Saturday, January 27, 2007

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden


"In this literary tour de force, novelist Arthur Golden enters a remote and shimmeringly exotic world. For the protagonist of this peerlessly observant first novel is Sayuri, one of Japan's most celebrated geisha, a woman who is both performer and courtesan, slave and goddess.

We follow Sayuri from her childhood in an impoverished fishing village, where in 1929, she is sold to a representative of a geisha house, who is drawn by the child's unusual blue-grey eyes. From there she is taken to Gion, the pleasure district of Kyoto. She is nine years old. In the years that follow, as she works to pay back the price of her purchase, Sayuri will be schooled in music and dance, learn to apply the geisha's elaborate makeup, wear elaborate kimono, and care for a coiffure so fragile that it requires a special pillow. She will also acquire a magnanimous tutor and a venomous rival. Surviving the intrigues of her trade and the upheavals of war, the resourceful Sayuri is a romantic heroine on the order of Jane Eyre and Scarlett O'Hara. And Memoirs of a Geisha is a triumphant work - suspenseful, and utterly persuasive."

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book about Sayuri's life in Japan during World War II as she learns to become a geisha. I especially liked her relationships with her mentor Mameha, the scarred businessman Nobu, and her friend, the Chairman.

Date finished: 1/23/2007
Book No.: 8
Rating: 4* = great
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 1400096898
ISBN-13: 978-1400096893
Publisher: Vintage
Year: 2005
No. of pages: 512
Binding: Paperback

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Storm Front by Jim Butcher


"Harry Dresden--Wizard
Lost items found. Paranormal investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he's the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the "everyday" world is actually full of strange and magical things--and most of them don't play too well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Takes a wizard to catch a--well, whatever.

There's just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name. And that's when things start to get... interesting.

Magic. It can get a guy killed. "

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this gritty book about a wizard trying to solve murders without getting in trouble with the Council. I especially liked the way he battles the demon, the giant scorpions and the black mage - often without extra help from props.

Date finished: 1/22/2007
Book No.: 7
Rating: 4* = great
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0451457811
ISBN-13: 978-0451457813
Publisher: Roc
Year: 2000
No. of pages: 336
Binding: Paperback

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Amateur Cracksman by E.W. Hornung


"Gentleman thief Raffles is daring, debonair, devilishly handsome-and a first-rate cricketer. In these eight stories, the master burglar indulges his passion for cricket and crime: stealing jewels from a country house, outwitting the law, pilfering from the nouveau riche, and, of course, bowling like a demon-all with the assistance of his plucky sidekick, Bunny. Encouraged by his brother-in-law, Arthur Conan Doyle, to write a series about a public school villain, and influenced by his own experiences at Uppingham, E. W. Hornung created a unique form of crime story, where, in stealing as in sport, it is playing the game that counts, and there is always honor among thieves."

My thoughts:

I enjoyed these stories, especially as Raffles eludes capture through various disguises and travel changes. I also noticed the similarities between Raffles and Holmes and Bunny and Watson. Like Watson with Holmes, Bunny is often miffed at the way Raffles doesn't share the plan and expects him to know what to do.

Date finished: 1/18/2007
Book No.: 6
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0881843598
ISBN-13: 978-0881843590
Publisher: Carroll and Graf
Year: 1988, originally published in 1899
No. of pages: 240
Binding: Paperback

Monday, January 15, 2007

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell


" From David Mitchell, the Booker Prize nominee, award-winning writer and one of the featured authors in Granta's "Best of Young British Novelists 2003" issue, comes his highly anticipated third novel, a work of mind-bending imagination and scope.

A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan's California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified "dinery server" on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation -- the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other's echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.

In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity's dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us."

My thoughts: I had heard before reading this book that it had complicated, overlapping storylines. To be honest, I wasn't sure if I would like the book, and in fact, almost stopped reading it during the first section (Journal of Adam Ewing). However, as I continued through the sections and stories, I gradually liked it more and more. I especially liked the sections featuring Luisa Rey, Somni the fabricant, and Zachry.

Date finished: 1/15/2007
Rating: 4* = great
Book No. : 5
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0340822783
ISBN-13: 978-0340822784
Publisher: Sceptre
No. of pages: 544
Binding: Paperback

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Shakespeare's Landlord by Charlaine Harris


"Lily Bard is a loner. Other than the day-to-day workings of her cleaning and errand-running service, she pays little attention to the town around her. But when her landlord is murdered, Lily is singled out as the prime suspect, and proving her innocence will depend on finding the real killer in quiet, secretive Shakespeare."

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this small town mystery. I especially liked the way Lily observed her neighbors and employers and how she created a new life for herself.

Date finished: 1/13/2007
Book No.: 4
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 0425206866
ISBN-13: 978-0425206867
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime; Reissue edition
Year: 2005
No. of Pages: 214
Binding: Paperback

From the Stacks Challenge

Another way for me to whittle down my TBR mountain!

For this challenge, I must read 5 of my TBR books between now and January 30th.

Here's my list:

Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst -- finished 12/30/2006
The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde -- finished 12/31/2006
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer -- finished 1/1/2007
Arcadia by Jim Crace -- finished 1/9/2007
Far Horizons edited by Robert Silverberg -- finished 1/11/2007

Friday, January 12, 2007

Far Horizons: All New Tales from the Greatest Worlds in Science Fiction edited by Robert Silverberg


"The universe of the mind is a limitless expanse of wonders, filled with worlds and secrets that cannot be fully explored within the pages of a single novel.

Avid readers of science fiction have long appreciated the myriad joys of returning to fictional galaxies already experienced. In Far Horizons, a variable "Who's Who" of science fiction's most beloved and highly honored writers once again revisit the remarkable worlds they created and made famous. Perhaps the greatest concentration of science fiction talent ever in one volume, this unprecedented masterpiece reopens vast empires of imagination and adventure to new explorations and appreciations. It is a major SF event, sure to bring unparalleled joy to the hearts of serious fans everywhere."


Old Music and the Slave Women - Ursula K. LeGuin (Ekumen)
A Separate War - Joe Haldeman (Forever War)
Investment Counselor - Orson Scott Card (Ender Saga)
Temptation - David Brin (Uplift)
Getting to Know the Dragon - Robert Silverberg (Roma Eterna)
Orphans of the Helix - Dan Simmons (Hyperion Cantos)
Sleeping Dogs - Nancy Kress (Sleepless)
The Boy Who Would Live Forever - Frederik Pohl (Heechee Saga)
A Hunger for the Infinite - Gregory Benford (Galactic Centre)
The Ship That Returned - Anne McCaffrey (The Ship Who Sang)
The Way of All Ghosts: A Myth from Thistledown - Greg Bear (The Way)

My thoughts: This was a long book, but well worth it. I think I had read the Simmons story somewhere else, but I enjoyed reading it again. I was familiar with the Ender Saga (Card), the Heechee stories (Pohl) and the Hyperion Cantos (Simmons), but had not yet read the other ones. Now I can increase my wishlist!

Date finished: 1/11/2007
Book No.: 3
Rating: 3* = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0380796945
ISBN-13: 978-0380796946
Publisher: Eos
Year: 2000
No. of pages: 578
Binding: Paperback

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Arcadia by Jim Crace


"In just a few years - first with Continent (hailed by John Hawkes as "Stunning, powerful and original") and then The Gift of Stones (Frank Kermode called it "a tour de force" and its author "a virtuoso") - Jim Crace has shown himself to be one of the most resourceful and distinctive novelists in the English language today. Now, with Arcadia, he has written a novel of extraordinary scope and texture, creating a wholly original and compelling vision of modern life - a world both foreign and very similar to that which we have inherited and made our own. At the center of Arcadia stands Victor, a solitary man who has risen by his own hard efforts from the direst circumstances to a position of immense wealth and undeniable influence. ("No wonder Victor never fell in love," we are told. "A childhood like the one he had would make ice cubes of us all. He lived on mother's milk till he was six, and then thrived on charity and trade!") It is now the occasion of Victor's eightieth birthday, and in celebration, his right-hand man has prepared something special: a country feast in the heart of the metropolis, twenty-seven stories above the marketplace where Victor began to reap his fortune. But Victor himself is making plans of his own to leave his mark upon the city, an imprint as indelible and disruptive as the one left on him... But if Arcadia is the story of Victor it is also that of Rook, his aptly named assistant, a man not above cutting a few inside deals for himself... Anna, Victor's efficient, protective secretary who will become Rook's eager lover... Joseph, a young man from the country with rough ambitions of his own... a dapper, celebrated architect who figures in Victor's plans... people from Victor's almost Dickensian childhood... and, most important for all of them, the marketplace called the Soap Market, which binds them all to one another... And so the stage is set for Arcadia, a dream of those who live in great cities."

My thoughts: At first, I wasn't sure if I would like this book. Victor wasn't a likable character, and following Rook into the city wasn't that interesting. By the third chapter, however, I was hooked on Victor's story and how his childhood in the Soap Market influenced him throughout his life. I also liked the themes of city vs. country, the market, fire, and food that played throughout the book.

Date finished: 1/9/2006
Book No.: 2
Challenge: TBR Challenge 2007
Rating: 4*/5 = great
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 068912158X
ISBN-13: 978-0689121586
Publisher: Scribner
No. of pages: 320
Binding: Hardcover

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer


"Stay Back, Human. You don't know what you are dealing with.

Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a brilliant criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn't know what he's taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit. These aren't the fairies of bedtime stories. These fairies are armed and they're dangerous. Artemis thinks he's got them just where he wants them, but then they stop playing by the rules."

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this battle of wits and magic between the genuis Artemis and the LEPrecon captain Holly Short, her boss Commander Root, and Foaly the Centaur. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Arctic Incident.

Date finished: 1/1/2007
Book No.: 1
Rating: 3* = good

ISBN-10: 0786817070
ISBN-13: 978-0786817078
Publisher: Miramax (Reprint edition)
No. of pages: 304
Binding: Paperback