking to him from the TV.

“Who are you?” asked Shadow.
“Okay,” she said. “Good question. I’m the idiot box. I’m the TV. I’m the all-seeing eye and the world of the cathode-ray. I’m the boob tube. I’m the little shrine the family gathers to adore.”
“You’re the television?”
“The TV’s the altar. I’m what people are sacrificing to.”
“What do they sacrifice?” asked Shadow.
“Their time, mostly,” said Lucy. “Sometimes each other.”

That passage struck me as being very profound. It actually made me think about how much time I myself sacrifice to my TV. Really, what makes the TV so different from altars to Baal or Odin or Kali? People certainly sacrifice plenty of time, money, and definitely relationships to the TV.

The one thing that kind of bugged me while reading this book is: why does Shadow follow along with the old gods? Sure, the new gods are heartless and soulless, but the pagan gods aren’t necessarily spotless heroes themselves. Wednesday uses his powers to charming people into handing over their money and seducing waitresses. The Queen of Sheba poses as a prostitute but then swallows the johns whole. Many of the gods discuss receiving human sacrifices with pleasure; Shadow has a disturbing dream where he encounters Odin in Valhalla, where the trees are overhung with animal and human sacrifices in Odin’s honor

Shadow puts it this way: “It occurred to him that the reason he liked Mr. Wednesday and Mr. Nancy and the rest of them better than the opposition was pretty straightforward: they might be dirty, and cheap, and their food might taste like shit, but at least they didn’t speak in clichés.”

Is that really enough justification? The gods are revealed to be liars, cheats, and they downright betray their own kind. So maybe we’re better off not believing in them anymore. Or maybe I’m really just missing the point, because none of the things that the gods do in this book are any different from what they do in any of the mythologies or stories. In Greek mythology, Zeus of course cheated constantly on Hera and fathered all sorts of godlings. All of the gods constantly ganged up on each other and fought all sorts of unnecessary battles and sometimes helped and sometimes tormented humanity.

Looking at it that way, I guess I need to go dig up some more mythology. I might want the gods to act more honorably, but wouldn't that betray what they are supposed to be?

This was an intriguing and fast-moving read. If you were ever the kid who was real interested in the Greek Mythology unit in English class, definitely read this book.

Eva's Book Meme

Eva from A Striped Armchair put this together.

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?


Any romance novel. I just don’t “get” romance novels.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

I’d invite Anne Shirley over for some tea, go on adventures with Lirael from the Abhorsen books. Lastly, I’d totally go clubbing with Herminone from Harry Potter.

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance or Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary should do the trick nicely.

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

Probly Don Quixote. I minored in Spanish and studied abroad in Spain. I feel I know this book well. But I have not read this book.

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t?

I have a terrible memory for titles, I barely remember the titles of books I do read, much less books I haven't read.

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (if you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead of personalise the VIP)

Lord of the Rings. Everyone just needs to read it. Watching the movies doesn’t count.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

I'm thinking Japanese because the chances of me learning a language with no alphabet is zilch.

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

Lord of the Rings. I have reread it lots of times and it just hasn’t gotten old for me.

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?

I had never heard of Neil Gaiman until starting my blog. Now I have 3 books by him sitting at home.

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

In Beauty by Robin McKinley (retelling of Beauty and the Beast), Beast has a huge, magical library. Over time, Beauty starts to realize that he has thousands of books in his library that haven’t been written yet. Ever since reading that book, I have wanted so badly to have that library.

I got in this one too late and most bloggers seem to have to gotten to this already. So if you are reading this and you haven’t done it yet, consider yourself tagged. If you complete the meme, link back to Eva's post and leave a comment. There is a chance to win The House at Riverton. To be in the drawing, you must have posted the meme (and commented) by February 5th, which is when she's holding the drawing.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Weekend Fiction Break: Jenny

This is a story about a person I either met in real life or completely invented. Let’s call her Jenny.

At first glance, Jenny is unbelievably white. She has the palest of Norwegian complexions, with whitish blonde hair she keeps in a sloppy partial ponytail. She is skinny, and pimply, and her faded clothes hang off of her awkwardly. She talks extremely quickly, her words stepping over each other. Mostly, though, she stares, with eyes slightly agog, as if everything she observes is surprising.

When I am introduced to her, I learn 3 important facts. She is from Singapore. She is not a missionary kid. And she does not like being asked if she is a missionary kid.

That is the extent of our first conversation, and I leave it wishing hardily that it would also be the last. It is not to be however, as we are going to be spending several months traveling together.

I am at the airport and we end up pacing around together. She has been to this airport about 37 times, she knows that your luggage almost always gets lost here, and that there are actually 4 wings to the airport, not 3 like the map says. But she does not know where to get a boarding pass.

My first journal entry when we arrive at our destination starts out with: I am really finding Jenny annoying. Wanted to strangle her today right in the middle of the airport. Stopped by the fact I don’t think airport security would believe my insanity defense.

The group is small and we spend a lot of time together. Avoidance of Jenny doesn’t seem to work. As the ranks quickly form in our group of travelers, I find myself constantly around her, because no other clique will take her in.

She makes such claims. She has traveled extensively. She has studied abroad in South Africa, she has lived in Singapore since moving from the US at the age of 7, she has been to all of the Hard Rock Cafes in Asia, she had a driver’s license from the Philippines that cost her $10, her boyfriend is from Australia.

We catch her, though, in the weirdest lies. She says she has lived in the US for one semester prior to this trip. But we know her roommates. And she lived with them for 2 semesters. She turns up her nose at a pancake breakfast, but later tells us cheerfully that her favorite breakfast at McDonald’s is hotcakes.

For all of her alleged world-traveling, her knowledge and appreciation of American culture is remarkably non-existent. During her time in the US, she left her room only to go to class. Literally. She didn’t once visit the school cafeteria, the campus bookstore, or anyone else’s room, much less a mall or restaurant. Such a complete lack of cultural understanding is what leads perhaps to her grating style of speaking. Whenever she opens her mouth, she comes across disdainfully or braggingly.

We are together almost constantly. I am frequently reminding myself that I am a mature adult who does not harbor the desire to strangle someone just because they are slightly irritating.

Sometimes, though, she will be with us, and I won’t have to grit my teeth as much. Occasionally, she looks so helpless sitting next to me on the bus, her eyes in perpetual surprise, that I feel the slightest twinge of compassion. She comes along when we are celebrating a birthday party, and I see her actually smile.

I make a joke here or there, and she laughs politely. She tells us stories about Singapore with a kind of giggly frankness. Examples: “We get our mail but they cross out things they don’t like with a black marker.” “They have weekly hangings on Friday.” Or “We have a one-party democracy.” We are sharing a room, once, with other girls from our group and I am changing into pajamas. She blurts out suddenly, “I have the same underpants as you!” and there is a moment of silence. We can all find her statement wildly shocking and thoroughly abuse her later behind her back for being so darn weird. Or we can laugh, because it is funny.

So we laugh. As if she is one of us who has just made an interesting joke.

The day will come later on when we discover she’s gone missing and we frantically search for her in the streets of a foreign city. When we find her, we all hug and let out enormous sobby sighs of relief. She tells us that someone had been following her around after she finished a call on the payphone, and she couldn’t run fast enough to get away from him. “What did you do?” we ask her breathlessly. She was very logical. She ran to the lobby of the closest hotel, knowing that we would come find her eventually. Her faith in us makes me feel guilty for hating her so much.

There is the day she tells us she learned more about American culture here on this trip than her one (or two) semesters in the US.

One day, I somehow convince her to trade her colorless oversized turtleneck and try on a fitted jacket and colorful embroidered skirt at a clothing boutique. Shocked at my success, I snap a photo to immortalize the moment. She does not buy the items, of course, that would be too much to ask. But I load the pictures on her computer and make her promise to show them to her boyfriend.

Those are only certain moments, though, and they are surrounded by other moments where she throws a fit because we split a bill and she got 51 cents back instead of 52. When she tells us that people who don’t double-major are lazy. Where she is pissed for a day and a half because bad planning has left us only a few minutes to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

When we part, we don’t promise to write. I know she will not email me, and I will not email her. I will not ever see her again, because she is moving to Australia (or so she says). In fact when we part, she is in a snit because I still owe her 3 euros. She grudgingly gives me a back pat while I hand over all my leftover change (2.10 euros).

I fly home, anxious to see my family. But once I am back, I cannot help but turn Jenny over in my mind, examining my memories of her from every angle. I want to puzzle her out, understand what made her tick. I want to figure out if I liked or hated her. Although I have thought about her often enough to turn the rough pebble of a memory into a smooth stone, she remains to me a pale mystery.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Booking Through Thursday


What’s your favorite book that nobody else has heard of? You know, not Little Women or Huckleberry Finn, not the latest best-seller . . . whether they’ve read them or not, everybody “knows” those books. I’m talking about the best book that, when you tell people that you love it, they go, “Huh? Never heard of it?”

For me, it is definitely Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone or hmmm.... the Bible. I always get blank looks and "huh?" when I drop those titles. So I guess that makes me a real book snob.

Okay I'll look for a real answer once I get home and can look at my bookshelf. I'm blanking on titles now, my brain being in "work mode". (AKA barely awake mode).

*** UPDATES: I looked at my shelf and discovered my real answer: Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen by Garth Nix. Okay if you are a fantasy lover, you have no doubt heard of Garth Nix, but no one I know has ever heard of him or read his books. I loved the first book in the series so much, I bought the next two as soon as they came out, and I even broke down and bought hardcovers (I never buy hardcovers-too expensive). The books stuck me with me so much that I actually had dreams about fighting off Dead Hands and Necromancers in the Old Kingdom. I loaned my copies to a previous boyfriend and we broke up, and I never did get them back. So what did my wonderful husband do? He bought me a set this Christmas to make up for it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Slogging through Great Expectations

I am doing my darnest to read Great Expectations for My Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge, but I'm finding it harder than I thought. I started it about a week ago, and I read it right before going to bed, when I'm at home and not blogging, when I'm eating breakfast, and I even brought it along to read while I waited in line last night for rush theater tickets, but I just can't seem to get through it. Sigh.

Speaking of standing in line for rush theater tickets, I have to brag a little that I got my tickets for 99 cents, owing to the fact it was a special preview night. I can't really explain what the play was about, but I really enjoyed it. (If you are curious, check out the summary from the website, but even that doesn't really explain it very well).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Book review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexie
Rating: 3/5
Challenge: YA Reading Challenge

A few days after finishing this book, I’m still not sure if I completely like it or not. On the plus side, there were a lot of great elements to this book: funny and insightful writing, and a memorable main character, Arnold Spirit. Arnold lives on the Spokane Indian reservation along with his sister and his parents, draws cartoons (interspersed throughout the book), and writes his observations on life on rez. Towards the beginning of the book, Arnold explains in a very matter of fact way what his life is like:

“…we reservation Indians don’t get to realize our dreams. We don’t get those chances… We’re just poor… It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you’re poor because you’re stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you’re stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you’re stupid and ugly because you’re Indian. And because you’re Indian you start believing you’re destined to be poor. It’s an ugly vicious cycle and there’s nothing you can do about it. Poverty doesn’t give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor.”

Arnold has mostly accepted his life as what it is, but when he gets to his first day of high school and realizes that his geometry book is at least 30 years older than him, he gets so mad about the unfairness of it that he throws the book at his teacher. To his surprise, his teacher comes over to encourage him to get out of the rez so that he doesn't become hopeless like everyone else around him. Arnold decides to follow that advice and enrolls immediately in Reardon High School. The rest of the book chronicles his freshman year at Reardon.

While Arnold sticks out at first, he eventually makes friends, joins the basketball team, and falls in love with a beautiful classmate. The book is both funny and serious as Arnold deals with being labeled a traitor by everyone else on the rez (including his best friend), an alcoholic father, losing his grandmother and a family friend for alcohol-related reasons, and even more losses as the book goes on.

Stripping this book down, it is about an outcast who finds a way to fit in. That storyline has been done before. As impressive and profound as some of the writing is in the book (like the passage above), other parts felt flat and preachy. I wanted it to not end so neatly, every little end tied up. I wanted all of the minor characters to ring true. So to sum it up, I enjoyed this book but I wanted more out of it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Royalty Rules Challenge


Host: The Ink Mage

Challenge: Read 2-4 books (fiction or nonfiction) involving royalty.

My list:

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
The Dark Queen by Susan Caroll
The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weekend Fiction Break: The Library

They met at the J. M. Pashout Library. She had just walked in, was sitting primly in a reading chair. He politely asked her if she had dropped this necklace, and held up a small glittery chain with a cubic zirconium heart sliding along the chain. Yes it was hers. She accepted it quietly and when he sat in the reading chair next to her to the exclusion of the rows and rows of open reading chairs, her cheeks colored pink. He found her cheeks entrancing.

Two weeks later they were married. Nine months later she quit her job at the deli to care for the baby. The baby grew and became a girl. She had dark hair. When she turned sixteen, she began to dye it all colors of the rainbow. She stormed about the house. She bummed cigarettes from her boyfriends and smoked them to annoy her parents.

The parents wondered what had happened to the baby who had gurgled and reached for them greedily. Who had been satisfied by being held. The girl did not want to be held. But then the girl grew and became a woman. It seemed very sudden to them. She came home one day and her hair was a glossy brunette, instead of electric blue. She smoked still, but talked about quitting. She worked overtime at the nursing home, took art classes at night. The boyfriends she brought home were tall and gangly with faces decorated with all sorts of trendy facial hair; mustaches, chin straps, goatees.

She started to bring home one boyfriend more frequently. He was nice. But they just dated and dated. About once a year, she would come home, cheeks flushed with excitement, tell them she thought he might pop the question. They would wait. Then her face would begin drooping, and they learned not to ask what had happened.

The woman grew and slipped into early middle age. She got engaged to her boyfriend. He broke it off. She got engaged a second time, after he went to a counselor to get to the bottom of his commitment issues. She got married to him. Her parents kissed her and wished her the best. Her face felt warm as she walked down the aisle. Everyone told her afterwards, how she was the perfect blushing bride.

They fought constantly, like they always had. He pushed her away, then tugged her back with tears and excuses. At first it was like a tango, a dance of wills, but then he hit her. She left him, not bothering to mention she was pregnant. She showed up at her parent’s house. When they opened the door to find her standing there with a suitcase, a bruise across one cheek, a furious blush of embarrassment on the other, they did not ask her what had happened. They let her stay in her old room, which was still decorated with dancing ballerinas and pink carpet.

She went back to school, her belly as big as a watermelon. She walked across the stage and accepted her accounting degree, her son sitting on Grandma’s lap, bouncing and murmuring happily. Early middle age passed into middle age proper, and then one day she realized she was old. Her parents had both passed away now, and her son was sixteen, serious and quiet.

At the moment she realized that she was old, she had been looking in the mirror and thinking about her new boyfriend. She’d caught him rifling through the bags of junk in her closet, leftovers from her parents. He’d found Mother’s jewelry box, been examining the beautiful necklaces that really were worth nothing except for sentimental value. He’d jumped when she caught him, dropped the whole thing. It was still lying where he’d dropped it, she couldn’t touch it. She leaned over, examined each chain with her eyes, as if they would burn her if she touched them.

She sighed when she spotted the cubic zirconium heart, stained with age, lying among the other necklaces. Fingers moved and picked it up and put it around her neck. Her own fingers. Directed by a whim buried below the surface of her consciousness. There in the mirror where a minute ago she had looked aged, her face looked curiously unlined, and a blush of color crept into her cheekbones.

Friday, January 18, 2008

$95 Later, Puppy's Reputation Cleared

(Voicemail from Kim to Boss)
"I need to flex in late this morning. I think my dog swallowed my wedding ring. I have to take him to the vet. I'll be in soon." (Hysterical voice tone).

(Transcript of phone conversation between vet and Kim)
Vet: Well, we took the x-ray and while Rusty might be guilty, he's not guilty of swallowing your wedding ring.
Kim (thinking to herself): This means I'm out $95 on an x-ray and my ring is still missing.

(Voicemail from Kim to husband approximately 1 hour and a torn-up apartment later)
"OMG I found it!!! OMG I found it!!! It's a miracle!!!" (Cue to shot of puppy, sleeping peacefully, now that accusations of ring-swallowing have been found completely false)

***Note: Certain parts of this story (where the ring actually was, what made Kim think Rusty had eaten it, what Kim did when she first realized ring was missing) have been omitted to make this story fit allotted space and save certain parties from extreme embarrassment.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Booking Through Thursday


This week’s question is suggested by Puss Reboots:

How much do reviews (good and bad) affect your choice of reading? If you see a bad review of a book you wanted to read, do you still read it? If you see a good review of a book you’re sure you won’t like, do you change your mind and give the book a try?


Book reviews affect whether I want to read a book quite a bit. If I read a good review of a book, I try to write down the title so I remember to check it out. If I read a bad review of a book, I won't make a conscious note not to pick up the book. Honestly I'll probably forget the book title immediately. See this post about my excellent memory.


Since starting this blog I have definitely been getting lots of book ideas from browsing other blogs. I have 10 books and 1 audio book checked out from the library right now, which makes a world record for me. I usually top out at three. I've noticed that there is always one book out of the three that I end up not liking and never finish. I guess we'll see if that trend continues with my current batch.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Margaret A. Edwards Reading Challenge


Host: Becky

Challenge: Read 3-5 books by winners of the Margaret A. Edwards Award (given to an author who makes a lasting contribution to YA literature). Click the link to Becky's page to see which authors are on the list. Pretty prestigious names!

Here's the list of books I want to read:
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Oh careers...

For a few weeks now I’ve woken up absolutely dreading the 8 hours I have to spend hunched over a computer before 4:30 rolls around and I can safely escape home to spend time with husband, puppy, and books. For reasons I can’t explain exactly even to myself, I’ve felt trapped and frustrated. Anyone else able to relate?

No new developments per se, but I finally came up with a plan to alleviate my frustrations, and just yesterday, got the vital piece of that plan approved. The rest of the day went by, if not a complete breeze, then at least quicker than usual.

I was inspired by the good feeling to finish The Blind Assassin, write a review of it, write a few quick stories and even read a piece of one of my story to my husband. I was inspired by Average Jane and The Individual Voice who post their original short fiction to post some of my own stories here on Bold Blue Adventure. You can look for my first one later this week.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood)



The first thing to know about The Blind Assassin is that it is a novel within a novel within a novel. On the first layer is a story by Iris Chase, the main character, who is reflecting back on her 80 years of life. The second layer is a novel The Blind Assassin written by her sister, Laura Chase, which involves the story of two unnamed lovers. And finally, in The Blind Assassin, there is a third layer as the two lovers tell a science fiction story in the style of the 1930’s pulp.

Certain details about the ultimate fate of characters in the book are revealed to us immediately via newspaper articles (we learn for example in the opening line that Laura kills herself), but we do not learn the full motivations and backstories until the end of the book. All three layers of the story do interact, and confusing as it sounds, they eventually start to make sense.

I found this novel hard to get into at first. When Atwood writes from Iris’ point of view, the prose is very precise in describing every single detail, and you gather the sense that the only purpose it serves is to set up the events that occur towards the end. I skipped even more so over Iris’ descriptions of what she is doing in the present time, because again they are mostly to set up her reflections of her childhood.

However, The Blind Assassin sections kept my interest, as it describes the complicated relationship between the two unnamed lovers and unraveled the story of Sakiel-Norn, a city on the brink of destruction on the far planet of Zycron.

The main narrative spends a long time describing Iris’ family and especially her relationship with her sister, Laura, in the 1930’s and 40’s. Atwood has a good grasp of the values and attitudes of that era. Iris grows up very sheltered in a fairly wealthy family and she spends a lot of time commenting on the class distinctions of the era. When her father’s factory is on the brink of closure, she agrees to a marriage of convenience to a wealthy rival industrialist on the agreement that her father’s factories will be saved. Her new husband reveals his cruelty almost immediately, though, by closing the factories anyhow, then concealing from Iris during their honeymoon that her father had passed away. During the time they are together, she is treated like an errant child, her mail and phone calls screened, her every move criticized and analyzed to ensure it doesn’t cause scandal for her husband. She is lied to constantly by her husband. Throughout this Iris remains passive, though, or so we believe.

Although I found parts of the book boring, I breezed through the last half very quickly. The book is structured almost like a mystery novel, because you begin to realize that there are certain key points that are being left out which won’t be revealed until then end, and I wanted to find out if the book was going to end how I suspected. (It did). While perhaps not her main theme, I found the gender politics of the book very intriguing. While Iris doesn’t try very hard to resist the rules, restrictions and cruelty placed on her by society and her husband, Laura stays fierce and resists in both little and big ways. Over the course of the book, however, we learn that both of their ways of coping lead to tragic results.

The more I think about this book, the more it reminds me of the other Atwood book I reviewed recently, The Handmaid’s Tale. In both novels, the female protagonist is kept powerless and gradually internalizes a feeling of helplessness. In both books, the main characters are given chances to resist and get out of their situations but simply can’t bring themselves to do anything until it is too late.

The science fiction element of the book didn't seem to enhance the plot significantly, but I think some of the best writing in the book was in the science fiction sections. For example this passage from early in the book struck me:

(Describing the supposed destruction of the city of Sakiel-Norn):

“There’s also a story that claims the city wasn’t really destroyed at all. Instead, through a charm known only to the King, the city and its inhabitants were whisked away and replaced by phantoms of themselves, and it was only these phantoms that were burnt and slaughtered. The real city was shrunk very small and placed in a cave beneath the great heap of stones…. The King knows what’s happened and it gives him nightmares, but the rest of them don’t know. They don’t know that they’ve become so small. The don’t know that they are supposed to be dead. The don’t even know they’ve been saved. To them the ceiling of rock looks like a sky: light comes in through a pinhole between the stones, and they think it’s the sun.”

I find that an interesting reflection on whether or not people really notice what goes on around them.

Is The Blind Assassin worth a read? If you are up for the challenge, read on and enjoy.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Review: The Overcoat


My freshman year of college I lived on a very beautiful, but spread out campus. During the winter I would haul myself out of bed at an insane hour but I wouldn’t really wake up until the brisk subzero air hit my face and then I’d shiver and curse my luck at living in Minnesota during the long walk to class.

I was reminded of that experience when Gogol describes the walk to work in Russian climes in his short story The Overcoat:

“There exists in St. Petersburg a powerful foe…. This foe is no other than the Northern cold, although it is said to be very healthy. At nine o'clock in the morning, at the very hour when the streets are filled with men bound for the various official departments, it begins to bestow such powerful and piercing nips on all noses impartially that the poor officials really do not know what to do with them.”

Akakiy Akakievitch is one of those people who seems to go around in life with a giant “kick me” sign on his back. He is always bullied by his coworkers at the office, and he has to make do with a cloak that is so worn it can hardly be called a cloak anymore.

Things finally start looking up for him when he scrapes up enough money to buy a new cloak, but sadly after that it is all downhill for him from there. Through a bit of a supernatural turn, Akakiv Akakievitch does receive justice for the misdeeds against him.

Although my description makes the story sound very grim, the narrator keeps the tone light and humorous. We feel sympathetic for the poor Akakievitch even as we chuckle a bit behind his back at the description of his very boring life.

For me, the fact that Akakievitch did receive a small measure of justice at the end made up for reading about all of the depressing things that happened to him.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My New Year's Post (10 Days Late)


I like making lists. When an idea flows from my brain to paper in an orderly fashion I feel that my life has regained balance. My tasks for the day are summed up and now I can have the supreme satisfaction of knowing that after I complete the task, I can cross them off. I don’t have to think about it again. It’s also a way to cope with my memory, which is about as reliable as customer service at Best Buy. An idea will flit across my brain. Hmmm… I need to send Mom a birthday card. I think about the steps involved in the process. I need to buy her a card. I need to buy a stamp. I need to go to the store to buy a card and a stamp. I can’t go to the store right now this minute, which would really be the only way for it to happen successfully. So I tell myself, write it down you idiot before you forget! And then I start to think about where my to do list is. Oh yes, I’m typing it on my computer now. I turn the computer on, I wait for it to load, and my email pops up. I check my email. I respond to that one email I’ve been waiting for all day, I check to see that yes my netflix movie is coming tomorrow. I pull up my to-do list and by now, of course, I’ve forgotten what I was going to write down. It goes without saying that Mom doesn’t get a birthday card.

Thus my dependence on lists. The start of a new year is an excellent time to make lots of lists. I’ve started my reading list for the year, which I posted earlier. I’m always adding to my Google To-do list. I have notebooks full of lists at work.

But I do not have a list of goals for the New Year. Yet. The tiniest germ of an idea has been rolling around in my head of what I want to set as goals for myself this year, but I’m going to write it down right here so it solidifies.

In 2008, I want to:

Write every day. I like writing, and I know I could be good at it if I stopped flirting with it and sit down to do the hard work of writing each and every day.

Take more pictures. I have my dream camera. It is a point and shoot to be sure, but it is the most amazing camera I personally have ever owned.

Read more books. Go to the library more. Go to Borders a little less.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Night Sky

I saw the most amazing thing last night. I went outside to let my dog out and when I looked up, I could see the sky.

The real true, starry sky with constellations and everything.

When I lived at my parent’s house, this wasn’t such an unusual thing, and I used to sit outside, even on the unbearably cold snowy nights to look at the stars. I like looking up and being able to piece together individual stars into patterns, like a puzzle. I worked once at a summer camp and every night it was the most incredible thing, the entire night sky, open for viewing without so much as a neon sign to disrupt it. There was one night the sky burst into streaming banners of color and I laid on the beach and the reflection of the Aurora Borealis on the water made me feel like I was floating in space.

When I packed up my things and moved to college in the city, I left behind all of my astronomy books and my star chart and resigned myself to complaining here and there about missing the stars. These days when I look up at the sky, if I can even see it over the light from the garages in the parking lot of the building, it is either a milky gray or else there is an orange haze covering most of the horizon like an ugly urban sunrise.

Don’t misunderstand me. I like the city. I live in one of the nicest suburbs and I am 15 minutes from practically any store you can think of, a stone’s throw from the real down town and its myriad of funky bookstores, restaurants and farmer’s markets, but in exchange I have been cut off from my one-time source of real enjoyment, The Night Sky.

It’s like a friend you’ve missed for so long you’ve practically forgotten that they exist. So tonight I say: Andromeda, Orion, Cassiopeia, my old friends, how I’ve missed you. Let’s not wait so long to meet up again. I’ll be looking for you on the next camping trip.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Book review: Feed



Can an old sci fi cliché be new again? In the skillful hands of M.T. Anderson, the answer is yes. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for any YA literature with a sci-fi bent, because I know that teens are a discriminating bunch, and its my belief that a sci-fi book has to be really really good to appeal to teens.

So imagine with me all of the technology of the internet, TV, and cell phones, and project it 100-200 years into the future. Now almost everyone has a “feed” directly implanted into their brain, allowing them to instantly access the internet, chat with anyone else who has a feed, watch “feedcasts” and instantly access the latest fashion trends. It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? And *wink *wink surprise surprise, it is.

What I think really stood out about this book is that the author did a fabulous job of creating lingo. He claims to have listened in to many a cell phone conversation in the mall for inspiration, and he has a good ear for how teenagers talk. Titus, the main character opens the story by stating “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.” Titus describes the scene as they are flying to moon:

As we flew across the surface of the moon, I couldn’t sleep. Link was playing with the seat… He was moving it forward and backward. Marty had dropped his bird, these fakes birds that were the big spit and lots of people had them, and Marty’s bird was floating off, because there was hardly any gravity, and whenever he leaned out to get his bird, Link would slam his seat back meg hard and it would go bam on Marty’s face and they would start laughing. Marty would be all, “Unit! Just wait one-" and Link would be, “Go for it. Try! Try it!” and Marty would be like, “Unit, you are so-!” And then they would be all big laughing and I felt like a complete bonesprocket for trying to sleep when there was fun.

M. T. Anderson creates very believable teenage characters. The friendships between them wax and wane throughout the course of the book, and each character stays true. The author could have easily given the book an ending where everyone ended up happy, but he allows the characters to develop which I believe makes the book even stronger.

I really thought the description on the back of the book was very ho-hum and I almost didn’t pick the book up. However, I’m so glad I did as it was a great read that kept me hooked up until the end.

Monday, January 7, 2008

... Yet More Resolutions

The beginning of the year is a fabulous time to get interested in book challenges. There are so many starting right now that I felt like a kid in a candy store browsing around and picking which ones I wanted to join. Since I started this blog (a few short days ago) I've been dipping my toes in the pool of book challenge goodness, and now I'm taking the plunge (so to speak).

So here goes. I'm joining 7 challenges so far this year, and I hope it will actually become more!


I have already posted about the , but here's my reading list so far (almost all books mooched from the parents):

Books/Stories by Philip K. Dick
A Scanner Darkly
Our Friends From Frolix 8
Paycheck
The Minority Report
The Man in the High Castle
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon
Radio Free Albemuth

Books by Ray Bradbury
The Toynbee Convector
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Quicker Than the Eye
The Illustrated Man

The Planet That Wasn’t by Isaac Asimov
Transition by Vonda McIntyre





Short Story Challenge
For this challenge, I have choices between 10 short stories during 2008 or 10 short story collections. I haven't finished my reading list, but this is the start:

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (collection)
Old Times on the Missippi by Mark Twain (story)
Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep? By Philip K Dick
The Overcoat by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol

I'm planning to keep up to date on this one by participating in the discussions on A Curious Singularity



I really like this one. I get to pick 7 titles from the books which have contended for the Mythopoeic Award. I might have to add more as I get more into this one:

Little, Big by John Crowley
Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card
A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer




In Their Shoes Challenge
For this one, I'm reading however many books I want to that are autobiographies, memoirs, or biographies:

Eat, Pray Love Elizabeth Gilbert
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
Candy girl: a year in the life of an unlikely stripper by Diablo Cody.
The year of magical thinking by Joan Didion
Paula by Isabel Allende
Ten Thousand Sorrows by Elizabeth Kim




Young Adult Reading Challenge
For this one I'm reading 12 Young Adult Books. I haven't had the time to quite finish this list either, but I figure I'll browse the library as I check out new books. Now that I've finally figured out where the YA section is:

Feed by M.T. Anderson
House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint
Esperanza rising by Pam Mu~noz Ryan
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray



Chunkster Challenge
For this I was a little apprehensive... 4 books in 2008 that are 450 pages or longer. But then I realized I already have a chunky book that I've started on, and another I'm planning to read for the Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge. So... easy peasy:


War and Peace
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens




My Year of Reading Dangerously
The point of this one is to read books that are challenging, or at a minimum ones you don't normally read. This one comes with an official list, which I'm going to stick with so far. The one that sounds the scariest for me is Great Expectations. Hope I can find all of these books in the library! If not, there will be some substitutions.

January: Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
February: The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison (African American)
March: Cat's Eye, by Margaret Atwood (Atwood for Atwood's sake)
April: Transformations, by Anne Sexton (Poetry)
May: Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote (Southern)
June: Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov (Russian)
July: The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier (adolescent)
August: Maus I and II, by Art Spiegelman (Graphic Novel, Pulitzer winner)
September: The Secret Lives of People in Love, by Simon Van Booy (Independent)
October: The Human Stain, by Philip Roth (Contemporary/Jewish)
November: A Month of Classic Short Stories, Various
December: The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck (Dusty)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Bookmooching

My mom just got Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover for Christmas. While visiting, I started reading it, and started getting really into it. So before she could even finish it, I asked her if I could please please borrow it because I just wanted so badly to finish it and start my own money makeover. She agreed, on the condition that I bring it back asap.

Husband and I are recent college grads and we both had read over the majority of the book in a few hours and we were absolutely amazed. Dave Ramsey claims that we could could get out of our amazing mountain of student loan debt in 2 years or less. He breaks down his plan into baby steps (a send up to "What About Bob") and I realized that we had actually started on his plan by recently paying off a minor student loan in 4 months instead of 10 years.

I quibble with Dave on a few minor points, but then again he is the one with the wealth, and I'm the one with the student loans, so I'll post an update after we get rolling and let you know how his techniques are working for us.

Total Money Makeover wasn't the only thing I mooched though. I have been getting more and more excited about the many reading challenges online, and in anticipation of the ones I hope to join soon, I cleared out a few shelves of my parents' books. I felt like I hit the literary jackpot, leaving with 2 bags worth of books. My parent's collection is pretty sci fi heavy, but I did score with War and Peace, a short story collection by Mark Twain, Animal Farm, The Gangs of New York, and Lord of the Flies.

The final thing I was uberexcited to recover from my parent's place is a stack I had been keeping of stories I've written over the years. I didn't have time to sort through it yet, but I saw stories as far back as middle school. One of my New Year's resolutions this year is to write more stories. Hopefully I will be inspired by all of the fabulous books I'll be reading!

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Blue Screen of Death... or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the External Hard Drive

Let's hear it for fortuitous circumstances. One of my Christmas gifts this year was an external hard drive, and December 26th is when my husband backed up all of his files on it. On December 27th, the Blue Screen of Death appeared.

While the body of the Dell is now broken (although hopefully revivable), its files, or soul, if you will live on. Simply in another format. To really mix my religious metaphors, you might even call it reincarnated in the external hard drive. Let's just call the whole situation what it is. A Christmas miracle! (picture a small child with very wide eyes saying this).

Anyone else experience any Christmas miracles? Or, if you will, Christmas fortuitous circumstances?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Bold Blue Adventure Goes to the Dogs


Or… what I am learning from my puppy.

I read a great deal of books about Cavaliers, puppies in general, house breaking, and training, before we got our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Rusty.

Rusty loves those books too. He really loves eating them.

Other favorite hobbies include chasing that long furry thing on his butt and barking at that interloper in the mirror. New people mean new smells and new excitement.

Let’s pretend for a minute this is a post where I am reviewing a book, thus doing you, the reader, a service, and not simply gushing on about how my puppy is the cutest puppy in the world. Alright. I choose to review Cesar’s Way by Cesar Milan.

Cesar is the one who went from illegal immigrant to nationally famous Dog Whisperer based on his ability to rehabilitate dogs who have major (and minor) behavior problems.

I have not seen his show at all, but I was impressed by his stories of how he saved many dogs who were so mishandled by their owners as to be unfit to be around humans or other dogs. He (and his ghost writer) has an excellent ability to explain how dogs think, and I find myself going back to his advice frequently when I am interacting with Rusty. I’ve learned, for example, that making a big fuss when Rusty bumps his head or is scared of something new only leads to Rusty feeling more scared because I, his pack leader, have shown him that its okay to react fearfully.

However, much of his advice seems aimed at larger dogs. Cavaliers are small and have such an easy-going temperament naturally, that I honestly skipped over some of his chapters that didn’t seem to apply.

However, I did find this quote sums up quite nicely what joys dogs bring to our lives: “Every day… dogs remind me to live in the present. Maybe I had a fender bender yesterday or I’m worried about the bill I have to pay tomorrow, but being around animals, I am always reminded that the only real moment in life is now” (p 96 if you’re curious).

I am not the perfect pet-parent of course, but because Rusty is a dog and lives in the right now, he will forgive me as long as I provide food, a lap, and a face to be licked enthusiastically.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

I was reading the other day about a controversy at a local college over the English department’s chosen common text for the semester. I immediately decided to read it because there is nothing I like more than a controversial book.

The Handmaid’s Tale describes a dystopian society in the near future where a totalitarian regime has removed nearly every trace of freedom from the women. Women are covered from head to toe and no longer allowed to read. Declining fertility leads to a class of “handmaids” who act as concubines to the wealthy men. The extra twist is that the setting is the US, taken over by Christian fundamentalists and renamed it the Republic of Gilead.

Offred, the title character, is a Handmaid; the concept is stolen from a very literal reading of the Biblical story of Rachel and Leah’s who gave their handmaids Bilhah and Zilphah to their husband Jacob in order to increase the number of their offspring. Although Offred was once an average American woman with a husband and daughter of her own, her only job now is to have sex once a month with her Commander in order to produce he and his wife a child.

While The Handmaid’s Tale treads similar territory to Brave New World and 1984, I think it is a fascinating read well worth the effort. Having attended for many years a Christian church in the throes of an extremely fundamentalist line of thinking, I found myself wanting to pump my arms in the air and yell “Yes! This is what happens when extremists use religion to justify their politics!”

The Handmaid’s Tale should definitely be on your reading list. Not because it is an accurate picture of the religion by any means, but it does offer a look at fundamentalist teachings taken to their ultimate conclusion and warns us that the picture isn’t pretty. Atwood writes beautiful prose and I was totally drawn in to her writing. The book doesn’t explain everything that’s going on right away, and in the early chapters, each tantalizing clue as to what happened to Offred and what the Republic of Gilead is makes it hard to put the book down.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Books Read by Month

2008
January

The Overcoat
by Gogol
Feed by M.T. Anderson
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
American Gods by Neil Gaiman

February

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason
Firefly Lane byKristin Hannah

March
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason
The Three Incestuous Sisters by Audrey Niffenegger
The Sister by Poppy Adams
Nickeled and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Fifteen Minutes of Shame by Lisa Daly

April
Araby by James Joyce
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
Bikini Season by Sheila Roberts
Our Friends from Frolix 8 by Philip K. Dick
Fifteen Minutes of Shame by Lisa Daly
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Messenger by Lois Lowry
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Fables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham
Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney
Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper by Diablo Cody

May
Fables: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham
Watermelon King by Daniel Wallace
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Interpreter of Maladies by by Jhumpa Lahiri
Life is So Good by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman
Janeology by Karen Harrington
Stardust by Neil Gaiman

June
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mosim Hamid
Entombed by Linda Fairstein
Sandman: World's End by Neil Gaiman
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Marie-Therese, Child of Terror by Susan Nagel

July
The Absolute Sandman Volume 1 by Neil Gaiman
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Breakout by Paul Fleischman
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

August
The Free Lunch by Spider Robinson
Eminent Domain by Dan O' Brien
Mercy Street by Mariah Stewart
Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman
Farworld: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage
Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Montana 1948 by Larry Watson

September
Watchmen by Alan Moore
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation Volume 1: The Pox Party by M. T. Anderson
Uglies by Scott Westerfield
Vampyres of Hollywood by Adrienne Barbeau
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

October
I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon by Philip K. Dick
Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

November
Old Man's War by John Scalzi
Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 1 by Alan Moore
Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Last Colony by John Scalzi

December
Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horowitz
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
New Moon by Stephanie Meyer

2009
January

Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card
Paper Towns by John Green
Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Corey Doctorow
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
Sandman:Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman
Sandman:A Game of You by Neil Gaiman

February

Eclipse One edited by Jonathan Strahan
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Fables:Storybook Love by Bill Willingham
Fables:March of the Wooden Soldiers by Bill Willingham
Sandman:Fables and Reflections by Neil Gaiman

March
Sandman:Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman
Sandman:the Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman
Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

April
Heat Lightning by Jason Sanford
Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar
Library: an Unquiet History by Matthew Battles
Tigerheart by Peter David
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
Zel by Donna Jo Napoli
Sandman: The Wake by Neil Gaiman
Fables: The Mean Seasons by Bill Willingham
Fables: Homelands by Bill Willingham
Fables: Arabian Nights (And Days) by Bill Willingham

May
Laika by Nick Abadzis
Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman
Vampire Knight Volume I by Matsuri Hino
Vampire Knight Volume II by Matsuri Hino
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephan Chbosky
The Apprentice's Masterpiece by Melanie Little
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

June
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
Fables: Wolves by Bill Willingham
Fables: Sons of Empire by Bill Willingham
Fables: The Good Prince by Bill Willingham
Emma: Volume I by Kaoru Mori
The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman
Emma: Volume II by Kaoru Mori
Emma: Volume III by Kaoru Mori
Emma: Volume IV by Kaoru Mori
The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
The Lucifer Effect by Phillip Zimbardo
A Beautiful Child by Matt Birkbeck
The Walking Dead: Miles Behind Us by Robert Kirkman

July
Fables: War and Pieces by Bill Willingham
Bluebeard
by Kurt Vonnegut
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Storm Front by Jim Butcher
The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway
Emma: Volume V by Kaoru Mori
The Walking Dead: Safety Behind Bars by Robert Kirkman
The Walking Dead: The Heart's Desire by Robert Kirkman
The Walking Dead: The Best Defense by Robert Kirkman
Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham
Heavier Than Air by Nona Caspers
The Gathering by Anne Enright
The Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life by Robert Kirkman
The Walking Dead: The Calm Before by Robert Kirkman
The Walking Dead: Made to Suffer by Robert Kirkman
What Do Muslims Believe? by Ziaddin Sardar
The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

August
Scar Night by Alan Campbell
Thessaly: Witch for Hire by Bill Willingham
Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond
Persepolis I by Marjane Satrapi

September
Persepolis II by Marjane Satrapi
The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffeneger
Emma Volume 6 by Kaoru Mori
Emma Volume 7 by Kaoru Mori
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Persepolis I & II by Marjane Satrapi

October
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffeneger
A Spanish Lover by Joanna Trollope

November
In the Woods by Tana French
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Under the Banner of Heaven by

December
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
The City and The City by China Mieville
Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
Flora Segunda
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

January
Freakonomics
Superfreakonomics
Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall
Liar by Justine Larbalestier
Persuasion by Jane Austen
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Coraline (graphic novel) by Neil Gaiman
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by
The Help by

Finally... A Resolution I Can Keep


I'm not usually one to make resolutions, because I don't like to fool myself into thinking I will actually keep them. This year, though, I stumbled upon a resolution that will be hard to screw up.

In January and February of this year, I'm joining the Sci-Fi Experience 2008 and committing to read some science fiction in January and February. My goals are to read the Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars series and also tackle more Philip K. Dick stories. His short stories were the basis for a number of movies, including Minority Report and Paycheck, both of which are personal favorites. I'll post reviews of the books I read on this blog.

As a middle schooler, I used to scour the library shelves for the books marked with the blue rocket ship label. I loved imagining the big "what if". I still browse through the sci fi section at the library. There's nothing better than the feeling of turning the last page in an Asimov or Heinlein yarn, your head buzzing with all sorts of new ideas of what the world would be like if we have robots who became sentient or space ships that could shrink to the size of a molecule. I'm looking forward to this resolution. Want to join? Click here.