Saturday, January 2, 2010

My reading schedule for the week

Posted by Simcha 1:53 PM, under | 4 comments

I don't usually plan in advance what I'm going to be reading during the upcoming week, preferring to choose my books based on my mood or whatever new books I acquire. But thanks to a couple of Goodreads groups that I recently joined, I seemed to have created for myself a reading schedule, which makes feel quite organized and purposeful (now if only that applied to other aspects of my life as well..)

Yesterday I began reading Soulless, by Gail Carriger, a book which the Urban Fantasy group on Goodreads has chosen for January. I had seen this book around on different blogs but it didn't really grab my attention, but I'm now finding it to be thoroughly enjoyable. It's kind of like a historical romance with vampires and werewolves mixed in. It's hard to describe, but a lot of fun to read.

This same group has also chosen to discuss Storm Front by Jim Butcher. I had actually tried reading this book a couple of times but I just couldn't get myself to finish it. Normally, in such a situation, I would just move on, but everyone else seems to love the Dresden Files and I'm determined to discover what it is they find so appealing about them. According to a number of Dresden fans, the first book is the weakest, and after you tackle that one the series gets better. So I've decided to give Storm Front one more try because I really just want to be a Dresden fan like everyone else (can you tell I've been feeling very left out?)

A couple of weeks ago I had picked up The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafron, at a second-hand bookstore. I was not familiar with the book or the author, but I really liked the cover, and the price was quite low, so I bought it. And suddenly I'm seeing this book being praised all over the place. Even my mother has read it! So I'm going to be reading Shadow of the Wind this week, as well.

I'm pretty sure that these books should last me for the week, but in case I do somehow finish them all, I'll get started on my scifi book for the month, which I think is going to be Dune by Frank Herbert. Dune is one of those books that I feel that I should read, even though I don't really want to. Kind of like War and Peace or Moby Dick. I'm hoping it will surprise me though.

So do you have any big reading plans for the week?

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sins of the Flesh by Caridad Pineiro

Posted by Simcha 6:45 PM, under | 1 comment

Caterina Shaw is a world-famous musician, until cancer invades her body and the pain from a tumor makes it impossible for her to continue playing her beloved cello. Caterina is willing to do anything to stop the pain, even participate in an experimental treatment meant to eliminate the cancer. But the treatments don’t go as Caterina had expected and one night she suddenly finds herself outside, alone and naked, with no memory of how she got there, or even who she is. And although her mind is wild and fragmented, she is pretty certain that her body should not be changing colors or bleeding green blood.

Mick has been hired by Dr. Edwards to capture the dangerous killer who murdered his partner, hideously tearing him from limb to limb. But when Mick’s search leads him to Caterina, he finds himself doubting that this beautiful, gentle woman is capable of the crime which Edwards accuses her of. Cautiously, he takes Caterina into custody as he determines to discover the truth about Caterina and the murder of Dr. Wells.

But something is wrong with Caterina. Her body has been pumped full of various drugs and her blood cells have been altered, which is now causing her body to fail. Mick and his sister find themselves in a race against time to discover what has been done to Caterina so that they can reverse the process, in order to keep her alive. Mick must do whatever he can to save Caterina, not only because he suspects she is innocent, but also because he is finding himself falling in love with her.

Sins of the Flesh is an interesting book with a unique story line. Although the book is labeled as a paranormal romance, I would define it more as romantic science fiction, with its strong focus on science and medicine. It’s clear that Pineiro did a lot of research when writing the book, and while I certainly respect this, I did find the unfamiliar medical terminology to be confusing at times.

Sins of the Flesh started off strong, I soon found myself only mildly engaged as the pace of the story slowed down to a crawl, which was strange because there was so much going on. Considering that the police were searching for Caterina as a suspect in a murder case, and Mick was investigating the suspicious activities at the lab and Caterina was being hunted by another hit-man, it seemed like most of the focus was on Mick sitting by Caterina’s bed.

I also felt that the character of Mick didn’t quite come out as the ruthless, hardened mercenary that the author was aiming for. This probably has to do with the fact that right after Mick is introduced as a ruthless killer we are also told about the wonderful things that he has done for his family and that the only reason he is in this business is to help get is siblings through college. His obviously affectionate relationship with his family and his generosity with his friends negates the tough personality Pineiro is trying to convince the reader of. And so the message that Mick was softening up due to his feeling for Caterina, didn't really work so well because he didn't seem to be that tough to begin with.

My favorite character was actually Mick’s sister, Lilliana; a nurse who is involved in an abusive relationship. I thought she was the most interesting of all the characters, though her story didn’t seem to really go anywhere. While I suppose that it will be continued in the sequel, I think there should have been a more solid resolution to her story-line in this book.

Sins of the Flesh wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for. It wasn’t a bad book- the writing was pretty good and the premise was interesting- but it didn’t really captivate me either. And while this book wasn’t for me, it’s quite possible that other fans of light science fiction or paranormal romance would enjoy reading it more then I did.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tackling my pile of "other" books: Guernsey and Twenties Girl

Posted by Simcha 4:34 AM, under | 8 comments

:I've decided that this week I'll focus on tackling my pile of non-genre books that has slowly taken over my nightstand. With all the science fiction and fantasy books that I still need to read, and all the books I keep adding to my To Be Read pile, the non-genre books that I've been intending to read have sadly been sitting untouched. But this week I'm going to make amends and go through as many books in the pile that I can make time for.

So far I've read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows and Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella.

I first heard about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society when it was recommended by Books on the Nightstand, and since every book they recommend sounds so good, including the cookbooks, I immediately added it to my list. I actually would probably never have picked up this book otherwise, because I'm not a fan of books written in letter format, but for Guernsey, this style was perfect.

Book Description from back cover:
January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was such a delightful and enjoyable book that after finishing it I had the insane desire to start again from the beginning (luckily I controlled the impulse, since I have so many other books still waiting to be read). I was amazed at how the the authors managed to create a whole cast of wonderful characters, each with their own unique personality and voice, just through their correspondences. And while Guernsey is a relatively lighthearted read, it does deal with the hardships and tragedies suffered by the residents of Guernsey during the German occupation.

The copy of Guernsey that I read was borrowed from a friend but this is a book that I feel the need to own myself, partially so that I can lend it out to everyone I know. In which case, I should probably get two copies.

A while back, I had gone through a stage where I read quite a bit of romance and chic lit. books. And while I've pretty much recovered, there are a few authors that I discovered during that time whose books I still continue to enjoy. One of those authors is Sophie Kinsella, and I have been looking forward, for a while now, to reading her most recent book,
Twenties Girl.

Lara Lington has just been dumped by her boyfriend, and her new business is not going so well since her business partner, and so-called friend, went on holiday and never came back. The last thing she is interested in doing is attending her great-aunt's funeral, particularly since she barely even knew the woman. But as the ceremony gets underway, a young woman suddenly appears before Lara and demands that the funeral be stopped because her necklace is missing. Only Lara is able to see or hear the woman, and before she knows what's happening, she finds herself announcing that she believes her aunt to have been murdered, successfully bringing the funeral to a halt.

And that is only the beginning of Lara's adventures as she attempts to help the young woman, who is actually her great-aunt Sadie's ghost, find her beloved necklace.Thanks to Sadie's bullying, Lara soon finds herself picking up strange, handsome men, dressing in 1920's era clothing, learning to dance the Charleston and discovering the truth about love and about her family.

The Twenties Girl was a really fun book that I just couldn't put down, and so I ended up reading the whole thing in one day. It has the same casual and humorous narrative as Kinsella's other books, as well as the awkward and cringe-worthy moments that she seems fond of putting her poor protagonists through. If you are looking for a lighthearted, romantic read, this book would be a great choice.

Next on my reading schedule is The Sex Lives of Cannibals, by J. Maarten Troost (which despite the provocative title, is really a travel memoir) and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, which I bought six months ago and still haven't cracked open

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My entries to Peter Brett's photo contest

Posted by Simcha 3:23 PM, under | 7 comments

A couple of weeks ago I had posted about Peter Brett's contest for an ARC copy of The Desert Spear, his sequel to the Warded Man. To enter, you need to send in a picture of yourself, or someone else, holding a copy of the Warded Man, with extra points given to pictures with a creative or interesting background.

I mentioned in my post that I would like to enter the contest, and I offered some photo ideas that I had, including getting pictures with some of the nearby Bedouins or even with a camel (which are not uncommon in the area in which I live). Since
the desert is one of the settings in the Warded Man, I thought that some desert pictures would be very appropriate for this contest.

But last Friday I suddenly realized that the first deadline for the contest had arrived and I hadn't had any opportunities to take pictures. And so I sent my sister, who was over for the weekend, out of the house with my kids, along with a camera and
The Warded Man, with instructions to take me some award-winning pictures.

Considering the short-notice, my sister did a pretty good job and brought me back some pictures of my kids posed with the book against the beautiful desert backdrop. Feeling satisfied, I sent off the pictures to Peter Brett as my contest entries.

But apparently Mr. Brett was not satisfied with my entries. 'Where are those Bedouins and camels you promised in your blog?' he asked (OK, he was a lot more polite then that, but that was the general gist of the email). Well... I wasn't expecting anyone to actually hold me to what I write in these posts, but now I felt obligated to deliver. So this past Friday I roped in a couple of friends to go over with me to one of the nearby Bedouin encampments to take some pictures.

Although these encampments are right down the road, I've never actually been over to any of them, though I have always wanted to meet some of the Bedouins living there. But religious and cultural barriers are very thick in Israel and you don't usually cross over them lightly. But this contest seemed like a good excuse for me to take an opportunity to visit my Bedouin neighbors.

After parking along the side of the road, we climbed over the guardrails, at which point the matriarch of the Bedouin family and her son came over to see what was going on. My friend explained to them that we would like to come for a visit, and smiling broadly, the mother and son welcomed us over. But first we had to carefully cross a metal beam precariously laid across a deep ditch, in order to reach the encampment, which added a little element of danger to the adventure (only a little bit, though).

The mother and son welcomed us into their tent where they placed some mattresses on the floor, which they urged us to sit on. After I explained why we were there (I told them it's for a strange American thing, and they nodded knowingly), they cheerfully agreed to pose for some pictures with the Warded Man. As we chatted a bit, their 23 year old daughter, Tzar, joined us and graciously allowed herself to be photographed as well.

And so I finally have the photographs that I had promised to provide and I've gotten to meet some of the Bedouins living nearby, who turned out to be quite delightful. They didn't own any camels that we could photographs ourselves with, though, just chickens, which aren't quite as impressive.

Now you can show your support by going over to Peter Brett's website and telling him how wonderful you think these pictures are and how deserving I am of winning one of his ARC Desert Spears.

Something Rotten (Thursday Next, Bk 4) by Jasper Fforde

Posted by Simcha 2:56 PM, under | 4 comments

I was delighted when someone recently gave me Something Rotten, Jasper Fforde’s fourth Thursday Next book, but at the same time I was a bit apprehensive due to my disappointment with the previous book in the series, which I thought was focused more on puns than plot. But I needn't have worried. Not only was Something Rotten a great book, it turned out to be my favorite in the series, so far.

In the beginning of Something Rotten, Thursday Next is still in the Book World, continuing her hunt for the escaped Minotaur. But after Emporer Zhark crashes into the 1875 western town with his battle cruiser, Thursday decides she’s had enough fiction for a while and it’s time to return to the real world. And so Thursday packs up her two year old son Friday, and returns to her mother’s house in Swindon.

Back in Swindon, with the brooding Hamlet in tow, Thursday is determined to get her old job back as a Literary Detective and to redouble her efforts at having her eradicated husband returned to her. But things have changed over the two and a half years that Thursday has been gone and her old nemesis, Yorrick Kaine, has risen in power and has joined forces with the Goliath Corporation, who are now focused on turning their corporation into a religion. On the plus side, Goliath is now seeking forgiveness from everyone who they ever caused injury to, which means that Thursday may have a chance at getting them to return her husband.

Aside from problems with Goliath, Kaine, cloned Shakespeares, a missing husband and the possibility of an upcoming apocalypse, Thursday is also being targeted by the deadly assassin, the Windowmaker, who happens to be the wife of Thursday’s good friend, Spike (though he thinks his wife is really a librarian). So in addition to all of her many other problems, Thursday needs to think of a way to avoid being assassinated without causing the death of her friend’s beloved wife.

I just loved this book! It was filled with so many colorful characters and so many different creative story lines, that it was just like embarking on a wonderful adventure that you never want to end. I don’t know how Fforde managed to keep all the different stories going on from getting tangled up, but he somehow does it quite successfully while populating them with wonderful characters that really come to life on the pages.

And the end of the book was absolutely perfect and unexpected; it was definitely my favorite ending of any of the books that I’ve recently read. After completing Something Rotten I’m actually hesitant in continuing to the next book because I can’t see how it could possibly be as good as this one was.

If you have been following Thursday's adventures so far, then Something Rotten is a must-read. And if you haven't yet given this series a try, then I highly recommend you do so, but start with the first book in the series, The Eyre Affair.

Read my review of The Eyre Affair
Read my review of Lost in a Good Book (Thursday Next, Book 2)


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