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May. 14th, 2016

02:04 pm - Books 1 - 10.

1. Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby (223 pages)
2. C. McCarthy - The Road (289 pages)
3. Larsen - Hell-Week: 7 Days That Will Change Your Life (246 pages)
4. Signorile - Outing Yourself: How To Come Out As Lesbian Or Gay To Your Family, Friends & Coworkers (181 pages)
5. Zizek - Event (208 pages)
6. St. Francis De Sales - Introduction To The Devout Life (259 pages)
7. Zasio - The Hoarder In You: How To Live A Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life (212 pages)
8. Wallace - Infinite Jest (1087 pages)
9. Burn - David Foster Wallace's 'Infinite Jest': A Reader's Guide (84 pages)
10. Nouwen - Out Of Solitude: Three Meditations On The Christian Life (43 pages)

Total of pages so far: 2 832 pages.

Current Mood: accomplished
Current Music: David Bowie - "Moonage Daydream"

Mar. 28th, 2016

11:20 am - Books 17 & 18 - 2015

Book 17: Dragon Ball Z: "It's Over 9000!": When Worldviews Collide by Derek Padula – 76 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball is the world's most recognized anime and manga series, having entertained millions of fans across the globe. The legendary rivalry of the last two full blooded Saiya-jins, Goku and Vegeta, is the iconic example of a lifelong conflict that inspires fans to burst through their own personal limits. With a foreword by Ryo Horikawa, the Japanese voice of Vegeta, Dragon Ball Z "It's Over 9,000!" When Worldviews Collide is the first book to explain where "It's Over 9,000!" came from, how the original video spread to receive over 7 million views, and why it continues to be such a popular catchphrase. Featuring a thoroughly researched analysis of Goku and Vegeta's colliding worldviews, this book helps the reader better understand why conflict is necessary for profound personal growth and character development. Referencing East Asian belief systems and high tech futuristic paradigms, Derek Padula, the author of The Dao of Dragon Ball book and blog, provides a deeper understanding of this epic story and the inherent values within it. It will forever change the way we look at Dragon Ball Z.

Thoughts:
I grew up watching Dragon Ball Z. My first favourite character was Trunks, son of Bulma and Vegeta – the biggest plot twist in the story’s hundreds of episodes/manga chapters. In my late teens, I loved Videl, the feisty daughter of the lying-but-has-his-heart-in-the-right-place Mr Satan, and then Bulma, super genius, richest women in the world, main female character, and then finally, I settled on Vegeta, the story’s main anti-hero, the antithesis to main character Goku. Vegeta has always appealed to the part of me I keep very tightly locked up – the angry, bitter, opinionated part of me that I’d rather didn’t exist. He’s a Prince, a mass murderer, a man fueled by competition, pride, and a desire to be the very best. And out of the blue, he has a child with the main female character, the feisty, super smart, female lead, Bulma – one of the few characters able to strike fear into the hearts of fiercest warriors in the universe (and these days, in the new series, able to frighten the crap out of the Gods!). Their relationship is initially very much of the ‘we share a kid and that’s about it’ nature, but in time, they marry, and its Bulma that seems to anchor Vegeta to this group of crazy super heroes. In time, it is evident that he is devoted to her in a way that comes to be quite contrary to his dead race. On the other side, Goku, the hapless hero loves everyone and no one at the same time. The man portrayed as a Japanese Superman in the American adaptation (and with a back story pretty much ripped straight from Superman!) is not as noble as he appears in the original Japanese cut, makes sometimes terrible decisions, is an absent father and husband, but gets away with it all because he’s so damn loveable (and he saves the world on a regular basis). Anyway, the rivalry between Goku and Vegeta, each other’s opposite, has in time become the cornerstone of the Dragon Ball franchise, to the point where they now effectively co-headline the new series Dragon Ball Super. This book is an analysis of these two very different characters and what drives them, and how they evolve throughout the series. It’s an interesting read, something like a thesis, though it is quite repetitive. It focuses on the belief systems that underpin the Dragon Ball series (and its inspiration ‘Journey to the West’) in order to explain the challenges both men face, and how they come to be who they are by the end of the series (the book is written pre-Dragon Ball Super, so there’s a certain level of character development that’s not covered, as well as a few factual errors). For a fan, it’s an interesting read, even with its repetitiveness. Definitely recommend for Dragon Ball Z fans, but a fascinating read if you’re a fan of interesting character dynamics, or East Asian culture and belief systems.


17 / 50 books. 34% done!


5202 / 15000 pages. 35% done!

Book 18: Jaco the Galactic Patrolman by Akira Toriyama – 247 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Akira Toriyama, manga legend and creator of Dragon Ball Z, is back with the quirky comedy Jaco the Galactic Patrolman! Retired scientist Omori lives alone on a deserted island while continuing his research into time-travel. His quiet life is interrupted when galactic patrolman Jaco crash-lands and decided to move in with him. Can Jaco get along with the old man long enough to save the earth from a dangerous threat? Includes a special bonus chapter introducing Dragon Ball Z hero Goku's parents!

Thoughts:
In 2009, Fox made a truly terrible Dragon Ball movie. This movie so offended the story’s creator, Akira Toriyama, that he set about telling some more of the story himself. This is part of that continuation, some eighteen years after the story ended. Jaco is a Galactic Patrolman who must stop the terrible Saiyan race from getting to Earth. Crash landing on Earth, he seeks the help of a reclusive scientist and a teenage girl. This story is set about eleven years before the start of the original Dragon Ball story, and the teenage girl turns out to be the older sister of Dragon Ball/Z/GT/Super’s main female star, Bulma. This story is pretty basic but it does a really great job of expanding the universe’s lore, and of introducing some new fun characters. Tights, the teenage girl and the older sister of Bulma is a fun, smart, driven character, just like her sister, and Bulma’s short cameo (she’s five years old) demonstrates her very special brand of intelligence, which has long made her one of my female role models. The book also contains a small additional chapter providing Toriyama’s definitive back story for how Dragon Ball main character Goku came to be on Earth, though it contradicts the various other stories told by Toei (the animator of the series) but not created by Toriyama himself. This story is very Superman-esque, but it’s a cute edition to the lore anyway. Overall, not mind-blowing, but a cute story staring some well known characters and some cute new ones. A story readable without being familiar with the Dragon Ball universe.


18 / 50 books. 36% done!


5449 / 15000 pages. 36% done!

Currently reading:
-        Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages
-        Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg – 220 pages
-        Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich – 300 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        The Meteor Crater Story by Dean Smith – 69 pages

Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: The Birth of a God - from the Dragon Ball Super soundtrack

10:31 am - Books 15 & 16 - 2015

Book 15: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
ONE FINE MESS Welcome to Trenton, New Jersey, home to wiseguys, average Joes, and Stephanie Plum, who sports a big attitude and even bigger money problems (since losing her job as a lingerie buyer for a department store). Stephanie needs cash-fast-but times are tough, and soon she's forced to turn to the last resort of the truly desperate: family...ONE FALSE MOVE Stephanie lands a gig at her sleazy cousin Vinnie's bail bonding company. She's got no experience. But that doesn't matter. As does the fact that the bail jumper in question is local vice cop Joe Morelli. From the time he first looked up her dress to the time he first got into her pants, to the time Steph hit him with her father's Buick, M-o-r-e-l-l-i has spelled t-r-o-u-b-l-e. And now the hot guy is in hot water-wanted for murder...ONE FOR THE MONEY Abject poverty is a great motivator for learning new skills, but being trained in the school of hard knocks by people like psycho prizefighter Benito Ramirez isn't. Still, if Stephanie can nab Morelli in a week, she'll make a cool ten grand. All she has to do is become an expert bounty hunter overnight-and keep herself from getting killed before she gets her man...

Thoughts:
I’ve been collecting these books for years with the intention of one day reading them. I decided upon finishing the Series of Unfortunate Events books that I would start this series. Basically, I read a book in the series and then I read four other books, and then I read the next in the series. I’m not sure why I came up with this, but nonetheless, it’s the rhythm I’ve gotten into. I knew enough about this series from reading the blurbs and seeing bits of the movie (which I’ve since gone back and watched) but it was good to finally read it. Firstly, even though I’ve seen the movie, I can’t see Katherine Heigl as Stephanie. Stephanie is a fairly relatable character even if she doesn’t exercise enough and eats too much (how does someone eat like she does and only be like 125 pounds! I exercise every day and eat super healthy because I’m gluten intolerant and I’ve never weighed anything less than 150 pounds!). Katherine Heigl, to my mind, is not relatable. But anyway, that’s not important. Stephanie’s lack of motivation/ambition etc, annoys me, but I can see why she’s managed to carry this series for so long. She’s funny, and a bit dopey, but she’s got a good heart, and she’s fairly intelligent when she wants to be. Also Morelli is an engaging character. He’s funny and charming and he and Stephanie have a great chemistry (you can see the future romance a mile away, but oh well). The mystery, like the Bones books I’ve been reading for so long, are fairly forgettable, but do their job of driving the character development along. All in all, it was a good story, and a good start to the series.  I’ve got a copy of every book up until number twenty, and I’ve enjoyed the series enough that I intend to keep on reading.


15 / 50 books. 30% done!


4886 / 15000 pages. 33% done!

Book 16: The Other Side of Despair: Jews and Arabs in the Promised Land by Daniel Gavron – 240 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
This compelling book takes the reader behind the headlines of the confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians, examining its human dimension and setting it in a balanced historical context. In his search for understanding, Daniel Gavron talks to Israelis and Palestinians of all backgrounds and shades of opinion. Politicians and economists, entrepreneurs and writers, psychologists and teachers, men and women, veterans and youngsters, fervent militants and pragmatic realists all speak in these pages. We hear the Palestinian fighter and the Israeli soldier, the Jewish settler and the Arab Israeli, the negotiators from the opposite sides of the table, the bereaved parents. Reflecting the excruciating agony of both societies, these diverse voices emphasize the basic humanity of both peoples.

Thoughts:
This was another book I picked up to read for my religion assignment, and decided to read from start to finish. This one was done as individual sections interviewing people living within Israel within different areas of societies. It provided a very different take on the situation, and to some extent legitimizes the different arguments involved. Some of them I agreed with, some not so much. It was heartening to read the perspectives of parents determined to ensure the deaths of their children were not replicated, rather than purely seeking out revenge. On the flip side, the points of view of people who did seek revenge, sometimes for events that had occurred before their time, was disappointing, even if it was understandable on occasion. I won’t say it’s a topic I’m super passionate about, but it was an interesting read, and I’m glad I now know more about the topic.


16 / 50 books. 32% done!


5126 / 15000 pages. 34% done!

Currently reading:
-        Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages
-        Guernica by Dave Boling – 368 pages
-        Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg – 220 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich – 300 pages

Current Mood: hungryhungry
Current Music: Star Trek: Enterprise - Season 4, Episode 17: Bound

Mar. 5th, 2016

12:28 pm - Books 13 & 14 - 2015

Book 13: The Anatomy of Israel’s Survival by Hirsh Goodman – 253 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
For readers of Michael Oren, Alan Dershowitz, and George Gilder comes a new perspective on a hot topic: the future of Israel. "Can Israel survive?" has been the essential question for Israelis -- and Jews worldwide -- since the Holocaust. Now a renowned Israeli journalist and security expert conducts a "strategic state of the nation" tour to evenhandedly assess the issues facing the country today, and ultimately suggesting that the "essential question" has become a misleading, even wrong question. Israel will survive. But what kind of country will it be?

Thoughts:
For a subject on religion, politics and globalization, I chose to do an assignment on the Israel/Palestine conflict, mostly cause it was a topic I heard a lot about, but knew very little. This was one of the books I borrowed from the University library to reference, and I made a rather silly decision to read the complete book once I’d finished the subject. It took me a long time, and a library fine later to get that, mostly because I’ve been busy with a new job. This book asks the fairly valid question of ‘can Israel survive?’ and Goodman’s answer is in the affirmative. He outlines his reasons for this affirmative answer throughout the book and his argument is compelling, at least for someone with as little knowledge on the topic as me. Goodman’s background means he has a strong understanding of Israel’s standing strategically, and he backs up his affirmative argument using this knowledge. I can’t really argue the negative on this one, but I got a 7 for the assignment, so I’m gonna leave it there.


13 / 50 books. 26% done!


4154 / 15000 pages. 28% done!

Book 14: The Queen of Zombie Hearts by Gena Showalter – 442 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Alice Bell thinks the worst is behind her. She's fought zombies and won. Now she's ready for a peaceful life with boyfriend Cole, the leader of the zombie slayers...until the dangerous agency controlling the undead launches an attack with devastating consequences. Humans can be more dangerous than monsters...and the worst has only just begun. They've started a war. Alice is determined to end it...

Thoughts:
The final book in the Alice in Zombieland triology (though there’s now a fourth book that features the same character) has a fair bit to resolve, including why Alice Bell seems to have an increasing range of powers. Showalter likes to play with the reader by implying throughout that things aren’t going to play out the way you expect. She uses flashes of future events between Cole and Alice and then a whole stack of other characters (which just gets weird) to do this, and of course, the break up of Cole and Alice (this being teen fiction after all). Still, it all works, and though it’s a bit of slog but Showalter does a good job of tying up all the loose ends and coming to a resolution that is satisfying – she doesn’t fall into perfect happy ending territory, which I appreciate. Whilst it was necessary, the thing that I disliked most was the ending for Alice’s best friend Kat – it worked for the story, but man, it broke my heart. I’ve not read a lot in the zombie genre, but I personally think is a decent addition to it.


14 / 50 books. 28% done!


4596 / 15000 pages. 31% done!

Currently reading:
-        Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages
-        Guernica by Dave Boling – 368 pages
-        Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt – 205 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg – 220 pages

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: The movie 'Saved'

Jan. 16th, 2016

04:14 pm - Books 11 & 12 - 2015

Book 11: Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism by Natasha Walter – 263 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Empowerment, liberation, choice. Once the watchwords of feminism, these terms have now been co-opted by a society that sells women an airbrushed, highly sexualised and increasingly narrow vision of femininity. While the opportunities available to women may have expanded, the ambitions of many young girls are in reality limited by a culture that sees women's sexual allure as their only passport to success. At the same time we are encouraged to believe that the inequality we observe all around us is born of innate biological differences rather than social factors. Drawing on a wealth of research and personal interviews, Natasha Walter, author of the groundbreaking THE NEW FEMINISM and one of Britain's most incisive cultural commentators, gives us a straight-talking, passionate and important book that makes us look afresh at women and girls, at sexism and femininity, today.

Thoughts:
I sometimes wonder if there reaches a point where you’ve read too much on a particular topic. If so, I think I may have reached that point when it comes to gender politics (for the record, I do not believe such a point actually exists). You see, when reading this book, I found the author referencing in text at least three other books I had on the topic (it gets even more scary when they start referencing academics I know, but I guess that’s to be expected when you work in a university). Anyway, so this book on my beloved topic of gender politics, particularly feminism, actually contradicts a number of those other books I’d read, which though I found disconcerting, I also found wonderful. You see, I’m nothing if not thorough and open to getting every analysis and opinion on a topic in order to ensure I have a well rounded view. In this book, Walter counters numerous other books, including The XX Factor and The Female Brain, which I read this year and a few years ago, respectively, arguing that in fact these books harm the female agenda because they reduce us to our biology and completely ignore the social implications of increasingly narrow definition of what a woman is. Personally, I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle, though the line moves depending on each individual woman and which country you’re in. Walker focuses on the UK, and from a combination of living there for three months, Walker’s anecdotes, and the various English TV shows I’ve watched, I personally think the situation is more dire there than it is in Australia. Ultimately, what I think this book does is remind us that biology is only one piece of the puzzle, and decisions are made, and lives lived based on a combination of drivers and factors, this being perhaps the most marvelous thing about humanity. It’s a good book, a necessary book, in a genre that people will probably still be writing about long after I stop reading.


11 / 50 books. 22% done!


3586 / 15000 pages. 24% done!

Book 12: DB30Years: Special Dragon Ball 30th Anniversary Magazine by Michael LaBrie – 315 pages

Description from Amazon.com:
Kanzenshuu, the leading Dragon Ball fansite, provides an in-depth look at and celebration of 30 years for our favorite Japanese manga and anime series.

Thoughts:
When I was about 14, my younger brother started introducing me to the cartoons he watched on a breakfast program called Cheez TV. This show aired on weekdays between about 7:30am and 8:30am for probably close to ten years here in Australia. For those of us who didn’t have pay TV (cable), this show was basically our first introduction into anime out here in the wild west of Australia (I have so many, mostly guy, friends my age who have very fond memories of this program). Anyway, my brother introduced me first to Pokemon, then to Digimon, and then finally Dragon Ball Z. I’m not sure why, but that last one stuck, and over several months, I watched, and then re-watched Dragon Ball Z’s Cell Saga (still, to my mind, the best saga of the show). I feel absolutely head over heels with that show, and to this day, Dragon Ball Z remains one of the few shows I can watch over and over again and still enjoy. It was probably the first thing I ever felt passionate about, getting into buying the mangas, DVDs, reading and writing fanfiction, and going to conventions (I have met and have the autographs of Sean Schemmel, Mike McFarland and Chris Sabat, so suck on it, people!). As I got older, I left fanfiction behind for writing my own fiction, inspired by my favorite group of aliens, humans and hybrids (for the record, Vegeta is my favourite character – he inspired a lot about my lead character in my novel series; Bulma was my first female role model because, you know, she’s awesome). I probably hadn’t watched any DBZ for about five years, when the same younger brother came up to me earlier this year and mentioned that they’d made a new DBZ movie, 18 years after the show finished its run in Japan (which in of itself was probably a good five years before I ever watched it in its English Funimation dub). I watched Battle of Gods (the new movie) on youtube that night, and feel head over heels all over again, reminded as to why I loved that crazy show. I’ve since re-watched most of the show (well I’ve re-watched everything from the Trunks saga to the end of DBZ, the Bebi saga and part of the Dragons saga in DBGT, the first two sagas of DB, and bits and pieces of the rest), went to see Resurrection F twice in the cinemas and started watching Dragon Ball Super as soon as it started airing in Japan in July. Heavens, I’ve started reading and writing fanfiction again! The show that I grew up with, that so many other kids grew up with around the world and across at least two generations has had an amazing revival, and its awesome. So back into trawling the Internet for DBZ related material in my late twenties, I discover two awesome things: 1) Dragon Ball Z: Abridged (funniest thing on Earth), and 2) that 2014 was the thirty year anniversary of the start of DB. Looking into the second one, I discovered this magazine, a compilation of articles by fans about how they got into DBZ, and what they love about it, as well as further details on the Battle of Gods premiere (they had a premiere for a DBZ movie!!!), and all sorts of other tidbits. It was a fairly fast read, and an enjoyable one for a giant nerd like me. So while my family continues to make fun of me for my totally lame immature enjoyment of a ‘cartoon’ (I struggle to explain anime to them), and while men in the US (where I’m currently on holiday) comment excitedly on my DBZ t-shirts (who knew that was the way to get male attention!!), I will continue on my love affair with the little show that could about a group of unlikely defenders of the Earth. A recommended read for any fan of the Dragon Ball franchise.


12 / 50 books. 24% done!


3901 / 15000 pages. 26% done!

Currently reading:
-        Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages
-        Guernica by Dave Boling – 368 pages
-        Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich – 301 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt – 205 pages

Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: The Science of Star Trek

03:56 pm - Books 9 & 10 - 2015

Book 9: Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton – 596 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
'All of us face hard choices in our lives,' Hillary Rodham Clinton writes at the start of this personal chronicle of years at the centre of world events. 'Life is about making such choices. Our choices and how we handle them shape the people we become.' In the aftermath of her 2008 presidential run, she expected to return to representing New York in the Unites States Senate. To her surprise, her formal rival for the Democratic Party nomination, newly elected President Barack Obama, asked her to serve in his administration as Secretary of State. This memoir is the story of the four extraordinary and historic years that followed, and the hard choices that she and her colleagues confronted. Secretary Clinton and President Obama had to decide how to repair fractured alliances, wind down two wars and address a global financial crisis. They faced a rising competitor in China, growing threats from Iran and North Korea, and revolutions across the Middle East. Along the way, they grappled with some of the toughest dilemmas of US foreign policy, especially the decision to send Americans into harm's way, from Afghanistan to Libya to the hunt for Osama bin Laden. By the end of her tenure, Secretary Clinton had visited 112 countries, travelled nearly one million miles and gained a truly global perspective on many of the major trends reshaping the landscape of the twenty-first century, from economic inequality to climate change to revolutions in energy, communications and health. Drawing on conversations with numerous leaders and experts, Secretary Clinton offers her views on what it will take for the United States to compete and thrive in an interdependent world. She makes a passionate case for human rights and the full participation in society of girls, youth and LGBT people. An astute eyewitness to decades of social change, she distinguishes the trendlines from the headlines and describes the progress occurring throughout the world, day after day. Secretary Clinton's descriptions of diplomatic conversations at the highest levels offer readers a masterclass in international relations, as does her analysis of how we can best use 'smart power' to deliver security and prosperity in a rapidly changing world - one in which America remains the indispensable nation.

Thoughts:
So I am studying International Relations at a Masters level, which stemmed out of an increasing interest in politics, particularly American politics (which itself probably stemmed out of my increasing love for the United States, though after spending seven weeks there over Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years 2015/16, I am thrilled to be back home in my humble little far-away island home of Australia (the food’s better!)). Anyway, I am probably more a Democrat in my political leanings, though I can see the merits of the core ideas behind the Republican Party (just don’t engage me in a conversation about the comparison between Australian and American political parties – if I have to explain to one more Australian why our Liberal party is not the same as the Republican Party I will scream!). Anyway, I have to admit, I’m hoping for a Hillary Clinton victory in 2016, for reasons many and varied, and I’ve always been a fan of good old cheeky Bill (I have his biography too!), and after seeing this book on the bookshelf of a lecturer I respect from the university I work at, I decided I should read it. It took me a good six months to slog through it, but it was an interesting experience. Part exercise in writing history, part political spin, part education piece to a market that already knows and another that will never read the book anyway (she literally has to explain that Australia (and the whole Southern Hemisphere) has summer when the Northern Hemisphere has winter – how do people not know this?!), this is an interesting piece of non-fiction. Hillary has put her own spin on things, ensuring she comes out relatively clean (not too clean, because that would look suspicious), and in writing a book clearly aimed at justifying herself to the American public, shows international readers why America can often rub the rest of the world up the wrong way (Freedom and democracy aren’t unique to America, FYI). Nonetheless, I learnt a lot about international political events, and understanding Hillary’s view helped me understand why certain events have attracted certain reactions. I will also say that I was consistently impressed by Hillary’s work ethic, passion for the public sector, and drive. I think books like this one are important, as are reading books from other varied view points on the events described, in order to ensure one never goes along with the public discourse purely due to lack of knowledge. I also think it’s a book one should definitely go into with a very open and critical mind – not because anything Hillary says is inherently wrong, but simply because one must always be conscious of bias. One of my most important reads for the year. A worthwhile slog.


9 / 50 books. 18% done!


2999 / 15000 pages. 20% done!

Book 10: A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Thirteenth: The End by Lemony Snicket – 324 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Like an off-key violin concert, the Roman Empire, or food poisoning, all things must come to an end. Thankfully, this includes A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. The thirteenth and final installment in the groundbreaking series will answer readers most burning questions: Will Count Olaf prevail? Will the Baudelaires survive? Will the series end happily? If there s nothing out there, what was that noise? Then again, why trouble yourself with unfortunate resolutions? Avoid the thirteenth and final book of Lemony Snicket s international bestselling series and you’ll never have to know what happens.

Thoughts:
Alas, I find myself at the final Series of Unfortunate Events book. It’s been a long slog over a good five years, but I finally made it. Boy, this story did not pan out how I thought it was. I think I genuinely thought the name was a misnomer and things would turn out fortunate in the end. Spoiler Alert: they don’t! Well, not really. It’s a very wistful, melancholic kind of ending, that seems to elude to a sort of resigned acceptance of the fact that people are neither good nor bad, only corruptible and unwilling to fight the status quo. Now that its over, I’m not really sure if I know how I feel about the series as a whole. It’s an interesting read, but perhaps not one I would otherwise imagine should be targeted at children, if it hadn’t have had children/young adult protagonists. Would I recommend it? No, probably not. Would I discourage readers from it? No, probably not. It’s a strange kind of series that ultimately feels like it’s about nothing much at all. Then again, maybe that’s not a bad message for kids! A series that ends as enigmatically as it begins.


10 / 50 books. 20% done!


3323 / 15000 pages. 22% done!

Currently reading:
-        Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages
-        The Rise of the Creative Class: Revisited by Richard Florida – 465 pages
-        Guernica by Dave Boling – 368 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich – 301 pages

Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: The Science of Star Trek

03:39 pm - Books 7 & 8 - 2015

Book 7: The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East by Kishore Mahbubani – 293 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
For two centuries Asians have been bystanders in world history, reacting defenselessly to the surges of Western commerce, thought, and power. That era is over. Asia is returning to the center stage it occupied for eighteen centuries before the rise of the West. By 2050, three of the world's largest economies will be Asian: China, India, and Japan. In The New Asian Hemisphere, Kishore Mahbubani argues that Western minds need to step outside their "comfort zone" and prepare new mental maps to understand the rise of Asia. The West, he says, must gracefully share power with Asia by giving up its automatic domination of global institutions from the IMF to the World Bank, from the G7 to the UN Security Council. Only then will the new Asian powers reciprocate by becoming responsible stakeholders in a stable world order.

Thoughts:
As I’ve mentioned before, I am studying a Masters of International Business/International Relations, and I am quite into reading on the topic, partly because I feel it makes me better at my job, and partly because I eventually want to work overseas. Knowing I was going to be doing this degree, I picked up a whole stack of books on international business at the beginning of my semester, but it ended up taking me most of the semester to finish them. This was one of them and it fed nicely into an earlier book I read. Basically, this book looks at the influence Asia is expected to have in the next century in particular, as it rapidly modernize over half the world’s population (I still personally wonder about how this will end up being sustainable but that’s a topic for another day). This is actually a fairly interesting read, on a topic that could actually be quite dry. I learnt a fair bit about the emerging Asian economies, and the impact a substantial middle class has on the likelihood of world peace (quite a strong positive correlation there – who knew?). There are some points that I think might be a bit generous to some of the countries mentioned, but like all things, only time will truly tell us how right our predictions are. Nonetheless, this book gave me a much more positive view on the economic situation we can hopefully look forward to as we settle into the twenty-first century. GFCs be damned!


7 / 50 books. 14% done!


2072 / 15000 pages. 14% done!

Book 8: Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs – 331 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
This is the gripping new Temperance Brennan novel from the world-class forensic anthropologist and Number 1 bestselling author Kathy Reichs. Tempe is faced with the horrifying possibility that the killer who got away in Monday Mourning is back...For a decade, Temperance Brennan has been haunted by the one who got away. The killer of young women. The monster. And the one who has now come back. Feeding on fear, grief and rage. Killing again. Killing girls. Getting closer. Coming for Tempe.

Thoughts:
At my time of reading this, this was the last Bones book published (there has since been another), and I was thrilled to say that I had FINALLY caught up with the series. This book definitely ends on a cliff hanger that I did not see coming, and was pleasantly surprised by after slogging through so many of these books. I won’t deny that I do not remember the killer from Monday Mourning that this book returns to, probably because I read that book some five years ago, and I don’t enjoy these books enough to go back and re-read them. The introduction of Tempe’s mother was interesting, though I find it convenient that so many of these type of characters have some random friend or family member that is some sort of techie (this hasn’t stopped me from using this same cliché in my own story, but at least mine’s a freaking alien!). Overall, this was by far one of the better Bones books, which I find strange because numerous reviews I read before and after reading this book suggested otherwise (maybe I just seek out different things when I read crime books). Probably for the first time, I find myself looking forward to the next one!


8 / 50 books. 16% done!


2403 / 15000 pages. 16% done!

Currently reading:
-        Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages
-        The Rise of the Creative Class: Revisited by Richard Florida – 465 pages
-        Jaco the Galactic Patrolman by Akira Toriyama – 247 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        Guernica by Dave Boling – 368 pages

Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: The Science of Star Trek

Dec. 24th, 2015

01:43 pm - Books 51 - 65.

51. Trigilio & Brighenti - Catholicism For Dummies (385 pages)
52. O'Boyle - The Miraculous Medal: Stories, Prayers & Devotions (135 pages)
53. Child - Personal (506 pages)
54. DeLillo - Great Jones Street (265 pages)
55. Neruda - The Poetry Of... (841 pages)
56. Dutta - The Dal Cookbook (93 pages)
57. Hornby - The Complete Polysyllabic Spree (265 pages)
58. Woolf - Mrs. Dalloway (287 pages)
59. Camus - The Plague (299 pages)
60. Eramus Of Rotterdam - A Handbook On Good Manners For Children (92 pages)
61. Rubin - Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits Of Our Everyday Lives (274 pages)
62. Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI - Jesus Of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (132 pages)
63. Edmisten - The Rosary: Keeping Company With Jesus & Mary (84 pages)
64. Heath & Heath - Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard (288 pages)
65. Frings - The Excellence Of The Rosary: Conferences For Devotions In Honor Of The Blessed Virgin (63 pages)

Total: 17 279 pages.
Next year I will probably not quite fill this challenge, but will report the books I'll read anyway :)
*rewinding noises*

Current Mood: accomplished
Current Music: Komputer - "Looking Down On London"

Nov. 29th, 2015

02:53 pm - Book 6 - 2015

Book 6: The XX Factor: How Working Women Are Creating a New Society by Alison Wolf – 401 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
For most of history, being female defined the limits of a woman's achievements. But now, women are successful careerists equal to men. In Norway, women legally must constitute a third of all boards; in America, women have gone from 3% of practising lawyers in 1970 to 40% today, and over half of all law students. These changes are revolutionary - but not universal: the 'sisterhood' of working women is deeply divided. Making enormous strides in the workplace are young, educated, full-time professionals who have put children on hold. But for a second group of women this is unattainable: instead, they work part-time, earn less, are concentrated in heavily feminised occupations like cleaning and gain income and self-worth from having children young. As these two groups move ever further apart, shared gender no longer automatically creates interests in common with other women. The XX Factor lifts the curtain on these social, cultural and economic schisms.

Thoughts:
I like to read books about gender studies – its one of my interest areas, and I tried to study as many gender study related courses when doing my sociology degree back in 2005-2008. I’ve read so much and so widely now that I recognize the names of writers in the area, and have often read books referenced in other’s texts. Nonetheless, I find most new text I come across interesting, and I often learn something new. Part of the reason I think I enjoy these type of books is because I feel they give me a better shot at understanding myself and often, why my views on the world as so different to others, particularly other women. This book answered some of those questions, but also raised some other interesting ones about gender differences and the approach to work. It also further validated that if I wanted to live the life I intend, I will need to stay focused on the road I’m on, developing myself, and seeking ever greater challenges, particularly if I want to provide for any future children in the way I would like. Basically, Pinker takes numerous qualitative and quantitative studies to back up the idea that women don’t necessarily end up in boards and CEOs at the same rate as men, not because they don’t have the opportunities, or even feel they can’t juggle children and work, but rather choose not to because they come to a point where they either seek out jobs that are more meaningful, or decide that while they can manage the balance, they no longer want to. Equally, Pinker presents interesting demographic analysis of economic status compared to work profile, the increase in working hours for the wealthy compared to the decrease for the middle/working class, and the relative illusion that those earnings between $150k and $400k are ‘wealthy’ (a concept I struggle to get a lot of people to understand – after all, the more time you spend at work, the more you have outlay in costs such as nannies, housekeepers etc, and besides, someone has to buy the expensive house), compared to those earning about $400k or under $150k. This book has some really interesting points, and I came away understanding a few things about myself, including why it was I was attracted to working in a University (there is a lot of discussion about women wanting to work in jobs where they feel like they are ‘giving back’ – personally I think my reasons where something around the idea of ‘if I work in a University and make it a great place, then we can educate more people, and maybe I’ll have to put up with less dumb people – wonder what that says about me!). Now, I have since read other texts criticizing Pinker’s approach, which I will cover in another review of another book, and while I agree with some of these criticisms, I also think they take Pinker’s comments too far. Pinker uses substantial data regarding the differences in male and female brains to justify her arguments. I personally don’t feel we can be reduced to our brain chemistry, otherwise, I must have something dramatically wrong with me, given how different I am to many women I know. Nonetheless, Pinker does comment throughout that her findings are generalization, that do necessarily apply to everyone. This, to me, makes more sense, and better explains some of my differences to other women. I, unlike many of my friends, have never been content to simply go to uni, get a job, get a husband, have babies, and stay put in the one place, doing the same thing for the rest of my life. I like to travel, I want to live in multiple countries (I’ve lived in two), I want to try my hand at a million different things, I want to keep studying pretty much for the rest of my life in a variety of areas (I have three degrees and I’m working on another two), I left my relatively prestigious job in a Big 4 accounting firm and specifically sort out a job that would challenge me and allow me to learn new skills (which paid off quite nicely). I know I’m different from the majority, and Pinker stipulates that that is okay. However, I believe she also goes some way towards explaining why my female friends are the way they are, which lends itself to helping me understand them, and better emote, which I think is always a valuable skill. Either way, I think this is a really interesting book to add to this ever growing, increasingly important area of study.


6 / 50 books. 12% done!


1779 / 15000 pages. 12% done!

Currently reading:
-        Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages
-        The Rise of the Creative Class: Revisited by Richard Florida – 465 pages
-        Dragon Ball Z: "It's Over 9000!": When Worldviews Collide by Derek Padula – 76 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        Guernica by Dave Boling – 368 pages

Current Location: Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: The Incredibles on TV

Nov. 7th, 2015

08:22 pm - Books 4 & 5 - 2015

Book 4: Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics by Paul Street – 272 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Many Americans believe Barack Obama represents a hopeful future for America. But does he also reflect the American politics of the past? This book offers the broadest and best-informed understanding on the meaning of the "Obama phenomenon" to date. Paul Street was on the ground throughout the Iowa campaign, and his stories of the rising Obama phenomenon are poignant. Yet the author's background in American political history allows him to explore the deeper meanings of Obama's remarkable political career. He looks at Obama in relation to contemporary issues of class, race, war, and empire. He considers Obama in the context of our nation's political history, with comparisons to FDR, JFK, Bill Clinton, and other leaders. Street finds that the Obama persona, crafted by campaign consultants and filtered through dominant media trends, masks the "change" candidate's adherence to long-prevailing power structures and party doctrines. He shows how American political culture has produced misperceptions by the electorate of Obama's positions and values. Obama is no magical exception to the narrow-spectrum electoral system and ideological culture that have done so much to define and limit the American political tradition. Yet the author suggests key ways in which Obama potentially advances democratic transformation. Street makes recommendations on how citizens can productively respond to and act upon Obama's influence and the broader historical and social forces that have produced his celebrity and relevance. He also lays out a real agenda for change for the new presidential administration, one that addresses the recent failures of democratic politics.

Thoughts:
I am studying a Masters of International Relations as part of a double Masters (at the uni I work for). I decided to do this, partly because I have always wanted to do a Masters, partly because I work at a uni and it seemed like a good idea while I was there, and partly because I am pretty passionate/interested in politics, particularly American politics, and international political relations which I think is endlessly interesting. I randomly picked up this book from the library because I was on a kick of reading books about Democratic party leaders. This book was not really what I was expecting. It is very left wing, extreme left wing, I would say, and coming from a country that has a political party that is equivalent to the Democrats, and another that is more right way than the Democrats, I read some of Street’s ideas with part-cynicism, part-interest. Firstly, it should be noted that this book was written pre-Obama become President, so there’s that. Basically, Street doesn’t believe that Obama is left wing enough. His view is essentially that Obama is aligning himself with big business, while preaching against big business in order to have his cake and eat it too. It’s an interesting view, and one I don’t necessarily disagree with. However, I personally feel that Street has missed the point that no candidate would ever make it very far if they did not perform such a balancing act, and that said balancing act is in fact performed by every politician in every liberal democracy in the world. The really interesting part is when Street starts suggesting policies he believes Obama should be pushing, policies that he believes will make America more fair, more equal, etc. The irony is that many of these policies already exist in numerous other Western democracies, including the one I live in. And the fact of the matter is they don’t necessarily work in the utopian manner which Street suggests. I personally felt that Street’s views, while valid to a degree, missed the reality that there are numerous countries outside of America that have already begun down the path he suggests and found it too wanting. It is often remarked outside of America that the country itself tends to forget there is a ‘rest of the world’ unless they are fighting a war against them (and I’m not necessarily saying I agree with this), and I found this statement true of Street’s opinion. His book falls flat to a non-American reader, purely because it demonstrates that he really has no idea about how America could learn from our Western democracies, already using some of these policies. Nonetheless, this was an interesting read, if purely from the perspective of broadening my understanding of the many voices in American politics.


4 / 50 books. 8% done!


1025 / 15000 pages. 7% done!

Book 5: A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Twelfth: The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket – 353 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
After any harrowing struggle, it is nice to consider checking into a hotel for a rest. In fact, this might be just the break Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire could use after their wearying deep-sea adventure. A hotel can be a good choice for any family vacation. With so many floors, such a variety of rooms, and a curious array of guests, spending time in the safety of the right hotel can be the perfect learning environment for children of any age. A keen researcher like Klaus, an adept inventor like Violet, and a sharp-toothed culinary master like Sunny are all sure to find engaging diversions during their stay. Regardless of how they pass their time while at a hotel, the three siblings will be sure to take in all the interesting sights and sounds and write them down just in case this episode turns out to be the darkest yet in a series of unfortunate events.

Thoughts:
Second last of the Baudelaire kids books, and things are more dire than ever. The kids have finally reached the hotel they’ve been directed to by Kit Snicket, but once again, matters don’t go to plan, and they discover that even the people they thought they could trust if only they could get back to them, are actually no more trustworthy than everyone else. The whole story culminates in a mockery of a trial and a fire that probably kills numerous people, though this is only eluded to. It’s a sad state of affairs the Baudelaire kids find themselves in as they escape the burning hotel with the worst enemy, the diabolical Count Olaf, who after everything, may only be as bad as everyone else. A depressing, if not interesting, penultimate to this series.


5 / 50 books. 10% done!


1378 / 15000 pages. 9% done!

Currently reading:
-        Work’s Intimacy by Melissa Gregg – 198 pages
-        The Other Side of Despair: Jews and Arabs in the Promised Land by Daniel Gavron – 240 pages
-        The Rise of the Creative Class: Revisited by Richard Florida – 465 pages

And coming up:
-        The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Volume 3: White Gold Wielder by Stephen Donaldson – 500 pages
-        The Odyssey by Homer – 324 pages
-        Guernica by Dave Boling – 368 pages

Current Mood: itchy
Current Music: The West Wing on TV

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