Friday, June 30, 2006

Book Meme

Stolen from Marg

Review the following list of books. Boldface the books you've read, italicize those you might read, cross out the ones you won’t, put an asterisk beside the ones on your bookshelves, and place brackets around the ones you’ve never even heard of.

The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
*The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman)
*Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J. K. Rowling)
The Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
*Animal Farm: A Fairy Story (George Orwell)
Catch 22 (Joseph Heller)
The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien) - I tried reading this, but it was too dry.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Mark Haddon)
*Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
*Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
1984 (George Orwell)
*Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J. K. Rowling)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden) - I started this one too, but it wasn't as good as everyone hyped it up to be, so I stopped after a few chapters.
The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut)
The Secret History (Donna Tartt)
*Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)
Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides)
Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell)
*Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
Atonement (Ian McEwan)
*The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon)
The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)
The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) - Ditto on starting and not liking this one.
The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
Dune (Frank Herbert) - I saw the miniseries though.
Sula (Toni Morrison)
Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier) - Ugh! I hated the movie!
The Alchemist (Paulo Coehlo)
White Teeth (Zadie Smith) - I might be disappointed as I usually am by critically acclaimed authors. I guess I'm not sophisticated enough.
The House of Mirth (Edith Wharton)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Fourth Bear

Author: Jasper Fforde
Published: August 3, 2006 (Viking)
Category: Mystery/Absurdist Fiction

I don't want to say anything until after the on-sale date, but it was awesome. I liked The Big Over Easy quite a bit, but I loved this book.

Jack Spratt is definitely better the second time around.

And the next Thursday Next book is supposed to be out July 2007, tentatively titled The War of the Words. There will also be a third Nursery Crime, titled The Last Great Tortoise Race. According to Jasper Fforde's website, it will be the final Nursery Crime novel. However, there's no publication date for the final Jack Spratt installment.

Charlie All Night

Author: Jennifer Crusie
Published: January 1996 (Harlequin), reissued December 2004 (Mira)
Category: Romance
Quote of Choice: "And then Lisa sprayed the place with that stinking pine disinfectant, which explains why this place smells like somebody pooped a pine tree."

At Jennie's recommendation, I picked up my first Jennifer Crusie book yesterday from the library. It's one of her earlier novels, and I hear that Crusie only got better with time. I've read reviews that say Crusie writes really funny, witty dialogue and makes her characters seem like real people. While I felt like Charlie and Alice were real people, I didn't have any laugh-out-loud moments when reading this book.

Charlie comes to the town of Tuttle to do a favor for his father's friend, Bill. He's investigating rumors of drugs being distributed through the radio station Bill owns. As a cover, Charlie pretends to be a temporary DJ so he can figure out who's selling drugs at the station. Bill assigns the stations most successful producer, Alice, to produce Charlie's new show.

Alice is not without problems of her own. She used to produce her boyfriend Mark's show, but he dumped her for another producer (who's younger and prettier). At first, she thinks Charlie will be a good rebound guy to help her get over her feelings for Mark. However, she and Charlie fell for each other even though they didn't realize it. Once, their argument was on the air to Charlie's audience and they had to do segments together where they argued.

Mark, the ex-boyfriend provided lots of amusement. Charlie was an unexpected hit as a DJ, and Mark would copy Charlie to get the same reaction from listeners. When the audience found out that Charlie was nursing an orphaned puppy, Mark got a dog from the pound, only to realize that you need to take dogs out for walks or else they'll poop in the studio.

This was a really fast read and was amusing. However, I wouldn't read this again. I'm sure that the titles Jennie prefers will be better.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Undead and Unappreciated

Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Published: July 5, 2005 (Berkley)
Series: Betsy Taylor, Queen of the Undead #3
Category: Paranormal Romance
Quote of Choice: "She knows you are a vampire, but the front door was unlocked. Either she's unbelievably arrogant or unbelievably dim."

The Betsy Taylor books are extreme fluff - even fluffier than Katie MacAlister books. If MacAlister is cotton candy, Davidson is sugar fumes. I finished this book in half a day. When we last left Betsy, Queen of the Undead, in Undead and Unemployed, she had offed another insurgent (Betsy's reign is not widely accepted among the vampire population) and taken all of that vampire's property upon her death.

Davidson's books don't advance the overally Betsy Taylor storyline with each installment, and there's really very little character growth. In fact, the events of Unappreciated take place in less than a week. Betsy is still selfish (still not really caring about her subjects, or her housemates) and lacking in common sense (plunging into dangerous situations without considering the consequences) and obviously hasn't learned much from the past couple books in the series. In this book, Betsy finds out she has a half-sister and this sister is destined to take over the world. Oh, and she's the daughter of the Devil. Aside from meeting her sister, throwing the Book of the Dead into a river, and dealing with her employees going on strike, Betsy didn't do very much.

The thing I've complained about the most is her relationship (or lack thereof) with Eric Sinclair, her hunky consort/vampire king. Finally Betsy has realized she's not really going to do better than Sinclair, who has not wavered one bit in his devotion to Betsy, no matter how silly and selfish she acts towards him. However, I feel a little bad for Sinclair because I don't think Betsy even knows why she loves him. After all, she didn't admit to loving him until she thought Sinclair might be hitting on her younger half-sister. Does she only like Sinclair because he's rich, buys her shoes, and great in the sack? They certainly don't have much in the way over conversation. Maybe my "witty banter" standards are too high.

Sinclair and Betsy are engaged at the end of this book. Betsy believes that the root of her relationship problems with Sinclair stem from the fact that they're not married. Don't get me started on the whole "marriage on impulse for the sake of having a big wedding" thing, because I'm afraid this is going to be an issue that will come up for Betsy and Sinclair. Maybe the next book will spend 288 pages on that single issue.

At least we got another cool character out of Unappreciated. Betsy's sister, Laura, is awesome. She reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Except that she's not killing Betsy.... yet.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

In Deep Voodoo

Author: Stephanie Bond
Published: October 2005 (Avon)
Category: Romantic Suspense
Quote of Choice: "Where was the restraining order, Mona, when Deke painted my house the color of a vagina?"

Penny Francisco has just gone through an awful divorce. She and her ex-husband Deke were growing apart for the past couple years, and then she discovers Deke and his mistress going at it in her marriage bed. His mistress is much younger, but is tanned to the point of having orange leather for skin, thanks to owning the town's tanning salon. In the divorce settlement, Penny got the property her health food store occupies and Deke got the charming Victorian house (situated across the street from the health food store) that Penny restored. Of course, his mistress Sheena moved into Penny's old dream house and proceeded to paint the exterior a Pepto Bismol pink.

While trying to put up a brave front in the face of Sheena's obnoxious behavior, Penny agrees to her employee's idea of a "Happy Divorce" party to celebrate her newfound freedom. In her pursuit for a healthy lifestyle, Penny gave up sugar, caffeine, meat, fish, and alcohol. Thanks to an insubstantial tofu dinner and not drinking for a few years, Penny got very, very tipsy. In her drunken state, she stabbed a gag gift voodoo doll of Deke in the heart. Unfortunately for her, Deke was murdered by a garden stake through the heart, and Penny discovered the body. Given the circumstances, she was the prime suspect for the murder.

Thanks to the help from B.J. Beaumont (yes, such titillating initials), a private investigator specializing in missing persons cases, Penny works to clear her name. Of course, she's attracted to this hunky manly man, but their romance plays a very small part in the book. Deke's murder is just a small part of a much bigger illegal activity picture. It's a very clever little mystery and the ending left the door open for a sequel. Of course, the downside of that is that they didn't really catch all the perpetrators of the crime, copping out with the old "I won't reveal the names of my accomplices" thing when they caught Deke's murderer.

Stephanie Bond has a new book coming out next month, Body Movers, and I think I'll put it on my list for the library.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Principles of Love

Author: Emily Franklin
Published: July 5, 2005 (NAL)
Category: Teen fiction

Our main character suffers a tragic name: Love Bukowski.

Aside from the name problems, Love has other issues in her life. She has never known her mom. She has to move and begin her sophomore year at a swanky New England boarding school, and her dad is its new principal.

During her first week, Love meets her dream guy, a fake friend (who'll later backstab her in the sequel Piece, Love, and Happiness), her hard-to-hate competition for dream guy, and the real dream guy who actually knows Love. During her first year, Love will experience love, be betrayed, get suspended, be pseudo-famous, and puke all over her object of affection. I certainly didn't have a sophomore year like that.

Despite its formulaic storyline, Principles was a pretty good read. I didn't read through it as fast as I read the Sweep series. I felt it wasn't as fluffy because it was so serious about all those important problems you deal with as a teenager. It's very much of a coming of age/staying true to yourself book. I think the book would've been better if Franklin didn't try so hard to pack every element of the stereotypical teen angst movie into the book. I have no idea how she manages to write at least three more titles for the series when she's exhausting every plot device possible in Principles. I thought I was going to read the sequel, but upon reading the back cover, I decided I'd be more satisfied without it.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Girl's Guide to Vampires

Author: Katie MacAlister
Published: November 2003
Category: Paranormal Romance

This is the first of Katie MacAlister's paranormal romances, and it was pretty good for her first one. In this one, Joy Randall sees a witch who scries for Joy's true love. Joy is a typical MacAlister heroine: she's spunky, not afraid to go for what she wants, and is no damsel in distress.

While in the Czech republic with her best friend, Joy's dream hunk walks through the door of her hotel bar. The problem is, he just might be a Moravian Dark One (aka: vampire). MacAlister's Dark Ones are vampires without souls. These vampires search for their Beloved, a woman to save their immortal souls. So while Joy tries to figure out if her hunk is a bloodsucker, there are a series of murders taking place, and someone is trying to frame Joy.

To add another monkeywrench into the mess, another Dark One is trying to claim Joy as his Beloved. The problem asks the question some people wonder: Is there only one soulmate for me? I think they asked that question in a Sex and the City episode. You can't help but feel sad for the Dark One who doesn't find his Beloved, but it would be unfair to keep a Beloved who doesn't care for you the way you care for them.

A Girl's Guide to Vampires is a bit more than your usual fluffy romance. It's got a little mystery, a chunk of romance, and a dash of melodrama (for the love triangle). Good fun!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Improper English

Author: Katie MacAlister
Published: March 2003 (Love Spell)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Quote of Choice: Lady Rowena gasped in horror at the sight of Lord Raoul's majestic purple-helmeted warrior of love.

Alexandra "Alix" Freemar is in London writing the perfect romance novel. She has the setting and the history, but her actual manuscript for Ravening Raptures is awful in the cheesiest way (as seen in the above quote). Each of the chapters begins with an excerpt from Alix's work-in-progress and it's quite hilarious, in a cringing kind of way. She is distracted from her writing by her neighbor, the devilishly handsome Detective Inspector Alexander Black (yes, our main characters' names are almost exactly the same: Alix and Alex), a man who takes his job very seriously, but is looking for a serious relationship... the woman of his dreams (yeah, if only such men existed).

Of course, there are obstacles to their love. Alix thinks that everything that happens to her is bound to fail and sets herself up for failure and her failures become self-fulfilling prophecies. Alex is very serious about his detective work and is a bit insensitive at times. He's not very good at communicating, but seriously, I still don't think there's very much wrong with Alex. He wanted to commit to Alix, but she was the one who pulled away and broke his heart. Granted, she had good reason for doing so - she wanted to learn how to stand up for herself and stick through to the end of her novel, and actually turned out a good one in the end.

This is one of Katie MacAlister's earlier novels in the contemporary romance categories and you can see how she has only gotten better with time. In her later novels, there's usually an equal balance between the man and woman in terms of relationship strife, but Alix was the 95% responsible for the problems in her relationship with Alex.

It was good, and I had a lot of giggles over the awful romance excerpts. I found that the "fake" manuscript was funnier than a lot of the actual characters in Improper English. At one point, Alix scraps Ravening Raptures to begin writing a medieval romance that included a stubborn knight (modeled after Alex) who has a blind horse, therefore leading his army off in a zigzag fashion.

I'm glad Katie MacAlister appears to get better with time with her standalone novels. The jury's still out on her vampire novels, but I've got A Girl's Guide to Vampires from the library, so we'll see if her oldest vamp novel is better than her newest one, Even Vampires Get the Blues, which I have already reviewed.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Author: Tilly Bagshawe
Published: July 1, 2005 (Warner)
Category: General Fiction

I love celebrity gossip, and if you do too, you'll like this book as much as I did. It's an unrestricted peek into the fabulous world of the McMahon family. The head of the family, Duke McMahon is a famous actor and producer, and he has one dysfunctional family. However, the story really isn't about him - it's about his granddaughter, Siena McMahon.

Despite being a book about a vain, selfish, arrogant girl, the book doesn't stay with her all the time. Half of the chapters focus on other characters' storylines, and the first third of the book is a flashback, showing the background to the family problems. In short, Duke had two children with his wife Minnie, but then brought his mistress, Caroline, into their home and the family had to live with this awful woman for 15 years. To make matters worse, she got pregnant to secure a place in Duke's will. Siena, the daughter of Duke's first son, was born a few years after Caroline's son, Hunter.

Despite all the backstabbing between the adults, Siena and Hunter were very close. Hunter was a caring uncle to his spoiled niece, and they were each other's safe haven in an acidic household. They were forced and tricked into never speaking to each other when Caroline was finally kicked out of the McMahon household, and when they grew up, Hunter became an actor and Siena was forced to study medicine at Oxford (she was actually smart, although she didn't show it for most of the book). When she decided to pursue a modeling career as a doorway to acting, Siena's parents disowned her.

From then on, we have people trying to find their places in the world, the past repeating itself, men cheating on their beautiful girlfriends/wives (it certainly happens in the real Hollywood enough), people growing backbones, and learning just how much of yourself you inherit from your family.

Adored is a good story, and in the end, I realized that the book isn't about the fabulous lives of celebrities. The fame and fortune become accessories to the true focal point of the book - family.