Thursday, January 31, 2008

Seafaring Challenge!

Ahoy! Yet another challenge has started - this time hosted by Christina at I Heart Paperbacks! The Seafaring Challenge runs from November 1, 2007 to January 31, 2008. Everyone starts as a midshipman, but can then pick a rank to aim for. My goal is Captain - 2 books with a nautical theme in any genre:

Patrick O'Brian. The Mauritius Command. Fiction -- finished 1/12/2008

Pete Goss. Close to the Wind. Memoir -- finished 1/30/2008

Close to the Wind by Pete Goss

First sentence:

"If the Southern Ocean represents the consummate challenge for any long-distance sailor, then the Vendée Globe is the pinnacle--one man, one boat against the elements."


"On November 3, 1996, former Royal Marine Pete Goss embarked on the most grueling competition in his sailing career: the Vendée Globe, a nonstop, single-handed round-the-world yacht race. For the next seven weeks he met every challenge in his stormy path, from combating waves the height of six-story buildings to grappling with his spinnaker in high winds. Then everything began going wrong: His sails were destroyed, his navigation equipment proved useless. And on Christmas Day his radio picked up a Mayday that a French competitor was sinking 160 miles away. Turning into the hurricane-force winds, Goss set out to rescue a near-dead man on a life raft somewhere in the vast wilderness of the merciless southern ocean. How he did it makes this extraordinary tale as amazing as it is thrilling."

My thoughts:

This was a very well-written book as Pete Goss takes the reader into his life and onto the Aqua Quorum as it battles the wind and water while various parts break down. I had read about Goss's rescue of French sailor Dinelli in Derek Lundy's book Godforsaken Sea but it was good to hear about it from Goss's point of view.

Date read: 1/30/2008
Book #: 7
Challenges: Seafaring Challenge; Winter Reading Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Memoir/Adventure

ISBN-10: 0786707410
ISBN-13: 9780786707416
Publisher: Carroll & Graf
Year: 2000
# of Pages: 261
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Paingod and Other Delusions by Harlan Ellison

First sentence:

"Tears were impossible, yet tears were his heritage."


Robert Heinlein says, "This book is raw corn liquor-- you should serve a whiskbroom with each shot so the customer can brush the sawdust off after he gets up from the floor."

Perhaps a mooring cable might also be added as necessary equipment for reading these eight wonderful stories: They not only knock you down. . . .they raise you to the stars. Passion is the keynote as you encounter the Harlequin and his nemesis, the dreaded Ticktockman, in one of the most reprinted and widely taught stories in the English language; a pyrotic who creates fire merely by willing it; the last surgeon in a world of robot physicians; a spaceship filled with hideous mutants rejected by the world that gave them birth. Touching and gentle and shocking stories from an incomparable master of impossible dreams and troubling truths."

  • Paingod
  • "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman
  • The Crackpots
  • Sleeping Dogs
  • Bright Eyes
  • The Discarded
  • Wanted in Surgery
  • Deeper Than the Darkness
My thoughts:

Disturbing, poignant, thought-provoking - all terms to describe these intense stories about pain, struggle and courage. All except "Repent, Harlequin!" were new to me and I found some new Ellison favorites in The Discarded, Bright Eyes and Wanted in Surgery.

Date read: 1/29/2008
Book #: 6
Challenge: Short Story Reading Challenge
Rating: 4*/5 = great
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0441645763
ISBN-13: 9780441645763
Publisher: Ace Books
Year: 1983
# of Pages: 178
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Monday, January 21, 2008

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

First sentence:

"I am what they call in our village 'one who has not yet diet' -- a widow, eighty years old."


"Lily is haunted by memories–of who she once was, and of a person, long gone, who defined her existence. She has nothing but time now, as she recounts the tale of Snow Flower, and asks the gods for forgiveness.

In nineteenth-century China, when wives and daughters were foot-bound and lived in almost total seclusion, the women in one remote Hunan county developed their own secret code for communication: nu shu (“women’s writing”). Some girls were paired with laotongs, “old sames,” in emotional matches that lasted throughout their lives. They painted letters on fans, embroidered messages on handkerchiefs, and composed stories, thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments.

With the arrival of a silk fan on which Snow Flower has composed for Lily a poem of introduction in nu shu, their friendship is sealed and they become “old sames” at the tender age of seven. As the years pass, through famine and rebellion, they reflect upon their arranged marriages, loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their lifelong friendship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a brilliantly realistic journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. With the period detail and deep resonance of Memoirs of a Geisha, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel delves into one of the most mysterious of human relationships: female friendship."

My thoughts:

This was a moving book about friendship and how different perceptions can affect it. I also learned a lot about women's lives and customs in 19th century rural China.

Date read: 1/21/2008
Book #: 5
Challenge: Winter Reading Challenge
Rating: 4*/5 = great
Genre: Historical Fiction

ISBN-10: 1400060281
ISBN-13: 9781400060283
Publisher: Random House
Year: 2005
# of Pages: 253
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov

First sentence:

"Stubbornly Elijah Baley fought panic."


"Solaria was a beautiful planet, but a sparsely settled one, The Solarians had so isolated themselves that direct contact with others was almost unbearable, and all interpersonal dealings were conducted by solid-seeming trimensional projections.

Now there had been a murder. The victim had been so neurotic that even the presence of his wife was barely endurable, But someone had been close enough to beat him to death while he was attended by his robots. Naturally, the robots couldn't have done it-the first law of robotics would not let them harm a human being. No weapon had been found.

It seemed a paradox. So the authorities sent for Lije Baley, who was delighted to find that his old partner, the human-seeming robot R. Daneel Olivaw, would join him. The partnership was back in business - a strange business, indeed."

My thoughts:

This book was a good mix of science fiction and mystery. There was a theme of overcoming fears throughout the book, whether it was Lije's fear of the outdoors or the Solarian's fear of personal presence. I look forward to reading the first book in the series, The Caves of Steel.

Date read: 1/19/2008
Book #: 4
Series: R. Daneel Olivaw, #2
Challenges: Celebrate the Author Challenge, Winter Reading Challenge, TBR Challenge 2008
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0345313909
ISBN-13: 9780345313904
Publisher: Del Rey
Year: 1983
# of Pages: 208
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Red Room by Nicci French

First sentence:

"Beware of beautiful days."


"Kit Quinn is a young woman who inhabits dangerous worlds: crime scenes, interrogation scenes, hospitals for the criminally insane. Horribly wounded in a brutal attack, she must return to the site of her worst fears. She is asked by the police to advise them on a simple murder inquiry. A young runaway has been found killed by a London canal and the chief suspect is the man who wounded her.

But it isn't a simple case. Kit refuses to accept appearances, against opposition from the police and her own fears; she finds other crimes, other victims. Her obsessive search for the truth draws her into an underworld of abandoned and exploited young people, and puts her at terrible risk."

My thoughts:

This was an interesting mystery. I liked how the clues were revealed bit by bit as Kit tried to discover the truth about the canal killings.

Date read: 1/12/2008
Book #: 3
Challenges: What's in a Name Challenge, Winter Reading Challenge, TBR Challenge 2008
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Mystery

Publisher: BCA
Year: 2001
# of Pages: 340
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

The Mauritius Command by Patrick O'Brian

First sentence:

"Captain Aubrey of the Royal Navy lived in a part of Hampshire well supplied with sea-officers, some of whom had reach flag-rank in Rodney's day while others were still waiting for their first command."


"Captain Jack Aubrey is ashore on half pay without a command, until Stephen Maturin arrives with secret orders for Aubrey to take a frigate to the Cape of Good Hope under a commodore's pennant, there to mount an expedition against the French-held islands of Mauritius and La Réunion. But the difficulties of carrying out his orders are compounded by two of his own captains—Lord Clonfert, a pleasure-seeking dilettante, and Captain Corbett, whose severity pushes his crew to the verge of mutiny."

My thoughts:

Like previous Aubrey-Maturin books, this one took me back in time to the Napoleonic Wars and to faraway places. I liked the interactions between Dr. Stephen Maturin and his friend Jack Aubrey. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Desolation Island.

Date read: 1/12/20008
Book #: 2
Series: Aubrey-Maturin #4
Challenges: Seafaring Challenge, Winter Reading Challenge, Book-a-Month Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Historical Fiction / Nautical Adventure

ISBN-10: 039330762X
ISBN-13: 9780393307627
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Year: 1991
# of Pages: 348
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine

First sentence:

"On the morning Vera died I woke up very early."


"Like most families they had their secrets and hid them under a genteelly respectable veneer. No onlooker would guess that Vera Hillyard and her beautiful sister, Eden, were locked in a dark and bitter combat over one of those secrets. England in the fifties was not kind to women who erred. . .so they had to fight it out behind closed curtains using every weapon they had.

In this case, murder."

My thoughts:

This was an interesting mystery as family secrets are revealed a bit at a time. At first, the slowness of the narrative annoyed me, but overtime I began to appreciate the way Faith learned about her family's past along with the reader.

Date read: 1/10/2008
Book #: 1
Challenge: Book Awards Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 0140086366
ISBN-13: 9780140086362
Publisher: Gardner Books
Year: 1987
# of Pages: 300
Binding: Paperback
LibraryThing Page