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Dec. 13th, 2014

09:33 pm - Books 9 & 10 - 2014

Book 9: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson – 746 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Salander is plotting her revenge - against the man who tried to kill her, and against the government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life. But it is not going to be a straightforward campaign. After taking a bullet to the head, Salander is under close supervision in Intensive Care, and is set to face trial for three murders and one attempted murder on her eventual release. With the help of journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his researchers at Millennium magazine, Salander must not only prove her innocence, but identify and denounce the corrupt politicians that have allowed the vulnerable to become victims of abuse and violence. Once a victim herself, Salander is now ready to fight back.

Thoughts:
This is the final Millennium book written by Larsson before he died. Having read the first two almost two years ago, I did have to flip through them to remember the plot (particularly the second one), but this book very quickly sets up enough to remind you of the backstory without rehashing the whole thing. Larsson manages to keep several stories running at the same time, and tie them all together in a very believable fashion. Salander and Blomkvist’s relationship is rocky but it is evident they care about each other, and for the most part, Larsson manages to keep them out of clichéd territory. The story is very complex, and in some respects (and partly because I’ve never been to Sweden and know little about the country – sorry, Sweden!) seems almost too fanciful to be set somewhere like Sweden. But Larsson pulls it all together so nicely and closes the overall book (without closing it, you can totally see the possibility for future books, such a shame he died) so comfortably that you can’t help enjoy it. A nice long solid read with a solid, interesting plot and fleshed out, three-dimensional characters. Definitely recommend it.


9 / 50 books. 18% done!


3417 / 15000 pages. 23% done!

Book 10: A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of My Husband, Danny Pearl by Mariane Pearl with Sarah Crichton – 272 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
For five weeks the world waited for news about Danny Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan...And then came the broadcast of his shocking murder. The complete account of his abduction, the intense effort to rescue him, and the aftermath are told here - in astonishing detail, and with courage and insight - by his surviving wife Mariane. A Mighty Heart is the unforgettable story of two journalists who fell in love with their work - and with each other. Together, Mariane and Danny Pearl traveled across the globe, dedicated to journalism that increases the under-standing of international politics and of ethnic and religious conflict. In the end, Danny was caught in the dangerous fissure where warring cultures, politics, and ideologies collide. A Mighty Heart is both a portrait of a partner-ship built on the ideals of love, truth, and justice and a critical look at the methods and structure of the Al Qaeda network.

Thoughts:
This is a really important book, and even though it’s an intense, upsetting read, its something everyone should read. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember the event itself, but then I was in my teens, and in Australia, and even though it probably made our news, it wasn’t something I paid attention to. The first time I heard about the event was when the movie with Angelina Jolie came out. I’ve never seen the movie, and I didn’t know much about the story before reading the book. This is a very intense read and it took me a while to get through it. Pearl is without a doubt one of the most compassionate, forgiving people on the planet. She manages throughout to be non-judgmental, thankful and by my interpretation, true to her late husband’s wishes for the world. I can’t imagine I would have been anywhere near as understanding in the same circumstances. Moreover, given Pearl was expecting was their first child at the time, its truly a testament to the love she shared with her husband and her own convictions that she managed to remain so compassionate throughout. It’s a lesson for the world, to prevent things like Danny Pearl’s death happening again. A very important book in our polarized world.


10 / 50 books. 20% done!


3689 / 15000 pages. 25% done!

Currently reading:
-        A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Tenth: The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket – 337 pages
-        Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture by Juliet B. Schor – 258 pages
-        Bones are Forever by Kathy Reichs – 283 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
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages

Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: The Big Bang Theory on TV

Dec. 5th, 2014

11:59 pm - 2013 Summary

It’s only taken me a year to finish writing up my 2013 book reviews (and with nearly 30 2014 book reviews to write in the next month), but alas I am here. So what happened in 2013? I got promoted to manager at work; I travelled to Hawaii and went on a cruise to far-north Queensland, as well as visiting the most northern point in Australia for work (Thursday Island for those of you playing at home); I started saving for a house. No man yet, no published book, but you’ve got have some goals left over for the next year right? I set myself one goal in 2013 – read 15 500+ page books. I read two. Maybe 2014 will be my year, eh? (yeah right!!). Anyway, on with the list:

1.   Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – 598 pages
2.   Rock Chicks: The Hottest Female Rockers from the 1960s to Now by Alison Stieven-Taylor – 314 pages
3.   206 Bones by Kathy Reichs – 308 pages
4.   Britney: Inside the Dream by Steve Dennis – 400 pages
5.   This Charming Man by Marian Keyes – 885 pages
6.   The Iliad by Homer – 460 pages
7.   The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D – 343 pages
8.   Why Some Like it Hot: Food, Genes, and Cultural Diversity by Gary Paul Nabhan – 223 pages
9.   The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings – 283 pages
10.         Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat by David Gillespie – 205 pages
11.         A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – 342 pages
12.         Underworld by Meg Cabot – 318 pages
13.         Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan – 385 pages
14.         Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto – 294 pages
15.         The Age of Miracles by Karen Thomson Walker – 369 pages
16.         Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter – 394 pages
17.         Awaken by Meg Cabot – 343 pages
18.         Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan – 375 pages
19.         Insatiable by Meg Cabot – 451 pages
20.         Overbite by Meg Cabot – 275 pages
21.         Pacific Paradises: The Discovery of Tahiti and Hawaii by Trevor Lummis – 201 pages
22.         The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot – 392 pages
23.         The Star Queen by Susan Grant – 322 pages
24.         Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce – 389 pages
25.         Star Trek Enterprise: The Good That Men Do by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin – 446 pages
26.         Company by Max Barry – 336 pages
27.         A Song For Summer by Eva Ibbotson – 424 pages
28.         The Authenticity Hoax: How we get lost finding ourselves by Andrew Potter – 283 pages
29.         Everlost by Neal Shusterman – 377 pages
30.         Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan & Cacilda Jetha – 344 pages


30 / 50 books. 60% done!


11079 / 15000 pages. 74% done!

Comparison to 2012:


30 / 42 books. 71% done!


11079 / 11869 pages. 93% done!

Top 5 books (not including re-reads):

5. Sweet Poison
4. Company
3. The Descendants
2. This Charming Man
1. Steve Jobs

Interesting Facts:
Improvement on last year: -12 (-790)
Library books: 22
Non-Fiction: 9
Most read author: Meg Cabot (5 books/1779 pages)
Books with a sci-fi/fantasy element: 14
Re-reads: 0
Sequels/Not a stand alone or first in a series: 7

I had only set myself one goal this year and that was to read 15 pre-selected 500+ pages books. I read two. Consequently for 2014, whilst I didn’t write it down anyway but a entry at the top of my journal, I set myself this goal again, subbing out the two 500+ page books I’d read for two new ones. I can hand on heart say I will not make this goal (something easy to say when its December of said year), but I will beat my result of two (how much by is for another day!). I have set myself no other specific goals for 2014, besides actually hitting the 15000 pages goal which seems to be relatively achievable. We’ll see what 2014 brings (or you will when I write my 2014 summary in a month’s time – I obviously already know what 2014 has brought!).

On to another year folks! Let’s see if I can get the 2014 reviews done before the end of the month.

Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Feels Like Home - Chantal Kreviazuk

Nov. 30th, 2014

11:09 pm - Books 29 & 30 - 2013

Book 29: Everlost by Neal Shusterman – 377 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Nick and Allie don't survive the car accident, but their souls don't exactly get where they're supposed to go either. Instead, they're caught halfway between life and death, in a sort of limbo known as Everlost: a shadow of the living world, filled with all the things and places that no longer exist. It's a magical, yet dangerous place where bands of lost kids run wild and anyone who stands in the same place too long sinks to the center of the Earth. When they find Mary, the self-proclaimed queen of lost souls, Nick feels like he's found a home, but Allie isn't satisfied spending eternity between worlds. Against all warnings, Allie begins learning the "Criminal Art" of haunting, and ventures into dangerous territory, where a monster called the McGill threatens all the souls of Everlost. In this imaginative novel, Neal Shusterman explores questions of life, death, and what just might lie in between.

Thoughts:
I thought I was getting a different Neal Shusterman book from the library when I ordered this one. And then I had the misfortune of discovering my local library system doesn’t have the two other books in the series. That’s an aside to the quality of the book but important to me. The idea of this book seems to be that children under a certain age who die become lost souls, a place a bit like limbo. Nick and Allie die at the same time and after initially trying to get ‘home’, accept their fate. Along the way they discover a variety of personalities in this limbo like place, some good, some bad, and some just out for themselves. Nick and Allie’s biggest problem is that they are older than the average occupant of this Everlost world, and they start to question the way things. It is their questions that start to unravel the reality of Everlost and transform good guys into bad and bad into good. It was a bit of a drag at the beginning but quite an interesting book once it got going. Shusterman has taken the concept of limbo, taken its religious context away and created a world around the idea that is visually imaginative. Now if only I could get my hands on the sequels!


29 / 50 books. 58% done!


10735 / 15000 pages. 72% done!

Book 30: Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan & Cacilda Jetha – 344 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Since Darwin's day, we've been told that sexual monogamy comes naturally to our species. Mainstream science--as well as religious and cultural institutions--has maintained that men and women evolved in families in which a man's possessions and protection were exchanged for a woman's fertility and fidelity. But this narrative is collapsing. Fewer and fewer couples are getting married, and divorce rates keep climbing as adultery and flagging libido drag down even seemingly solid marriages. How can reality be reconciled with the accepted narrative? It can't be, according to renegade thinkers Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. While debunking almost everything we "know" about sex, they offer a bold alternative explanation in this provocative and brilliant book. Ryan and Jetha's central contention is that human beings evolved in egalitarian groups that shared food, child care, and, often, sexual partners. Weaving together convergent, frequently overlooked evidence from anthropology, archaeology, primatology, anatomy, and psychosexuality, the authors show how far from human nature monogamy really is. Human beings everywhere and in every era have confronted the same familiar, intimate situations in surprisingly different ways. The authors expose the ancient roots of human sexuality while pointing toward a more optimistic future illuminated by our innate capacities for love, cooperation, and generosity. With intelligence, humor, and wonder, Ryan and Jetha show how our promiscuous past haunts our struggles over monogamy, sexual orientation, and family dynamics. They explore why long-term fidelity can be so difficult for so many; why sexual passion tends to fade even as love deepens; why many middle-aged men risk everything for transient affairs with younger women; why homosexuality persists in the face of standard evolutionary logic; and what the human body reveals about the prehistoric origins of modern sexuality. In the tradition of the best historical and scientific writing, Sex at Dawn unapologetically upends unwarranted assumptions and unfounded conclusions while offering a revolutionary understanding of why we live and love as we do.

Thoughts:
This was a fascinating read, even if I’m not sure I agree/believe all of it. Basically it proposes that humans are not supposed to be monogamous based on the fact that biological we appear more similar to Bonbons rather than chimps. Ryan and Jetha work through a variety of explanations for why this is the case. Their explanations make sense, but they do fall into the mistake of telling the reader what they are trying to validate over and over again, rather than just use their support to argument with their evidence. Whilst it’s a very fascinating approach to the argument, and I can see how they have come to their conclusions, I don’t know enough about the topic to appreciate how much of the argument is in its presentation. Moreover, I’m not sure Ryan and Jetha give due consideration to the complexity the human brain brings to our sexuality, something perhaps not as significant for the humble bonbon. Personally I tend to think human sexuality is much more diverse than can be defined by either monogamous or polygamous, much like the spectrum of hetero and homosexuality. Still an interesting read for anyone interested in sexuality.


30 / 50 books. 60% done!


11079 / 15000 pages. 74% done!

Currently reading:
-        Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After by Bella DePaulo, PH.D. – 308 pages
-        When Men Become Gods: Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, his cult of fear, and the women who fought back by Stephen Singular – 305 pages
-        Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs – 271 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
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages

Current Mood: tire
Current Music: The Hanging Tree - Jennifer Lawrence and James Newton Howard

Nov. 15th, 2014

10:57 pm - Books 27 & 28 - 2013

Book 27: A Song For Summer by Eva Ibbotson – 424 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
When Ellen Carr abandons grey, dreary London to become housekeeper at an experimental school in Austria, she finds her destiny. Swept into an idyllic world of mountains, music, eccentric teachers and wayward children, Ellen brings order and joy to all around her. But it's the handsome, mysterious gardener, Marek, who intrigues her -- Marek, who has a dangerous secret. As Hitler's troops spread across Europe, Ellen has promises to keep, even if they mean she must sacrifice her future happiness ...An unforgettable love story from the award-winning author of Journey to the River Sea and The Star of Kazan.

Thoughts:
I’m not sure why this book ended up on my to-read list, but for some reason I have a ton of Ibbotson’s books on my list. I was going through a phase of borrowing library books rather than reading the 4 million books I own and haven’t read. I took this one with me on my trip to Hawaii but I took it along with a number of other books which was probably a good call, cause this was a hard slog. It wasn’t necessarily a bad story, it was just…dull. Ellen is raised by intellectual women but aspires for a more traditional career path herself. She meets a gardener called Marek and their love story unfolds against the backdrop of World War Two. It sounds really interesting but it just wasn’t. It did nothing for me, and I dragged my feet reading it. There’s nothing wrong with the storytelling itself but I can hardly remember what happened anymore, and I didn’t feel any richer for reading the book. Having said that, books set during the war are really not my thing, so if normal people war stories are your thing give it a go. It just wasn’t for me.


27 / 50 books. 54% done!


10075 / 15000 pages. 67% done!

Book 28: The Authenticity Hoax: How we get lost finding ourselves by Andrew Potter – 283 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
What does it mean to be authentic? The demand for authenticity--the honest or the real--is one of the most powerful movements in contemporary life, influencing our moral outlook, political views, and consumer behavior. Yet according to Andrew Potter, when examined closely, our fetish for "authentic" lifestyles or experiences is actually a form of exclusionary status seeking. The result, he argues, is modernity's malaise: a competitive, self-absorbed individualism that ultimately erodes genuine relationships and true community. Weaving together threads of pop culture, history, and philosophy, The Authenticity Hoax reveals how our misguided pursuit of the authentic merely exacerbates the artificiality of contemporary life that we decry. In his defiant, brilliant critique, Andrew Potter offers a way forward to a meaningful individualism that makes peace with the modern world.

Thoughts:
I stumbled across this book while picking some other stuff up from the library. I’m always up for some sociology/anthropology etc, and this seemed interesting. It poses quite a fascinating question: in our demand for authenticity have we actually attracted the opposite? Moreover, what really is authenticity, particularly in our selfie, image conscious world? It’s a reasonable question in the world of pop culture and social media, where Kim Kardahian flashes her whole naked body to the world but no one knows how much photoshop and plastic surgery has been involved. This book works through how the idea of and demand for authenticity came about and how Potter feels that we’ve compromised ourselves. It also looks out the ongoing movement of ideas and concepts and things from ‘underground’ where it is deemed authentic to ‘mainstream’ where it isn’t, and how this is a fallacy in of itself. It’s not exactly the most engrossing book but nonetheless it’s a fascinating question to think about.


28 / 50 books. 56% done!


10358 / 15000 pages. 69% done!

Currently reading:
-        Sex Drive: In pursuit of female desire by Dr Bella Ellwood-Clayton – 312 pages
-        Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After by Bella DePaulo, PH.D. – 308 pages
-        When Men Become Gods: Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, his cult of fear, and the women who fought back by Stephen Singular – 305 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
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages

Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Faded - The Veronicas

Nov. 8th, 2014

03:38 pm - Books 41 - 50.

41. Downey (compiler) - The Little Flower Prayerbook: A Carmelite Manual Of Prayer (513 pages)
42. Harrison - Today Is The Day You Change Your Life (153 pages)
43. Baumeister & Tierney - Willpower: Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength (264 pages)
44. St. Adomnán Of Iona - Life Of St. Columba (379 pages)
45. Kreeft (ed.) - A Summa Of 'The Summa' (505 pages)
46. Tassone - The Rosary For The Holy Souls In Purgatory (129 pages)
47. Sheen - The World's First Love: Mary, Mother Of God (271 pages)
48. Pynchon - Bleeding Edge (483 pages)
49. Higashida - The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice From The Silence Of Autism (165 pages)
50. the Ampilified Bible (1700 pages)

Total so far: 12 979 pages.

Current Mood: apatheticapathetic
Current Music: Otis Spann - "Walkin'"

04:51 pm - Books 25 & 26 - 2013

Book 25: Star Trek Enterprise: The Good That Men Do by Andy Mangels & Michael A. Martin – 446 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Commander Charles 'Trip' Tucker was not killed in an explosion, but rather, his death was staged. With the assistance of Captain Archer and Doctor Phlox, Trip is swept up by the shadowy organization that was employing his best friend, Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, and sent deep under cover. After discovering that the Romulans have a new warp drive, faster than any vessel, Starfleet sends Trip to determine if this will be a threat to the new fragile alliance.

Thoughts:
My brother lent me this book thinking I might enjoy it. It’s a retelling of sorts of the final episode of the Star Trek series Enterprise. Many a fan of the show was pretty upset and disgusted with the Frakes directed finale that killed off the awesome character of Trip. I loved Trip – he was pretty much my favourite character in Enterprise and I was devastated when they killed him off. So I was really looking forward to this book. I shouldn’t have bothered. This book was just so damn boring. I don’t read a lot of Star Trek literature (compared to how much Star Trek I watch) but I have read other books and really enjoyed them. These authors just couldn’t inspire me. It took me months and months to read this book. I’m not even sure I can put my finger on what it was that bored me so, it just did! Perhaps it was a combination of the jumping perspectives (which I normally like but found annoying in this book), the rather dull storyline used to ‘save’ Trip, and the stupid insertion of two characters from Deep Space Nine which just made it seem as if even in the case of this retelling, Enterprise wouldn’t be allowed to stand unattached to another Star Trek series. Don’t get me wrong, there was some good bits. I do much prefer the idea that Trip didn’t die, and there was a sweet reunion scene between Trip and T’Pol towards the end, but as I personally come from a fanfiction background, I feel so much more could have been done (and probably has been done by some twenty year old on the internet) with such a juicy idea. Disappointing.


25 / 50 books. 50% done!


9315 / 15000 pages. 62% done!

Book 26: Company by Max Barry – 336 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Stephen Jones is a shiny new hire at Zephyr Holdings. From the outside, Zephyr is just another bland corporate monolith, but behind its glass doors business is far from usual: the beautiful receptionist is paid twice as much as anybody else to do nothing, the sales reps use self help books as manuals, no one has seen the CEO, no one knows exactly what they are selling, and missing donuts are the cause of office intrigue. While Jones originally wanted to climb the corporate ladder, he now finds himself descending deeper into the irrational rationality of company policy. What he finds is hilarious, shocking, and utterly telling.

Thoughts:
I love Max Barry’s books, and this was no exception. He writes books in a style I’ve never encountered anywhere else. Short, snappy, with diverse characters and based mostly in the business world. Syrup is a clever look at marketing, Jennifer Government an analysis of extreme capitalism. Company asks the question: how much do we actually question our jobs and what we do in them? Zephyr Holdings looks like any other large corporate, but there is something seriously weird going on. The idea itself was one thing, but its Barry’s execution, with his cast of ‘Yep, I’ve worked with one of those guys’ characters and the manner in which he gets you to care about the characters without spending years setting them up is the thing I love most about this book and Barry’s writing style overall. I read this book on a Brisbane to Honolulu flight and it was a great read for that type of environment – not too much to keep in your head, a page turner, and fast paced. The actual ‘purpose’ of Zephyr Holdings will seriously make you question the company you work for and what they do, and the things people will put up with for the sake of a job drew vivid reminders of my own chaotic job (I was an auditor with the big four at the time). A very clever book and highly recommended.


26 / 50 books. 52% done!


9651 / 15000 pages. 64% done!

Currently reading:
-        A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Ninth: The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket – 286 pages
-        Sex Drive: In pursuit of female desire by Dr Bella Ellwood-Clayton – 312 pages
-        Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After by Bella DePaulo, PH.D. – 308 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
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages

Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
Current Music: Defying Gravity - Nightcore

Nov. 1st, 2014

10:41 pm - Books 23 & 24 - 2013

Book 23: The Star Queen by Susan Grant – 322 pages

Description from Goodreads:
A novella, The Star Queen takes place 11,000 years before the Star series books begin. On the decimated planet of Sienna, two lovers struggle to survive and drive out ruthless warlords who have enslaved their people for generations. Together, Romjha and Tai will rebuild their demolished civilization…and begin a star-spanning dynasty with their love.

Thoughts:
I read the Star trilogy several years ago and then discovered that there was a prequel to the series that was only available in a compilation book with two other short stories, which I really didn’t want to buy. Then it got released as a stand alone e-book, so I broke my e-book rule and bought it. You don’t really need to have read the Star series to enjoy this short story (it’s 322 iPhone size pages!). It introduces the ancestors to the characters of the Star trilogy, who are basically hostages on their own planet, doomed to live underground and scavenger due to an alien threat. When non hostile aliens turn up, they team up to defeat their overlords. It was a good, sharp read with Grant’s enjoyable romantic angle that manages to be sweet and sexy not sickly or pornographic. An good quick little read.


23 / 50 books. 46% done!


8480 / 15000 pages. 57% done!

Book 24: Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce – 389 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
SOME KIND OF FAIRY TALE is a very English story. A story of woods and clearings, a story of folk tales and family histories. It is as if Neil Gaiman and Joanne Harris had written a fairy tale together. It is Christmas afternoon and Peter Martin gets an unexpected phonecall from his parents, asking him to come round. It pulls him away from his wife and children and into a bewildering mystery. He arrives at his parents' house and discovers that they have a visitor. His sister Tara. Not so unusual you might think, this is Christmas after all, a time when families get together. But twenty years ago Tara took a walk into the woods and never came back and as the years have gone by with no word from her the family have, unspoken, assumed that she was dead. Now she's back, tired, dirty, dishevelled, but happy and full of stories about twenty years spent travelling the world, an epic odyssey taken on a whim. But her stories don't quite hang together and once she has cleaned herself up and got some sleep it becomes apparent that the intervening years have been very kind to Tara. She really does look no different from the young women who walked out the door twenty years ago. Peter's parents are just delighted to have their little girl back, but Peter and his best friend Richie, Tara's one time boyfriend, are not so sure. Tara seems happy enough but there is something about her. A haunted, otherworldly quality. Some would say it's as if she's off with the fairies. And as the months go by Peter begins to suspect that the woods around their homes are not finished with Tara and his family...

Thoughts:
I can’t quite remember where I heard about this book, but part of me wanted to read it simply because the main protagonist’s name is Tara, which is my name and I very rarely stumble across characters called Tara (random reason for reading a book, I know, but such as life). It was a very odd book, and I came out the other side struggling to work out the point. Tara disappears as a teenager, never to be seen again. Her family and the boy who loves her spend the next twenty years trying to deal with this. And then Tara comes back. Randomly, out of the blue, one Christmas Day. But she doesn’t appear to have aged all that much in the last twenty years. She’s still young in mindset, she’s trying to work out why the world is different, and no one believes what she’s been through. The book jumps backwards and forwards between the events that lead to Tara disappearing and where she ends up, and what happens there, and the reactions of her family once she returns. Where Tara goes, and what happens there is bizarre, and to be honest, feels a little unfinished, like Joyce wanted her to disappear, wanted her to be changed, but didn’t really know how to pull it off. Needless to say, Tara struggles with the real world, and her family struggle with what she does and doesn’t tell her. The conclusion of the book makes sense, but I feel the ending was unsatisfying in some way. Maybe that was the point – what happens in the end feels like it was fairly unsatisfying for the characters too. Maybe because things happen in life that don’t make sense, and are unsatisfying for all of us. I don’t really know, but I will say one thing: the comment in the description above about the book being very English? Yeah, that part is very, very true!


24 / 50 books. 48% done!


8869 / 15000 pages. 59% done!

Currently reading:
-        The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey – 457 pages
-        A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Ninth: The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket – 286 pages
-        Sex Drive: In pursuit of female desire by Dr Bella Ellwood-Clayton – 312 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
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages

Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Hall of Fame - Nightcore version

Oct. 18th, 2014

08:49 pm - Books 21 & 22 - 2013

Book 21: Pacific Paradises: The Discovery of Tahiti and Hawaii by Trevor Lummis – 201 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
A story of cultures in collision. The reality of the colonisation of Tahiti and Hawaii by western powers is a shameful catalogue of misunderstanding and betrayal. In a final irony, western society now embraces many of the qualities held by the 'noble savages'.

Thoughts:
We have this concept in Australia called ‘Schoolies week’. Its kinda like Spring Break. Basically, upon completion of Year 12 (our ‘senior’ year), most students will take a week long holiday (most of the time at the Gold Coast, about an hour’s drive from where I live). Schoolies is barely tolerated debauchery (if you go to the Gold Coast, I went to the Sunshine Coast – it was much tamer) as a result of illegal alcohol consumption. My sister graduated Year 12 last year and we decided that rather than go to the Gold Coast, we (as in her, me, our mother and one of our brothers) would go to Hawaii instead. So last November, we all trooped off to Hawaii. Beforehand however, I decided to read what I could on Hawaii. Unfortunately my local library system was pretty hopeless, and this was pretty much the only non-fiction book I could find. Still I’m glad I picked it up, because when I finally did get to Hawaii, I actually knew a number of the answers to the questions tour guides regularly ask (it also helped me correct a host at a trivia night). Captain Cook is famous in Australia for discovering us (well, for England anyway. The Aboriginals obviously were already here). But he is also found a few other places, Hawaii being one of them. This book looked through the discovering of both Tahiti and Hawaii and what is known about both cultures prior to their ‘discovery’ and what damage was done to said cultures after English (and Spanish, American etc) contact. It’s really quite disturbing to see how much damage was done to these cultures in the name of ‘progress’ and ‘civilizing the savages’, and how much we’ve come to realize that maybe their lifestyles were actually not so bad after all, and maybe we could have learnt something from them. This book is short but gives a solid overview of the main players in the discoveries of both islands and in particular, gave me a nice little understanding of the history of Hawaii’s monarchy in order to equip me sufficiently for when I was there. Definitely recommended if you don’t know a lot about either island and want to get a good overview of their history.


21 / 50 books. 42% done!


7766 / 15000 pages. 52% done!

Book 22: The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot – 392 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Heather Wells is used to having her cake and eating it too, but this time her cake just might be cooked. Her wedding cake, that is. With her upcoming nuptials to PI Cooper Cartwright only weeks away, Heather's already stressed. And when a pretty junior turns up dead, Heather's sure things can't get worse--until every student in the dorm where she works is a possible suspect, and Heather's long-lost mother shows up. Heather has no time for a tearful mother and bride reunion. She has a wedding to pull off and a murder to solve. Instead of wedding bells, she might be hearing wedding bullets, but she's determined to bring the bad guys to justice if it's the last thing she does . . . and this time, it just might be.

Thoughts:
This appears to be the final of the Heather Wells mysteries (after a several year publishing gap between books three and four; this is the fifth). I really liked this series (except the rant about not having children in book four), and the mysteries are solid. This one is the lead up to Heather’s wedding to her beau, Cooper, who appreciates Heather’s Size 12 body (a recurring theme of the series – body size and image – to be honest, she’s goes on a bit, but at least its probably remotely realistic – I know I go on a bit and obsess a fair bit about my body) and is a bit of a rogue, which Heather seems to appreciate. Of course, Heather works in ‘Death Dorm’ and of course, another murder occurs not long before the wedding. And Heather’s long lost mother (who swiped any money Heather made when she was a pop star – Heather’s career before she put on weight and got replaced by the next dime-a-dozen pop star) turns up too, which throws poor Heather into a spin. Consequently, whilst still trying to finalise her wedding preparations, Heather also throws herself into solving the murder, whilst trying to ignore all the abandonment feelings stirred up by her mother’s return. This was a nice conclusion to the series, and a satisfying little murder mystery. It was nice to see a fictional wedding actually go off without a hitch (the disrupted wedding - a tried and true method of creating drama in both television and literature), and for the not so perfect girl to get her man in the end. Personally, I think Meg Cabot should stick to this kind of fiction – it’s her strong suit.


22 / 50 books. 44% done!


8158 / 15000 pages. 54% done!

Currently reading:
-        Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire – 495 pages
-        The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey – 457 pages
-        A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Ninth: The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket – 286 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
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages

Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: Once Upon A Time In Wonderland

Oct. 6th, 2014

05:20 pm - 2012 Summary and Books 19 & 20 - 2013

So firstly, I have finally finished writing up my 2012 book reviews - in October 2014 (can't rush these things). I had to do some digging but have discovered that I actually did a 2012 Summary/Reading Round up in early 2013, so instead of doing a new one, I'm just going to share the link below, should anyone want to read it:

http://50bookchallenge.livejournal.com/12678680.html

And now I'm going to actually include below reviews for two of the remaining 2013 reviews I still have to do (I have about 10 to go - I'm up to number 19).


Book 19: Insatiable by Meg Cabot – 451 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
From the best-selling author of PRINCESS DIARIES comes this supernatural romance with real bite...Sick of hearing about vampires? So is Meena Harper. Meena Harper is familiar with the supernatural. After all, she knows how you're going to die (Not that you're going to believe her. No one ever does.) But not even Meena's precognition can prepare her for Lucien Antonescu-who she meets and then makes the mistake of falling in love with-a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side for which an ancient society of vampire hunters would prefer to see him dead. The problem is Lucien's already dead. Maybe that's why he's the first guy Meena's ever met with whom she could imagine herself having a future. See, while Meena's always been able to see everyone else's destiny, she's never been able look into her own. Lucien seems to be everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, though he might turn out to be more of a nightmare. So now would be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future ...if she has one.

Thoughts:
Meg Cabot’s adult fiction is streets ahead of her teenage fiction. Maybe its because she’s trying to channel a more immature voice when she writes teen lit, but both her writing style and her plot devices in those books are really repetitive and very grating after awhile (is this the part where I realize I’m an adult now, not a kid?). There are slight elements of this in her adult lit but its nowhere near as heavy handed. So for a book that is both Meg Cabot and a vampire novel, this was a good book. Meena can see how you’re going to die, which is a rather useless ability to have because no one ever believes her when she tells them. When she meets Lucien, she is baffled to discover she can’t see how he’ll die. Which might be because he’s already dead. Meena doesn’t work out on her own that she’s dating a vampire. No, its not till Alaric, demon hunter with a group called the Palatine Guard (which I found hilarious because I used to live on Palatine Hill) turns up and quite forcefully makes her aware of her poor choice in dates. Lucien’s kind of important in vampire world, but Meena’s not immediately convinced her new man is that bad. What ensues is what Twilight should have been: funny, semi-realistic (people reaction wise) and well paced. The resolution was satisfying (though it probably didn’t justify the sequel, but I’ll get to that in my review of that), with a nice balance of sad, happy and funny. Overall, definitely one of Meg Cabot’s better reads.


19 / 50 books. 38% done!


7290 / 15000 pages. 49% done!

Book 20: Overbite by Meg Cabot – 275 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
The sequel to Meg Cabot's bestselling paranormal romance with bite - Insatiable Meena Harper has bitten off more than she can chew ...Meena has a special gift, but only now does anyone appreciate it. Her ability to predict how everyone she meets will die has impressed the Palatine Guard-a powerful secret demon-hunting unit of the Vatican-and they've hired her to work at their new branch in Lower Manhattan. Sure, Meena's ex-boyfriend was Lucien Antonescu, son of Dracula. But that was before he (and their relationship) went up in flames, and now she's sworn off vampires for good-even though she firmly believes that just because they've lost their souls, it doesn't mean they can't love. Convincing her new partner, Uber-demon-hunter Alaric Wulf, that vampires can be redeemed won't be easy ...especially when a deadly new threat arises, endangering not only the Palatine, but Meena's friends and family as well. As she unravels the truth, Meena will find her loyalties tested, her true feelings laid bare ...and temptations she never even imagined before nearly impossible to resist.

Thoughts:
Some stories are better off left as stand alones. Not because the sequels aren’t necessarily good – cause sometimes they are – its just that they aren’t quite up to the level of the first book/movie etc. Sometimes I’d rather not know what happens next. Sometimes a decent epilogue would be enough. Overbite, whilst a reasonable book, is one of those kind of sequels. I read it, and I enjoyed it, but I think the world would have been perfectly fine if no sequel had ever been written (I have a hopefully irrational fear of this happening with the movie Frozen which I adore). There is nothing hugely unresolved from the first book, so a sequel feels like a money spin. Unless you’re going to lay down the questions the sequel needs to answer in the first book its always going to feel like a money spin. There was maybe one bit of this book I was glad for, and the rest, whilst enjoyable, was unnecessary (kind of like the middle two Twilight books). Meena is no longer with Lucian and the Palatine Guard Alaric continues to be a pain in the butt. Bad things start happening and they appear to point to Lucian and alas we’re off. I will say I did learn a little tidbit about New York City in this book, and I will probably try and visit the place in question when I’m in NYC next year. An enjoyable sequel to a book that didn’t really need one.


20 / 50 books. 40% done!


7565 / 15000 books. 50% done!

Currently reading:
-        Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire – 495 pages
-        The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey – 457 pages
-        Poker Face: The Rise and Rise of Lady Gaga by Maureen Callahan – 225 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
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages

Current Mood: hothot
Current Music: Can't Help Falling in Love - Il Divo

Sep. 28th, 2014

09:36 am - Books 41 & 42 - 2012 (last update for this year!)

Book 41: Royal Observatory Greenwich: Souvenir Guide by National Maritime Museum, Greenwich – 78 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
No blurb – its about the Royal Observatory at Greenwich in London. What more is there to say?

Thoughts:
This was another of the various ‘tourist’ books I picked up while living (and therefore travelling) around the UK. This one is obviously about Greenwich, which is the home of the prime meridian of the world (the line differentiating east from west) and the establishment of a system to measure longitude and keep time in a simple and easy fashion. It’s fairly high level, covering off a variety of topics related to the site and the understanding of time and positioning, particularly for sailing. Fascinating and provides enough information for casual interest without expecting the reader to have a lot of background knowledge.


41 / 50 books. 82% done!


11614 / 15000 pages. 77% done!

Book 42: The Accidental Billionaires: Sex, Money, Betrayal and the Founding of Facebook by Ben Mezrich – 255 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
The high-energy tale of how two socially awkward Ivy Leaguers, trying to increase their chances with the opposite sex, ended up creating Facebook. Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg were Harvard undergraduates and best friends-outsiders at a school filled with polished prep-school grads and long-time legacies. They shared both academic brilliance in math and a geeky awkwardness with women. Eduardo figured their ticket to social acceptance-and sexual success-was getting invited to join one of the university's Final Clubs, a constellation of elite societies that had groomed generations of the most powerful men in the world and ranked on top of the inflexible hierarchy at Harvard. Mark, with less of an interest in what the campus alpha males thought of him, happened to be a computer genius of the first order. Which he used to find a more direct route to social stardom: one lonely night, Mark hacked into the university's computer system, creating a ratable database of all the female students on campus-and subsequently crashing the university's servers and nearly getting himself kicked out of school. In that moment, in his Harvard dorm room, the framework for Facebook was born. What followed-a real-life adventure filled with slick venture capitalists, stunning women, and six-foot-five-inch identical-twin Olympic rowers-makes for one of the most entertaining and compelling books of the year. Before long, Eduardo's and Mark's different ideas about Facebook created in their relationship faint cracks, which soon spiraled into out-and-out warfare. The collegiate exuberance that marked their collaboration fell prey to the adult world of lawyers and money. The great irony is that while Facebook succeeded by bringing people together, its very success tore two best friends apart. "The Accidental Billionaires" is a compulsively readable story of innocence lost-and of the unusual creation of a company that has revolutionized the way hundreds of millions of people relate to one another.

Thoughts:
I go through phases where I want to read about particular events or topics. Towards the end of 2012 I went through a phase where I want to read more non-fiction and I zeroed in on non-fiction related to the tech industries. This was the first of the books I read on that topic, after having seen the movie based on the book. If you’ve been living under a rock since about 2006, you won’t know that this insidious thing called Facebook now exists, slowly taking over every facet of our lives (I shouldn’t be so harsh – Facebook has many positives: the ability to stalk people you hated in primary school and know you are better than them, the ability to brag about all your holidays overseas while your friends labour along with their snotty little children, keeping in contact with relatives in distant countries so you have somewhere to crash when you end up there, etc). This is the story (how much is true is up to who’s side you’re on) of how Facebook came to be. Its pretty clear the movie follows reasonably closely to this book, but nonetheless its an interesting read. Anyone who’s anyone knows the ‘creator’ of Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg, but the Zuckerberg of this book comes across quite differently to the one you see in those little facebook posts he makes or in interviews (he seems less personable in the book). The treatment Eduardo cops seems pretty crap and those two giant rowing twins – I can’t decide if I feel sorry for how stupid they were, or annoyed at how arrogant. Its obvious why the story wound up as a movie, as the whole thing has a bit of a Hollywood feel to it. An interesting read about the creation of the most prolific social networking site in the world.


42 / 50 books. 84% done!


11869 / 15000 pages. 79% done!

Currently reading:
-        American Gods by Neil Gaiman – 588 pages
-        Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire – 495 pages
-        The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey – 457 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
-        One for the Money by Janet Evanovich – 290 pages

Current Mood: amuse
Current Music: Interviews with the Once Upon A Time cast

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