Saturday, January 31, 2009

Naming Conventions Challenge

Naming Conventions Challenge
When: September 1, 2008 - January 31, 2009
What: Pick books that have a relationship to the letters of your name - initials of author's first name and/or initials of author's last name and/or first initial of the title. See the website linked above for more information

Using my first name Karen, here's my list of books that start with each letter of my name:

Unread Authors Challenge 2008

Unread Authors Challenge
When: August 1, 2008 - January 31, 2009
What: Read six books by authors you've never read before

My list:

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

First sentence:

"The temperature of the room dropped fast."


"Nathaniel is eleven years old and a magician's apprentice. All is well until he has a life-changing encounter with Simon Lovelace, a magician of unrivaled ruthlessness and ambition. When Lovelace brutally humiliates Nathaniel in public, Nathaniel decides to speed up his education, teaching himself spells way beyond his years. With revenge on his mind, he masters one of the toughest spells of all and summons Bartimaeus, a five-thousand-year-old djinni to assist him. But summoning Bartimaeus and controlling him are two different things entirely, and when Nathaniel sends the djinni out to steal Lovelace's greatest treasure, the Amulet of Samarkand, he finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of magical espionage, murder, and rebellion.

Set in a modern-day London spiced with magicians and mystery, The Amulet of Samarkand is an extraordinary, edge-of-your-seat thriller with many unexpected twists. Following Bartimaeus and Nathaniel in turn, the story introduces us to two wonderfully memorable characters -- destined to go through many adventures together and bound by a spell that is nearly impossible to break." -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this fantasy featuring the djinii Bartimaeus. I liked his footnote asides and his trying to fulfill his missions without getting caught. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, The Golem's Eye.

Date read: 1/30/2009
Book #: 10
Series: The Bartimaeus Trilogy #1
Challenges: Unread Authors Challenge 2008, Naming Conventions Challenge, 999 Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 078681859X
ISBN-13: 9780786818594
Publisher: Mirimax
Year: 2003
# of Pages: 462
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing page

Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life by Michael Dirda

First sentence:

"Over the past fifty years I've spent a lot of time -- some might say an inordinate amount of time -- in the company of books."


"Once out of school, most people read for pleasure. But for some of us, there is an equally important reason that we read: to learn how to live. Drawing on sources as diverse as Dr. Seuss and Simone Weil, P.G. Wodehouse and Isaiah Berlin, Pulitzer Price-winning critic Michael Dirda shows how the wit, wisdom, and enchantment of the written word informs and enriches every aspect of life, from education and work to love and death. From essential works for children to the handful of masterpieces that every reader should have at his command, Dirda offers us an opinionated, personal, and idiosyncratic account of what -- and how -- to draw meaning from what we read.

Organized by significant life events and brimming with quotations from great writers and thinkers, Book by Book showcases Dirda's capacious love for and understanding of books. Through his suggested readings and brief essays he draws us deeper into the classics, as well as lesser-known works of literature, history, and philosophy, with an eye to how we might better understand our lives." -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book as it introduced me to some new authors and raised some interesting points regarding work, life, love, and the arts.

Date read: 1/29/2009
Book #: 9
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge, Dewey Decimal Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Nonfiction

ISBN-10: 0805078770
ISBN-13: 9780805078770
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Year: 2005
# of Pages: 167
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mailbox Monday - January 26th

Every Monday on The Printed Page is the meme, "Mailbox Monday," in which people post about the books they got the previous week.

Here's my list:

Sean Stewart. Perfect Circle
Boris Akunin. The Winter Queen
Brandon Sanderson. Mistborn

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox

First sentence:

"I woke up to find the message in my left hand."


"In September 1998, Michael J. Fox stunned the world by announcing that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease - a degenerative neurological condition. He had been secretly fighting it for seven years.

Now, he tells the story of his life - from his childhood to his meteoric rise in film and television and, most importantly, the last ten years during which he has dealt with his illness.

He talks about what Parkinson's has given him: the chance to appreciate a wonderful life, and the opportunity to help search for a cure and spread public awareness of the disease. He feels as if he is a very lucky man indeed." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I enjoyed reading this memoir. I learned a lot about Parkinson's and about Fox's struggles to cope both physically and emotionally. I admire his candor and honesty as he looks back on his life before and after the diagnosis.

Date read: 1/21/2009
Book #: 8
Challenges: Dewey Decimal Challenge, In Their Shoes Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Memoir

ISBN-10: 0091885671
ISBN-13: 9780091885670
Publisher: Ebury Press
Year: 2002
# of Pages: 306
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The King's Buccaneer by Raymond E. Feist

First sentence:

"Ghuda stretched."


"Long recovered from the ravages of the Riftwar, the land and people of the Kingdom of the Isles thrive. Nicholas, youngest son of Prince Arutha, is intelligent and gifted but vastly inexperienced. In hopes of hardening him, his father sends him and his irreverent squire, Harry, to live at rustic Castle Crydee to learn of life beyound the halls of privilege. But within weeks of Nicholas and Harry's arrival, Crydee is viciously attacked by unknown assailents, resulting in murder, massive destruction, and the abduction of two young noblewomen. The raiders have come from a pirate haven and are no ordinary foe. . .but an enemy connected to dark magical forces that threaten the lands Nicholas will someday rule -- if he survives." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a good fantasy in the Riftwar series. I liked how the characters Nicholas, Harry, Brisa and Anthony became more confident and sure of themselves. I also liked how they and their friends faced the many challenges in their path.

Date read: 1/20/2009
Book #: 7
Series: Krondor's Sons, #2 / Riftwar Saga, #6
Challenges: Naming Conventions Challenge, Chunkster Challenge 2009, 999 Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0553563734
ISBN-13: 9780553563733
Publisher: Bantam Books
Year: 1994
# of Pages: 523
Binding: Mass Market Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tuesday Thinger: Swap This Book

"Tuesday Thingers" is a weekly question hosted by Wendi at Wendi's Book Corner.

Today's question reads:

Have you ever used the Swap This Book function which can be found on the main page of any book (here is an example of Flirting With Forty by Jane Porter: link shown on book page, what it looks like if you click on the link)? If so, what do you think about it? If not, are there any other swap sites you utilize to exchange books once you are done? What do you do with your books if you no longer want them anymore?

My response:

I do look at the swap column when I'm thinking of where to offer my books. I regularly use Bookmooch and PaperBackSwap for trades, though I also have accounts on Title Trader and What's On My Bookshelf. If I see that many people want a title I have on Bookmooch, I'll log in on that site and put in the ISBN of the book I have. This way, I make sure that people want my edition and I don't accidentally post something I don't have.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Narrows by Alexander C. Irvine

First sentence:

"Midnight in the golem factory."


"From award-winning author Alexander C. Irvine comes a compelling, fantastical riff on history and World War II. The Narrows takes place in Detroit, where Henry Ford's factories have been retooled for America's grand war effort. But there are also more clandestine operations under way -- including a top-secret effort to produce golems -- powerful beings fashioned from the earth -- to destroy Nazis. Here lurk strange spies in unlikely places -- and a not-so-extraordinary man who is inadvertently poised at the bizarre, urgent center of it all....

Spared fighting in Europe because of a bum hand, Jared wishes he could join the cause, instead of mindlessly sifting clay to be made into golems. But there is something that preys on his dreams: the devilish dwarf known as the Nain Rouge. In his youth, Jared once actually saw the Dwarf -- a chilling creature that shows itself to individuals just before their demise. Now the Nain Rouge appears to be coming back for Jared himself.

Many have a profound interest in Jared's childhood run-in with the Dawrf -- including a German spy, Jared's hateful foreman at the golem factory, and a shape-shifting Indian shaman. But what could a simple man who earns a meager living possibly have to do with espionage and dark deeds? While Jared toils invisibly in the bowels of Ford's plant, the answer is about to reveal itself in a cataclysm of mythic and sinister proportions." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a very interesting urban fantasy which mixed the fantastical with the historical time period. I liked how Jared tried to do the right thing even when things were difficult at home and at work.

Date read: 1/16/2009
Book #: 6
Challenge: 999 Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Urban Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0345466985
ISBN-13: 9780345466983
Publisher: Del Rey
Year: 2005
# of pages: 345
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing page

The Merchants' War by Charles Stross

First sentence:

"The wreckage still smoldered in the wan dawn light, sending a column of grayish-white smoke spiraling into the misty sky above Niejwein."


"Miriam Beckstein is a young, hip business journalist in Boston. She discovered in The Family Trade and The Hidden Family that her family comes from an alternate reality, that she is very well connected, and that her family is a lot too much like the Mafia for comfort. She found herself caught in a family trap in The Clan Corporate and betrothed to a brain-damaged prince, and then all hell broke loose: a coup against the Clan by the Nobility.

Now, in The Merchants’ War, Miriam has escaped to world three in the turmoil, and remains in hiding from both the Clan and their opponents. She has found her way to her friends, who have a revolution to plan and now must incorporate Miriam to protect her.

There is a nasty shooting war going on in the Gruinmarkt world of the Clan, directed on the Clan side from hideouts in the United States, and we know something that Miriam does not, something that she’s really going to hate when she finds out—if she lives long enough to find out. And the Clan does not know that the United States has discovered them and is Out to destroy them, too.

Nobody is going to stop reading this book, or the Merchant Princes series, before the end. Stay tuned." -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

This book was a good installment in the Merchant Princes story. I liked the various storyline featuring other characters which intersect at the end. I look forward to finding out what happens next in The Revolution Business.

Date read: 1/13/2009
Book #: 5
Series: Merchant Princes, #4
Challenge: Support Your Local Library Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: SF

ISBN-10: 0765355892
ISBN-13: 9780765355898
Publisher: Tor
Year: 2008
# of Pages: 384
LibraryThing page

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

First sentence:

"Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the cirumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its Outer Walls."


"The history of a gigantic castle named Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake's masterwork tells the strange and wonder-filled adventures of Titus, heir to the House of Groan." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a deeply descriptive book that took me into a world with fascinating characters who have their own idiosyncrasies. I look forward to reading what happens next to Titus in Gormenghast.

Date read: 1/7/2009
Book #: 4
Series: Gormenghast Trilogy, #1
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0345270967
ISBN-13: 978034527096
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Year: 1967
# of Pages: 543
Binding: Mass Market Paperback

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

First sentence:

"Once upon a time—for that is how all stories should begin—there was a boy who lost his mother."


"High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother. He is angry and alone, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness, and as he takes refuge in the myths and fairytales so beloved of his dead mother he finds that the real world and the fantasy world have begun to meld. The Crooked Man has come, with his mocking smile and his enigmatic words: 'Welcome, your majesty. All hail the new king'

And as war rages across Europe, David is violently propelled into a land that is both a construct of his imagination yet frighteningly real, a strange reflection of his own world composed of myths and stories, populated by wolves and worse-than-wolves, and ruled over by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious, legendary book... The Book of Lost Things." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a great book about love and loss and facing one's fears. I liked the way David's wishes and fears influenced the kingdom as well as the interesting twists on the familiar fairy tales, myths and nursery stories. I especially liked the extensive section after the main story in which the author describes the origins of these stories, recommends some variations by other authors and then provides the original story.

Date read: 1/6/2009
Challenge: Winter Reading Challenge 2009
Rating: 4*/5 = great
Genre: Fantasy

ISBN-10: 0340899484
ISBN-13: 9780340899489
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughten
Year: 2006
# of pages: 348
LibraryThing page

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Half Life by Shelley Jackson

First sentence:

"You should have received two copies."


"Nora and Blanche are conjoined twins. Nora is strong, funny, and deeply independent, thirsting for love and adventure. Blanche, by contrast, has been asleep for twenty years. Sick of carrying her sister's dead weight, Nora wants her other half gone for good—a desire that takes her from San Francisco to London in search of the Unity Foundation, a mysterious organization that promises to make two one. But once in England, Nora's past begins to surface in surprising and disturbing ways, pushing her to the brink of insanity and forcing her to question her own—and Blanche's—grip on the truth." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

This was a very interesting book about identity and sharing. I liked how Blanche gradually woke up and how Nora learned the truth about their past.

Date read: 1/5/2009
Book #: 2
Challenge: Winter Reading Challenge 2008
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Fiction

ISBN-10: 0060882360
ISBN-13: 9780060882365
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Year: 2006
# of Pages: 437
Binding: Trade Paperback
LibraryThing Page

Booking Through Thursday - 1/8/2009

I decided this year I would participate in some weekly topics. Booking Through Thursday asks a weekly question about books and reading. This week's question:

"It’s a week or two later than you’d expect, and it may be almost a trite question, but … what were your favorite books from 2008?"

Here's my answer:

A. A. Attansio. Wyvern.

This was a beautifully written epic story about life, death, love and self-discovery as Jaki Gefjon struggles to unite the teachings of both the jungle and the sea.

Harlan Ellison. Paingod and Other Delusions.

Ellison is one of my favorite authors. I picked up some new favorite short stories in this collection including "The Discarded," "Bright Eyes" and "Wanted in Surgery."

Jonathan Safran Foer. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

This was a very moving and complicated book about a boy trying to make sense of the world in his own unique way. I especially liked the alternating storylines between Oskar's search for the lock and his grandparent's experiences in World War II and afterwards.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

ARC Reading Challenge

ARC Reading Challenge

When: January 1 - December 31, 2009
What: Read Advanced Reader's Copy (ARC) books. For more information, click on the link above.

My list (so far):

Kim Newman. Anno Dracula
Emily Raboteau. The Professor's Daughter

Friday, January 2, 2009

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik

First sentence:

"It is cold."


"Enter the world of Little Bear. Children will be entranced by Little Bear's trip to the moon, his birthday party, and his wishes and adventures.

This is the first of the five classic books about Little Bear, introducing the funny and strikingly childlike bear cub and his friends. The combination of Else Holmelund Minarik's simple, yet eloquent, stories and Maurice Sendak's warm, tender illustrations have made this beloved character favorite among beginning readers."

My thoughts:

I read this book for the Childhood Favourites Reading Challenge. When I learned about this challenge, I immediately thought of this book. It was the first book I ever read, so it holds a special place in my heart. I stood in the children's section of our local library today and read it, chuckling to myself as I read the text and enjoyed the pictures, especially of Little Bear and his "space helmet" made from a box and his mother surprising him and his friends with birthday cake!

Date read: 1/2/2009
Book #: 1
Challenge: Childhood Favourites Reading Challenge
Rating: 5*/5 = excellent
Genre: Children's literature

ISBN-10: 006024240X
ISBN-13: 9780060242404)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Year: 1957
# of pages: 63
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing page