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Here's the book list! I'm hoping there won't be too many changes, but you know me...I LOVE getting my hands on new books. This list has a lot of series on it as well, and if I get bored after one or two books in the series, I might just give the rest up.

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101 Books in 1001 Days Challenge #2 Book ListCollapse )

Kelly :)

NEW 101 Books in 1001 Days Challenge #2

Well, it's not quite time for my first 101 Books in 1001 Days challenge to be over. However, I couldn't ignore the new books that are screaming at me on my shelves. Therefore, I'm going to start a new challenge...TODAY. In my last update, I mentioned that I wouldn't be able to finish. That hasn't changed. I also mentioned that I would start a new challenge in June or July, but I can't wait. I just can't. I can tell you what I'll be reading first: Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Shack by William Paul Young, River Monsters: True Stories of the Ones that Didn't Get Away by Jeremy Wade, The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I will admit, I've already started Divergent, but I only just started it last night. I'll account for that in the 1001 Days countdown.

Here's the logistics:

Rules:  1. Anthologies of short stories or poetry do count, but short stories or poems on their own do not count
           2. There are no genre restrictions this time! Even Manga (Japanese comics) will be read!
           3. No page counts...wanna know why? Most of the books I read are over 300 pages. If there are a couple under 200, I'm not going to worry about it...especially when a lot of the books on my list are over 400 pages.

Start Date: April 16, 2012
End Date: January 12, 2015
Book ListCollapse )

Enjoy!!! Kelly <3

Book #54: The Graveyard Book

Although I enjoy reading fantasy, in fact, it's my favorite genre, I haven't read much of Neil Gaiman. In all honesty, I'd never heard of him until a few years ago while in college. After a friend's review of American Gods left me non-plussed, I decided to set him at the bottom of my to-read list and move on.

Over the summer, I decided to write a fantasy and so I also decided I needed to read some of the top names in fantasy both today and in the past. As Gaiman was set to release a new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I decided to try him out and pre-ordered the book on my Kindle. I liked it, but it left me with this hole. I needed more. The Ocean at the End of the Lane wasn't a book to pick up, put down, and then let it cover dust. It was one of those books that needed to be explored. And the more I explored it, the more and more I got it.

But enough about The Ocean at the End... This review is about another Neil Gaiman work: The Graveyard Book.

After reading The Graveyard Book, I realized that there are two things Gaiman does extraordinarily well. He can write the child's coming-of-age experience in many different situations from any different perspectives and they are phenomenal, and he does an amazing job at leaving the reader guessing the meaning. Because the meaning changes from day to day, hour to hour, lifetime to lifetime. And I think that's also the reason that explains how he writes the coming-of-age novel so well.

The Graveyard Book was interesting, especially in the beginning, but I felt my mind wandering in the middle and I spent a couple days looking at it out of the corner of my eye and feeling guilty that I just couldn't get into it. Once through the 200s, the plot picked up nicely once more. In the middle, it was if the two stories that were supposed to really be one story didn't quite match up. But it came together nicely in the end.

*Spoiler* The most significant thing, to me, is the connection between the excerpt at the beginning of the book from chapter two and the near end of the book. In the excerpt, a little girl, Scarlett, the only human friend the human graveyard-dweller, Bod, has, says, "You shouldn't leave me." After Bod saves her and avenges his family's murder, she's the one that does the leaving. Bod needs her to have something human to hold on to, just like she needed something warm to keep her safe when they were exploring the Sleer's cave in chapter two. Bod protected her, kept her safe, but she doesn't like the means that lead to the end and so she leaves and forgets him forever.

So sad.

But it's a lesson, and I think it's a different lesson for everyone, depending on your own experiences.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Kelly <3

Book #53: The White Queen

Philippa Gregory is a historical novelist, and I believe she's best known for her work The Other Boleyn Girl.  I read the aforementioned title a few years ago and remember enjoying the text.  Based on my enjoyment of The Other Boleyn Girl and my recent wish to dive back into historical fiction, I decided to read one of Gregory's slightly more recent works, The White Queen. The White Queen focuses on the War of the Roses and is set (naturally) before the Tudor Court novels.

Before I began reading, I tried to pinpoint what I liked about Gregory's writing the most; I found that I couldn't. Did I like the scandal associated with Henry Tudor's mistress(es), Philippa Gregory's use of the first person, or her strong yet flawed female characters?  I was unable to put my finger on the one thing that really drew me to her writing.  So I decided to just jump in.

I found that I liked Gregory's easily accessible style.  Historical fiction can sometimes be a bit bland, but by writing in first person, the reader is brought immediately into the world of the past.  There's no lack of action, either, because you better believe that Gregory's characters, in this case, (Queen) Elizabeth Woodville-Rivers-York (of England), are always plotting something.

Other than Philippa Gregory's style, I also liked the mythical aspect that was added with the use of the legend of Melusina, the water goddess the Burgundy's are descended from.  I had never heard of Melusina before, so I definitely learned a few new things.  This belief, coupled with the accusation against Elizabeth's mother also allowed Gregory to bring in the element of witchcraft which makes an 13th-century historical novel interesting.

However, the more I read, the more I began to remember what I really liked about The Other Boleyn Girl because I didn't quite like The White Queen as much.  A lot of The White Queen is war and plotting for war, or how to prevent war, depending on the needs of Elizabeth and her children.  There was so much plotting and not enough action.  I think I also missed the intrigue of the Royal Court.

I need to give Philippa Gregory credit, though.  Even though I didn't feel completely connected with Elizabeth and didn't whole-heartedly enjoy The White Queen, Gregory still made me feel something.  Even though I didn't greatly feel connected in any way to Elizabeth, I still felt for her when Edward began keeping "The Shore Whore" at Court while Elizabeth was in confinement due to her pregnancy.  The fact that Gregory was able to make me feel something, even though I wasn't that into the book proves (to me) that she's a great writer.

I will pick up another Philippa Gregory novel. The White Queen wasn't terrible; it definitely had its merits, but I think I'll shy away from the other novels in the Plantagent cycle for now.  I think I'll move on to Georgian England with Philippa Gregory's first novel, Wideacre.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Kelly <3

Book #52: Gods and Generals

I've been trying to finish this book for a long time. I started in mid-June, when I realized that I was going to visit Gettysburg for probably the 50th time. Surprisingly enough, that isn't much of an exaggeration, if at all. Anyway, I generally have trouble with historical "novels" of this sort. More military tactics and humanity, but Jeff Shaara's Gods and Generals appealed to me.

In the beginning of the novel, I really enjoyed reading because not only does it follow around generals during the war, it focused on their relationships with others, family lives, livelihoods before the war. It was very interesting. Then, I got a little bored with it toward the center because it was just military tactics, but the last five or so chapters really redeemed the book for me and I started to really enjoy it.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Kelly <3

Book #50: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I've never read anything on Neil Gaiman's before. Honestly, I used to say that I really liked Sci-Fi/Fantasy, but it'd never read "high" Sci-Fi/Fantasy. It was always Harry Potter and fan fiction. It wasn't until a couple years ago that I got into LoTR and other novels. At the beginning of the summer, I set off on a quest to find some acclaimed authors in the above-mentioned genre and I came across George R.R. Martin and Neil Gaiman. As you already know, I've started reading Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series and so I took it upon myself to read something of Gaiman's. I purchased Neverwhere first, and then Stardust, but I hadn't gotten around to reading them. When I saw the hype centering around Gaiman's newly released work The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I waited impatiently, then ran to Barnes and Nobel that day and bought it. I finished it a day later. It's been a day and a half since I finished it, and I'm not exactly sure what to think.

Inside Front Flap:

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral.  Although the house he lived is is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie - magical, comforting, wise beyond her years - promised to protect him, no matter what.
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

My Review:

Even after rereading and typing out the synopsis and short review provided in the book, I'm still not sure what to think. Many parts seem very cut-and-dried. What happened happened. There's nothing else to it. However, there are a great deal of parts that are left hanging open. We get the story through an unreliable narrator, who doesn't realize that he's unreliable. Because he's not supposed to remember, pieces of the story are literally snipped out (you'll understand why once reading the book), and because he's remembering the events through a seven-year-old's eyes, we only know a seven-year-old's thoughts and feelings on the matter. He's unable to understand and come to terms with the abstract, the areas of grey, left by the events that occurred when he was just a little boy. Because of this, the reader can make guesses as to what really happened, and why. The magic of the Hempstock's world is never laid out. The reader only knows the short and ofttimes mysterious remarks of Lettie Hempstock and her mother and grandmother. In some cases, their responses to the narrator open up even more questions that remain unanswered.

I guess this feeds into the idea that what you don't know can't hurt you. After reading this novel, I beg to differ. Just because the narrator couldn't deal with remembering the terrifying events of his youth when he was still youthful, does not mean that he cannot cope and understand now. This leads to the questions: What are the Hempstocks hiding? Who are they, really? Why are they on earth, acting as humans? If only I could submerge myself and Lettie's ocean and know everything, just for a short while.

I think this is what it means to be human. We can't possibly know everything for certain. We're left to decode and decifer written messages, body language, voice mails, texts, emails, comments, etc. without truly understanding what the other person is saying based on their own experiences. We all lead different lives. Even if you have a twin, it's a garauntee that the other hasn't experienced all the same things in exactly the same way. I suppose this is what was meant when it says, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human."

Many say that Neil Gaiman is an "odd" author. He writes simple books that seem to have no meaning until you think and think and think. I think I understand Gaiman's "lesson" that is hidden in the depths of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but maybe if I think on it some more, I'll understand more. Maybe as I experience new things, new meanings will come from the text.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Kelly <3

Book #49: Festival of Death

Festival of Death by Jonathan Morris is hard to write a review for. It centers around the Fourth Doctor and his companions K-9 and Romana. They visit a place in hyperspace called the G-Lock and attempt to save it from utter destruction without changing their own timelines.

When the first visit the G-Lock, everyone seems to know them already. Well, at least those who aren't dead yet. They quickly realize that although this is their first adventure, they must travel back in time before the disaster. The novel is written in a series of continuous loops, taking the readers on the same adventure the characters go on. Often, events from earlier are repeated, but always through a different character's perspective.

Although it's a fast-paced book in the beginning, it becomes too bogged down by intricate twists and turns and redundant information. Because the Doctor and Romana observe themselves each time they visit the G-Lock, the reader always knows what's coming next. It gets rather boring because there's nothing to anticipate.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Kelly <3

Book #48: The Plantation

I've admitted it before: I greatly enjoy conspiracy thrillers. A few years ago, I would have laughed at somebody who said that, but now I feel ashamed of that sentiment. After reading Dan Brown, I searched and searched for another good conspiracy writer. I've found one who's right up there with him, but I'm not sure this guy has enough experience quite yet to top Dan Brown.

The Plantation is the third book I've read by author Chris Kuzneski. It happens to be his first published work. After reading two of his more recent thrillers, the fact that it is the first is noticeable, but it's still pretty good fiction. I was a little bogged down near the end by details (details, details, and even more details). That being said, for a first time work, I wouldn't have expected any less.

What I loved about The Plantation was the attention to character profiling. In his later works, Chris Kuzneski sticks important details into the narrative without much showing (due to the fact that his conspiracy thrillers follow the same men, Jonathan Payne and David Jones, ex-military MANIACS), but in this first book, the reader gets to jump into the characters and understand them on a deeper level. Kind of like knowing someone since birth vs. knowing someone for a week. My favorite character is definitely Payne. He's such a cocky son-of-a-bitch who has this startling sense of levity in very serious situations. In real life, the guy would tick me off to know end, but on paper, he's hilarious. He also has a talent for manipulating people. He uses it to his advantage, but what he does is always for the good.

This is definitely not Kuzneski's best work. However, the attention to character detail is stunning and really makes the book, at least for me!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Kelly <3

Book #47: A Game of Thrones

First Impression: Wow. Whoa. Really? Wow.

After simmering for a day: Wow. So. Ummm...I'm still not sure where to start.

After simmering for three days:
Well, I'm still not exactly sure where to start, but I've got to start somewhere, right? So prepare for a lot of gibberish, disorganized sentences, and spoilers. I tend to ramble in order to formulate thoughts on a text. Here goes!

Let's start from the beginning, back before I even started to read. My mom purchased the first four books of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series for me on a whim as a Christmas present a few years back. She told me as I unwrapped it that the kid in the fantasy section of Barnes and Noble had raved and raved over it. Usually, when something like this happens, whatever it is that has been bought is a piece of crap. I'd never heard of George R.R. Martin (this was back when the only fantasy I'd ever read was Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. The books looked daunting due to their size, so I placed them up on a high shelf and forgot about them.

A year ago, a colleague asked about the series and mentioned that it had been turned into an HBO television series. He expressed a desire to read the books and I told him I'd let him borrow the first one. After his review and failure to continue after the first 250 pages of A Game of Thrones, I figured that mom's on-a-whim-Christmas-gift had held to the old standards and once again placed the series on the top shelf and once more, forgot about them.

Just a few months ago, I was talking to one of my really serious reader/writer friends and she mentioned the series and told me she would love to read them again. I explained that I'd never gotten passed the back cover of the first book and she demanded that I read them with her as she reread them. I took up the challenge, and boy, am I glad I did.

A Game of Thrones might possibly be the best fantasy novel I've ever read, though I will say that when a reader of the series says, "Don't get too attached," they mean it. *Minor Spoiler Alert* Just as you start liking someone, they'll die, or at the very least, some grave misfortune will happen upon them.

What I loved most about A Game of Thrones was not the action, or the Seven Kingdoms politics, but rather George R.R. Martin's penchant for writing extraordinarily round, detailed, flawed, amazingly life-like characters. My favorite character by far is Daenerys Targaryen. *Major Spoiler Alert* For a girl on only 14, she certainly acts like a woman. She goes from being terrified of her brother Viserys, to marrying a Khal, watching her brother die under melting gold, losing a child, killing her beloved, walking in fire, and bringing three dragons to life. She might be one of my favorite characters in literature. Heck, she might just be my favorite.

A lot of readers say that A Game of Thrones tends to be a little boring. My reader/writer friend that I read along with says that the book goes in ebbs and flows. I see her meaning. There's a lot of set-up in this book. It sets up the characters, the kingdoms, the important households, the conflict, etc., with little action, but that suits me just fine. There's something about the beginning of things that I love. I often find myself rereading the first chapter or two of a book. When I teach, I always talk at length about the setting. What does it look like? Why do you think the author chose this setting? What does it suggest to you, as a reader? So on and so forth. The beginning can tell you so much if you're willing to sift through it and enjoy the analysis.

Overall, George R.R. Martin's first work in A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Game of Thrones, is an excellent beginning. I can see myself revisiting it time and time again, just like I do with works such as Harry Potter.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Kelly <3

Book #46: The Lost Hours

Karen White is one of my favorite authors. However, her book, The Lost Hours, was extremely disappointing. It took me nearly two months to finish because I was so bored by it. I suppose it could be because I'm so wrapped up in sci-fi and fantasy right now and something that didn't involve the supernatural seemed slow. The plot was also rather predicatable, so I spent most of my time waiting for the characters to discover what I had already figured out. It was a cute story, an easy read, a summer/beach read, but I think that because it was one of those books, I just wasn't interested in it at the time. Not to mention the fact that I generally relate very closely to the female protagonists in Karen White's novels, but I had a lot of trouble relating to Piper Mills/Earlene Smith in The Lost Hours. For the most part, I always get back on so that I don't forget the reason I got on in the first place.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (generous)

Kelly <3

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