Thursday, December 27, 2012

What I'm reading, and upkeep

First, the upkeep: I've been trying to tidy this blog up, getting rid of excess stuff on the sidebar. I've also been editing the tags on my old posts, adding genres and the age groups the books are written for. Yes, that's a lot of posts to go through. Yes, I'm crazy.

And no, the "adult" label does not mean what you think it means.

Now, on to what I'm reading.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
by Robert M. Pirsig
Non fiction

I made an agreement with my brother that I would read one book of his choosing before the end of the year, and he would read one book of my choosing. This is what he chose for me to read.

I'm not sure if I'll manage it though. I got a late start (thanks to bad glasses) and I've found that it's not a book that I can sit down and read over just a few days. I can read several chapters at a time maybe, but then I need to take a break and let it sink in before I can handle any more. It's pretty heavy stuff.

By the way, I've got him reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. le Guin.

Beka Coper: Mastiff
by Tamora Pierce

I've been listening to this some lately. This makes the fourth time I'm reading it since it came out in late 2011. Yes, I know I'm a nut.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

BBC reading list

The BBC came up with a list of 100 books of which they think people will have only read 6. I went over the list in 2010, and am revisiting it since I've read 6 more books on the list. I am happy to say that this brings my total to 21 books on the list. :)

I've put the ones that I've finished in bold, and the those that I started but didn't finish or only read excerpts of in italics.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (all)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis (I would have been years ago...)
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett (I THINK I read it...)
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Monday, December 24, 2012

Reading List 2013

I have revised my reading list for 2013. (My tentative list is here.) Because I know I will want to read beyond this list, and as such I don't want a huge number of books on my reading list, I have split the list into two parts. I have also expanded it slightly.

Must read

Narnia series by C.S Lewis -- 7 books
Dresden Files by Jim Butcher -- 15 books
Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier -- 1 book
Pickle Moon by Juliet Marillier -- 1 book
Two books by John Green -- 2 books

 = 26 books

Unlike most of those in the other section of my reading list, I haven't read any of these.

Should try to read

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling -- 7 books
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. tolkien -- 3 books
Inheritance cycle by Christopher Paolini -- 4 books
*NOTE: read with intent to write about its commentary on how gods are created
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. le Guin -- 1 book
*NOTE: read with intent to write about it on any topic
The Tortall Companion Guide by Tamora Pierce -- 1 book

= 16 books

Witchy reading challenge!

2013 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

I have been directed towards a Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge for 2013, and I just have to participate.

There are different levels a person can aim for depending on how many books they want to read. My aim is for Crone, which is 16-20 witchy books. But I'm sure my reading list will include more than 20 witchy books, so I wonder if that'll make me a goddess...

You can read about it here at Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Reading list for 2013?

I've got the tentative beginnings of a reading list for next year.

Narnia series by C.S Lewis -- 7 books
Dresden Files by Jim Butcher -- 15 books
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling -- 7 books*
Catch up on Juliet Marillier books -- 2 books
Inhertiance cycle by Christopher Paolini -- 4 books*
*NOTE: read with intent to write about its commentary on how gods are created
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien -- 3 books*

This comes up to 38 books. But I've read 82 so far this year, so I think it's doable...and I'll probably get a start on the first of the Dresden Files books before the year is out. My boyfriend is letting me borrow his copy, I just need to read another book first.

I may pare this reading list down a little, since I know I'll pick up other books along the way, and I don't want to get trapped into trying to finish up my reading list (and I won't want to not finish the reading list if I've said I'd complete it) when my attention has wandered to something else.

*I've read these before.

EDIT 12/22/2012: I could write a new post, I'll just add on to this one. I want to add to the list...

A couple of John Green's novels -- 2 books

They have to be books of his I haven't read, and this would take the reading list up to 40 books.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Witchy Books Reading Challenge 2012

As it happens, this reading challenge actually ended earlier this month, so I guess I may as well share what I read now instead of waiting until the end of the year.

This reading challenge was put together by Magaly over at the blog Pagan Culture, and she invited people to participate here. I said I would read a minimum of 13 Witchy books...and wound up reading 42. I guess that says something about how much I love fantasy that contains magic.

1) Bone: Rose by Jeff Smith and Charles Vess
2) Bone: Quest for the Spark by Thomas E. Sniegoski
3) Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
4) Beka Cooper: Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce
5) Inheritance: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini 
6) The New Death and others by James Hutchings
7) Angelic by Kelly Armstrong
8) Discworld: Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
9) Daughter of the Lioness: Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce
10) Discworld: I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
11) Hexed by Ilona Andrews
12) Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer
13) Bone: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith



14) Bone: The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith
15) Bone: The Dragonslayer by Jeff Smith
16) Bone: Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith
17) Bone: Treasure Hunters by Jeff Smith
18) Bone: Ghost Circles by Jeff Smith
19) Bone: Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border by Jeff Smith
20) Bone: Old Man's Cave by Jeff Smith
21) Bone: Crown of Horns by Jeff Smith
22) AlmaMia Cienfuegos: a Story of Blood, Scars, and Nightmares by Magaly Guerrero
23) Twixt Firelight and Water: A Tale of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier
24) Sevenwaters: Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier
25) Songmaster by Orson Scott Card
26) Beka Cooper: Mastiff by Tamora Pierce
27) Song of the Lioness: Alanna: The first Adventure by Tamora Pierce
28) Song of the Lioness: In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
29) Song of the Lioness: The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce
30) Song of the Lioness: Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce
31) Immortals: Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce
32) The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle by Jim Butcher
33) Immortals: Wolf Speaker by Tamora Pierce
34) Immortals: Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce
35) Immortals: The Realms of the Gods by Tamora Pierce
36) Beka Cooper: Terrier by Tamora Pierce
37) Protector of the Small: First Test by Tamora Pierce
38) Protector of the Small: Page by Tamora Pierce
39) Protector of the Small: Squire by Tamora Pierce
40) Protector of the Small: Lady Knight by Tamora Pierce
41) Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales by Tamora Pierce
42) Discworld: Tiffany Aching: The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

Hullo! Forgot me?

It's been a while since I've written here.

I would just like to mention that I have finished the last two of the reading challenges that I participated in this year: the fantasy and scifi challenges. Since it's so close to the end of the year I won't bother sharing what I've read in a post right now, and instead share that at once the year is over. (I may have one or two books to add to the challenges then.) Though you can take a look at my Reading Challenges page if you so wish to see what I've read. :)

Woman Reading A Book by Petr Kratochvil

Sunday, August 5, 2012

John Green's old school

I was looking through old Vlogbrother videos and happened to find this video by John Green about the school where his book Looking for Alaska is located. It's awesome and I wanted to share it.

It's pretty awesome to actually see the location John had in mind when writing that book.

There was also another video about the same book which addresses the concerns about some people who wanted to ban it from a high school. This was actually my first introduction to the book a while before I got around to reading it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Conversations in books

As I mentioned recently, I'm revisiting Tamora Pierce's books about Tortall. I'm also thoroughly geeking out over them, even taping maps onto my bedroom door.

Her first book, Song of the Lioness: Alanna is not quite the same as Pierce's later books. But I couldn't explain how. I finally figured it out, at least partially.

Even though there's plenty of action, Pierce spends more time on actual conversations in later books. Of course there's still plenty of description in later books. Especially when it comes to introducing new characters. Her writing evolves through the quartet, and by the start of her next quartet (Immortals) it's what I remember and fell in love with.

It just seems that the more complete conversation adds depth.


I just introduced a new topic I want to explore, the "it ain't real syndrome" in relation to magic. But what I didn't expect, was to find that it applies to a mage in one of my favorite books. Of course I am referring to Daine from Tamora Pierce's The Immortals quartet.

Daine has magic with animals, but in the beginning she insists that it's just a knack. She has to be convinced that it's really magic.

Then, in book two...


It turns out that Daine can shape shift. Except that she didn't realize that she could, and when she starts turning part way into animals she doesn't handle it very well. She thinks she's going mad, and comes up with the following typical solution:

"If I ignore these ears, they'll go away,  or my mind will let go of them, or whatever. Maybe if I sleep, I'll wake up normal again" (134).

Of course she does wake up her normal self. Only to partially shape shift again later. :)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Question answered?

In a recent post I asked about the magic in Tamora Pierce's Tortall books: they've got mages who can do fantastic things, why can't those mages just scry to see where this person/thing is?
I may have found an answer, in her book Immortals: Wild Magic.

"George, there are more illusion spells and diffusion spells that there are stars. Scrying is an inexact magic: I have to know what to look for. All right, I'm good, but even I can be overwhelmed or outflanked. Alanna nd Jon would tell you the same thing" (240).

This might prevent someone from using scrying magic to find a lost object/person.

It ain't real syndrome

Often in books of magic, it's explained that normal people will come up with the most amazing excuses to deny its existence. I've decided to call this the "it ain't real syndrome" and keep track of where I find it in novels.

(My theory is that it's a common theme because magic is real, and many people don't like to acknowledge it. Perhaps including the writers who use the "it ain't real" syndrome in their novels.)

The following from Welcome to the Jungle by Jim Butcher, and it is Harry's explanation to Will of how she'll forget about the magic she's seen.

"And because everyone knows that there's no such thing as magic, when you actually see it happening, that's your response. You don't know what you just saw because it obviously can't be what it looked like, since that's impossible. By this time tomorrow you won't be completely certain that you clearly remember any of it. A few weeks after that, you'll wonder if your fear caused your mind to exaggerate some of the details. And a few years from now, you'll be sure that you were so scared that you just imagined all of the parts you can't explain."

Yep, fear will explain anything weird that you saw.

Thoughts: Welcome to the Jungle

Another blogger and my boyfriend have both been telling me that I need to read The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Book one is on hold at the library, and yesterday I read what is a prologue of sorts, the graphic novel Welcome to the Jungle.

I really enjoyed it, although I was getting irritated about Butcher putting a helpless little female into the story. But then I realized...she isn't a helpless little female. Not really.


Of course, I'm talking about Will. When she first shows up she's the classic talks too much to have any brains, isn't letting our hero get a word in edgewise. Then when the bad guy (sorry, bad girl :D) confronts them Will is positively cute when she cowers behind Harry. That's right, cute.

But I reassessed my opinion with the following passage, later on in the book.

"Moe looks like he's going to tear her head off. And she just walks up to him, talking quietly. After a minute, he quiets down. She never wavers. It's the sort of thing I've read about, but never seen actually happen. Beauty and the Beast. She sits holding hands with him for a few minutes. Then she just leads him back over to the door of his enclosure. He goes along with her, gentle as anything. Incredible."

Walking up to an angry gorilla? That takes considerable courage, and isn't something that the classic "helpless little female"could do.

I quickly revised my opinion of both Will and Jim Butcher. If she's following along seeming helpless, it's because she's in over her head with the magic and magical beings. And the cats big cats, since presumably she doesn't know cats like she knows gorillas. Nor would she be familiar with cats that have blazing eyes and who work with other feline species to hunt individuals down. And her babbling whens he first met Harry? I'm guessing that was just surprise. Certainly, she doesn't babble pointlessly later on in the book.

[I am aware this is poorly written. Think of this as a notebook entry, it's not meant to be college essay material.]

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Changes in names

I just wrote another post sort of on this topic, but rather than editing it and adding this in I'm just writing a new one.

I'm revisiting the Song of the Lioness books by Tamora Pierce. She later wrote (is writing?) the Beka Cooper books, which take place in the same world but 200 years earlier.

There are some definite interesting differences in the world between those two times. One of them is that in Beka's time the god of death is known as the Black God. But 200 years later, in Song of the Lioness, he is known as the Dark God. I'm curious about how this change happened. I guess it's a relatively minor change. But I'm still curious. :)

EDIT 7/28/12: Later in this quartet, he IS called the Black God. Huh.

Song of the Lioness revisited

I'm rereading the Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce. Yes, I keep talking about her books. Probably because she's my favorite author (I think).

It's funny to revisit this quartet though. I'm reading it and I realize that things aren't as fully developed as they could be. Pierce's later books have more depth. I guess it's because they're her earliest novels? They're certainly good stories, and lay the groundwork for her other novels, but there are two things that have been bugging me.

Alanna as a boy

Alanna disguises herself as a boy so that she can become a knight, and trades places with her twin brother. He rides off to the convent where she was supposed to go (though unlike Alanna he won't need to hide his gender -- the convent takes boys as well as girls) and Alanna becomes "Alan" so that she can become a knight.

Certainly, this would be easier for them to do than it would in our world, since they don't have Facebook. And yet...

Someone, other than her trusty manservant Coram, must have been in both her home Trebond and to court, and realized that something was up. And in book two Alanna travels through Trebond on her way to visit her brother Thom. Didn't anyone wonder why she was there in a squires uniform, instead of being dressed like a proper lady? How could she keep her secret for so long?


Faithful is also in the Beka Cooper books, which were written after Song of the Lioness but which actually take place 200 years earlier. Faithful is a purple eyed black cat that is Alanna's friend, but who is also known as Pounce by Beka.

(By the way, does anyone know if there will be a fourth Beka Cooper??? I can't find info either way. At the end of book three it looks like there won't be another, yet there has to be, since Pierce writes quartets not trilogies. Right???)

Pounce is definitely magic, and he's obviously magic when he is known as Faithful. Yet, something seems a little off.

SPOILERS for both quartets

At the end of Beka Cooper: Terrier Faithful swallows a curse that would have killed Beka (unless my memory is off). Yet in book two of Song of the Lioness Roger manages to put him to sleep with a sleep spell. This doesn't add up. How could a magical being powerful enough to survive a death curse be so easily put to sleep?

...unless Roger is just that powerful? I seem to remember now that a mention in one of the Immortals books that some humans are powerful enough to pose a threat. Now I'll have to look that up...

Yes, what you're seeing since the spoiler alert is my actual train of thought, as I'm thinking it. Unedited. Admitting that I need to do more research before I complain that it really is a plot hole. :)

In conclusion...

This is my rambling post about how the quartet isn't quite what I rememebred, but I'm having fun. And having of which (about Pounce) will have me looking up info in the later Tortall books. :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fourth wall and other stuff

...why does my book blog have more followers than my new regular blog? FYI, my main blog is no longer A College Girl's Days, it's Dancing With Fey at Just FYI.

Now, onto bookish stuff!

Nerdfighteria is reading Fahrenheit 451by Ray Bradbury this summer. (If you don't know what a Nerdfighter is, Google it.) All the copies are checked out in my local libraries, which is annoying but also a good problem to have. That means people are reading the book. But I did find that there is a graphic novel that I could get my hands on. I checked it out, figuring that it would give me something to do while I wait for the book book.

This isn't actually a review of the graphic novel by Tim Hamilton, but I will say that I enjoyed it. I just wanted to comment on something in the book, while making it clear that I'm referencing the graphic novel. Which is very faithful to the book (I's been a few years since I read it) but still wanted to mention that detail.


Specifically, I want to talk about the wife. And the stupid "family" of hers that lives on three walls of her living room. Or entertianment room. Or whatever it is.

She has a TV of sorts that takes up three walls of one room in her house. But she wants to get a fourth wall, saying "It'll be even more fun when we can afford to have the fourth wall installed" (20). Fourth wall, hmm...where have I heard that phrase before?

In the performing arts, the "fourth wall" is the barrier between the audience and the performers. By adding a fourth wall to her TV, the wife (whose name I cannot remember and am not looking up because it seems irrelevent) is enclosing herself inside her entertainment and will then have completely insulted herself from the real world.

She's already trying to insulate herself. When Guy is sick and needs help she isn't very interested in taking care of him. He requests that she turn her entertainment off and she responds "That's my family" (42). She finally agrees to turn it down. Later when Guy insists on sharing his books with her she says "Books aren't people. You read and I look around, but there isn't anybody! Now, my 'family' is people. They tell me things: I laugh, they laugh! And the colors! And besides, if captain Beatty knew about those books -- he might come and burn the house and the 'family.' That's awful!" (61) I'm not going to get into a discussion here about whether books are more real than TV, but it's pretty amazing that she considers her TV to be so real.

...I know this could do with some editing, but the purpose here is really just to get my thoughts down.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Beka Cooper: Changes in gender roles

One of the fascinating things about Tamora Pierces novels that are placed in Tortall is looking at gender roles, and how they change.

There are the majority of her books placed in a time when women are finally being accepted as warriors again. These start with the quartet Song of the Lioness. Alanna disguises herself as a boy so that she can become a knight. She paves the way for women to be warriors (or she makes it more acceptable...I'm not sure if some commoner women already fought?) and is the first female knight in 200 years.

Then there are the Beka Cooper books, which take place 200 years before and have the lady knight Sabine in them. Beka herself is in law enforcement. As the quartet (I assume it will become a quartet) proceeds it's interesting to see how society is changing so that gender roles will change.

 In book one (Terrier) some, such as Beka's sisters, disapprove of her career choice because of her gender. But for the most part she's accepted. A woman breaking up bar fights and getting black eyes? No big deal. What's the problem?

But then the cult of the Gentle Mother is briefly introduced in book two (Bloodhound) and we get a big dose of it in book three (Mastiff). This cult basically teaches that women are gentle souls and that all we need to be content is to sit around the house doing needlework and raising children. For women to go out and coarsen ourselves doing men's work is a terrible thing. That's what men are for, after all.

This goes a long way to explain the shift in gender roles from the Beka's time to Alanna's time, which is something I had wondered about.

(I'll probably expand this, and include direct quotes, later.)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Question about magic in Pierce's books

I just started listening to Beka Cooper: Mastiff by Tamora Pierce. They're looking for someone/something (I'm being as non-specific as possible here) and I have a question: they've got mages who can do fantastic things, why can't those mages just scry to see where this person/thing is?

I'm sure there is a reason why the mages can't but I haven't heard a particular rule of magic in the books as to why they can't. Though obviously it would mess up the plot for the novel.

Maybe one of my readers has been a more attentive reader than I have and can explain it to me.

EDIT 7/28/2012: I may have an answer here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Witchy reading challenge completed!

I have completed another reading challenge! This one was put together by Magaly, and it is to read a bunch of witchy novels. My goal was to read 13 witchy novels, and I am happy to say that I have now read 16...with more on my to read list. :)

 If you look at what I've read you may notice that I started off with the Bone books and am now back to them. Yes, I read those around new years, and am rereading that series. I wonder if a book can go on the list twice if I read it twice...?

1) Bone: Rose by Jeff Smith and Charles Vess
2) Bone: Quest for the Spark by Thomas E. Sniegoski
3) Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
4) Beka Cooper: Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce
5) Inheritance: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini 
6) The New Death and others by James Hutchings
7) Angelic by Kelly Armstrong
8) Discworld: Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
9) Daughter of the Lioness: Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce
10) Discworld: I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
11) Hexed by Ilona Andrews
12) Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer
13) Bone: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith


14) Bone: The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith
15) Bone: The Dragonslayer by Jeff Smith
16) Bone: Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith 

ps. I notice that the widgit I've got on this blog says I've only read 16 books this year. I don't know where it's getting that, because if you click on it you'll find that I've actually  45.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lizzie Bennet on YouTube

I'm a big fan of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I'm also a fan of the Vlogbrothers, so you can imagine my delight when I found out that Hank Green (one half of the Vlogbrothers) has a hand in a retelling of this great story.

But there are some distinct differences from the novel.

Elizabeth Bennet did not really make YouTube videos with the help of her friend Charlotte Lu, and tell the world all about her crazy mother and the cold Mr. Darcey in the most pubic way possible. A few characters (Mary, Kitty, and Mrs. Hurst) are missing, presumably to keep things relatively simple. Some of the plot is differently, and Lizzy could perhaps be slightly nicer to her sisters.

There are about 11 videos out by now, and although it's still early it's looking pretty good.

In particular I look forward to the consequences of certain individuals, such as Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Darcey, finding Lizzie's YouTube channel. As a communications major in college Lizzie should know that it'll get around to them somehow, but seems to think it'll be kept a secret from them. Still, the story couldn't be told half so well if she weren't under that naive assumption.

I'm also curious to see how Lizzie's changing feelings are handled, since she keeps certain things private even from her sister Jane in the book, but that just won't work for the a retelling via YouTube. I'm guessing that the Lizzie of YouTube will be a much more open person than the Lizzie of Austen's book.

I definitely recommend that you watch the first short episode, and that you keep on watching them. They're only a few minutes each.


I also can't wait to see how the whole thing with Mr. Collins is handled, as well as a certain fiasco with Lydia. The details of those events will have to be changed, somewhat. Or actually maybe not so much for Lydia...

Depending on what state they're in, Mr. Collins can't be a cousin if he wants to marry one of the Bennet sisters. (Did you know that it IS legal to marry your cousin in some states? I only found that out recently.) And I'll be very surprised if it's a matter of their house being entailed away from the male line. How often is that sort of thing done in the states? (Hey, Lizzie Bennet is in the USA, isn't she?)

Luckily for Mr. Whickam, Lydia is of age so he won't be charged with kidnapping and rape. (FYI, I have discussed in a previous post what would happen if Whickam ran off with Lydia in modern day USA.) Relatives also won't be able to stop Lydia from living with Whickam until they're married, but I suppose that everything else could follow the book pretty closely.

Prediction: Lydia and Whickam will be found in a hotel in Vegas.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sarai and Dove

I'm listening to Daughter of the Lioness: Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce, and I have one comment to make.


First, a note for those who have not read the book but who will read this anyways...

The short explanation is this: There is a revolution in the works, and the two potential queen candidates are the sisters Sarai and Dove, because of their bloodlines. Except that Dove isn't even considered because she's the younger. At least, not at first...

I've read Trickster's Queen before, and this time as I listen I can't help but compare Sarai and Dove. Dove would definitely make a better queen because, well for just one reason, even though Sarai's heart is in the right place she doesn't know how to keep her yap shut. She sees the injustices and blurts things out when it would be more prudent to watch her words. AND, she says repeatedly that things will never change. Hmm, is that the attitude that you would want for your new queen after you've overthrown the old king and his regents?

This being the case, shouldn't they be thanking the Graveyard Hag when she helps Sarai run off with her lover, leaving Dove as the queen-to-be? Dove is younger, sure, but she's more cool headed and, unlike Sarai, she was clever enough to figure out that the rebellion was brewing in her own home and that her own sister was the intended queen. Sarai never had any idea of it. And even though the people love Sarai and Sarai cares about them (which is why she keeps speaking out and getting into trouble with her family) it's Dove they talk to, and who is really the approachable one.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Audio books

In looking through Beka Cooper: Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce for my last post I was reminded that some books don't make the translation into audio book format quite as well as others. Sometimes that's because there are illustrations which help to tell the story. (As is the case, I think, with Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.) But there are one or two other reasons for it in the Beka Cooper books as well.

For example, the following quote:

"Is that a Dog thing, to want other opinions Never mind, Beka! Leave that muddling for the scholars!" (195)

The crossed out question is in the audio book, but the listener has no idea that Beka decided to cross it out.

Another example is when, on the last page of Beka's first diary entry, we see feline paw prints on the paper. Of course this doesn't translate well into the audio book, so the listener misses out a little when she writes "Pounce says I am to stop feeling sorry for myself and get to bed, or he will ruin another good page with his inky paws" (6). Sure the listener can figure out what just happened, but that awesome visual is missing.

Finally, there are the times when Beka is exhausted and it shows in her writing. In one entry, as I recall, she actually stops writing mid-word and there is a line leading away from her writing as her quill falls away from the page. That isn't the case in the example I've got here, though.

"I think I mst halt for a time. I've dun done a fearful abont amount of writing. Even in syfer I've writ a lot of pages. Ill write more of yesstrday yesterday, night, after a nap" (416).

Unless my memory fails me, all but the first of the crossed out words are not in the audio recording. (And I've listened to it enough times that I should know!) But even in the audio recording, try conveying the fact that an apostrophe is missing in "Ill."

Despite my criticism I do love the audio books of Beka Cooper. Even though they fail to convey little details the narrator does a wonderful job, and I'll listen to them many more times I'm sure. :)


I recently reread Beka Cooper: Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce for know, I don't know how many times I've read it now.


 It's interesting to look at the interplay between Dale and Beka. He comes in, sweeps her off her feet (literally...see page 308), and she falls head over heels for him (not literally).

Only, there's one problem. Beka's hunting cole mongers, but because she can't say so she has to lie to Dale about her reasons about being in Port Caynn. Not a good way to start off a relationship!

Oh, and it doesn't help that, as a gambler, he is a prime suspect for spreading the coles -- especially since it's a well established fact that they're being spread by gambling. Then despite the fact that, in the end, it is proven that Dale had nothing to do with the coles, his best friend Hanse was at the middle of the cole monger ring.

Goodwin and Beka are delighted to have the acquaintance of gamblers because it will help them on their hunt. And even though Beka really does have feelings for Dale, Goodwin pushes for her to be friendly for the sake of the hunt, as seen when she says "At least one of those coves will be there to see you, [. . .] They took to you during that riot, and you're going to be friendly even if I have to shove you all the way" (241). Beka even takes advantage of the relationship to do some snooping, although it's obvious that she wants to think more with her heart than with her head: "I will search Dale's rooms, as I should. That is how I shall think of tonight. And if I were to say that to Goodwin, she would laugh until she popped something" (367).

But Dale is smart. Even before the storm really breaks he's questioning the reason given for Beka and Goodwin's presence. "I'd been hearing the word coles of late, so I looked at my own coins. [. . .] I'm not the only one who's getting bit this bad. So I'm wondering, here are Beka and Goodwin, fresh in town. Maybe they're looking for colemongers" (410). Of course Beka denies it by way of pointing out how young she is for such an important hunt (which it is true that she's unusually young for something with such a high stakes). Yet even though Dale seems to agree that she's too inexperienced for hunting colemongers he probably revisited that theory of his after Beka caught the queen rat almost single handed. He may have also realized that she didn't deny his question about it with an outright "No."

My assumption is that in the end Dale figures out that Beka and Goodwin were on the hunt, because he's smart enough to figure things out for himself, especially in retrospect. That being the case, he probably questions Beka's reasons for becoming his lover. Sure, the reasons he gives for ending it are valid: that they'll be in two different cities, and that those kind of relationships are tough. But an unspoken reason is probably that he doesn't trust her to not lie, and/or because he suspects that she used him.

I wonder if Beka ever realized that he probably guessed. If so, did she regret that she didn't come clean in the end? After all, it couldn't have done any harm at that point, and although Dale wasn't unpleasant to her (aside from dumping her, that is) things might have ended slightly more pleasantly if she had told the truth.

If Beka wanted to have any hope at all of continuing the relationship or picking it up again she should have told Dale the whole truth. Yet, in addition to the reasons Dale gave, she knew there were other reasons it couldn't have worked. "Still, how would we have managed? Him in Port Caynn, when he is home, me in Corus. Him wanting someone to be his luck at games, me being on duty when he begins to play and weary and cross, like as not, after my watch. And he had yet to be in my bed the nights I woke, screaming or sweating, from some dark dream of Rats, blood, and death" (528).

...and from my writing classes I know that I should have some comment following that quote, but because I don't know what else to add I'll just leave it at that.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review: The New Death and others

Book cover
I got a request from an author to review a book. Since this book is in my favorite genre and he would give it to me for free, I couldn't resist. FYI: I am not getting paid to write a good review.

The book in question is The New Death and others by James Hutchings, and it is a collection of short stories and poems. They are mostly dark fantasy, and all of them fun. I've even gone back to reread a few of them.

If you like fantasy, you'll probably find something to enjoy in this book. It has a variety of material, from good witchy stories to commentary on modern culture, stories about various gods such as the goddess Fame, tales of love gone wrong, and even some good stuff for us cat lovers. I have a suspicion that Hutchings likes cats. Oh, and there's even one good story whose ending is a very nice pun that left me in a fit of giggles. But you'll have to read the book to find out which story it is.

I will admit that after the first short story, which blew me away, I found Hutchings' writing style in the next few stories to be a distraction. That was probably because it reminded me of another author, but as I kept on reading I stopped making comparisons because Hutchings' writing style is definitely his own. And when I reread those stories during which I had been comparing Hutchings to Terry Pratchett I couldn't find anything to complain about.

Perhaps my favorite stories and poems in this book are those which are commentary about both modern culture, and about some of the stupid things have probably done all through history. Those are the kinds of stories/poems which you read once, pause to think, and then reread. They include one about our our materialistic world (poem "Law and Justice"), one about why it might be better to not be famous (short story "Fame's Beloved"), and one about how we are often our own worst enemies (short story "The Enemy Within"). There are many more than just the three I've shared here.

The New Death and others is a very good book, and I definitely recommend it. And as I said, it has something for just about any fantasy lover.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Reading challenge completed!

We're hardly even two and a half months into 2012 and I've already completed one of my reading goals for the year: to listen to 12 audio books.

I think I can blame my job...even though it keeps my hands busy, it also gives me ample time to listen to audio books. :)

Below is the list of what I've listened to, and that list will continue to grow throughout the year!

1) Abhorsen: Sabriel by Garth Nix, read by Tim Curry
2) Daughter of the Lioness: Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce, read by Trini Alvarado
3) Rocannon's World by Ursula K. le Guin, read by Stefan Rudnicki
4) Midnight Magic: Murder At Midnight by Avi, read by Jeff Woodman
5) Avalon High by Meg Cabot, read by Debra Wiseman
6) Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, read by Anthony Heald
7) The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, read by Lloyd James
8) The Princess Bride by William Goldman, read by Rob Reiner
9) Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, performed by various readers
10) Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, read by Nadia May
11) Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, read by Lloyd James
12) Beka Cooper: Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce, read by Susan Denaker

For a complete list of all challenges I'm taking part in, click here.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Urtiz and Ashmari

So I just finished listening to Beka Cooper: Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce...


One scene that I find very interesting is when Beka talks to Urtiz about coles. In a way it doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the story, just like another interesting scene I wrote about last year. It's also one of my favorite bits of the novel.

First, a brief summary: Beka shows up to ask Urtiz about a counterfeit coin ("cole") that he used to try to buy bread. He tells her that he got it gambling, and that once he knew he had coles he bought a slave (Ashmari) with them and threw what was left over in the river. Beka points out to Urtiz that that's against the law, Ashmari attacks Beka to protect Urtiz, Beka ties Ashmari up, and then Urtiz tries to bribe her into letting him free Ashmari before he's arrested. Beka tells them off, unties Ashmari, gets the info that she had gone to Urtiz for (about the cole...remember the cole?) and gets out of there.

So, here are my questions:

1) Why does the scene not entirely seem to fit with the rest of the novel? I'm not sure how to explain.

2) Why does Urtiz admit so easily to Beka that he broke the law when buying Ashmari? Someone that stupid shouldn't have survived to his age.

3) Does this move the plot along in any way, or otherwise contribute?

I still don't have an answer to #1. But as for the other two...

My assumption is that Urtiz wouldn't normally admit so freely to breaking the law (especially to an officer of the law) but that he was feeling over confident or cocky. Then again, we don't see any more of him, so I can't say for sure.

The information that Beka gets from Urtiz does move along the plot. In fact, what she gets from him is really important. But she could have gotten that info without the whole mess with Ashmari. So, why is Ashmari there?

Ashmari doesn't move along the plot, but she does show something important about Beka's character. Not only does Beka love the trick played on the slavers when Ashmari is bought with false coin (Beka may be a follower of the Trickster, in a way), but even more of Beka's character is revealed when she turns down Urtiz's bribe. And it's a pretty hefty bribe, too:
"I'll give you five gold nobles. Let me free her, let her escape, before you hobble me, [...] Guardswoman, I swear, the coin is right here. Only let me free her, and I'll go with you quietly. She was trying to protect me! Not just five nobles -- I have jewels. Let me buy Ashmari's freedom and you can have the rest. It's enough for you to retire on" (51).
Beka had already intended to let the two go. She could have taken this bribe, pretended to think it over, then go ahead with what she'd already decided on. Not only that, but she knows that her superiors would not be pleased with her turning down the bribe:
"The truth is, I must think of a way to write this up for Ahuda so she, Tunstall, and Goodwin don't suspect about Urtiz's bribe. They'll never forgive me for turning it down" (51).
I guess it shows that Beka cares more about justice, and what's right, than about money. One might go so far as to say that she cares about justice more than the law, since Urtiz did break the law by buying Ashmari with coles.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Starship Troopers: comments

I just finished listening to Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein today.

I've read it before, but it's been a while. I'd forgotten how much it talks about ethics, and the proper way a government should be put together. I remembered that they were both in there a little bit (though I remembered the latter more than the former), but didn't remember they were both discussed in such detail.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Two questions

I'm listening to Inheritance: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, and I have two questions:

1) Is it just me, or does Saphira's voice keep changing in the last book?

2) Why does Murtagh have a Scottish accent? (Or am I getting my accents mixed up...?) He's the only person in the audio book with that particular accent, and I find that rather strange.

Book cover -- awesome green dragon :)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Does My Head Look Big In This?

In a way I was impressed with the way Randa Abdel-Fattah handled stereotypes in Does My Head Look Big In This? (My reviewed here.) Just about every stereotype about Islam is confronted in the book, and it's either pointed out that it's just a stereotype (such as all Muslims being terrorists) or a cultural norm for some places that has gotten confused with being part of the religion (such as female genital mutilation).

It took me a week or so after finishing the book to realize that there was one issue not addressed in the novel: that the hijab and burka are used in some places to keep women in their place. In the novel Amal dons the hijab as part of embracing her religion, and that is the reason that my friends who have happened to be Muslim wore the hijab. Those of my friends who chose to wear the hijab, that is. But in some places women are forced to wear it, and I think the book would have been stronger if that had been acknowledged.

Random note: I actually had one friend whose dad wished that she wouldn't wear the hijab because he got tired of the police pulling him over when she was in the car with him.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Random tidbits on the whale book

I'm listening to Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

I have to wonder...who was the first madman who decided to hunt such a giant animal whose world is so dangerous to us humans? No seriously, who thought that up, and how did s/he convince others to go along with the crazy idea?

Fortunately I'm nearing the end of the book. That thing is more essays about whaling than plot, but that seems to be changing now that I'm on chapter 113 of 135 (plus the epilogue).

Friday, February 3, 2012

Review: Does My Head Look Big In This?

Book cover

Yesterday I picked up a book that promised to be very interesting: Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah.

This is a story about Amal, an 11th grader in Australia who happens to be Muslim, and how things go for her after she decides to start wearing the hijab* full time. Amal makes the decision during winter break, and wears it on her first day back to school.

 Does My Head Look Big In This? has a strong opening with Amal's sudden conviction that she wants to wear the hijab full time, and her immediate doubts about her decision. She knows that wearing the hijab will leave her open to taunting and prejudice, and knows that it will be about as attention getting as walking into school naked. (An interesting comparison, I thought.) Yet she becomes determined to wear it, as a sign of faith and to be close to Allah.

Things get off to a rocky start when Amal reports to the principle on her first day back to school to explain that she will be adding a hijab to her strict school uniform. The principle's response is not enthusiastic, to put it mildly. Very mildly. Yet in the end she gives Amal permission to wear her hijab.

I lapped up about the first third of the book, cheering Amal on when she stood up for herself and delighting in her two close friends at school who stood by her through everything, and who didn't care how she dressed. Best of all, Amal also defended her friends when they were picked on by the popular girls.

But eventually...the book got a little dull. The problem? It was mostly more of the same. And more. And more.

I guess that's how it is in life. In life, if you're a minority (ok, and even if you aren't) you are constantly confronted by stereotypes. Especially if you do something like wearing a hijab, that marks you as different and draws attention. Yet even though the plot did move along, with things like new developments where Amal's major crush is concerned, it eventually felt more like Abdel-Fattah was more trying to make a point than tell a story. I felt like the story ended about 1/3 of the way into the book, even though there are new things happening even in the middle of the book. And although there is quite a bit of excitement at the end, that excitement feels like a different story.

I would give the first 1/3 of Does My Head Look Big In This? 5 out of 5 stars. But for the whole book overall, I would have to go with 3 of 5. Sorry, but it's so.

And yet I wonder...would my rating of this book be different if the hijab hadn't been presented on the back cover as THE major point of the plot, but rather as part of a larger story? I don't know.

*The hijab covers a woman's hair, and the woman wearing a hijab also keeps her arms and legs covered. As Amal says, she only needs to use sunscreen on her face and hands.

EDIT ON 2/18/2012: I was impressed with the way Randa Abdel-Fattah handled stereotypes in Does My Head Look Big In This?  Just about every stereotype about Islam is confronted in the book, and it's either pointed out that it's just a stereotype (such as all Muslims being terrorists) or a cultural norm for some places that has gotten confused with being part of the religion (such as female genital mutilation).

It took me a week or so after finishing the book to realize that there was one issue not addressed in the novel: that the hijab and burka are used in some places to keep women in their place. In the novel Amal dons the hijab as part of embracing her religion, and that is the reason that my friends who have happened to be Muslim wore the hijab. Those of my friends who chose to wear the hijab, that is. But in some places women are forced to wear it, and I think the book would have been stronger if that had been acknowledged.


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