Thursday, 2 August 2007

Now Reading : Native Tongue

Feed by M.T. Anderson

The second in a series of young adult fiction which takes place in the future. This book and The Giver portray two completely different landscapes which hold the future of the human race.

Unlike the organized calmness in The Giver, where everything is taken away so that there is no need to make decisions, in Feed we see just the opposite. Just after birth, each person is implanted with The Feed...or rather software that connects to The Feed. It's the internet in your head. People have lost the ability to read, because there is no need needto write .....everything that they need can be looked up using the the computers in their brains. They know that it used to not be that way :
I don't know when the first had feeds. Like maybe, fifty or a hundred years ago. Before that, they had to use their hands and their eyes. Computers were all outside the body. They carried them around outside of them, in their hands, like if you carried your lungs in a briefcase and opened it to breathe.
The Feed transmits thing for them to buy, to do, to see all the time based on their personalities. Like on Amazon now...did you like Feed by M.T. Anderson? Well then you might like these other 8 choices. Everything including School and Clouds are Trademarked and owned by corporations...everything is owned by them...including The Feed. You can quickly m-chat your friends at a party if you can't hear them talking to you....that's right...IMing....right in your head.

The story is about a group of teens who went to the moon...and the moon per the first line of the book. The main character is a kid named Titus who meets a strange and different girl named Violet on the moon. She is a challenge to Titus and to his way of life.....she is someone that decides to Fight the Feed.

Another great one....10/10 (I'm so freakin' book slutty)

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

The Giver by Lois Lowry

We continue with some young adult fiction as given by ...yes you guessed it...everyone's favorite Chicago librarian....the lovely Lisa...Librarian and cousin extraordinaire. She gave me this book and a book called Feed which I am currently reading, to compare and contrast (she's a teacher through and through).

The Giver is a story about a young boy who is an inhabitant of what should be an ideal world...but inevitably a creepy world. There are family units, who are assigned spouses...who are assigned children. Yes... that was the right word...assigned. Every year in December there is a ceremony that starts with those kids that had been born within the last year, they are then assigned to a familly unit. Each family unit is allowed one boy and one girl. As you move on, you become a "Two" or a "Seven" or...a "Twelve" etc depending on the number of years you are away from that first ceremony.

When you attend the ceremony as a soon to be "Twelve" you will be finding out what your career is going to be. The career path is chosen by the Elders who have been keeping an eye on your volunteer activities and interests. Maybe you'll be an educator, or work with the Newborns, or even become one of the Birthmothers (although this is not a desirable position).

When the main character, Jonas, attends his ceremony he waits patiently to find out what catagory he's going to be placed in. However, he's mysteriously skipped over for the next Twelve.

What happens to Jonas. What does he end up doing? What does it mean to be "Released"?

The answer to those questions show quite the scary side to seemingly ideal utopia Jonas had been living in. Fantastic Read.

Pedro and Me by Judd Winick

The cover of this book would not win Booksluts Judging a book by it's it's some kind of 1990s schmarmy I don't know what.

However, the content inside is fantastic. This was a another recommendation from the lovely librarian Lisa who actually gave me this plus two other books that you'll be reading about.

For those of you that are fans of the MTV show The Real World, you might remember the season in San Francisco. Judd Winick was roommates with Pedro. Pedro who was an HIV positive AIDS educator. This season took place right around the time of "OH MY GOD CAN I GET AIDS FROM SOMEONE IF I SHARE THEIR GLASS!!!! AND OH MY GOD LOOK AT WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE WHEN THEY DIE" It was a lot of all caps freaking out because there wasn't a lot that we knew about the disease. There was lots of seeing what people looked like at the end...but not of the people that were HIV positive and living as normal of a life as they could.

This story, told in comic book form as Winick is a cartoonist, is the story of friendship, education and loss. It talks about stereotypes and how people can overcome them in an instant. I'm not a Real World watcher so didn't know anything about the season going in, but found the book enjoyable and very interesting. I would guess if you had watched that season in particular you would find the book even more compelling.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

July is Potter Month

I have been debating what to do with this. In anticipation of the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series due out on July 21st I have been debating what to do with this site as I am rereading the first six books. I didn't want to spend 7 weeks worth of books reviews on the Harry Potter series because I am guessing most people have read them, or if they haven't probably just aren't interested in them.

So I guess I am going to take July as a vacation. I'm still going to count the books as books read on the left hand side of the book bar....but I probably won't include reviews of each book.

We are also watching each movie after I have finished reading that book (Jason is a book ahead of me). Which means we'll probably be a little late going to the see the 5th movie...but as I'm already 1/2 way though the 3rd book...perhaps not.

Peace. Love. and Reading.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Stolen Lives by Malika Oufkir

This story is an autobiographcal account of the life that was lead by Malika Oufkir during the first 40 years of her life. As the oldest daughter of General Oufkier she was very highly regarded in her young years. At the age of 5 she was adopted by the king of Morroco so that the kings daughter who is the same age as Malika would have a friend to play with.

She lived a life most of us can only dream of, with luxuries everywhere and toys and parties and...and yet she missed her own family. At the age of 12 or so she requested to be sent back to her parents which was granted. She still lived a very privileged life traveling around the world for parties and staying out late dancing in clubs in LA, Paris and her own Morroco.

However, soon her life would take a turn that still we can only imagine. When Malika is her her late teens, her father is accused of trying to assassinate the king and is promptly executed. Malika, along with her mother and five siblings are sent into exile. The first prison they are sent to is one eighty degrees from the life they had previously known, they never thought it could get worse. At this point they were still allowed books and clothes and could see each other. After five years there they were sent to a prison where they were put in solitary confinement, the food that was given to them sent gag reflexes up my stomach as I sat on the train reading this book. Their life is unimaginable....and they had to spend ten years living in these hideous conditions. And yet....and yet they survive.

I would like to mail this book to one Paris Hilton and let that spoiled little brat know what prison is like in places other than the special prison for rich folks in Los Angeles. This book pulls at your soul and grips you as you turn the pages thinking it can't get worse than what was written on the previous page. 9/10 from me.....and a suggested must read.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen

You know when you read a book and the first thought in your head after you have read only the first ten pages is, "Oh I hope this guy has other books out there". That's what this book is. I dove in and just devored this book not being able to put it down for the last few days. To my joy Hiaasen has lots of other books out there and now I'm going to have to go find all of them.

I picked this book as the first one to read because my Aunt Andrea told me that it was the best one and that after she read it she immediatly went out and got all his books. Again props to the Aunt for suggesting a great read.

The story is about Charles ("Chaz") Perrone who isn't the sharpest pencil in the box. While he and his wife, Joey, are on a cruise celebrating their two year anniversary he takes her for a walk on the deck, proceeds to drop his keys and then throws her overboard. Lucky for Joey she was a championship collegiate swimmer and so survives the fall and the hours that followed in the sea. She makes it to a island that's occupied by Mick Stranahan, an ex-cop, and together the two start to wreak havoc on poor Chaz Perrone who thinks he has gotten away with the perfect murder.

Add into the mix Chaz's body guard Tool who is a giant hairy goon of a man, a detective who doesn't quite believe dear Chaz's story, Chaz's boss Red for which he does bad scientist things and you have the makings of a fantastically funny and entertaining read. Highly recommended from this reader.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsey

This book was given to me by my stepmom's sister Andrea a book whore. That woman can read faster than anyone I had ever met and considering she has been around the bookstore (if you know what I I mean really she has read *a lot* of books) I was excited to read this book that she let me borrow.

The darkly dreaming man that the title refers to is Dexter Morgan. He's a handsome fellow who works for the Miami police department as a lab technician analyzing blood spatters. Every once in awhile Dear Dexter gets a hankering for some....well for some dismemberment.

So the story then is about a serial killer from the eyes of a serial killer? No, Dexter is the good guy. He was adopted and trained to only kill the bad guys because it was known that one day he would in fact become a serial killer either way. He spends his time in this book working with his sister, who is also on Miami police squad, trying to solve a very interesting and very.... familiar murder mystery that has taken south beach by storm.

What is Dexter darkly dreaming about....has his dark passenger come out to play without his knowing...well you'll just have to read to find out.

A good read and a thanks to Andrea for the recommendation.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

I think I liked it. Weird right? Defiantly an interesting read to say the least.

The book alternate chapters between 'The City' and Laura Byrd who is alone and stuck in Antarctica. The idea behind The City chapters is that after you die, you end up there. You then stay there until everyone who had ever known you in your life dies, then you move on to whatever the next place was.

One morning, the newspaper man Luka Sims (a resident of The City) wakes up to find everyone there gone. He goes looking through the streets and ends up finding a group of people in the main area of the city, but all the residents that he had known (or most of them anyways) were gone.

Meanwhile, Laura is still on the planet, but she is alone in Antarctica. She went as an employee for Coca-Cola along with two other co-workers to do research on using the melting ice in their product (yes it's a little far fetched). When they can't reach anyone back home, and their compound starts to fall apart they leave to look for help leaving Laura alone. When they don't come back after several weeks, and the compound loses heating ability, Laura heads out alone to look for them.

We soon find out that the reason everyone left The City was a deadly virus had attacked everyone on the planet....everyone except Laura who is alone in the icy wilderness.

I don't know how to rate this book (I went to a 10 point rating system because I was too constricted by the 5 stars). I absolutely loved the idea of the book and the concept of the two worlds and while parts of it were very well written there were other parts that I thought could have been better developed. I'm giving it a 6/10....but I think it's worth the read....and has by far the coolest cover of any book I have read.

Monday, 28 May 2007

The Innocent by Harlan Coben

I read a Coben book a few years back and remembered it to be quite the page turning mystery. The Innocent proves no different.

The book starts out in second person describing a scene involving...well a frat party when you are in your early 20s. You get into a fight with one of the frat boys and it takes a bad direction with the person on the other side of you ending up dead. Was it an accident? Could it have been prevented? You can't answer the questions. You go to jail for 4 years and come out to start a new life.

The 'you' in the story isn't really you of course but rather Matt Hunter. Nine years after his release from prison his beautiful wife, Olivia, is pregnant and they are about to close on a house in the neighborhood Mark grew up in. They get matching camera phones to keep in better contact with each other now that Olivia is pregnant.

Matt gets a picture message on his phone and his whole world is turned upside down. Suddenly the people in his life might not be who they said they were, people are following him and then turning up dead. The cops are looking at him with a close eye because of the past conviction. Not wanting to ever have to go to prison again Matt starts running and a twisty complicated story follows.

A quick, fun read that kept me glued to the pages. 4 stars (probably really 3.5 but I'll give it the extra half star for keeping me turning the pages).

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

The Coast of Chicago by Stuart Dybek

I read another book by Dybek called I Sailed with Magellan a few years ago. When I picked that one up I was surprised to find that it had nothing to do with either sailing or Magellan but rather was a collection of fantastic stories about growing up and living in Chicago.

Last weekend while I was rummaging through the little library around the corner from my apartment I came across this book, another collections of stories by Dybek taking place in Chicago and this time Chicago was right in the title.

When I say that Dybek is a beautiful writer, it by no means does his writing justice. There are so many scenes in the book that are described with such beautiful detail that I would hang on every word he wrote. I noticed that he has a collection of poetry out there as well and while I am not a fan of poetry usually, his short story writing isn't far from it. It's magical and the city unfolds as the pages turn by. His stories of childhood and living in the city are spectacular and wonderful.

The best story in the book in my opinion was the one called Nighthawks. He talks about hanging out at either the big library downtown or the Art Institute while he is between jobs and the differences between the two. He ends up at the Nighthawks painting by Edward Hopper in the Art Institute and the story that follows is a story of the people within the painting. That painting is my favorite at the Art Institute and I have often wondered about the people in the painting and how they got there. Amazing. And those two little stores were just two within the short story Nighthawks.

I loved this book and have been throwing it at people to read it. An easy and obvious 5 stars!

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Cosm by Gregory Benford

I might be biased being a physicist...well, at least a physicist wanna be given that I'm still in graduate school....but anyways, I loved this book.

The main character of the book is Alicia Butterworth, a brilliant young physics professor working at the RHIC experiment at Brookhaven Lab. She has come up with the idea smash Uranium atoms together rather than gold, hoping to find some new interesting science based on the fact that Uranium is heavier than the gold previously used. All is going well in their run when all of a sudden there is an accident in the beam pipe and after an investigation, a wondrous sphere the size of a basketball is found. What makes it even more interesting is that it's not exactly a mass of "something" because it's made of nothing known to science.

What follows is a page turner involving experiments trying to find out what the sphere is and what it means for the life as we know it on planet Earth. The author of the book is a physicist with a nice resume and so his cracks at theorists and experimenters alike are funny to those like me in the know. Although...the main character is a black female...of which there are none of in particle physics. My advisor who also has read this book said, why not go ahead and make her a native American lesbian if you are going that route. Benford being a past Woodrow Wilson Fellow knows his physics stuff for sure so that was very interesting for me. I think those that just like science fiction however would like this book because I didn't think there was too much particle physics jargon involved.

I especially liked the ending......because I love the thinking outside the box. But of course you'll have to read it to find that information out.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

I was given this book by my cousin Lisa for Christmas this year and just got around to reading it. Lisa, being a librarian, is always one for recommending great books and this one does not disappoint.

The story is of Marjane's childhood in Iran told in black and white comic strip form. We follow Marjane from the ages of 6 to 14, during which her country goes through turmoil. From the overthrow of the Shah regime to the Islamic revolution to the war with Iraq we get to look at those events through the eyes of a child. Marjane is extremely intelligent and extremely outspoken which can be a lethal combination in a country where the rights of women were being taken away. Marjane and a few runs in with "the law" throughout the book and by the end you cannot help but love her.

I am having a difficult time writing this review. The book was so wonderfully different and fantastic though that I suggest everyone reads it. 5 stars from me.

Also to note that this book had several similarities to a book I read awhile back called Reading Lolita in Tehran that was another incredible read.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Troubleshooter by Gregg Hurwitz

This book is the third in the Tim Rackley series and Hurwitz proves he is a notch above many mystery/serial killer authors. The first in the series in The Kill Clause followed by The Program. I would highly recommend reading these books in order as there are some story lines that follow through the three books.

Tim Rackley is in a word...awesome. He's tough, he kicks ass, he always finds the loop so he can get to the perpatrators. That being said, I didn't enjoy this story line as much as the previous two books. The book starts off with Den Laurey, who is a leader of one of the most violent biker (that's right I said biker) gangs, The Sinners, in the country, escapes from his transport on the LA freeway.

Rackley is put on the case and vows to hunt the crazed biker down. He gets lead into the world of biker gangs, murders, drugs and even terrorist (if you want to tie in any kind of crazy topic this book just about did it) Everytime Rackley gets close to taking Laurey down, circumstances interweave themselves and he has to let him go. Unfortunatly this action led to his wife, Dray, who is pregant being attacked. One thing you don't want is a pissed off Tim Rackely and after his wife is attacked he vows to take him down. Thus leading us into a convoluted world of the Sinner's world.

Another good one from Hurwitz, 4 stars from me (to note I would have given The Kill Clause and The Progam 5 stars....and maybe 5+ on The Program)

Saturday, 28 April 2007

The Tower by Gregg Andrew Hurwitz

Hurwitz is the author of The Kill Clause & The Program, two books which feature U.S. Marshall Tim Rackly. I really enjoyed these two books and when I went to the library last weekend I found this book, which is Mr. Hurwitz's first book.

The title of the book refers to a prison facility off the coast of San Fransisco which houses only the most deranged and dangerous criminals. Once you are admitted to The Tower, you will never again see the light of day because it is designed to be 100% escape proof and you are placed there without hope of parole. Well I suppose that's true only if you are not Allander Atlasia. Atlasia, a victim of a horrible sexual attack and a psychokiller, escapes from The Tower is a most excellent fashion and makes his way to the mainland where he begins another killing spree. His creep factor is way high, and he reminds me of Michael Myers from the Halloween series.

Jade Marlow, or should I say the biggest badass in all the land, is an ex FBI agent called in find Atlasia. Marlow has no patience or care for the victims and each one is only stacking up to prove that he's not adequate to find the deranged killer. He's brilliant and fearless and dealing with his own inner demons as the story progesses.

I love serial killer type books and this one stacks up as a great one. Hurwitz might be a little rough around the edges given that this is his first book, but if you like a page turner and don't mind a little blood and guts, this is a good one. 4 stars from me.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

The Company of Strangers by Robert Wilson

This book is the first espionage book that I have read. Sure we could talk about the John LeCarre novel that I "read" for a class in college. And if by "read" you mean "forced yourself through at 3am at the Waffle House on College Avenue". So maybe I'm just not one for spy novels, but I didn't love this book. That being said there were part that I really enjoyed.

The main characters of the book, 20 year old Andrea Aspinall who is an English mathematician and Karl Voss, a double agent, meet in Lison in 1944. A lot of the this part of the book revolves around the atomic bomb and who has what information and who is selling what to who to get that information. The two meet and instantly fall in at first site....perhaps...slightly unbelievable...perhaps. After a night of violence the two are separated from each other. Andrea stays in the Lisbon area and Karl is sent back to Germany having been discovered as a double agent. We follow Andrea through her time in Lisbon back to England onto Cold War Berlin and back again. Her friends and family are all keepers of secrets that she finds out along the way.

I thought that some parts of the book were very exciting as if I was watching it in a movie, including a fantastic chase scene through the streets of Lisbon and a meeting with 'The Snow Leopard' in Berlin. I think if you are fan of espionage thrillers than this would be a good book for for me, I didn't like it as much as the first two books I read and I have to have some kind of scale and not be a total book I give it three stars.

Monday, 9 April 2007

A Blistered Kind of Love by Angela & Duffy Ballard

"Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
This book was written by a couple who took on the daunting (even for a yearly marathon runner who knows a challenge when she sees one) task of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). This trail takes you from Canada to Mexico and in the summer of 2000, Angela and Duffy took one hell of a long walk. Approximately 6.3million steps worth.

Angela had been working as a writer for an ad agency in Philadelphia when she met Duffy who was currently in medical school. On a trip to Duffy's parent's lake house in Oregon they came across a book by William R. Gray called The Pacific Crest Trail which sparked their interest in tackling the 2,655 mile trail which traverses 3 states and has your feet in three countries. And doing it in one summer hoping to become "thru-hikers".

They had been dating about a year when they decided to take on the project. Angela taking time off from her job and Duffy getting the hike in between classes during the summer. Along the trail they found bee attacks, dehydration, hypothermia
("But not today -my magical buttocks were useless against Washinton's wet fury" --Duffy)
sunburn .... and absolute love of the trail and of each other.

The book is formatted with Angela writing one chapter and Duffy the next. So Angela will say something to effect of, "I couldn't believe that Duffy was doing x y & z" followed by a Duffy chapter with, "Maybe I should have read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus before we left on this trip"

I absolutely loved this book as although I don't think I want to do a hike as this energetic and brave couple did, I did see parallels between my husband and I as we train for marathons or get ready to graduate from graduate school. I love camping and so there was the added interest of that for me although if you don't like hiking or camping that wouldn't be a distraction. Both Angela and Duffy are talented writers and have put together a wonderful adventuring book.

Life is short.....sometimes we should slow down, take a look around and see what this country has to offer.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah

This book chronicles the ordeals of one Adeline Yen Mah. She was born in the 1930s in China as the youngest of 5 children. Female daughters were already not given many opportunities, and being the youngest didn't help little Adeline out. After she was born her mother went through complications and died 2 weeks later. So add on that "she killed her mother" and her childhood as unwanted was sealed.

We follow Adeline through her childhood in China. We watch as she is put up against road blocks every single step of her way. She is tortured by her stepmother Niang (a Chinese word for mother) who also turns Adeline's father against her. The things that happened to this poor child are unimaginable for someone like me who had a pretty happy childhood.

There is a scene where her father takes a little duckling that she was given as a pet to use as a test for their German Shepard's obedience training. Of course nothing good could happen with that.

There is another, of the consequences she must endure after winning class president and her friends coming to her house to surprise her.....not good.

We continue to follow Adeline as she grows into an adult and makes a fine life for herself. Her desire for her parents to love her and show her some kind of admiration never diminishes. Do they ever return her love? Read to find out!

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Can I Do It?

As I started taking the train in April of 2007, and reading like a madwoman I wondered if I could get through 52 books in 52 weeks. Some books might take longer than a week and some might take less.....but on average I wonder if it could be done....we'll see.