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BlueVampireLand

Reading List / Book Reviews

My current project

My books are no longer in boxes! I have a "library" in my new house!

On my reading list

  • Inside of a Dog - about halfway through
  • The Invisible Man
  • Slaughterhouse Five
  • And the Ass saw the Angel by Nick Cave. Started 2004.02.28 but never finished.

Done / In Progress

2008

  • Wicked by Gregory Maguire. Started 2008.07.20. Finished a few days later. Not as impressed as people said I would be. In fact, a bit bored. I read extra fast so I could be done with it and move on to something better.
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Started 2008.06.22. Finished 2008.07.18. Started again 2008.07.18. Finished again 2008.07.21. Good enough that I finished reading the last page, paused for dinner, and started again at page 1. Why? Because really, the fun secret was obvious from the beginning, if you knew how to read the signs. Plus it's a fascinating story.
  • The Splendor of Silence by Indu Sundaresan. Finished 2008.03.02. The story of an American soldier fighting in Burma during WW2, who goes to India in search of his missing brother. Over the course of four fateful days, he falls in love with a political agent's daughter, and sets in motion events that will change people's lives. I love this author.

2007

  • The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan. The story of Mehrunnisa, twentieth wife of Jahangir, Mughal emperor, and how she rises to unprecedented levels of power. Based on a real historical figure, embellished and fictionalized. A great read.
  • Vanishing Acts by Jody Picoult. The story of a woman who suddenly finds out her father kidnapped her as a child, and her quest to get him released from prison. A great read.

2004

  • Fast Food Nation. Started 2004.01.01. Finished 2004.02.10. I will never eat McDonalds, or any other fast food for that matter, again. If you have the courage to find out how your food is really treated and about the evil empire that's behind it, you must read this book. Everyone will benefit from it, and any small action taken as a result of reading it will have its butterfly effect. Go buy it. Now.
  • Sabriel. Started 2004.01.22. Finished 2004.01.22. A "fantasy" novel handed to me by my sister. The story of a young girl whose mage father goes missing, and the journey she embarks on to find him. Self-discovery, adventure, zombies, blah blah blah... A fun read nonetheless, as proven by the fact that I plowed through it in one day.
  • Another Country by James Baldwin. Started 2003.12.28. Finished 2004.01.11. A novel in three parts about love. Bitter, pessimistic, nakedly real, this book will unkindly kill all your illusions about love while leaving you with a tiny flame of hope that you might still find it in its true form, no matter how unappealing it may seem compared to the mass media instilled myth about chocolate and flowers and diamonds. It made me sigh, I shed a tear or two, and yet still I play the game.

2003

  • Towing Jehovah. Finished 2003.12.25. Yet another book I picked up from Seth at band practice. A satire (?) about what ensues after god dies and his body falls to earth, landing in the middle of the ocean. Left wing plotters, archangels, believers and unbelievers abound. The ending's a little off in an anti-climactic sort of way, but I still plan on reading the sequel.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt. A chilling story about 5 students at a New England college who are involved in two murders. Vivid prose, fascinating, very reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway era stories about the privileged elite of the early 20th century.
  • Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather. My parents gave me this book when I was about 9 or 10, and I decided recently to reread it. The story of a father and daughter braving the wilds of Quebec in the 15th century, a good read both historically and from a literary standpoint.
  • The Bride's Ordeal by Mrs. Southworth. Bad 19th century soap opera novel leant to me by a friend at least 4 years ago. Finally got around to reading it - the story of British girl with a (dark?) secret, part of a series, I don't really have much interest in reading the rest of it. Amusing, nonetheless, in that sick fascination kind of way.

2002

  • Learning to Float by Lili Wright. Picked this up at the beach since I had already plowed through the reading material I brought. The story of a woman who hits the road with her boyfriend's dog, in search of herself, the key to her past, and the key to her future. It struck a nerve with me, because there are certain similarities there...
  • The Bloody Sun by Marion Zimmer Bradley. One of the books I inherited from my sister when she moved to London. Sci-fi/fantasy type deal about a man with red hair who is sent to the planet he was born on. Strange things start happening the minute he arrives - people he's never seen before seem to know him, all sorts of intrigue. Amusing.
  • The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. A scary and funny portrayal of the life of a nanny in New York City. Drawn from the experiences of the two authors, it proves that some people are just not fit to be parents.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. The story of a man who gets sucked into a weird alternate universe in the London Underground. Surreal, a bit complicated, but loved it.
  • Pastwatch by Orson Scott Card. various people have been trying to get me to read Orson Scott Card for years, and I finally got around to it when my friend Seth literally shoved this book into my hand and told me to read it comma dammit. The story of people in the future who decide to alter the past, thereby erasing their own existence, but improving that of others for centuries to come. Loved it.
  • Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell. Uh. Not as good as I hoped it would be. At all. Kinda sucked, really.
  • Sula by Toni Morrison. Yet another great novel by a great author. Toni Morrison sure knows how to write a powerful story.
  • The Dog Who Wouldn't Be by Farley Mowat. Heh. A funny book my dad bought for my sister years ago, that I inherited when the sis moved to London. An awesome book about a boy and his dog. A good read for anyone as obsessed with their dog as I am.
  • Out of the Blue by Isabel Wolff. A book I picked up at Heathrow. Not half bad - it's about a woman who finds out her husband is having an affair, and her inner struggle about what to do about it.
  • The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by (uh. leant it to a friend. forget the name of the author. too lazy to look it up). Loved this book. Another one that's been on my reading list forever, and I finally picked it up in an airport. BWI this time.
  • On the Verge by Ariella Papa. The story of some twentysomething young women in NYC. Amusing. Another airport book.
  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. One of the most depressing books I've ever read, and I've read a few. The story of four people in 1970s India whose lives are interconnected by tragedy, tragedy, and more tragedy. After I finished the last paragraph, I just kind of sat there for a while, staring into space. A literary Requiem for a Dream.
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. The author wrote this story about Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring. Not hardcore literature, but an interesting read.

2001

  • Boy George: Take it like a Man by Boy George. Saw it in my friend Seth's basement while at band practice. Started reading it while the boys noodled. Took it home and finished it. Boy George was pretty fucked up.
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Started 2001.12.23, finished 2001.12.26. The first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, was coming out on December 19th, and I decided I wanted to read the books before I saw the movie. Uh... oops. Chris, Will, and I went to see it opening "morning" (at midnight on the 18th), and I hadn't even started The Hobbit yet. Was very pleased. Saw the movie again on December 27th after having finished the books. Still just as pleased, if not more so, because I was more aware of exactly how good of a job they did. OK. back to the books. Loved em. I freely admit that I am generally rather biased against "fantasy" novels. But Tolkien has created here a fantasy world that I bought into. The names of people and places occasionally get confusing, I skipped through most of the songs and poems, but otherwise could not put the damn things down (evidenced by the fact that I read all 1300+ pages in four days, along with another 100 or so pages of appendices). Anyway, unless you live under a rock you are relatively familiar with the premise of this series. Now go read it.
  • The Valois Romances by Alexandre Dumas. Started 2001.02.13. The movie Queen Margot was based on the first two books of the same name (bow down and worship before the great Isabelle Adjani). It's a six-volume series about the period from the reign of Charles IX to that of Henri de Navarre (Henri IV). The volumes are entitled Marguerite de Valois I and II, La Dame de Monsoreau I and II, and The Forty-Five I and II. The first two books cover the time between the night of Saint Bartholomew to the death of Charles IX, with a focus on Queen Marguerite, wife of Henri de Navarre, sister to Charles IX and his successor, Henri III, and daughter to Catherine de Medicis, and her lover, Leyrac de la Môle. The second two books cover the first years of the reign of Henri III, with a focus on the love affair between Diane de Monsoreau and Louis de Clermont, duc de Bussy. The third two books cover the period after Bussy's death, and the vengeance Diane wreaks on his assassin, the king's brother François, duc d'Anjou. The entire series is an informative, captivating, and horrifying glimpse into life at the French court in the 16th century - rife with poisonings, assassinations, duels, intrigue, and illicit affairs. Unless you care about this sort of thing, I wouldn't bother reading this, but otherwise, it's amazing and I highly recommend it and anything else by Dumas.

2000

  • Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende. Finished 2000.12.31. The story of a young girl in Chile, left on the doorstep of Miss Rose and Jeremy Sommers, who become her adoptive parents. Half white, half Chilean, she is raised as a member of high society in Valparaiso. The plot thickens when she falls in love with a young Chilean who will desert her and head to California in the 1849 gold rush.
  • Four Ways to Forgiveness by Ursula K. LeGuin. Finished 2000.12.23. On loan to me from my coworker Karen, who decided I needed to read it. Four loosely connected novellas of the science fiction variety. Interesting in that on the planets of LeGuin's creation, the darker your skin, the higher your position in society.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert. Finished 2000.12.21. I read this book for the first time a few years ago, but in light of the new TV series and upcoming TV movie, I decided to reread it. I wanted to remind myself of what a great book it was, unlike the hopelessly confusing original movie and only slightly less confusing series. Still love it. Now I just need to get out there and read the other books in the series.
  • The House On The Strand by Daphne duMaurier. Finished 2000.11.08, 5:00am. Another book by the author of the famous Rebecca. It is the story of an Englishman on vacation with his wife and her children, staying at a friend's house. In return, however, he is expected to be the guinea pig for his friend's experiments with a concoction that transports the user back in time 600 years. This time travel always leads to a group of characters who lived on the spot where the house is; the kicker is that, as you move among the characters in the past, you also move in the present. There are also some unexpected side effects...
  • The Man Who Listens to Horses. Given to me by one of the chiropractors I'm building a website for; she does work with horses and riders, and thought it would be a good read for me. This is the book on which the movie The Horse Whisperer (starring Robert Redford) is based. Interesting, you learn a lot about this man's life, but he didn't tell me anywhere near as much as I wanted to hear about the actual horse whispering part.
  • Fair and Tender Ladies. I forget the name of the author. Recommended to me by my coworker Karen - review will be up soon.
  • Snow Falling on Cedars - review will be up soon.
  • The Waiting Years by Fumiko Enchi. When my friend Greta and I went up to Providence to visit another friend, Alicia, there came a point when the two of us had to shut up and let her study. I didn't really feel like reading my JavaScript book just then, so I picked this out from her bookshelf. The Waiting Years is the story of the women in the family of Yukitomo Shirakawa, a prefectural employee in early 20th-century Japan with a penchant for pretty young women. The story begins with his wife, Tomo, whom he has sent to find him a maid/concubine. Despite the odious nature of the task, Tomo is grateful for the fact that she has some say in the matter, that she has been allowed to pick someone who will neither get on her nerves or try to usurp her in the domestic hierarchy. So she picks Suga and, a few years later, Yumi to serve as her husband's consorts. The novel follows their lives and those of a few other characters over a period of about 40 years, through joy and hardship, confidence and fear, and many other emotions in between. It does help to have some knowledge of Japanese history and culture, but it is not essential to follow the plot. The book is ultimately depressing, as demanded by the subject matter, but engrossing and informative, as well as profoundly disturbing. I definitely recommend it.
  • My Summer With George by Marilyn French. I was reading The Bleeding Heart while at a temp job at Total Health (a chiropractor's office, I'm designing their website now), and one of the chiropractors asked what I was reading. The next day she brought this book in and gave it to me - she said it wasn't her style of writing, but that I might enjoy it. I'm not sure if it's my style either. The book is about a romance novelist in her sixties who falls head over heels with a man for the first time in a long time. French brings up some very interesting ideas here - in the arrogance of my youth it never occurred to me that love, much less lust, could happen with the same intensity to a sexagenarian. But the book moves slowly. There are flashbacks to the past, explanations of how this woman, Hermione Beldame, is a self-made and -named (!!) woman. But they are choppy, disorganized, and not always relevant. Despite this, I found myself almost caring more about her past than her present. A decent work, not her best, wouldn't necessarily recommend it.

1999 and earlier

  • The Bleeding Heart by Marilyn French. I discovered this author in a second hand bookstore, drawn to the title of her best known work, The Women's Room. When I revisited the same bookstore about 4 years later, I looked for more books by her. The Bleeding Heart is the story of a divorced middle-aged woman who goes to Oxford on a grant to research the portrayal of women throughout the history of literature. While on the train from London, she and a man in her compartment make eye contact. The kind that usually makes us uncomfortable, or that we always regret never breaking to address the person. But they do speak, and have an "encounter." The plot then revolves around the relationship they try to build, despite her issues with men (her husband was abusive) and allowing herself to care for others, and his with treating women as equals. The novel is set in the 70's, so don't expect a modern storyline, but the problems the characters face are still alive today. I liked it a lot, and it made me think about a lot of things.
  • Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley. What can I say, I was curious. I went in prejudiced - I thought I would hate it. But ended up being quite impressed. Yes, there were a few things I had problems with. For example, the language style she used was not quite "in period," I thought. Her historical knowledge was excellent, and I was totally engrossed in the story. Basically, Scarlett still wants Rhett. But is slowly but surely growing up to be an adult and becoming her own person. Scarlett makes a surprise move to Charleston and stays with Rhett's mother, but is still rejected by him. So she seeks out her Irish relatives, and is quite taken by them. But their lifestyle is so different from her current one that she feels she cannot reconcile the two. I can't reveal anymore without ruining the plot twists. So, if you liked the movie or the book, give this a whirl. I consider myself a pretty critical reader, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Vurt by Jeff Noon. I borrowed this book from my sister, who received it as a gift from a friend in London. It's the story of a young man, Scribble, in a semi-futuristic England, whose life is inextricably bound to the drug Vurt. He's searching for his sister, with whom he has an incestuous love affair. Desdemona has been lost to the other side, the Vurt world. Imagine a cross between Trainspotting and Poppy Z. Brite, beautiful in its horror and desolation. A bit confusing at the beginning, but a utterly fascinating story.
  • Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. My roommate, Chris, and my friend Greta were after me for months to read this book. Once I finally picked it up, I couldn't put it down. This is one of those novels that will subtly influence the way you think for the rest of your life. A must read.
  • Fear Of Flying by Erica Jong. This was one of those popular classics that I felt I needed to read, a book written in the 70s, but that tells the stories of women worldwide, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. At some point in their lives, every woman realizes (hopefully) that you have to love yourself and be able to live with yourself before you can do either with a man. I think I read it at exactly the right age.
  • Shadow of the Moon by M.M.Kaye. I first read this book when I was 13, spending the summer at my grandmother's house on Maui while she cruised the world with a friend. My sister and I attacked her library with a vengeance, and this is one of the authors we found. M.M.Kaye specializes in the epic, romantic novel about India, mixing tales of the British colonization, adventure, and a touch of the bodice-ripper. A very satisfying "girl" book, best read at night, in front of a fireplace.
  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Everyone was reading this book, so I succumbed to the peer pressure. I've always been fascinated by the life of a geisha, and Arthur Golden wrote about it beautifully. There is an electricity and magic in the word "geisha" - some people think prostitute, others think of women disguising absolute power in feminine whiles. The author captures the aura of mystery around the geisha and capitalizes on it, weaving a lush story that you won't want to put down.
  • Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. I was at the airport, about to get on a plane to San Francisco, and had counted on buying some reading material there for the flight. To my surprise, I saw Judy Blume's name on the racks. I have fond memories of her children's books: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret crept into the head of every angst-ridden twelve- year-old in my generation, and, along with the "Brat Pack" movies, helped us through puberty. This adult novel was fantastic. The same quality in her writing that got me as a pre-teen got me as a post-teen. Because we never really do lose that outlook on life. But I digress. This is the story of two young girls, one rich, one poor, who spent every summer together at the beach, and then grew apart. Captivating.