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Apr. 29th, 2015

11:11 pm - Books 31 & 32 - 2014

Book 31: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire – 495 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
An astonishingly rich re-creation of the land of Oz, this book retells the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, who wasn't so wicked after all. Taking readers past the yellow brick road and into a phantasmagoric world rich with imagination and allegory, Gregory Maguire just might change the reputation of one of the most sinister characters in literature.

Thoughts:
Wicked is my favourite musical ever (it was also the first one I saw). In 2009, I was in London, and in organizing to visit a friend who lived there, she suggested we go see a show (she was a budding actress). I agreed, and with our choice between Wicked and Billy Elliott, we decided to go with Wicked, despite knowing little about it. We missed the first two minutes, and I nearly fell down the stairs at Apollo Victoria, but we got there in the end, and we absolutely fell in love with the story, the music, everything. I’ve since seen Wicked four times (London, Sydney, Brisbane, New York) and I’ve been backstage in New York after my Mum met a stage hand at Starbucks who offered to give us a tour (best day ever!). That being said, whilst I bought the Wicked book the day after that first viewing, I have never got around to reading it. I finally decided this year that I should.
The first thing I must say is that the book is very different from the stage show, though I had been told this and I expected it. You must go into it with this mindset because if you go in expecting the musical, you’ll be disappointed. Elphaba, the ‘Wicked’ witch of the west, is less misunderstood vigilante, and more reclusive anarchist. Fiyero is less swaggering vagabond and more enamoured, wayward Prince. Glinda’s evolution from dotty to sympathetic is much faster, but she lacks a little of the gumption she has in the musical. The story still centres around the idea of Animal rights, but it meanders more, with less of a clear plot, and a less direct link to the original story. I felt myself feeling both more sympathetic for Elphaba and more frustrated with her. There is a sweetness she lacks in this book form, but overall, I still liked (or maybe appreciate is a better word) her, and I still enjoyed the story. I think ultimately I came away with a new appreciation for the idea behind this retelling, even though the musical will always be my preferred rendering of the story. Maguire is trying to make more of a point with this book, something that doesn’t doesn’t quite make it into the musical. It’s a long, sometimes dragging read, but its an interesting rendering of a much maligned character, and personally, never having been a fan of the Wizard of Oz, I’ll take this version any day of the week.


31 / 50 books. 62% done!


11016 / 15000 pages. 73% done!

Book 32: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey – 457 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the "un"lucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother--or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death.

Thoughts:
I love the idea of aliens on Earth even though I don’t believe such a thing has happened. My novel series that I am writing is based on this idea, and whilst I prefer a ‘nice’ invasion, if such a thing exists, I appreciate that fiction of this genre prefers the idea that the invasion is cruel and unkind and requires humanity to band together. There are elements of this concept in this book, and then another very clever, subterfuge style concept looking at a couple of ideas around how aliens could effectively force us into killing each other. Cassie is alone and trying to track down her brother. Earth has been attacked in waves by aliens who seem intent on wiping humanity off the planet. Cassie’s little brother and a boy she went to school with, Ben, are in a government training camp where they learn how to fight the aliens. Or at least, that’s what each of them thinks. Yancey tells two stories side by side, Cassie’s and Ben’s. Each have demons to work through, each have questions about their current situation that they are scared of. For Cassie, her big question is around Evan Walker, a boy who saves her life, but who maybe also put her in the situation she’s in in the first place. For Ben, his questions are around the truth of the government training facility and their purpose. Each are motivated by Sammy, Cassie’s little brother who ends up in Ben’s team at the training facility. This is a good start to the series, and I’m looking forward to the next one. There are Twilight elements, but it manages to veer more to the Hunger Games side of the young-adult lit genre most of the time. Worth a look if you’re into teen sci-fi dystopia.


32 / 50 books. 64% done!


11473 / 15000 pages. 76% done!

Currently reading:
-        Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton – 596 pages
-        Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs – 331 pages
-        The New Asian Hemisphere: The Irresistible Shift of Global Power to the East by Kishore Mahbubani – 293 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: Bones Season 10

Apr. 3rd, 2015

11:02 pm - Books 29 & 30 - 2014

Book 29: American Gods by Neil Gaiman – 588 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Shadow is a man with a past. But now he wants nothing more than to live a quiet life with his wife and stay out of trouble. Until he learns that she's been killed in a terrible accident. Flying home for the funeral, as a violent storm rocks the plane, a strange man in the seat next to him introduces himself. The man calls himself Mr. Wednesday, and he knows more about Shadow than is possible. He warns Shadow that a far bigger storm is coming. And from that moment on, nothing will ever he the same...

Thoughts:
This book is on all those lists that pop up all the time, the ‘top 100 books to read before you die’ etc. I keep a whole stack of those lists, with some vague notion that one day I’ll get through an entire one (I have read at most maybe 20 of the books on one list, usually between five and ten on any given list). Anyway, at some point, I decided this book seemed like one of the ones on those lists that I’d be into so I bought a copy from bookdepository.co.uk. Cause it had more than 500 pages it turned up on my ‘books with more than 500 pages to read’ list as well, so last year I sat down and started reading it. And this is a weird book!
I’m still not sure I get the point of it, or fully appreciate all that happened (which I guess in some respects is a credit to Mr Gaiman, because I quite appreciate a story which I can read multiple times and get different things out of), but I have come to quite respect Mr Gaiman, simply because its evident throughout and from my subsequent research of themes and characters in the book, of just how much research he has put into this story. It overflows in the most subtle of ways with characters from a myriad of mythologies (a genre I adore), and plays on various subtle aspects of these characters to bring a fascinating, if not slightly (okay, very) bizarre story to life. As I said, I’m still not sure I ‘get’ the story nor would I call it my favourite book ever, but its definitely one I can see myself coming back to re-read in the future, and its certainly one that stays with you.


29 / 50 books. 58% done!


10296 / 15000 pages. 69% done!

Book 30: Poker Face: The Rise and Rise of Lady Gaga by Maureen Callahan – 225 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
In little over a year, Stefani Germanotta, a struggling performer in New York's Lower East Side burlesque scene, has become the global demographic-smashing pop icon known as Lady Gaga. She is a once-in-a-decade artist, a gifted singer, composer, designer, and performance artist who mixes high and low culture, the avant-garde with the accessible, authenticity with artifice. Who is Lady Gaga She is a twenty-four-year-old woman whose stage mantra--"I'm a free bitch!"--is the polar opposite of who she is offstage: isolated, insecure, and unable to be alone. She is an outre artist who wanted to be a sensitive singer-songwriter, whose musical heroes include Britney Spears, Billy Joel, and Bruce Springsteen. She is a woman who says no man can ever compete with her career, but who still isn't over the ex-boyfriend who said she was too ambitious. She claims not to care what people think, but spends her downtime online, reading what people have to say about her. She claims to be a con artist and utterly authentic. She is never less than compelling. Based on over fifty original interviews with friends, employees, rivals, and music industry veterans, "Poker Face" is the first in-depth biography of the extraordinary cultural phenomenon that is Lady Gaga.

Thoughts:
Another book bought at the $2 Rotary book sale. I’m not a huge fan of Lady Gaga but this was actually a really interesting read. I’m not sure how much I believe, as everyone always has a bias in these sorts of stories, but I learnt a lot from it, and even if there is an element of manufacturing to Gaga’s persona, its evident that she certainly has a handle on how to market herself. A short sharp read that I would definitely recommend to any fans or music lovers alike.


30 / 50 books. 60% done!


10521 / 15000 pages. 70% done!

Currently reading:
-        Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton – 596 pages
-        The XX Factor: How Working Women Are Creating a New Society by Alison Wolf – 401 pages
-        Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs – 331 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

Mar. 14th, 2015

08:15 pm - Books 27 & 28 - 2014

Book 27: Mortal Remains by Kathy Reichs – 306 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
When Tempe is called to the scene of an autoerotic death, she has little idea of the tangled chain of events that will follow. Because the man whose body she is examining apparently died in a helicopter crash in Vietnam 40 years before. So who is buried in the soldier's grave? Tempe's investigations take her to Honolulu where she is caught up not only in the mystery of the unidentified body in the soldier's grave, but also dragged into investigating who, or what, killed the young men whose body parts have floated up onto a popular Hawaiian beach. And as Tempe gradually unravels the tangled threads of the mystery, it becomes clear that there are some who would rather the past stays dead and buried. And when Tempe proves difficult to frighten, they turn their attention to the person who means more to her than anyone else in the world.

Thoughts:
Either I am getting used to Reichs’ writing style, or her books are getting better. I actually quite enjoyed this one. Maybe this is partly because I have been to Hawaii, and knew many of the places Reichs references. Maybe it was because it was one with Andrew Ryan, whom I enjoy. Basically the premise is Reichs must go to Hawaii to investigate a death that seems to be have been of a Vietnam Vet who apparently is already dead. She takes her daughter Katie with her, Katie having just lost her boyfriend who was killed in Afghanistan (or Iraq, I can’t remember which). Eventually Andrew Ryan and his wayward daughter Lily join them, and the plot of the Vietnam Vet gets all the more confusing. The murders are pretty typical Reichs, but I really enjoyed the relationship between Andrew and Temperance, and Katie and Lily. Definitely more readable than the first few.


27 / 50 books. 54% done!


9453 / 15000 pages. 63% done!

Book 28: A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Eighth: The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket – 255 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
The Baudelaires need a safe place to stay - somewhere far away from terrible villains and local police. A quiet refuge where misfortune never visits. Might Heimlich Hospital be just the place? In Lemony Snicket′s eighth ghastly installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events, I′m sorry to say that the Baudelaire Orphans will spend time in a hospital where they risk encountering a misleading newspaper headline, unnecessary surgery, an intercom system, anesthesia, heart-shaped balloons, and some very startling news about a fire.

Thoughts:
The Baudelaires story continues. This time the kids find themselves working in the library in a hospital. They are also still trying to solve the mystery of Jacques Snicket and his involvement with their parents. Olaf, of course, finds out where they are, and in a rather disturbing scene, tries to amputate Violet’s head. These books are getting less and less playful and more and more ‘unfortunate’ in the stories, and the final scene of this one sees the Baudelaires effectively climb into the snake’s nest, if you will. With each book, these definitely get more interesting to read, but maybe not so good for a young audience.


28 / 50 books. 56% done!


9708 / 15000 pages. 65% done!

Currently reading:
-        Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton – 596 pages
-        A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Twelfth: The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket – 353 pages
-        The XX Factor: How Working Women Are Creating a New Society by Alison Wolf – 401 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: fullfull
Current Music: Inkheart on TV

Mar. 11th, 2015

10:27 pm - Boos 25 & 26 - 2014

Book 25: My Point…and I Do Have One by Ellen DeGeneres – 211 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
In this #1 New York Times bestseller, Ellen DeGeneres shares her hilarious take on everything from our most baffling human foibles-including how we behave in elevators, airplanes, and restrooms, and why we're so scared of the boogeyman-to fashion trends, celebrity, and her secret recipe for Ellen's Real Frenchy French Toast. Most of all, this witty, engaging book offers insights into the mind of one of America's most beloved comics.... "Dear Reader, I was awfully excited when I was asked to write a book. I was however, nervous. I was afraid I didn't have anything important to say. But when I began writing, I realized that although I don't know a lot about any one thing, I know a little about a whole bunch of things: baking a pie; dancing; curing the common cold; running the Iditarod-it's all in the book. And I realized I notice things that maybe some people don't notice (or they don't notice that they don't notice). That's all in the book, too."

Thoughts:
Ellen’s show airs during the day sometimes in Australia and I think she’s just hilarious. I picked up this book at a bi-annual book fair conducted by my local Rotary club (so it cost me two dollars!). I was rather disappointed by this book. It’s not not funny, but its not anywhere near as funny as Ellen is on her show. I’m just not sure if her humour is too dependent on visuals and that’s why, or its just the irreverence of the stories went over my head, or its an Australian versus American humour thing, but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I was hoping. It’s also rather old now (I think it was written in the nineties) so it’s a bit dated which might have led to some of the issues. I would still like to read some of her later books, but this one wasn’t really a winner. A shame.


25 / 50 books. 50% done!


8839 / 15000 pages. 59% done!

Book 26: The Sexual Paradox: Troubled Boys, Gifted Girls and the Real Difference between the Sexes by Susan Pinker – 308 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Why do girls do increasingly well at school, yet men still dominate senior positions in adult life? In this provocative and original book, Susan Pinker examines how fundamental gender differences play out at school and at work. In "The Sexual Paradox", psychologist Susan Pinker explores the latest findings of the science of sex differences. Comparing the lives of promising schoolgirls who later opt out of successful careers with those of troubled schoolboys who go on to achieve highly in the workplace, she argues that our biology can shed important new light on the 'gender gap'. Men and women are significantly different - we need to recognize these paradoxical differences, not punish them or legislate against them, if we are to make progress. "The Sexual Paradox" sheds important - and controversial - new light on a perennial debate.

Thoughts:
This is a really valuable book, and one that I related to immensely. I’m one of those stereotypical ‘career’ girls. Straight out of high school, I started a double bachelors degree in accounting and sociology, and fast tracked it by doing summer school three years in a row. Seven months before I finished I secured a job with a Big 4 accounting firm. Six years of crazy hours and a secondment to the UK, and I quit to take up a job with a major university in my city. Ten months later and after starting my Masters, and I’m about to apply for a job that will see me the Finance Manager for Science and Technology faculty, if I get it. When I left the Big 4 job, I got asked to stay because they considered me ‘partner’ material. And I knew I could get there, but the idea of doing the same thing every day, even if it made me an expert, bored the crap out of me. I went from being an auditor to a management accountant, because I have a compulsion to seek out new skills. I went from public accounting to education, because I needed to do something different and expand myself. Why am I telling you this? Because reading this book helped me understand (to an extent) why I had made these decisions, and why I often make different decisions from men in similar situations. Pinker puts forward a few ideas. Firstly, that women are not the CEOs etc of the world, not because they aren’t smart enough, or don’t have access to education (in fact in many countries women studying all the way up to postgrad outstrip men in many fields), but because they simply don’t want to. They want to spend more time with their children, or do jobs that they feel are more meaningful or contribute more to society, or try new things. Men, on the other hand, due to brain wiring, appear better able to focus on one topic and become experts in it, to slog away at the same thing or the end goal of CEO or President or whatever, and get to the upper echelons of business etc. This attribute, according to Pinker also explains why things such as autism etc are more prevalent in men then women. This is just one of Pinker’s theories within this book, but chapter after chapter, I unmasked more about myself, my gender, and why I often make the decisions I do. Obviously not everything will apply to every woman or every man – we are all different – but generalisations are called as such because they do ‘generally’ apply and I can see that in this book. I read a lot on gender studies (I have started to recognize names of writers and academics across the field – scary) and this book was definitely in my top five of the field. A very fascinating read I highly recommend.


26 / 50 books. 52% done!


9147 / 15000 pages. 61% done!

Currently reading:
-        Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton – 596 pages
-        Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics by Paul Street – 272 pages
-        A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Twelfth: The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket – 353 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: Forever on TV

Feb. 22nd, 2015

02:17 pm - Books 1 - 10.

1. Yancey - Reaching For The Invisible God (384 pages)
2. T.Brooks - Heaven On Earth: A Treatise On Christian Assurance (312 pages)
3. (Pocket Canon:) The Gospel According To Matthew (89 pages)
4. Young - Korean Vegetarian (77 pages)
5. Currey - Daily Rituals: How Artists Work (269 pages)
6. Austen - Sense & Sensibility (423 pages)
7. (Pocket Canon:) The Gospel According To Mark (58 pages)
8. De Chardin - The Divine Milieu (167 pages)
9. Rath - Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead To Big Changes (219 pages)
10. Savary - Teilhard De Chardin: The Divine Milieu Explained: A Spirituality For The 21st Century (168 pages)

Total so far: 2 166 pages.

Current Mood: accomplished
Current Music: Florence + The Machine - "Heartlines"

Feb. 14th, 2015

08:28 pm - Books 23 & 24 - 2014

Book 23: A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Seventh: The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket – 256 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Dear Reader, You have undoubtedly picked up this book by mistake, so please put it down. Nobody in their right mind would read this particular book about the lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire on purpose, because each dismal moment of their stay in the village of V.F.D. has been faithfully and dreadfully recorded in these pages. I can think of no single reason why anyone would want to open a book containing such unpleasant matters as migrating crows, an angry mob, a newspaper headline, the arrest of innocent people, the Deluxe Cell, and some very strange hats. It is my solemn and sacred occupation to research each detail of the Baudelaire children′s lives and write them all down, but you may prefer to do some other solemn and sacred thing, such as reading another book instead.

Thoughts:
I continue on my challenge to read this series. This one sees the children shipped off to a strange village to be raised by the entire village, which sounds strange and only gets stranger. As it turns out the village only wants the children to be their personal cleaners. They get taken in to live with one strange man who nonetheless tries to help them solve the riddle of V.F.D and where the children’s friends are, and avoid another run in with Count Olaf. These stories are fanciful but it’s quite amusing to see the things the Baudelaire children come up with in order to get out of trouble.


23 / 50 books. 46% done!


8315 / 15000 pages. 55% done!

Book 24: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – 313 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, `The Fault in Our Stars` is award-winning author John Green's most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Thoughts:
I read this book because everyone is reading this book and because there was a movie coming out. I’m still to watch the movie, and whilst I wouldn’t say this book is the groundbreaking amazing masterpiece claim it is, I did still really enjoy it. Part of this was because of Green’s writing style and dialogue, which was both laugh out loud funny and reminded me more than any other writer of my own writing style. The story itself is an interesting one, mostly because you can see how it could be possible. Two teenagers in a terrible situation bond – because of their illness or because it really is love? It’s a fascinating question and one Green doesn’t choose to (or really has to) answer. In many respects, the plot meanders and the whole story with the writer sometimes feels like it was put in there to fill the story out. The fact that she goes to Amsterdam got me a little excited though, given I’m half Dutch and I’ve never read a story set in any way shape or form in the Netherlands before. I don’t know. I enjoyed it but at the same time, it didn’t blow me away. Nonetheless, I can see why it was so popular amongst the teen girl market.


24 / 50 books. 48% done!


8628 / 15000 pages. 58% done!

Currently reading:
-        The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss – 323 pages
-        Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton – 596 pages
-        Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics by Paul Street – 272 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: fullfull
Current Music: Movie Trailers

Jan. 25th, 2015

10:07 pm - Books 21 & 22 - 2014

Book 21: Flame by Amy Kathleen Ryan – 326 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Waverly and the other members of the Empyrean have been scattered, and their home ship destroyed. The mission to rescue their parents didn't go quite as planned, and now they're at an even greater disadvantage: trapped with their enemies on the New Horizon, trying to find a way to survive. Will Seth's health hold out long enough to help Waverly topple their enemy? And will Waverly find a way to unite her friends before the final battle? Nothing is certain and every second counts in this explosive and romantic finale.

Thoughts:
This was an interesting end to this series. Half the story is told by the kids trapped on the enemy ship and the other half is told by a group of unknown survivors (also kids) on the original ship. The adults in this book leave a lot to be desired, and raise a lot of questions about the processes through which they were first chosen to go on the ship (which is touched on) and whilst all the kids are flawed in their own ways, they are streets ahead of their parents. Perhaps the one good thing to come out of it is that said kids become better adults by virtue of what they go through and what their parents do (fanciful perhaps, but oh well). The resolution is true to the characters, and secures some sort of future for humanity, despite the hard work of the more deceitful (and frankly sometimes creepy) adults to seemingly ruin humanity’s chances of survival because of their own selfishness. I still maintain that its very much like ‘Lord of the Flies’ in space, but perhaps with a more hopeful resolution. An interesting read.


21 / 50 books. 42% done!


7664 / 15000 pages. 51% done!

Book 22: A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce – 395 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
This winner of the William C. Morris Award for best YA debut novel is a ghost story, spun with a romance, woven with a mystery, and shot through with fairy tale. The gold thread promises Charlotte Miller a chance to save her family's beloved woolen mill. It promises a future for her sister, jobs for her townsfolk, security against her grasping uncle -- maybe even true love. To get the thread, Charlotte must strike a bargain with its maker, the mysterious Jack Spinner. But the gleam of gold conjures a shadowy past -- secrets ensnaring generations of Millers. And Charlotte's mill, her family, her love -- what do those matter to a stranger who can spin straw into gold? This is an award-winning and wholly original retelling of "Rumplestiltskin."

Thoughts:
The story of Rumplestiltskin used to creep me out as a kid, but I have taken a liking to the character himself since getting into the show ‘Once Upon a Time’ and other re-tellings of fairytales. This one is a slightly more industrial version of the story, with poor Charlotte Miller struggling to run her family’s mill after her father dies. The mill supports the whole town and Charlotte feels a responsibility to keep it running successfully, and though she realizes this will be tough, she doesn’t anticipate all the problems that come her way. Whilst there are good things that come out of some of these good things (for example, she finds herself a husband), most are bad. Charlotte believes this is all just a case of bad luck, but her little sister thinks they are cursed, and along the way, a mysterious spinner who turns up just when they need him seems to suggest there is something slightly supernatural going on. This was a fascinating take on the Rumplestiltskin story, which took away elements of the malevolence of the original character, but also made the main female character more relatable. Recommended if you’re into fairytale retellings.


22 / 50 books. 44% done!


8059 / 15000 pages. 54% done!

Currently reading:
-        Sunshine on Sugar Hill by Angela Gilltrap – 310 pages
-        The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss – 323 pages
-        Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton – 596 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 West Wing on TV

Jan. 4th, 2015

08:44 am - Books 19 & 20 - 2014

Book 19: The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of the Iliad by Caroline Alexander – 277 pages

Description from Goodreads:
Few warriors, in life or literature, have challenged their commanding officer and the rationale of the war they fought as fiercely as did Homer's hero Achilles. Today, the Iliad is celebrated as one of the greatest works in literature, the epic of all epics; many have forgotten that the subject of this ancient poem was war-not merely the poetical romance of the war at Troy, but war, in all its enduring devastation.
Using the legend of the Trojan war, the Iliad addresses the central questions defining the war experience of every age: Is a warrior ever justified in standing up against his commander? Must he sacrifice his life for someone else's cause? Giving his life for his country, does a man betray his family? How is a catastrophic war ever allowed to start-and why, if all parties wish it over, can it not be ended?
As she did with The Endurance and The Bounty, Caroline Alexander lets us see why a familiar story has had such an impact on us for centuries, revealing what Homer really meant. Written with the authority of a scholar and the vigor of a bestselling narrative historian, The War That Killed Achilles is a superb and utterly timely presentation of one of the timeless stories of our civilization.

Thoughts:
This is a very detailed analysis of the Trojan war in literature, questioning not whether it happened, but how accurate the background information in it is in comparison to more verifiable information from the time. It looks at artifacts, documents etc, and compares information in those to things like the region discussed in the Iliad, the metals, animal use, communities, military structure etc. It’s quite fascinating, even though it obviously doesn’t validate the overall story of the Iliad. For the Trojan war nerds of the world.


19 / 50 books. 38% done!


6829 / 15000 pages. 46% done!

Book 20: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown – 509 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
WHAT WAS LOST WILL BE FOUND...Washington DC: Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned at the last minute to deliver an evening lecture in the Capitol Building. Within moments of his arrival, however, a disturbing object - gruesomely encoded with five symbols - is discovered at the epicentre of the Rotunda. It is, he recognises, an ancient invitation, meant to beckon its recipient towards a long-lost world of hidden esoteric wisdom. When Langdon's revered mentor, Peter Solomon - philanthropist and prominent mason - is brutally kidnapped, Langdon realizes that his only hope of saving his friend's life is to accept this mysterious summons and follow wherever it leads him. Langdon finds himself quickly swept behind the facade of America's most historic city into the unseen chambers, temples and tunnels which exist there. All that was familiar is transformed into a shadowy, clandestine world of an artfully concealed past in which Masonic secrets and never-before-seen revelations seem to be leading him to a single impossible and inconceivable truth. A brilliantly composed tapestry of veiled histories, arcane icons and enigmatic codes, The Lost Symbol is an intelligent, lightning-paced thriller that offers surprises at every turn. For, as Robert Langdon will discover, there is nothing more extraordinary or shocking than the secret which hides in plain sight...

Thoughts:
I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages, and thought I’d be really into it particularly because I have actually been to D.C. and have a bit more of a reference in what Langdon is describing. The problem is, whilst Davinci Code, and Angels and Demons had plots that you could almost believe, this one really descends into the world of unbelievable. It feels like Brown decided to write a book about ‘The Secret’ and try to make it believable. I really wanted to like it, and I was really fascinated by the stuff about the Masons (my great grandfather was a Mason – never knew him), but the rest of it was just fanciful, I couldn’t sit there and go ‘oh yes, I see how one could draw those conclusions’. Very pseudo science-y. The pacing is also a bit slow though the writing quality itself is improved. The twist I didn’t necessarily see until the last little bit, but its very ‘big movie’ typical, and that kind of cheapened it. Not a bad read, if you can suspend belief a bit more than you would have done for the previous two, but could have been better.


20 / 50 books. 40% done!


7338 / 15000 pages. 49% done!

Currently reading:
-        Sunshine on Sugar Hill by Angela Gilltrap – 310 pages
-        Westminister Abbey: Official Guide by Dean and Chapter of Westminister – 120 pages
-        The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss – 323 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: Ghost - Ella Henderson

Dec. 30th, 2014

11:14 pm - Books 17 & 18 - 2014

Book 17: I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes – 700 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Can you commit the perfect crime? Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn't exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation. But that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. And it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where the body of a woman is found facedown in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder - and Pilgrim wrote the book. What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to a deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.

Thoughts:
This was a bloody good book! Long, very long, and it requires your full attention, but my, my, it was good! Hayes has put together a very possible, very intense thriller, and created an intriguing, if slightly improbable hero. I actually didn’t pick this book out for myself; a friend recommended it for some strange reason, and I’m yet to find it in the pages of the local newspaper’s culture section, or see it in a bookstore (I borrowed it from the library) but bloody hell, it belongs there.
Ebola seemed to be the word on the street in 2014, with the epidemic in West Africa, and if that had started before I’d started reading this book, I think it would have made it all the more frightening. Still, the idea of a terrorist using medical knowledge that seemed rather easy for him to find, and creating a new, even more deadly, strain of Ebola and then making it airborne and releasing it in America is a very scary possibility, and one that Hayes manages to demonstrate could be all too possible. There’s a part of me that always knew things would turn out okay (very rarely does a book deviate from this ending) but watching Pilgrim try to catch up and matters get more and more dire makes for a very intense read. I also learned a lot about the region of Turkey that the book is predominately set in, which was very fascinating (I always think an author has done a good job if you want to google things they have mentioned to learn more).
I could go on for days, but I think I’d spoil too much, so I’m just going to stay short and sweet – buy, borrow or steal (okay, don’t steal) this book and read it! Dedicate a weekend, and even if the first 100 pages feel like a lot of background, persevere – there’s a reason, and it’s worth it!


17 / 50 books. 34% done!


6293 / 15000 pages. 42% done!

Book 18: A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Sixth: The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket – 259 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
There is nothing to be found in the pages of A Series of Unfortunate Events but misery and despair. You still have time to choose another international best-seller to read. But if you must know what unpleasantries befall the charming and clever Baudelaire children read on...The Ersatz Elevator is the sixth instalment in A Series of Unfortunate Events in which Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire encounter a darkened staircase, a red herring, friends in a dire situation, three mysterious initials, a liar with an evil scheme, a secret passageway and parsley soda.

Thoughts:
This Unfortunate Events book introduces the character of Esme, and reintroduces, briefly, the Quagmire triplets (of which there is only two). Esme is weird, and her husband pathetic, and the idea of a baby climbing an elevator shaft with her teeth makes me cry for my dentist, but it’s a charming enough story, and I can’t help but really feel for the poor Baudelaire kids. A quick, fun read, that manages to keep one engaged with the story now that things are finally starting to develop.


18 / 50 books. 36% done!


6552 / 15000 pages. 44% done!

Currently reading:
-        Sunshine on Sugar Hill by Angela Gilltrap – 310 pages
-        Bones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs – 462 pages
-        A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Eleventh: The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket – 323 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: Outside - Calvin Harris featuring Ellie Goulding

08:09 pm - Books 15 & 16 - 2014

Book 15: Man Drought and Other Social Issues of the New Century by Bernard Salt – 276 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
Why are there so many single women in their 30s? What's an OFFAL? In this entertaining and insightful book, social commentator Bernard Salt answers these and many other pressing questions about contemporary Australia. Drawing on current census data and his own research, he presents a quirky, enlightening tour of the world we live in.

Thoughts:
I have wanted to read this book for ages, mostly because its written by an Australian, and that Australian, Mr Salt, works for one of the Big Four accounting firms, and I work (or used to work) for one of the Big Four accounting firms. I also am really into demographics (which probably makes more sense as a reason to read a book). So, anyway, the downside is its taken me about fie years to read this book, so its rather out of date (it was written in 2006, I think). Ignoring that, and Mr Salt’s constant comment about how Generation Y had never experienced an economic downturn (the whole GFC happening the year after this book must have really annoyed Mr Salt), the points Mr Salt raises are very interesting, and he is fair across the generations, criticizing and celebrating them in equal measure (when I’ve tried to raise some of his point with my mother, a Baby Boomer, comparing their parenting of me, a Generation Y, unfortunately she’s chosen not to listen – sigh!). Moreover, its pretty obvious from reading this book why I’m struggling to find myself a man; there just isn’t many available ones in my city (apparently I need to move to a mining town – eek!). Overall, a very interesting read – I’m not sure I’d use it as a dating guide, but it will definitely help you stand up to any Baby Boomer parents or combat complaints from your Generation Y kids (oh, and those Generation X people!).


15 / 50 books. 30% done!


5198 / 15000 pages. 35% done!

Book 16: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - 395 pages

Description from bookdepository.co.uk:
THE #1 "NEW YORK TIMES" BESTSELLER On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media--as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents--the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter--but is he really a killer?

Thoughts:
This book is nuts. Truly, truly nuts. It asks the question, ‘do you truly know someone?’. I’m not sure if it answered that question, to be honest, but it certainly frightened the crap out of me. Its books like this that make me not want to get married. I’m not sure if too many people don’t now the plot, given its just been released as a film, but anyway, Amy Dunne disappears on her five wedding anniversary, and everything points towards her husband, Nick. Nick’s biggest problem is not that he actually has killed his wife, but that every bit of circumstantial evidence points to that he did. I must say I did not at all expect the twist in this book, even if I did believe that Nick didn’t kill Amy. That’s the point where the book gets disturbing, and perhaps, rather unbelievable. By the end, I decided that Nick and Amy were meant for each other – I’m fairly sure they were as nuts as each other in many respects. Anyway, as I said, its these kind of books that scare me off marriage (maybe that’s why I don’t have a man!) – here’s to hoping that people such as these characters are few and far in between in the real world. An interesting read if not a disturbing one.


16 / 50 books. 32% done!


5593 / 15000 pages. 37% done!

Currently reading:
-        Globality: Competing with Everyone from Everywhere for Everything by Harold L. Sirkin, James W. Hemerling and Arindam K. Bhattacharya – 267 pages
-        Sunshine on Sugar Hill by Angela Gilltrap – 310 pages
-        Bones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs – 462 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: Castle on TV

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