callistahogan: (Default)
Finally, another book post. Nine books here, and hopefully once I finish either Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey or The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, I can go back to my full-length reviews. I miss those things, but I am not about to try and do nine full-length ones in a day, so these'll be short.

32. Without Blood by Alessandro Barrico (Grade: B-)
I read this book at the end of my freshman year, so I don't quite remember the book entirely. What I do remember is that it was written very well and expressed the horrors and challenges war brings to people. It also shows the power of redemption and forgiveness, and how there can be peace found among opposing members in a war. Although it is not one of my favorite books, I enjoyed it. (112 pp.)

33. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (Grade: A)
I had been wanting to read this book for quite a while, ever since I was in seventh grade. I tried reading it back then, but found it was too complicated and dark for my romance-addled brain to handle, unfortunately. I had tried reading it since then, but again, it was just too complicated. It had to have taken me two or three or four times reading the first chapter for me to really get into it, but once I did, I enjoyed it. Catherine and Heathcliff are very unsavory characters and, as Bella Swan said in Eclipse, their only redeeming factor is their love for each other, and even that takes a dark turn. I'm not one of those girls who is obsessed with Heathcliff (give me Mr. Rochester any day of the week), but he was an intriguing character. It makes me wonder how exactly he turned out the way he did and how he actually perceives himself, because we only see things from the point of view of two outsiders, which is admittedly biased, though it makes for a wonderful classic. This is not my favorite classic, but I will probably reread it one day. (400 pp.)

34. A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Grade: A+)
I loved this book. I loved it because it had fantasy elements, but it was not just a fantasy novel. I loved it because it had romance, but not the sickly sweet romance that never has problems, but a romance where they had to work at what they had and work through their issues. It was realistic, showing the life of a miller and how Charlotte had to work very hard in order to keep the mill running. The book was complex, sifting through many different issues in a realistic way. I absolutely adored it. (400 pp.)

35. Love's Pursuit by Siri Mitchell (Grade: B)
I had high hopes coming into this book, because it intrigued me, the way it expressed both sides of Christianity: the more religious- and church-based part, a la Catholicism, and the grace-centric side. It provided a balanced view of Christianity, and expressed some of my core beliefs in a quick, eloquent way. The relationship between Susannah Phillips and Daniel Halcombe was written well and realistically, even though (and this is the last I'm going to say, because I don't want to spoil anything) it made me cry. The only reason this book did not get a higher grade is because the ending thoroughly depressed and slightly disappointed me. (336 pp.)

36. The Naming by Alison Croggon (Grade: A-)
There was a month and a half gap between finishing Love's Pursuit and finishing this one. Thankfully, this book got me back into reading on a regular basis. I bought it at the end of July/the beginning of August, started reading it while my cousins were here, and finished it a few days after. It struck me as a bit like the traditional fantasy novels: you know, the whole "orphan girl is in a terrible situation, someone gets her out, she goes to the epicenter of magic, learns that she's the Chosen One, goes on a quest to save the world from Teh Ebul Darkness" plot, but Alison Croggon puts her own spin on it. Yes, it is rather cliched in some spots, but in others, it was very original. Maerad is a strong-willed, passionate woman who really starts to grow into her own, and Cadvan is just intriguing. It is obvious that something is going to happen between them in the next book, and I can't wait to see what that something is. The action was just picking up when the book halted, and after reading the little snippet of a chapter of the next book in my copy, I can't wait to read the next one. (466 pp.)

37. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling (Grade: A)
Reread. I can't believe this is my first reread of this book. Although this is not my favorite in the series (that would have to go to PoA or OotP), it was still very good. It is interesting to read through this book, knowing what's going to happen in the end. It puts a new twist on Snape, and makes him not seem altogether bad. I found myself noticing things I hadn't noticed in the first read-through -- which is why I love these books. You always find something new in the pages. Parts of the book I didn't like, though. I did find the whole Harry's monster thing rather contrived and unrealistic, but the Harry/Ginny relationship on a whole pleased me. Ron and Hermione are rather immature, yes, but it is understandable, as they are only sixteen or seventeen. The ending of the book made me sad, as usual, and I got rather choked-up, even though I knew it was going to happen. (652 pp.)

38. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (Grade: A)
I finished this book in a day. At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it, but I ended up enjoying it. The religious overtones did bother me slightly, but it didn't prohibit me from liking the book. As you can see, I couldn't put it down. Lily was a very likeable main character. And although I hate bees, this book almost made me like them. :D (336 pp.)

39. A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks (Grade: C+)
This is the first time I have ever said this, but I have to admit that... I liked the movie better than the book. The movie was sweet, sensitive, and touching, and while the book was these things as well, it just didn't move me as much as the movie did. This was partly because of the writing and partly because the book was so darn short and disjointed. The ending did move me a little, but there were no huge, moving paragraphs, no big touching moments, and that disappointed me. Maybe the book version of The Notebook will be better. (224 pp.)

40. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult (Grade: A)
Now here was a moving book. I found myself at eleven last night, bawling my eyes out at the ending of this complex, multi-faceted novel. It was everything people ever said it was and more. I couldn't help loving both Anna and Kate, and this made me very conflicted. This book brings up many different questions -- about life, ethics, medical emancipation, donors, morals, and just what is right. Even I am not sure what I would do in Anna's position or Kate's or Sara's or Campbell's. All I am sure of is that I loved this book, and will probably pick up another Picoult novel soon. (500 pp.)

Progress (pages): 16,088/15,000 (+100%)

Well, look here. I finished my progress in pages already. How about I kick it up a notch and have my goal be 22,000 pages by the end of the year? That seems doable, if I have 10 more books left before I reach 50.
callistahogan: (Books)
I am such a terrible procrastinator. I would do long reviews but, since that would take more time than I have, I'll just do a paragraph or two expressing my thoughts. The next book will see me back into the swing of things, so to speak.

22. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (Grade: A-)
Once again, Gabaldon delivered. Although it wasn't quite as good as the previous three, I finished it the quickest (I read it for that readathon way back when), and it was still very good. Jamie and Brianna... well, let me just say that they are acting true to themselves. Some parts of the book were cliched, but all in all, it was a gripping book. I've taken a break on the series for now, but I will probably start reading The Fiery Cross sometime this summer. If I get around to it, that is. (880 pp.)

23. Unwind by Neal Shusterman (Grade: B+)
I remember being very disturbed, yet very thoughtful, while reading this book. It makes you think: What's worse, killing a child before it gets a chance to live, or allowing it to live (perhaps in very terrible situations) for thirteen years and then "harvesting" the human being for organs, regardless of its wishes? Thinking about the book again, I go back and forth. Right at this moment, I would say abortion is worse.

However, the thoughts that run through my mind while I read this book is probably why I liked it. The characters were also well-portrayed; one in particular went through a rather grueling journey, maybe more so than the others did. And, though the book wasn't quite as good as I expected it to be, I wholeheartedly enjoyed it and would strongly recommend reading it. (333 pp.)

24. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling (Grade: A)
Cute, quirky.  Read like real fairytales and I bet  you could read these stories to your children and they'd adore them. I loved the way that there were strong female characters in the tales. My favorite was probably the one with the warlock and the hairy heart. (107 pp.)

25. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K.  Rowling (Grade: A)
Reread. Wonderful, as always. I always love all the little clues and foreshadowing in the earlier parts of this book, and I always think that it fits together so well. One of my favorite books in the series. (435 pp.)

26. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (Grade: A+)
Reread. I almost can't believe how anyone can hate this book. Sure, it's not the best writing in the world, nor the most traditional vampire story, but it is completely gripping and enthralling. I didn't want to put it down, and after reading it, my Twilight obsession came back with a vengeance. Edward and Bella have the sort of passionate love every teenage girl dreams of. (498 pp.)

27. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (Grade: A)
Reread. I read this one in a day. As expected, the first part thoroughly depressed me, and I'm not ashamed to say I cried. Jacob, however, grew on me, and I didn't hate him as much as I did on my first read-through. The part in Volterra made me sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation. I loved it, though not quite as much as Twilight. It was still so marvelous, though. (563 pp.)

28. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (Grade: A+)
Reread. After Twilight, this is probably my favorite book in the series. I spared pages whenever I could, even if it meant reading through an incredibly boring movie on Gandhi during World Studies. ;) Jacob got on my nerves in this book, but I understood him more. Bella, though... WHAT was she thinking? (People who've read this one  know what I'm talking about.) That was the one part in the book that I really did not like. Other than that, I loved it, especially Chapter 20. Edward and Bella are just as wonderful, although Edward could be a smidge less protective of Bella. I understand his thought processes, though, so it makes sense why he acts the way he does in certain scenes. (629 pp.)

29. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (Grade: A-)
Reread. This is probably my least favorite book in the series, even though I still adored it. It just didn't have as much action as the others did, and Bella still seems a slight Mary Sue. I'm in the minority here, but I still l say it's worth reading. (754 pp., previous review here.)

30. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (Grade: B)
This was, hands down, the most disturbing book I have ever read. Regardless, I really enjoyed it. The writing style was rich and lyrical, flowing smoothly and effortlessly. I didn't relate to any of the characters, but I sympathized with some of them (maybe against my better judgment). There are just so many layers to this book, it would take thousands and thousands of words to express them all. Suffice it to say I liked it, although I'm not so sure I could say I love it. (291 pp.)

31. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (Grade: B+)
I'm not sure what I expected coming into this, but what I got was very different. Not in a bad way, though; the story was just so much bigger than what I expected. It's not just about the main character finding out who killed his neighbor's dog. It's so much more than that. Although the writing was very simple, very easy to understand, it sucked me in. There are quite a few profound things in this book. Would recommend it very highly for a nice, relaxing afternoon (although it might make you think a bit!). (221 pp.)

Progress (pages): 12,662/15,000 pp. (84%)

Next Up:
Without Blood by Alessandro Barrico
callistahogan: (Books)
Wow, I'm on a roll! Now I just have to pick up a book to read quickly before I lose my momentum. Am thinking I'll read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban just to keep up the momentum until my books through interlibrary loan are in. And then I'll get Drums of Autumn!

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier )

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan )
callistahogan: (Books)
I'm on a roll!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling )

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck )

Atonement by Ian McEwan )

Currently Reading:
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Laarson
callistahogan: (Books)
Wow, it feels so weird to be able to write that once more. It seems like just yesterday I was typing it for the first time on my old rickety desktop, and now I'm writing it once more, at the start of a new (hopefully marvelous) year, 2009, on my old rickety laptop.

As I've said elsewhere, my goal for this year (bookwise) is to read 75 books and over 15,000 pages (as expressed by my new section that tallies my progress in pages). I want to read more female authors, and read more nonfiction. Other than that, anything goes, although I should try and make a dent in my TBR list.

BookThe Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Length: 609 pp.
Progress (pages)305/15000 (I read 304 pages in 2008)

Amazon Summary: "There in the middle of the broad, bright high-road—there, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth or dropped from the heaven—stood the figure of a solitary woman, dressed from head to foot in white garments." Thus young Walter Hartright first meets the mysterious woman in white in what soon became one of the most popular novels of the nineteenth century. Secrets, mistaken identities, surprise revelations, amnesia, locked rooms and locked asylums, and an unorthodox villain made this mystery thriller an instant success when it first appeared in 1860, and it has continued to enthrall readers ever since. From the hero's foreboding before his arrival at Limmeridge House to the nefarious plot concerning the beautiful Laura, the breathtaking tension of Collins' narrative created a new literary genre of suspense fiction, which profoundly shaped the course of English popular writing. Collins' other great mystery, The Moonstone, has been called the finest detective story ever written, but it was this work that so gripped the imagination of the world that Wilkie Collins had his own tombstone inscribed: "Author of The Woman In White. . . "

My Thoughts: I spent the last day and a half reading the last 450 pages or so of this book, barely putting it down for anything, not even food. There are some books that just grab you from the instant you hear the title, and this was one of those for me. As soon as I heard of this book, I knew I had to pick it up at the first available opportunity. I was not disappointed by its content.

Before I checked it out of the library, and while reading it, I heard it referred to as one of the first (and finest) mystery novels ever written. This opinion is fully supported by me. From start to finish, I was intrigued, and at times, I was giving myself a headache, trying as hard as I could to figure out the big mystery, the big "WHY?" just lurking in the background—and yet I never could.

Just when you think you've finally figured it out, Collins pulls you in the exact opposite direction. Just when you say, "I just need a few more pages of this character's narrative, or this character's conversation with that character, and I'll figure it out," Collins pulls you into another character's narrative, or brings the conversation to a surprising end that gives away nothing of what you wanted him to, and then the cycle starts over again.

There are so many aspects of this book that surprised and thrilled me. The characterization is some of the best I have ever seen (in just a couple of pages, you know exactly what Hester Pinhorn is like), the descriptions are bright and engaging and, just as I said, when you think you've figured something out, the plot moves in the exact opposite direction.

Walter Hartright and Marian Halcombe, the two main narrators of this fabulous novel, perhaps pulled at my heartstrings the most. Through each word of their narratives, you could feel the love they had for Laura, the curiosity they had about the woman in white, and the immense distrust (no pun intended) of Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde. They moved the story along with their witty expressions, their unexpected actions, and their devotion to Laura.

Sir Percival Glyde and Count Fosco, though, are perhaps some of my favorite fictional villians of all time. The ill-tempered and devilish Sir Percival made me want to throw something at him, but when a certain event occurred, I felt sympathy rise up despite myself—and then disappear just as I realized just what he had done. Count Fosco, that rotund and (in my view) contradictory man, is truly one to loathe, but grudgingly admire. As Marian said, I would not want to have him as my enemy. My inner feminist also cries out at the way he changed his wife so dramatically over the years, how he now makes her do his bidding without any protest from her.

There is really no criticism I can say I had for this book. Although it is toted as a mystery novel, there are many elements of the Gothic in this novel, and for that, I appreciated it all the more for being able to recognize some of them. The twists and turns in the narrative, the richly layered plot, and the characters that sprang to life in my mind have all made this book the perfect one for starting out the new year. May this new year of reading present more gems such as this one!

Highly, highly recommended.

Next Up:
Either Saturday by Ian McEwan or The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson. Am leaning towards the latter, although Good Omens is lying on my bed right now and I have the strangest urge to pick it up...
callistahogan: (Default)
I know, shocking, but I am actually going to write those book reviews now. They're shorter than they usually are, though, because there are five of them.

58. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (Grade: A)
Reread, for school. I have a feeling this is one of those books that I will just keep going back to. It is one of the first classics I've ever read in my life and, in my first read-through, I adored it. This time, I caught so many more little things that made me love it even more.

Jane Eyre grew throughout this story, I found, and it struck me how much she changed, both in her views of love and how she chooses to act in the face of difficulty. Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester also just had this chemistry that leaped off the page, and I loved how it wasn't too sickly sweet, just sweet enough to make you go aww but not in a saccharine way. Also, there was mystery in this novel, which makes me appreciate how effortlessly Charlotte Bronte (and, indeed, other classic novelists!) can meld numerous layers together.

59. All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear (Grade: A)
My first Elizabeth Bear novel, which I enjoyed immensely. Even though I know nothing about Norse myths, I find it interesting how she incorporated those elements into the story. This was one of those books that I couldn't put down. The action was just enough to add to the story, the characters often did things I didn't expect while remaining true to themselves, and the entire thing was just different than I thought it would be, but I enjoyed it. I am looking forward to the next book, although it probably wouldn't come out for a looong time.

60. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (Grade: B)
As soon as I finished The Handmaid's Tale, I knew that I had to pick this book up. Apparently it is one of Atwood's best books, according to opinions I have heard, and I have to say that I wasn't disappointed. The writing was marvelous, and the novel within a novel aspect of the book just drew me in, as that is one of those techniques that pretty much make me guaranteed to LOVE a book. The characters were also well-drawn.  I found myself finishing this book quickly and then yearning for the chance to read Oryx and Crake. Which I'll probably do in February sometime.

61. Red: Teenage Girls in America Write On What Fires Up Their Lives Today, edited by Amy Goldwasser (Grade: A+)
I finished this book in one day, and found it uplifting, well-written, and a book that just completely blew me away. One minute, I would be laughing aloud at something someone was communicating, and the next, I would almost be in tears at the beautiful aspects of the writing and the complete empathy I share with the author. A terrific, terrific book, and one that I foresee going back to many times.

62. The Portable Atheist, selected and with an introduction by Christopher Hitchens (Grade: A)
I am not an atheist by any possible stretch of the imagination, but I found this book very informative. I have gotten most of my information about atheism from Christian apologetic books, so it was nice to get it from the "lips" of actual atheists. Of course, that doesn't change my views in the slightest. I found many atheists use numerous generalizations, and this book really confirmed that to me.

However, I found it interesting, mostly as a history of atheism throughout the years. I also didn't know that Ian McEwan was an atheist, or that there were so many quotes pertaining to Albert Einstein's beliefs regarding a God. (That section was probably one of my favorites, actually!)

Currently Reading:
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Am enjoying it so far, and it makes me realize one thing: that if [ profile] kiwiria likes it, odds are I will too, as our tastes in books are eerily similar. :)
callistahogan: (Default)
Book: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Genre: Dystopic fiction
Length: 295 pp.
Grade: A

Amazon Summary: In a startling departure from her previous novels (Lady Oracle, Surfacing), respected Canadian poet and novelist Atwood presents here a fable of the near future. In the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, far-right Schlafly/Falwell-type ideals have been carried to extremes in the monotheocratic government. The resulting society is a feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives. The tale is told by Offred (read: "of Fred"), a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be. This powerful, memorable novel is highly recommended for most libraries.

My Thoughts: Atwood has already become one of my favorite authors. For the first time in what seems to be ages, I've come across an unputdownable book. It took me a while to get into it, but once I did, I couldn't put it down, grabbing moments in between classes and even during classes to read (thankfully I never got in trouble!). I am so glad I didn't have to wait until Saturday morning to finish this book (as I had suspected I might), because it was so tremendous.

One of the aspects I liked the most was the nonlinear style. I loved the way Atwood broke up the story, going from the past to the present. It transitioned easily, almost effortlessly, and I found myself turning the pages so fast, because I had to know what was going to happen or, of course, what had happened.

As for Offred, I found her a compelling character. Although she was strong, she was not overly so. She was also clever and intelligent; she knew what she had to do in order to survive. I felt as though I could relate to her, even though our situations are as different as can be. And her perspective was so unique. The way she told her story made me want to continue reading.

I have to be honest, though.

I had the same reaction to this book's synopsis as I did with His Dark Materials. I read it, said, "Oh, this is another book that paints Christianity in a bad light? Looks like I won't be reading this after all" and put it down automatically. That is just another one of those (many) reasons why you should not judge a book by its cover.

Because this book was not offensive at all. It didn't make claims on Christianity, as the His Dark Materials series did. It made me think, not get offended. It was one of those novels that truly surprised me in how much I enjoyed it, even though it shouldn't. After all, it's Atwood, one of those classic "you must read her" authors, and I certainly see why.

Unfortunately, I see what people mean when they say that Atwood's endings are not as good as the rest of the book. The Handmaid's Tale just seemed to... end, leaving loose ends hanging all over the place. Maybe I've just read too many series, but it felt as if there should be another book after this. There are so many things I desperately want to know!

Regardless, though, this book was great. Not the best I've ever read, unfortunately, but still great. I will definitely be checking out another Atwood book (either Oryx and Crake or The Blind Assassin) when I go to the library again.

Highly recommended.

Currently Reading:
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (reread - for school)
Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
callistahogan: (Books)
Well, I've reached fifty books. It's not the book I quite expected to finish, but oh well. It only took me a few hours, so that's good. I even have enough time to do a review of it before I have to go to bed!

BookAlice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Genre: Um, fiction? Fantasy?
Length: 190 pp.
Grade: B

Amazon Summary: The Mad Hatter, the Ugly Duchess, the Mock Turtle, the Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Catcharacters each more eccentric than the last, and that could only have come from Lewis Carroll, the master of sublime nonsense. In these two brilliant burlesques he created two of the most famous and fantastic novels of all time that not only stirred our imagination but revolutionized literature.

My Thoughts: Just ignore the "two brilliant burlesques"I read this via Google's book search, so there was only the classic Alice in Wonderland, not Through the Looking Glass. However, considering I rather enjoyed this book despite its complete and utter inanity, I will probably be trying to either take that out of the library or read it online sometime.

This book was, for lack of a better way to phrase it, very eccentric. As I started reading it, the book started out fairly normal, but then as Carroll began telling it, it become increasingly strange and abnormal. Except I liked it. It kept me reading, kept me wondering what sort of nonsense Lewis Carroll could come up with next. Alice was... well, sort of relatable, in that childish curiosity and innocence we all seem to have inside us somewhere.

Thanks to How to Read Literature Like a Professor, though, I was able to look past all of the absolute nonsense and see the sort of thing Lewis Carroll seemed to be trying to portray (or at least what my mind twists his motive as being)the growth of a child into a girl, a girl into a woman, and how the most inane things can bring about that sort of influence.

That's not to say that was his motive. I'm sure he probably wasn't thinking that much into it. However, I found it intriguing the symbolism I could find in this story just by quickly reading it, and I'm sure I could find more if I went through and read it again with my HTRLLAP notes beside me.

Right now, though, it is getting late, so I'll just cut this review (very) short by saying that the insanity made me laugh, some parts made me go "buwah," and some parts made me smile, just because I could see parts of Alice in myself. This was certainly worth reading despite (or perhaps because) of its insanity, and I want to read Through the Looking Glass now.

Currently Reading: Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell (which is absolutely amazing so far, and I should probably have it done by tomorrow)


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