Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cannonball Read Round Two Complete

Today I officially completed the second round of Cannonball Read. Starting last November, I started on an adventure to read a book a week for the next year.  I didn't complete a book every week during the year.  I was able to finish 52 books by the end of October this year.

Halfway during the year, I joined a book club with some friends.  I also participated in two read-a-thons.  I've found that blogging about the books I read while sometimes a burden is fun.  I've gotten to "meet" some great book bloggers over the past year.

It's not clear if another round is happening for Cannonball Read.  I'm planning to keep reading and blogging, but I'm also interested in participating in other reading challenges in the upcoming year.

Fifty-Two: The White Queen - Philippa Gregory

I have to attract the attention of a young man riding out to yet another battle, against an enemy that cannot be defeated.  He may not even see me.  He is not likely to be in the mood for beggars or flirts.  I have to excite his compassion for my position, inspire his sympathy for my needs, and stay in his memory long enough for him to do something about them both.
These are the words of Elizabeth Woodville, recently widowed during a battle of the Cousin Wars as she tries to gather favor with the soon to be named King of England - Edward.  Elizabeth comes from a long line of family who descended from Melusina, the water goddess.  Her and her mother use their "powers" to influence weather conditions or put a hex on others.  Elizabeth is able to enchant Edward and marries him in secret before he went into battle to claim his throne.  Edward and Elizabeth take over as King and Queen and arrange their advisers to make alliances between the House of York and House of Lancaster.  As their family grows, they are challenged by other family members and other usurpers that want to have the throne. 

Edward gets sick and ends up dying causing a fight for the throne yet again even though he left two sons as official heirs.  His brother Richard ends up claiming the throne for himself and locking up Edward's two sons in the Tower.  Elizabeth flees with her daughters to sanctuary and starts to plot on how to overthrow Richard.  She makes an alliance with Margaret of Beauford who son Henry Tutor is anxious to take the throne as well.
From her confinement, Elizabeth plots, schemes and uses her "powers" to continue her ambition and allow her children to claim their birthright.

This book is the first in a series about the Plantagenets from Philippa Gregory.  I really enjoyed her Tutors series, but had a hard time relating to the main character Elizabeth.  I felt that her voice was very whiny and negative.  The plot from chapter to chapter was very similar and it was hard to keep all the different family members straight. I didn't really believe that women back then would use "powers" or "witchcraft" to influence events.  I found it hard to believe that a local woman could stand at the side of the road and entrance the would-be king to marry her. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fifty-one: Super Sad True Love Story - Gary Shteyngart

Lenny Abramov falls in love with Eunice Park one night in Rome at the end of a long vacation/work trip.  He convinces her to come back to US and stay with him in NYC.  Their romance buds as the political landscape becomes more volatile. In the end Lenny loses his love of his life.

Super Sad True Love Story is set in the future where everyone is addicted to this handheld device called apparat.  This device shares information about the owner and other people and allows folks to rate themselves real-time.  The book goes between diary entries of Lenny and GlobalTeen (like Facebook) messages from Eunice's account. 

The author clearly has opinions about how technology and public opinion influence our daily lives.  I'm not sure I understood all the pretexts and found the book to be overall strange. 

Fifty: Poison - Sara Poole

1492 Rome, Italy. Pope Innocent VIII is very ill and about to sign an edict to wipe out all the Jews within all Christiandom.  Francesca Girodano just proved her worth as a poisoner and agrees to serve Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia and ultimately avenge her father's death.

Francesca's mission is to create a poison that looks like the person died from natural causes. Her father was working on such poison before he was murdered.  While seeking help from an apothecary in the Jewish quarter, Francesca finds out that her father might have been a converso.  She also learns that the Jews are not going to let an edict wipe them out.  They are ready to fight the Pope or the Grand Inquisitor.

Francesca befriends a monk that is close to the Pope in order to deliver the poison.  She is betrayed and tricked by him within the Pope's castle.  Luckily a local captain who works for the Captain is able to help her and the leader of the Jewish rebels to safety without suspicion. Before escaping though, they are able to plant the poisonous blood within the blood supply for the Pope.  The next day the Pope is dead, but no one is sure if it was the poison or just natural causes.

Unfortunately, Francesca gave the monk she befriended a capsule with deadly poison in it before he betrayed her.  No she must stop him before he uses it to poison the Cardinal or any of the other leading candidates for Pope.

Full of mystery and intrigue, Sara Poole captures the struggle between good and evil as well as the religious strife that plagued multiple countries during this time period.  I read this book as part of Dewey's 24-hour Read-A-Thon.  It is an easy read and did provide some page turning moments.  The ending was not what I expected and I believe the author set herself up for a sequel. Even though the book takes place in 1492 - Christopher Columbus does not appear at all within the book.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mini-Challenge - Covers

Vicki at Reading at the Beach challenges us to share two books that didn't match the cover or the blurb we read out them. 

I agree with Vicki that a book's cover totally causes me to want to read it or not.  My first example is The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.  I thought this book's main character was going to be the Postmistress, but really the main character was a radio journalist.

My second example are the two books I recently read by Barbara Kyle.  They each had a title referring to a member in the royal family, but overall the books were about a fictional family who helped influence the royal family. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mini Challenge - Wordle

Carina at Reading Through Life pointed out this cool website Wordle that takes the text of a webpage and "mind maps" it out.

I took my hour 8 & 9 update and applied it to the Wordle magic and got the image below.

Wordle: ReadAThon

Readathon - Hour 16 update

So we literally just walked in the door from the dinner party.  My original thought was to start reading again when we got back, but I won't be able to function tomorrow if I do.

So I'm going to participate in a few mini-challenges and cheer on some folks and then end my Read-A-Thon experience.

I hope everyone enjoyed the day and got to read some great books!  Until next time...Happy Reading!

Readathon - Hour 8 & 9 update

I finished my first book!  The ending was not what I expected. In fact I'm thinking that the author allowed for a sequel to the book easily. I'll post a more through review later this weekend. 

This book was also my 50th book this year.  I only have two more books to go before the end of the month to complete the Cannonball Read II challenge (52 books in one year - a book a week).

I've been cheering on fellow readers as well and posted my own version of a cheer for on Jill's Shake Your Pom Poms mini challenge. 

Alas the real world is now going to intervene and I need to stop reading & cheering so that we can go to a dinner party.  On the flip side the sweet potatoes my fiancee made for the dinner party smell yummy!

I'll be back later on this evening, probably around hour 14 or 15. Until then - Happy Reading!

Mini Challenge - Shake Your Pom Poms

Jill from Fizzy Thoughts (our amazing head cheerleader this read-a-thon) is asking us cheerleaders and read-a-thon participants to come up with our own reading cheer.

Here's my attempt to adjust a well known cheer for today's event:

Yo readers
Yo readers
shake your bookies
shake your bookies

Readathon - Hour 6 and 7 update

Mini-Challenge: Book Puzzle

Melissa at One Librarian's Book Reviews asks us to put together a book puzzle using images to spell out a book title.

I picked two books from my TBR pile to share with y'all. Can you guess what books they are?

Puzzle #1

Puzzle #2

Mini Challenge - Armchair Travelling

Marg at Reading Adventures challenges us to provide description and pictures of the places where our books take place.

Right now I'm in Rome, Italy during 1492 as the sitting Pope has died (possibly murdered). 

Christopher Columbus hasn't appeared in this book at all, but I did just finish reading a book set in the same time period - By Fire By Water - which took place in Aragon, Spain.

I also just finished reading two books by Barbara Kyle about Queen Mary set in London where the Tower of London was very prevalent.

Readathon - Hour 5 update

This hour hasn't been as productive.  Fiance is watching college football and I forgot to start my laundry earlier this morning. 

I did spend some time cheering other participants on.  Not much movement from my assigned list over the past hour, so I visited some other blogs linked on the main page.

I'm about 70% through my first book (Poison by Sara Poole).  Back to reading. 

Mini-Challenge - Show Me Your Books

Crystal over at My Reading Room is hosting a mini-challenge starting this hour.

She asks us to show her our books.

Here is a small selected books from my TBR bookshelf.  I know that I won't get to many of them, but they are there just waiting for me.

Have you read one of them from the stack? Would you recommend it?

And yes - it's a gorgeous day here in DC and I'm reading instead of enjoying it =)

Readathon - Hour 4 update

  • kicked up a notch the reading - another 100 pages since the last update
  • cheering on other folks from my assigned list
  • reading over posts from other participants
  • Mini Challenge from My Reading Room
In search of some food for lunch and then back to reading...

Readathon - Hour 3 update

  • read another 40 pages or so (fiance is up now so I'm a tad bit distracted now and again)
  • caught up on activity in inbox & tweets from readathon participants
  • looked through my list of blogs to cheerlead and posted some comments
Back to Reading =)  

Readathon - Hour 2 update

  • read about 60 pages in my book (Poison by Sara Poole)
  • caught up on activity in inbox & tweets from readathon participants
  • looked through my list of blogs to cheerlead and posted some comments
  • participated in the first mini-challenge
  • got a bowl of cereal
Back to reading =)

Readathon Begins (Hour 1)

Excited that it's readathon day!  I almost missed the start, but got myself out of bed and setup to start reading.  First a quick blog post... 

Where are you reading from today? 
Washington DC area.  My fiance has graciously allowed me to ignore the lovely weather outside today and just read and chat with all of you. 

3 facts about me …
I'm a librarian, an only child and love to encourage others to read.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
2-3, but I really want to spend time encouraging others this year as well. 

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
No goals - that's too much pressure.  I just want to have fun!

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?
Take time to interact with other blogs and do the mini-challenges.  It helps mix up the day a bit.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ra Ra Ra - Read Read Read

Today I multitasked a bit at work and setup a new tab in my RSS reader for the blogs I've been assigned to cheer for on Saturday.  I'm very excited to see what everyone picks to read!  It's going to be an interesting balance of reading versus mini-challenges versus cheering on other participants.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dewey's Read-A-Thon coming on Saturday

I'm looking forward to Saturday and participating in Dewey's Read-A-Thon.

I'm planning to read some, be a cheerleader and participate in some mini-challenges.

As in the past - we have a dinner party to go to on Saturday night, but otherwise I'll be spending the day reading =)

Fourty-Nine: A Passion for Books

I don't remember how this book ended up on my to-read list, but I found it a few weeks ago and decided to put in on my hold list at the DCPL. 

Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan edited this collection of stories, essays, poetry, cartoons and lists regarding books, reading, and collecting.

Even though there are many well-known authors and other book related folks represented in this book, I only ended up really reading thoroughly the essays written by the two editors and Anna Quindlen - "How Reading Changed My Life". 

It was amusing to see the inclusion of lists of books and the many variations of biblio words used as titles. Also my favorite cartoon was from The New Yorker depicting a real estate agent showing a wealthy couple an apartment where one room had floor to ceiling bookcases.  The caption reads "What kind of crazy people used to live here anyway?"

At the end of the book in case you haven't had enough text about books and reading, the editors include a bibliography of books on books.  This section reminds me of one section of the Library of Congress gift shop which is a collection of books on books.

Fourty-Seven & Fourty-Eight: The King's Daughter & The Queen's Captive - Barbara Kyle

I decided to write one post for both of these books since I read them back to back and really they focus on the same time period & characters.

Barbara Kyle continues her story about the Thornleigh family as they navigate the English court under Queen Mary and eventually Queen Elizabeth.  I read the first book in this series - The Queen's Lady - almost two years ago. Having read quite a few historical fiction books with the Tutor family as the subject matter, I was hesitant to read two more books about them.  But I knew that Barbara's writing style was clever and that she would integrate the history in an unique way.

The King's Daughter focuses on the time right after Queen Mary comes to power and is trying to finalize her marriage to Prince Phillip of Spain.  The heroine of this book is actually Honor's daughter Isabel.  Isabel betrothed is helping the rebels lead by Wyatt against the Queen to bring Princess Elizabeth to power.  Isabel is able to convince Wyatt that she can be a messenger from the French Ambassador to him.  Her family's history with neighbors - the Greenvilles - ends up causing her mother to get critical injured and her father to be put in jail.  While trying to rescue her father from jail, Isabel is forced to "pay" for his freedom by being violated by the head jailer.  Of course this "payment" backfires and her father is transferred to another jail. While in jail Isabel meets Carlos - a Spanish mercenary - who she ends up freeing & hiring to help her find where her father was taken.  Isabel is torn between helping the rebels and searching for her father with Carlos. As a fellow heretic that worked along side of her parents in the past threatens to expose her family's dark secrets, Isabel must find a way to get her parents to safety and still support her own beliefs.

The Queen's Captive focuses on the later half of Queen Mary's reign and the struggles she had to produce an heir.  Once again the heroine is Honor as she is called back to England to help advise Princess Elizabeth on matters of the court.  Richard is pardoned from the murder he committed and works on reestablishing their wool business in England.  Their son Adam commissions a new ship to be built and falls madly in love with the Princess.  The feud between the Greenvilles & the Thornleighs continues as religious tensions and threat of rebellion arise again. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fourty-six: Nocturnes - Kazuo Ishiguro

Passion or necessity- or the often uneasy combination of the two-determines the place of music in each of these lives.  And in one way or another, music delivers each of them a moment of reckoning: sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, sometimes just eluding their grasp.
Nocturnes is a collection of short stories about music and nightfall.  My favorite stories were Crooner and Nocturne.

Crooner is told from a local musician's point of view who recognizes an American singer sitting at a cafe in Venice.  The singer is there on a trip with his wife - one last hurrah. To stage a successful comeback the singer and his wife must separate.  The local musician accompanies the singer one night as he serenades his wife one last time.

Nocturne actually is a continuation of the Crooner story.  The wife and another jazz musician meet in a hotel while recovering from plastic surgery.  They explore the hotel at night and listen to music together.

All the stories in this collection involve some type of couple either married already or not.  None of the stories really have happy endings though.  They are well written and easy to read.  Very enjoyable! 

Fourty-five: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

November Book Club Selection

October Book Club Selection is Let the Great World Spin which I've read already.

Mikael Blomkvist, a financial reporter convicted of libel, is hired to write the Vanger family history and solve the mystery of Harriet Vanger's disappearance over 40 years ago.  Lisbeth Salander, a private investigator, helps him tap into his nemesis' files and explore the mounts of research over the past years on Harriet's disappearance.

The book is set in Sweden and broken into sections as the investigations move forward. At the start of each section facts about women & sex crimes/acts in Sweden are included. The first half of the book is mostly building background of the story.  It really wasn't until 300 pages in did the book finally keep me on the edge.  Mikael started to find new clues and the investigation took off.  Some of the twists were predictable and a few chapters at the end of the book seemed to be implying background for the next book.

The geographical setting of the story was kinda hard to comprehend since I'm not familiar with many towns in Sweden even though I have visited there.  I felt like I might have lost out on a nuisance of the story. 

Fourty-four: American Wife - Curtis Sittenfeld

Amercian Wife is loosely based on Laura Bush's life.  Most of the book takes place in Wisconsin with the family business being beef.  Sittenfeld breaks the book into sections based on the address where Alice lived.

Part 1 - 1272 Amity Lane in Riley, Wisconsin and captures Alice's life through high school. 
Part 2 - 3859 Sproule Street in Madison, Wisconsin and captures Alice's life through her first years of marriage
Part 3 - 402 Maronee Drive captures the birth of her child and the later years of marriage
Part 4 - 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue captures a few days of their life in the White House

This book was very well written and pulled the reader into the book.  It was easy to relate to Alice and her relationship with her husband Charlie.  I did feel the last part of the book didn't fit well with the first three sections.  Sittenfeld ended section three like the book was ending even though there was still over 100 pages to go.  I forgot about the cliffhanger prelude pages until I went back and read them again after finishing the book.  I know that Sittenfeld didn't want to focus on the politics but more the relationship between them, but I was surprised how little time was dedicated to the campaigning and their relationship during that time. I am curious to read a biography of Laura Bush's life to compare to what Sittenfeld based the Alice character on.

Fourty-three: Adam & Eve - Sena Jeter Naslund

**Full Disclosure: I received this book free of charge at a publisher's book event at ALA Annual Conference**

Lucy watches as her husband Thom is crushed and killed by a suspended piano.  That morning Thom had told her he had discovered extraterrestrial life and gave her his thumb drive with all his research.  Unsure what to do now that Thom is dead, Lucy attends a symposium in his name a few years later.  There she meets Pierre Saad an anthropologist genuinely interested in her well-being more than Thom's research.

A few weeks later while traveling around Egypt, Lucy runs into Pierre and his daughter Arielle.  They ask her to smuggle a new codex for the book of Genesis out of the country.  Lucy agrees and flies out of Egypt on a small plane.  A few hours into the flight she loses control of the place and crashes.  She's not sure where she is but is helped to safety, after being badly burned during the crash, by a naked man named Adam.

It turns out they are in a modern day "Eden" between multiple war zones in the Middle East.  Lucy nurses herself back to health and learns to accept her nudeness as well.  Adam doesn't know how long he's been there and he shares how he was raped and left on the side of the road in Iraq. Lucy & Adam learn to trust each other and provide for themselves. They help a pilot who crashes in Eden and search for the codex that Lucy threw out of the place before she crashed.

Certain events finally cause them to leave Eden and return the codex to Pierre.  At the airport they run into "the bad guys" Perpetuity and somehow escape them.  Before escaping Lucy finally gets to see again what is on the memory stick that Thom left her that day.  She finds out that he loved other "Lucys" and not just her.

Adam and Lucy eventually make it back to Pierre & Arielle safely.  The four dive into translating and figuring out the codex.  They explore the underground caves under Pierre's house. The bad guys eventually show up and try to take the codex from them but they escape but not without injury.

This book was not what I expected after reading the brief synopsis. I thought there would be more science versus religion questioning.  But I felt the major theme was more philosophy driven.  At times I was confused how the next chapter related to the next.  The whole book was set in 2020-2021.  I think the premise of the book is interesting but the action of the plot kinda stopped three-quarters of the way through the book.  Also parts of the plot were very sparsely described.  The author tries to generate a DaVinci Code drama with the Perpetuity group but those chapters were hard to read and link to the other chapters. 

Fourty-two: By Fire By Water - Mitchell James Kaplan

**Full Disclosure: Received this book via a First Author event at ALA Annual Conference in June**

Set in 15th century Spain, By Fire By Water gives a full examination of the crisis of faith at the hear of the Spanish Inquisition. Told from the perspective of the conversos who are torn between the religion they left behind and the conversion meant to ensure their safety.

Luis de Santangel, chancellor to the court in Aragon, starts to meet with a priest and one of his aides in secret debating the philosophies of different religions.  The aide, who is a practicing Jew, gets questioned by the Chief Inquisitor of Aragon.  Under pressure he gives up information about the meetings causing Luis and the priest to plot and kill the Inquistor.  From the moment of the murder, Luis and his son Gabriel are on the run.  Luis leaves Gabriel with his brother Estefan and moves on to be with the King who is fighting a war against the Muslims.

Gabriel and Estefan get picked up by the Grand Inquistor.  Estefan ends up being tortured and put in jail.  Gabriel decides to become a priest a "confess" his "sins".  Luis is forced to give up any relationship with either of them. 

Judith, a Jew living in Grenada, learns the silver making trade after her brother and wife die trying to escape religious persecution. Levi, their son, and Naomi's father Baba Shlomo live with Judith.  Her friend Dina teaches her languages and how to read and write.  Luis meets Judith one night and is immediately attracted to her.  She sets up a trade with Chris Colon (Christopher Columbus) to exchange her silver for supplies. 

Luis ends up having to call in a favor with the King to escape the investigations of the Inquistor.  Luis ends up fiancing Chris Colon's exploration to the new world.  At the end of the book he is left with no family or lover, just a lifetime of service to the court.

I enjoyed this book because it told the Christopher Columbus story from a different angle.  Plus the book really challenged my views on different religions and brought the Spanish Inquisition alive.  It's easy to forget that being able to worship in any means that you want is a freedom that took many years in coming.  And a freedom that not everyone is able to enjoy.  I picked up this book on a whim after listening to Mitchell speak at the conference.  While it wasn't the one of the first books from the conference that I read, I will say its one of the better ARC that I picked up from the conference.