Christina reads the 11 in 11, part 3

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Christina reads the 11 in 11, part 3

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Editado: Ago 31, 2011, 9:45pm

Behold my third (and probably final) 11 in 11 thread! Here are PART 1 and PART 2.

My categories are:

I. Livin' on a Prayer -- theology, religion, church history
II. Other Worlds -- fantasy and sci fi set in an original universe
III. Classics -- books I really should have read by now
IV. In Brief -- short story collections
V. Hot off the Presses -- books published in 2011
VI. Ye Olde Historical Fiction -- should be self-explanatory
VII. The Butler Did It -- mysteries
VIII. Pomegranate Seeds, Anyone? -- Persephone books
IX. Time Is out of Joint -- steampunk, time travel, alternate history
X. On the Shelf -- books I own (since 12.31.2010) but haven't read yet
XI. Gallimaufry -- whatever I want!

Editado: Dic 3, 2011, 10:40pm

II. Other Worlds

1. N. K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
2. Rachel Aaron, The Spirit Thief
3. Alexandra Bracken, Brightly Woven
4. Sharon Shinn, Mystic and Rider
5. Rachel Aaron, The Spirit Rebellion
6. Rachel Aaron, The Spirit Eater
7. Sharon Shinn, The Thirteenth House
8. Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora
9. Carol Berg, Breath and Bone
10. Megan Whalen Turner, A Conspiracy of Kings
11. Shannon Hale, Forest Born

Editado: Dic 6, 2011, 8:58pm

III. Classics

1. Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop
2. William Golding, Lord of the Flies
3. Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
4. Henry James, The American
5. Kate Chopin, The Awakening
6. John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
7. William Faulkner, Light in August
8. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
9. Bram Stoker, Dracula
10. D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover
11. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground

Editado: Dic 8, 2011, 10:34pm

IV. In Brief

1. Anna Gavalda, I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere
2. Nadine Gordimer, "Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black" and Other Stories
3. Sharon Shinn, Rebecca York, Carol Berg, and Jean Johnson, Elemental Magic
4. Agatha Christie, "Double Sin" and Other Stories
5. Neil Gaiman, Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions
6. Tracy Winn, Mrs. Somebody Somebody
7. Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson, Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits
8. Selected Tales of Edgar Allan Poe
9. Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki !, eds., Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die
10. Connie Willis, Impossible Things
11. Thomas Godfrey, ed., Murder for Christmas

Editado: Sep 21, 2011, 5:48pm

V. Hot off the Presses

1. Lauren Willig, The Orchid Affair
2. Seanan McGuire, Late Eclipses
3. Julie James, A Lot Like Love
4. Sarah Addison Allen, The Peach Keeper
5. Margaret Leroy, The Soldier's Wife
6. Katherine Webb, The Legacy
7. Marina Fiorato, The Daughter of Siena
8. Stephanie Perkins, Lola and the Boy Next Door
9. Jennifer Echols, Love Story
10. Jasper Fforde, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing
11. Seanan McGuire, One Salt Sea

Editado: Oct 19, 2011, 8:53pm

VI. Ye Olde Historical Fiction

1. Roberta Gellis, Roselynde
2. Laura Kinsale, Lessons in French
3. Rebecca Dean, Palace Circle
4. Anna Godbersen, Envy
5. Mary Gentle, A Sundial in a Grave: 1610
6. Mary Balogh, A Matter of Class
7. Tessa Dare, Goddess of the Hunt
8. Loretta Chase, Mr. Impossible
9. Tracy Grant, Beneath a Silent Moon
10. Charles Finch, A Stranger in Mayfair
11. Nikki Poppen, The Madcap

Ago 31, 2011, 2:13pm

VII. The Butler Did It

1. Georgette Heyer, Footsteps in the Dark
2. Luis Fernando Verissimo, Borges and the Eternal Orangutans
3. Friedrich Dürrenmatt, The Pledge
4. M. M. Kaye, Death in Berlin
5. Robin Adair, Death and the Running Patterer
6. Friedrich Dürrenmatt, The Judge and His Hangman
7. Erin Hart, False Mermaid
8. Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, The Laughing Policeman
9. M. M. Kaye, Death in Cyprus
10. Ellis Peters, The Pilgrim of Hate
11. Susanne Alleyn, Game of Patience

Editado: Nov 23, 2011, 12:54pm

VIII. Pomegranate Seeds, Anyone?

1. Monica Dickens, Mariana
2. Jocelyn Playfair, A House in the Country
3. Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Making of a Marchioness
4. D. E. Stevenson, Miss Buncle's Book
5. Noel Streatfeild, Saplings
6. D. E. Stevenson, Miss Buncle Married
7. Virginia Graham, Consider the Years
8. Mollie Panter-Downes, Good Evening, Mrs. Craven
9. Dorothy Whipple, The Priory
10. Frances Towers, Tea with Mr. Rochester
11. Denis Mackail, Greenery Street

Editado: Nov 27, 2011, 10:06pm

IX. Time Is out of Joint

1. M. K. Hobson, The Native Star
2. Gail Carriger, Changeless
3. Gail Carriger, Blameless
4. Kate Elliott, Cold Magic
5. Scott Westerfeld, Leviathan
6. Scott Westerfeld, Behemoth
7. Scott Westerfeld, Goliath
8. Kady Cross, The Girl in the Steel Corset
9. Gail Carriger, Heartless
10. M. K. Hobson, The Hidden Goddess
11. Patricia C. Wrede, Thirteenth Child

Editado: Nov 29, 2011, 12:00pm

X. On the Shelf

1. Helen Simonson, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
2. Ilona Andrews, On the Edge
3. Faith Hunter, Skinwalker
4. Sophie Kinsella, Twenties Girl
5. Emma Bull, War for the Oaks
6. Juliet Marillier, The Dark Mirror
7. Susane Colasanti, When It Happens
8. Ava Gray, Skin Game
9. Wendy Webb, The Tale of Halcyon Crane
10. Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
11. Kate Ross, A Broken Vessel

Ago 31, 2011, 2:15pm

XI. Gallimaufry

1. Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Dash and Lily's Book of Dares
2. Nora Roberts, Happy Ever After
3. Mary Robinette Kowal, Shades of Milk and Honey
4. Simone Elkeles, Perfect Chemistry
5. L. Jagi Lamplighter, Prospero Lost
6. Stephanie Perkins, Anna and the French Kiss
7. Jennifer Echols, The Boys Next Door
8. Jennifer Echols, Endless Summer
9. Kristina Springer, The Espressologist
10. Ilona Andrews, Bayou Moon
11. Muriel Spark, Not to Disturb

Ago 31, 2011, 9:10pm

Behold my third (and probably final) 11 in 11 thread!

You have made great progress. I can see you having no problem finishing the challenge!

Ago 31, 2011, 9:44pm

Glad you found me, Lori! I definitely hope to finish the challenge...I think I can get it done by Dec. 31 without making myself too crazy!

Ago 31, 2011, 10:49pm

Thirty-two books in four months is totally doable. Or at least that's what I keep telling myself about my 31 books.

Ago 31, 2011, 11:40pm

Yes! You've got some great reading ahead of you.

Sep 1, 2011, 12:28am

@ 15 -- You're right; it works out to 8 books a month, which should be doable!

@ 16 -- I'm looking forward to most of the books I have left, although there are a few chunksters still to go. Still, I'm optimistic about the rest of this challenge!

Sep 1, 2011, 8:37am

>17 christina_reads: What's nice for me is that all of my textbooks this semester fit in a category. I've got to read them anyway, so it's good that they count.

Sep 1, 2011, 12:31pm

@ 18 -- Oh man, that's really nice. And clever thinking on your part when you chose the categories!

Sep 1, 2011, 12:50pm

>19 christina_reads: That's why I have a non-fiction category. For textbooks, since I rarely read non-fiction outside of school.

Sep 1, 2011, 1:25pm

Looking forward to winding down the year with you Christina.

Sep 2, 2011, 11:29am

Thanks DQ, same here! And of course, the 12 in 12 is waiting in the wings...

Sep 2, 2011, 3:47pm

Book #90: Tracy Grant, Beneath a Silent Moon
Completed on: September 2
Category: Ye Olde Historical Fiction

Charles and Mélanie Fraser appear to be a typical Regency couple moving in the glittering world of London society. However, their shared past is significantly more complex: both of them were involved in espionage during the Napoleonic Wars, and now one of their former contacts desperately needs their help. Their encounter with this man leads to the knowledge that Charles’s childhood friend Honoria Talbot might be in danger from a sinister pro-French organization called the Elsinore League. When Honoria is subsequently murdered at a house party in Scotland, it’s up to the Frasers to capture her killer and possibly to unveil a traitor in their midst.

Having devoured Grant’s previous novel Secrets of a Lady (a.k.a. Daughter of the Game), which also featured the Frasers, I was excited to read this prequel. However, this book isn’t quite what I expected. Given Charles and Mélanie’s involvement with intelligence work, I thought the story would primarily be about political intrigue. Instead, the vast majority of the plot revolves around who is sleeping with whom. Essentially, this book is a Regency soap opera with gasp-inducing twists and turns on virtually every page. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book – in fact, I found it compulsively readable. The plot is extremely convoluted, though, and in the end I’m not sure that the mystery was wrapped up satisfactorily. Still, I found this novel an extremely compelling read and look forward to reading Grant’s remaining books.

Sep 4, 2011, 2:07pm

Book #91: Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Completed on: September 4
Category: Classics

This famous novella is narrated by Marlow, a British sailor who tells his fellow crew members the story of how he traveled into the African jungle and met a mysterious man named Kurtz. At the beginning of the story, Marlow is an idealistic young man who is eager for adventure in the largely unmapped African continent. He obtains a position as a steamboat captain working for a European trading company, and his mission is to pilot the boat to a remote waystation managed by Kurtz. As Marlow travels deeper into the heart of Africa, however, he becomes more aware of a sense of menace; and his climactic meeting with Kurtz reveals several terrible secrets.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure what to make of this book. It’s a creepy little fable whose message is (to me at least) unclear. I found Conrad’s style to be very evocative, and I could vividly picture the threatening setting. Kurtz is by far the most interesting character in the novella, and it’s interesting that he doesn’t appear “on page” until the last 15 pages or so. Instead, Marlow hears many rumors about Kurtz before actually meeting him, so his preconceptions clash pretty violently with the reality he observes. The book is also interesting for its treatment of colonialism and race. Most of the descriptions of African characters are quite offensive by contemporary standards, and Marlow even questions their humanity in relation to the white charcters. Nonetheless, I think Conrad also criticizes the Europeans’ treatment of Africans, giving a complex portrayal of race relations during the colonial period. Overall, while this isn’t the most fun book to read, I can understand why it’s widely considered to be a classic.

Sep 5, 2011, 8:49pm

I've been thinking about giving Heart of Darkness a reread lately, and your review bumps it up the mental TBR shelves a bit. Thanks!

Sep 6, 2011, 12:53pm

Hope you enjoy your re-read!

Sep 6, 2011, 5:40pm

Book #92: Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson, Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits
Completed on: September 6
Category: In Brief

In this collection of five short stories, husband-and-wife team Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson explore various myths surrounding the element of fire. Here are my thoughts on the stories:

“Phoenix” (Dickinson) – In 1990, a young girl meets a boy and an old woman who are the caretakers of a centuries-old forest. She soon discovers that there’s something strange about the boy, and he eventually tells her of his strange encounters with a phoenix. I liked how this story touched on the various mythologies surrounding the phoenix, but the ending confused me a bit.

“Hellhound” (McKinley) – Miri has lived on a farm surrounded by animals all her life, but her family has never had a dog. She finally convinces her parents to let her get one, and she chooses an unusual dog with bizarre red eyes. Miri playfully nicknames the dog a “hellhound,” but her words are proven truer than she knows when her brother suffers a terrible accident. I enjoyed this story but wanted to know even more about the dog and his eventual fate.

“Fireworm” (Dickinson) – This story, set in a prehistoric ice age, follows a young hunter and warrior named Tandin. He has a low status in the cave since his father’s identity is unknown, but then an ancient spirit chooses him to defeat his clan’s most dangerous enemy, the fireworm. I didn’t particularly like this story, mostly because none of the characters felt real to me.

“Salamander Man” (Dickinson) – Tib is an orphan and a slave in a small market town, but on the whole he is content with his life. Then a powerful wizard purchases him from his kind mistress, and Tib is thrust into an unknown fate. A magical amulet in the shape of a salamander gives Tib a clue about his new destiny and provides him with the freedom to make his own choices. I thought the concept behind this story was interesting, but again, the characters were undeveloped.

“First Flight” (McKinley) – Ern, the youngest and runtiest of three brothers, harbors a secret desire to be a healer, but he is extremely insecure in his abilities. But when his older brother Dag, a cadet at a prestigious dragonrider academy, needs his help with a wounded dragon, Ern realizes his true potential. This is the longest story in the collection, and it’s by far my favorite. I loved Ern’s self-deprecating voice and was fascinated by the world of the dragon academy. I’d love to read more stories set in this world!

Overall, I liked this collection, but the two McKinley stories were by far the strongest. I plan to keep the book for those stories alone.

Sep 8, 2011, 3:01pm

Book #93: Mollie Panter-Downes, Good Evening, Mrs. Craven
Completed on: September 8
Category: Pomegranate Seeds, Anyone?

This book is a collection of short stories originally published in The New Yorker between 1939 and 1944. Despite being written for an American magazine, however, the stories focus on the experiences of Englishmen and -women (mostly the latter) during World War II. The plots of these stories range from the plight of evacuees in the English countryside to the effects of a long separation on husbands and wives to the radical reorganization of the British social classes.

The thing that impressed me most about these stories was how incredibly well-written they are. Each one is crafted meticulously, with no wasted words or excessive descriptions. The author uses a gently ironic style to evoke poignant human flaws and foibles. The endings are especially well done, driving home the point of each story without being too unsubtle or direct. I also liked the subject matter of the stories, as I’m becoming more and more interested in the World War II era. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in the time period, especially since the author actually wrote these stories while the war was still going on.

Sep 27, 2011, 7:00pm

It's been a while since I've updated this thread! I haven't had much time for reading this month, but hopefully now I can get back on track. So here's another review (and about time, too!)...

Book #94: Seanan McGuire, One Salt Sea
Completed on: September 27
Category: Hot off the Presses

In this fifth installment of the Toby Daye series, Toby’s seemingly stable life takes a dramatic turn for the worse when the sons of the Duke and Duchess of Saltmist are kidnapped. Saltmist is a powerful Undersea duchy, and the frantic Duke and Duchess have accused the land fae of orchestrating the kidnapping. Sea and land fae are now on the brink of a war that will end in terrible slaughter, unless Toby can find the missing children and return them safely to the Undersea. With the help of her friends and allies, Toby may be able to save the day once again; but when her own long-lost daughter Gillian is threatened, she realizes that a happy outcome can only be achieved at a horrible cost.

So far I’ve enjoyed every book in this series, and this novel is another strong installment. Based on the plot summary on the back cover, I didn’t think the story would be particularly complicated, but McGuire manages to raise the stakes very compellingly several times throughout the book. The plot also opens up a lot of intriguing questions for future books in the series, regarding both Toby’s newly discovered skills and the wider world of fae politics. There are a lot of external changes to Toby’s world in this novel, but there’s not much internal character growth, so in that sense this book feels very transitional. Of course, that makes me all the more eager to see what will happen in the next installment, Ashes of Honor, which comes out next year! My only other complaint in this book is that there’s not enough Tybalt – but I have faith that I’ll be seeing more of him soon. All in all, you should definitely continue with this book if you’re already following the series; if not, start with book 1, Rosemary and Rue.

Sep 27, 2011, 7:08pm

Category completed -- V. Hot off the Presses

I have now finished my third category! Here's what I read for "Hot off the Presses," a.k.a. books published in 2011:

1. Lauren Willig, The Orchid Affair
2. Seanan McGuire, Late Eclipses
3. Julie James, A Lot Like Love
4. Sarah Addison Allen, The Peach Keeper
5. Margaret Leroy, The Soldier's Wife
6. Katherine Webb, The Legacy
7. Marina Fiorato, The Daughter of Siena
8. Stephanie Perkins, Lola and the Boy Next Door
9. Jennifer Echols, Love Story
10. Jasper Fforde, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing
11. Seanan McGuire, One Salt Sea

Most of these books were either ER requests or the latest installments of series I like, so it's unsurprising that I enjoyed most of them. To me, the standout favorites were Lola and the Boy Next Door and Late Eclipses. My least favorite was definitely The Legacy, but I think that's the only book in the bunch that I didn't like.

Sep 27, 2011, 9:18pm

Congrats on completing another category!

Sep 28, 2011, 11:19am

Thanks Lori! Although, of course, I still have 8 to go...

Sep 28, 2011, 1:54pm

Congrats! I still have a lot of work to do on my 11-11 too, not to mention starting my 12-12 thread. Maybe I can do some catching up today since I'm just home in pj's and catching up on TV and housework.... as long as it doesn't cut into my nap time, that is! :)

Sep 28, 2011, 2:25pm

Sounds like a glorious day, Laura!

Sep 28, 2011, 4:40pm

Book #95: Scott Westerfeld, Goliath
Completed on: September 28
Category: Time Is out of Joint

Warning: minor spoilers for previous books in the series.

In this final installment of the Leviathan series, Alek and Deryn continue to search for a way to put an end to World War I. After the events of Behemoth, they are both back on the Leviathan and flying over the wastelands of northern Russia. Suddenly the ship is ordered to change its course and pick up a renowned Clanker scientist, who turns out to be none other than Nikola Tesla. Tesla claims to have invented a new weapon called Goliath that is capable of laying waste to an entire city, and he hopes to end the war by essentially scaring both sides into peace. The crew of the Leviathan humors him in the hope of keeping him on the side of the Darwinists. Meanwhile, Alek is struggling to make sense of his destiny, and Deryn is finding it harder and harder to maintain her disguise, especially in front of the boy she’s grown to love.

Fans of the first two books in this series will not be disappointed by the finale. There’s just as much adventure in this book as in the previous two, and the Leviathan’s crew travels to even more exotic destinations around the world, including Siberia, Tokyo, California, Mexico, and New York City. One of my favorite aspects of the book was Alek’s and Deryn’s reactions to all the publicity they encounter in America, with rival newspapermen clamoring for the biggest scoop. Also, Alek grows substantially as a character in this book, as he ponders his destiny and finally makes a decision about his role in the world. I was also happy to see the resolution of Alek and Deryn’s relationship, although it was a bit more “told” than “shown.” Overall, the book manages to provide a satisfying ending while still leaving some unanswered questions. For example, just what is the purpose of the perspicacious lorises? What is Dr. Barlow’s agenda? And what will happen to Alek and Deryn going forward? Although this book is the last in the series, I hope that Westerfeld will return to this world, perhaps with a new trilogy!

Sep 28, 2011, 9:10pm

Thanks for the warning of minor spoilers in your review for Goliath. I am so excited this one is now out! Will try to remember to revisit your post after I read it, which probably won't be until sometime in October......

Sep 28, 2011, 10:58pm

I was lucky to get my hands on a copy...I placed a hold at the library really early so that I could read it sooner!

Editado: Sep 30, 2011, 4:02pm

September recap:

Although I'm about halfway through A Stranger in Mayfair, I don't think I'll finish it today*, so it's time for my September recap!

Livin' on a Prayer: 7/11

Other Worlds: 8/11

Classics: 8/11
.....Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

In Brief: 7/11
.....Robin McKinley and Peter Dickinson, Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits

Hot off the Presses: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE
.....Seanan McGuire, One Salt Sea

Ye Olde Historical Fiction: 10/11
.....Tracy Grant, Beneath a Silent Moon
.....Charles Finch, A Stranger in Mayfair

The Butler Did It: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE

Pomegranate Seeds, Anyone?: 8/11
.....Mollie Panter-Downes, Good Evening, Mrs. Craven

Time Is out of Joint: 7/11
.....Scott Westerfeld, Goliath

On the Shelf: 8/11

Gallimaufry: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE

This was yet another slow reading month for me, although I did manage to read two non-challenge books as well: The D.U.F.F. by Kody Keplinger and Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin. Lavinia took me a couple of weeks to read because I couldn't really get into it, and that affected my reading quantity this month. But oh well, hopefully October will be better!

*ETA: As it turns out, I did finish A Stranger in Mayfair today! So that's one more book I can add to the list.

Editado: Sep 30, 2011, 4:04pm

Third Quarter Review:

Believe it or not, it's the end of the third quarter! I can't believe how quickly this year has flown by.

Total books to read: 121
Books read so far: 95 96
Still to go: 26 25

I. Livin' on a Prayer: 7/11
II. Other Worlds: 8/11
III. Classics: 8/11
IV. In Brief: 7/11
V. Hot off the Presses: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE
VI. Ye Olde Historical Fiction: 9/11 10/11
VII. The Butler Did It: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE
VIII. Pomegranate Seeds, Anyone?: 8/11
IX. Time Is out of Joint: 7/11
X. On the Shelf: 8/11
XI. Gallimaufry: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE

So now I have to read 26 25 books in 3 months, which averages out to less than 9 books a month. I can do that if I stay focused and rededicate myself to this challenge, which I hope to do!

Sep 30, 2011, 2:03pm

I've got 26 books left as well. Wanna race? :)

Actually, evil course schedules will likely prevent me from finishing the challenge until the last two weeks of December, when I will try to read 20 or so books in 14 days.

Sep 30, 2011, 2:06pm

@ 40 -- It's cool that we're neck and neck! :) Not sure how the rest of my year will shape up, reading-wise...I probably won't finish until the very last moment as well.

Sep 30, 2011, 4:21pm

As it turns out, I did manage to squeeze one more book into September!

Book #96: Charles Finch, A Stranger in Mayfair
Completed on: September 30
Category: Ye Olde Historical Fiction

Warning: minor spoilers for previous Charles Lenox books.

Charles Lenox, Victorian gentleman and amateur detective, has just returned to London from his honeymoon. He has recently been elected to the House of Commons and is eager to assume his new position in Parliament. However, he is soon distracted by a potential case: a longtime acquaintance, Ludovic Starling, reveals that his footman has just been bludgeoned to death. Although Charles wants to focus on his new career as an M.P., he can’t help being drawn to his old work as well. Along with his apprentice, the idle young aristocrat John Dallington, Charles begins to investigate the case, and he soon fears that Ludo himself might be the murderer. Meanwhile, Charles must attempt to balance his two careers while he also adjusts to married life.

I am still enjoying the Charles Lenox series for some light, Victorian-flavored mysteries. In this particular book, the mystery itself is wildly predictable; I was able to guess virtually every twist in the plot, including the murderer’s identity, at an absurdly early point in the book. It’s not that the mystery is poorly done, but to anyone who reads a lot of mystery novels, the plot conventions will be extremely obvious. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this book for the period flavor and for the development in Charles’ character. He has just achieved two of his long-term life goals – marrying Jane and being elected to Parliament – and now he’s starting to realize that both events aren’t quite what he envisioned. I look forward to seeing how these new potential conflicts will develop in subsequent books. Also, I have a definite soft spot for John Dallington and would like to see him take on a more central role in future novels! All in all, I liked this book and look forward to continuing with the series.

Sep 30, 2011, 8:59pm

Nice review for A Stranger in Mayfair! I do enjoy the series, as as you mention, it is a nice period piece to relax with. I see that you managed to snag the next book in the series through ER. I am Soooooooo jealous! ;-)

Sep 30, 2011, 10:02pm

I'm starting this series soon, and I'm looking forward to it. I've also won the most recent book through ER, so I need to get busy and read the others before it arrives. The Victorian period is my favorite period in history.

Sep 30, 2011, 10:04pm

Lori, winning A Burial at Sea gave me the motivation I needed to read A Stranger in Mayfair! I'm definitely excited to be winning an ER copy! :)

Sep 30, 2011, 10:18pm

@ 44 -- Yes, I would definitely recommend reading the previous 4 books first, if you have the time. It won't be necessary to understand the most recent book, but A Burial at Sea will probably contain spoilers for the previous books, so it will be a better experience (if you want to remain spoiler-free) if you read them in order.

Oct 1, 2011, 7:11am

I meant to read them back when I placed the ER request, but like most months, I placed my requests on the day the list was put up and then forgot about them.

Oct 1, 2011, 9:02am

Haha, I do that too. Then I get a book in the mail, and I'm like, "Where did this come from?"

Oct 1, 2011, 11:31pm

When ER wins coincide with textbook purchases, I end up trying to figure out why I received a novel when I ordered history and library science texts.

Oct 4, 2011, 11:39pm

Book #97: Carol Berg, Breath and Bone
Completed on: October 4
Category: Other Worlds

Warning: MAJOR spoilers for Flesh and Spirit.

This second book in the Lighthouse Duet continues the story of Valen, a renegade pureblood sorcerer caught in a web of conspiracy as the end of the world draws near. In the previous book, Valen forged an unlikely alliance with a group of monks who, together with certain others, had created a “lighthouse” containing all the world’s knowledge and wisdom, with the intent to preserve it for future generations. Now, as the world’s destruction becomes an ever-more-real possibility, Valen and his friends are its only hope for survival. However, the more Valen learns about his new liege-lord and his own identity, the more difficult his task becomes.

While Flesh and Spirit was an extremely slow-paced exposition of Valen’s world and the various conflicting forces at work, this novel is much more plot-driven. While the cosmic battle between good(ish) and evil is extremely well written and suitably epic, the book’s main focus is Valen’s individual journey to self-discovery. While I really liked Valen and rooted for him as a character, I found the sections on his interactions with the Danae (fey-like creatures who live in a parallel universe to the human realm) a bit dull and slow-moving. However, I was ultimately satisfied by the book’s resolution and very impressed with Carol Berg as an author. I wish I had read this book right after Flesh and Spirit, though; I think my reading experience would have been even richer, although this book does do a good job of recapping the events of the first novel. This is a series and an author I would recommend to epic fantasy fans, and I look forward to reading more of Berg’s work.

Oct 10, 2011, 3:32pm

Book #98: Selected Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (Thorndike Large Print Edition)
Completed on: October 8
Category: In Brief

This anthology of Poe stories contains many of his most famous stories, as well as a number of lesser-known tales. I read the Thorndike Large Print Edition (since it was the only one available at my library), which Includes the following: “The Assignation”; “Ligeia”; “The Fall of the House of Usher”; “The Man of the Crowd”; “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”; “Never Bet the Devil Your Head. A Tale with a Moral”; “The Masque of the Red Death”; “The Pit and the Pendulum”; “The Tell-Tale Heart”; “The Black Cat”; “The Premature Burial”; “The Purloined Letter”; “The Imp of the Perverse”; “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether”; “The Sphinx”; and “The Cask of Amontillado.”

These stories, as you might expect, all deal with horrors such as ghosts, demons, torture chambers, murders, and madmen. Most of them seemed to have no point other than to shock and frighten their audience, and many of them succeeded in being truly creepy. Some of my favorite stories were “The Masque of the Red Death” (in which a medieval-esque castle is terrorized by a plague), “The Cask of Amontillado” (a man buries his nemesis alive), and “The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether” (a traveler visits an insane asylum). I also really enjoyed the stories featuring the detective C. Auguste Dupin, mostly because the plots were so intricate as to defy belief. It’s fun to compare them to the Sherlock Holmes stories! I would recommend these stories to anyone looking for some good old-fashioned gothic horror.

Oct 11, 2011, 5:09pm

Sounds like a good Halloween read. I started reading Poe when I was a teenager. "The Cask of Amontillado" is one of my favorites.

Oct 11, 2011, 6:41pm

I definitely chose it in honor of the season! I always try to read something gothic/spooky in October, even though it's not normally one of my favorite genres. I never read much Poe in school, so most of these stories were actually new to me!

Oct 14, 2011, 4:40pm

Book #99: Kady Cross, The Girl in the Steel Corset
Completed on: October 14
Category: Time Is out of Joint

In this steampunk version of late-Victorian England, Finley Jayne is a lowly servant girl with unusual talents. Though her outward appearance is normal, she seems to have two personalities: one is an ordinary human girl, and the other is an evil creature with superhuman strength. After her dark side gets her into trouble, Finley is forced to run from her employer. On the run through the streets of London, she has an unexpected encounter with Griffin King, a duke who also possesses an abnormal set of skills. Griffin realizes Finley’s unique nature, so he takes her into his home and introduces her to his friends, who also have unusual abilities. Together, the band of misfits must outwit a dangerous madman and foil a plot against Queen Victoria.

I am of two minds about this book. On the one hand, I love the steampunk setting, and I think Kady Cross has imagined its gadgets and technologies in an interesting, creative way. The plot is also a lot of fun – the word “rollick” comes to mind – and I think the novel would make an absolutely fantastic movie. On the other hand, I was not impressed by the writing style at all. There’s a lot of “showing” rather than “telling,” the sentence structure is frequently awkward, and the characters’ speech is far too contemporary in tone. However, I’m interested enough in the story and characters to continue with the series; I believe book 2 comes out next year. (Don’t worry, though – you could read this one as a stand-alone if you wanted to.)

Oct 14, 2011, 4:48pm

In news that is not at all book-related, I found out today that I passed the bar! I am now officially a lawyer -- huzzah!

Oct 14, 2011, 4:54pm


So, what kind of book-buying celebration will there be? ;)

Oct 14, 2011, 7:03pm

Laura, I'm going to hold off until next weekend, when my public library will be having its semi-annual sale. Hope to score a good haul there though!

Oct 14, 2011, 7:33pm

Nice plan. Well, bring your muscles and some heavy-duty bags with you, and you should be all set! You must feel a lot of relief now.

Oct 14, 2011, 8:06pm

Congratulations Christina!! What a relief that must be for you.

I'm also amazed that you were able to study and read at the same time:)

Oct 14, 2011, 8:12pm

Congratulations on passing the bar!

Enjoy celebrating at that library sale!

Oct 14, 2011, 8:48pm

Congratulations Christina!

Oct 14, 2011, 9:32pm


Oct 14, 2011, 10:54pm

Thanks, everyone! :) Yes, the predominant emotion is relief right now. Also, I'm glad I spent all that time reading and watching TV instead of studying! (Kidding...I did study, but I had quite a few "study breaks" as well!)

Oct 15, 2011, 12:40am

Congratulations Christina!

Oct 15, 2011, 1:47am

Getting caught up here and just have to add my heartfelt congrats on passing the bar. WELL DONE!

.... Oh, and before I forget, nice review of The Girl in the Steel Corset. Interesting but unfortunately not available from my local library.....

Oct 15, 2011, 4:30am

I think I might wait until the 2nd in the series comes out before taking a chance on The Girl in the Steel Corset.

Congratulations on passing the bar!

Oct 15, 2011, 12:22pm

Congratulations, Christina!

Oct 15, 2011, 1:46pm

I'd like to add my congratulations to all the others, Christina. Well done.

Oct 15, 2011, 2:15pm

Great news, Christina!! Congratulations!

Oct 15, 2011, 10:00pm

@ 64-69 -- Thank you all! :)

Oct 16, 2011, 2:46pm

Congrats!!! And I can't think of a better way to celebrate. You'll have to let us know what books you bring home!

Oct 16, 2011, 8:50pm

@ 71 -- Thanks, will do!

Oct 20, 2011, 7:21pm

Book #100: Nikki Poppen, The Madcap
Completed on: October 20
Category: Ye Olde Historical Fiction

As the granddaughter of a San Francisco gentleman who made his fortune through baking, Marianne Addison is popularly known as the “sourdough heiress.” She hopes to take New York society by storm, but an unfortunate social blunder sends her back to San Francisco in disgrace. Desperate to show the world that she can be accepted by polite society, Marianne decides to travel to London for the Season. There she meets Alasdair Braden, a handsome but penniless viscount, and she quickly finds herself attracted to him. But is he courting her for herself or her money?

This is a strange book in that it’s ostensibly set in the late-19th century, but It reads more like a Regency-era romance. I suspect that the author drew her settings from period films rather than from actual historical research. Personally, I didn’t mind the historical ambiguities as much as the total unoriginality of the plot and characters. Alasdair and Marianne are both superlatively uninteresting, and the “conflict” between them (he might be a fortune hunter, she might be too outspoken) is never a real issue. The writing style also bothered me, because it tended to be very repetitive. Overall, I was very disappointed with this book and wouldn’t recommend it, not even to fans of historical romance looking for some fluffy brain candy.

Oct 20, 2011, 7:26pm

Category completed -- VI. Ye Olde Historical Fiction

Thus concludes my fourth category for this challenge; only seven to go! Here's what I read for my historical fiction category:

1. Roberta Gellis, Roselynde
2. Laura Kinsale, Lessons in French
3. Rebecca Dean, Palace Circle
4. Anna Godbersen, Envy
5. Mary Gentle, A Sundial in a Grave: 1610
6. Mary Balogh, A Matter of Class
7. Tessa Dare, Goddess of the Hunt
8. Loretta Chase, Mr. Impossible
9. Tracy Grant, Beneath a Silent Moon
10. Charles Finch, A Stranger in Mayfair
11. Nikki Poppen, The Madcap

While I love historical fiction, this category was a mixed bag for me. Roselynde and Mr. Impossible stood out as excellent reads, but I was disappointed with Palace Circle, A Sundial in a Grave: 1610, and The Madcap. The rest were varying degrees of okay.

At any rate, time to forge ahead! I still have 21 books left to read, and a little over two months in which to read them. Time grows short, but hopefully I shall prevail!

Editado: Oct 20, 2011, 8:23pm

Ha! I've got 20 books left! Naturally, they're in the hardest-to-fill categories. Although, I'm currently speeding through non-fiction because of assigned texts and a historiography paper (I've read two books in two days, plus parts of myriad other books). No time to read anything else. I really should count every 300 pages of journal articles as a book... I'm certainly reading enough articles.

Oct 20, 2011, 9:34pm

@ 75 -- Oh my gosh, you should totally be counting articles! They definitely take up a lot of reading time! Race you to the finish line? ;)

Oct 20, 2011, 11:52pm

>76 christina_reads: Sure! You'll probably beat me, though, once I run out of spaces for school readings.

Oct 21, 2011, 3:13pm

My public library's semi-annual sale is this weekend! I'm going with a friend tomorrow, but I couldn't help sneaking in today for a little "preview," which resulted in my buying three books: Death and the Joyful Woman by Ellis Peters, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, and Last Tango in Aberystwyth by Malcolm Pryce (thanks, Wolfy!). Hope to add to the pile tomorrow!

Oct 21, 2011, 4:17pm

Christina, I did mention that Last Tango is the 2nd in the series right? While it's not strictly necessary to have read Aberystwyth Mon Amour to enjoy this one, it will definitely spoil the plot of the other if you read it first then intend to backtrack if you like it enough.

Oct 21, 2011, 4:22pm

Wolfy, you did indeed mention that! Unfortunately, I couldn't find Aberystwyth Mon Amour at the library sale, only Last Tango. I'm going to try and scrounge up the first book elsewhere, because I'd definitely like to start at the beginning of the series!

Oct 22, 2011, 5:39pm

Today's haul at the library sale: The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh (Charlotte Mosley, ed.), A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen (Susannah Carson, ed.), The Soul Mirror (Carol Berg), The Nine Tailors (Dorothy L. Sayers), Silver Borne (Patricia Briggs), and A Matter of Class (Mary Balogh). Two hardcovers, two trade paperbacks, and two mass markets for a grand total of $13! Gotta love the library sale!

Oct 22, 2011, 8:34pm

That looks like a great haul. Hope you enjoy the Balogh and A Truth Universally acknowledged, that's one I've got on the shelf and I liked it a lot. It had some really interesting ideas and perspectives, but like any book of essays some were better than others. But I do remember getting to the end of the book and thinking they probably could have stopped at about 25 authors :-)

Oct 22, 2011, 10:25pm

@ 82 -- I've had the Carson on my wishlist for a while, so I jumped at the chance to get it (relatively) cheap! I'm expecting a mixed bag of essays, but hopefully the positive will outweigh the negative. As for the Balogh, I've actually read it already -- for this challenge, in fact! I liked it a lot, which is why I snatched it up for 50 cents.

Oct 23, 2011, 2:20pm

I HAD to go back to the library sale today -- it was half-price day! I snagged The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne, Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen, Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt, Death of a Cozy Writer by G. M. Malliet, A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb, The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, and What Angels Fear by C. S. Harris.

After this weekend, I seriously need to impose a book-buying moratorium on myself!

Oct 24, 2011, 12:01pm

Book #101: Bram Stoker, Dracula
Completed on: October 24
Category: Classics

In this epistolary novel, the letters and diaries of several characters are combined to tell the story of the mysterious and evil Count Dracula. Jonathan Harker, a solicitor’s clerk, is summoned to Dracula’s castle in Transylvania to assist him in the purchase of an estate in England. The count seems friendly enough, but Jonathan’s suspicions are roused by Dracula’s superhuman strength, his strange power over wolves, and his refusal ever to eat in Jonathan’s company. Meanwhile, Jonathan’s fiancée Mina is visiting her friend Lucy in a small English town, when Lucy suddenly begins to waste away from a strange illness. Jonathan, Mina, and their small group of friends – including the renowned Dutch doctor Van Helsing – eventually discover the horrifying truth about Count Dracula and devise a plan to destroy him.

This book has become so ingrained in popular culture that it’s hard to read it with fresh eyes. We all know what Dracula is, so the book’s painstaking buildup of suspense is largely wasted on modern readers. One of my biggest complaints was how slowly the book moved; I couldn’t help getting frustrated by the characters’ obtuseness in not discovering Dracula’s secret earlier. This isn’t the book’s fault, of course, as the plot was probably quite innovative and shocking when it first came out. I won’t even get into the sexism and xenophobia displayed throughout the book, as I’m sure there have been thousands of dissertations already written on the subject. I do think the book was well-written and entertaining, but it’s very much a product of its time. I’m glad to have read this book so that I can compare it to modern takes on the vampire myth, but I didn’t terribly enjoy it otherwise.

Oct 24, 2011, 1:37pm

Dracula - A good October read. Sad to hear the buildup of suspense was so painfully slow.

Oct 24, 2011, 1:45pm

It was definitely a seasonally-appropriate read! Just not my cup of tea...maybe I just wasn't in the right mood.

Oct 25, 2011, 10:07pm

Uh oh. Dracula is on my list to read for this year, and I feel like I *have* to read it just so I know what it is. I'm sure I'm going to react pretty much the same way you did. I've seen the movies, and the women are so helpless that its hard to care about them.

As for the library sale, congrats!!! You got some good buys, but also got out of there without covering your entire kitchen table with books. Is the bag sale still to come?

Oct 26, 2011, 9:38am

@ 88 -- Well, Mina is a bit helpful in the book...some people have even told me she's a strong heroine. I wouldn't go that far -- I think Stoker is super sexist all throughout the book -- but she is at least portrayed as smart and noble.

My library doesn't have a "bag sale" or anything like that. It's not a great sale as far as pricing, but the selection is usually amazing, so I'll take it!

Oct 26, 2011, 1:01pm

Book #102: Wendy Webb, The Tale of Halcyon Crane
Completed on: October 26
Category: On the Shelf

Hallie James’s life is fairly normal, living on the Puget Sound in Washington State and caring for her Alzheimer’s-stricken father. Then she receives a mysterious package from Grand Manitou, a tiny island in the Great Lakes, informing her that her mother has recently died. Hallie is shocked by the news, having believed all her life that her mother died in a car accident when Hallie was a child. She travels to Grand Manitou Island to put her mother’s affairs in order and learns that a dark tragedy overshadows her family’s history. The longer she stays on the island, the more Hallie discovers about her family’s disturbing history. Eventually, she becomes convinced that she is being literally haunted by the ghosts of her past.

Though this book isn’t exactly what I was expecting, I enjoyed many things about it. The setting is very unique, and I had fun imagining what life would be like in a town that still uses horses and carriages as the primary mode of transportation. I also found the novel very readable; the plot moves along at a good pace, and the prose never gets in the way of the story. I didn’t connect particularly well to Hallie as a main character, which is especially unfortunate because the novel is written in first person. I also wasn’t sold on the eerie/gothic elements of the story, mostly because I didn’t feel any sense of suspense or horror. The book could have been so much more interesting if, for example, doubts were raised as to Hallie’s sanity. At any rate, this novel is a decent light read with some supernatural elements, but it’s not particularly spooky.

Oct 26, 2011, 8:32pm

..., this novel is a decent light read with some supernatural elements, but it’s not particularly spooky.

Darn.... when I bounced over to the book page - admittedly before I finished reading your review - the tags for ghosts and ghost stories had me sold. I will still think about this one. Good review!

Oct 26, 2011, 8:40pm

Book #103: C. FitzSimons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy: An Affirmation of Christian Orthodoxy
Completed on: October 26
Category: Livin' on a Prayer

This slim work by an Anglican (or possibly Episcopalian?) bishop discusses the heresies of early Christianity and the four great ecumenical councils from Nicaea (A.D. 325) to Chalcedon (A.D. 451). Allison views the conclusions of these four councils as Christian orthodoxy, and he defends it against the various heresies that have arisen both in the early Church and in the modern world. He divides the major historical heresies into two basic groups, those that deny Jesus’ divinity and those that deny His humanity, and explains why each group denies essential facts about human (as well as divine) nature.

For anyone who knows a little bit about early Christianity and who wants to learn more, I think this book would be a very good resource. Allison presents the four ecumenical councils in their historical and theological context, and he explains the major heresies in an accessible way. However, it’s definitely not a work for a serious scholar, either of history or theology; there are no endnotes except for direct quotations, and I was left thinking “Hmm…” in a few places. I also don’t think the title of the book is entirely accurate. Although Allison attempts to show how each of the heresies does a disservice to humanity, he doesn’t always make the connection clearly enough. Overall, I think this is a good book if you want a little more information about early Christianity, but it’s not an in-depth or scholarly work.

Oct 26, 2011, 8:41pm

@ 91 -- Thanks Lori! It's not that it's a bad book...I just don't think it's the right thing if you're specifically looking for an eerie ghost story.

Oct 28, 2011, 4:03pm

Book #104: Dorothy Whipple, The Priory
Completed on: October 28
Category: Pomegranate Seeds, Anyone?

This novel centers on Saunby, a former priory that is now an ancient English estate owned by the Marwood family. Major Marwood is a handsome middle-aged gentleman who cares about nothing but cricket; he has neglected the upkeep of Saunby and completely ignored his daughters, Christine and Penelope. As a result, the girls have lived a strangely sheltered life and have had almost no education. Despite this unsatisfactory situation, none of the Marwoods seem to realize their plight – until the Major decides to marry again. When his new wife Anthea enters the house, things at Saunby slowly but irrevocably begin to change.

Although this novel was written just before the outbreak of World War II, it reads like a Victorian novel in many ways. Instead of focusing on just one protagonist and a few other central characters, this book explores the lives of everyone connected with Saunby, from the Major to the servants to Christine’s eventual in-laws. At times I felt like the book was wandering aimlessly, but I still found it very readable. I cared about all the characters and was rooting for them, so the book’s tragic moments really made an impact on me. The ending is bittersweet, but ultimately uplifiting. I enjoyed this book a lot, though I couldn’t help wondering about some of the secondary characters, such as Bessy the maid and Penelope Marwood; their stories were never really resolved. Still, I would recommend this book to those who like the style and time period.

Oct 29, 2011, 12:18am

Hi Christina - I finished Goliath this evening and remembered to come back to read your spoiler warning review. I agree... a great action packed story in line with the pace of the first two books in the series.

I hope that Westerfeld will return to this world, perhaps with a new trilogy!

I hope so too.... I think he left the door open to do so!

Oct 29, 2011, 12:19pm

I agree, Lori; there's still so much fun to be had in Alek and Deryn's world!

Editado: Oct 31, 2011, 5:44pm

Book #105: Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki !, eds., Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die
Completed on: October 31
Category: In Brief

As the title indicates, this collection of stories is set in a world where everyone has the ability to discover how he or she is going to die. A Machine of Death has been invented whose mysterious power causes it to determine anyone’s cause of death from a simple finger prick. The trouble is, the machine’s results are rarely unambiguous: “old age” could mean dying at age 90, or it could mean being shot by an old guy. In these 34 stories (each with an accompanying illustration), the characters deal with this new reality in many different ways. Some people are unable to enjoy life now that their new knowledge haunts them. Others are exhilarated by a sense of newfound freedom: why not go skydiving if you know you will die from cancer? The stories in this book all explore the effect that a machine of death might have on our society.

When I first heard about this book, I was immediately intrigued by its central concept, and I was curious to see the creatively bizarre ways in which the characters would meet their demises. Overall, I think the collection does a great job of exploring many different ramifications of the death machine’s existence. In some stories (like “Fudge,” one of my favorites), the main character is horrified by the knowledge, while in others (“Torn Apart and Devoured by Lions”) he is overjoyed. Some stories treat the death machine as a huge cultural trend whose main effect is to establish a new caste system. I was impressed by the creativity and variety of the stories. On the other hand, reading 34 stories in a row about death gets kind of bleak! I was surprised by how little humor appears in the collection overall; it’s definitely there, but I thought more of the stories would be funny. I also would have liked to see a few stories where the machine was wrong, but every story in this collection treats it as infallible. Ultimately I think this is a well-written collection with a really neat gimmick, but I feel no need to re-read it.

ETA: This book is available for free in PDF format here:

Oct 31, 2011, 6:29pm

Machine of death has been on my list since andrea(blythe) read it and loved it last year. I liked your review a lot, and even with your objections it still sounds like a fascinating read!

Congratulations on passing the bar!

Oct 31, 2011, 7:19pm

Thanks GM! I think I first learned about Machine of Death through Andrea as well -- it was definitely someone on LT! Hope you enjoy the book if you decide to read it.

Editado: Oct 31, 2011, 7:32pm

October recap:

Yet again, not a terribly productive reading month, but at least I focused on challenge books!

Livin' on a Prayer: 8/11
.....C. FitzSimons Allison, The Cruelty of Heresy

Other Worlds: 9/11
.....Carol Berg, Breath and Bone

Classics: 9/11
.....Bram Stoker, Dracula

In Brief: 9/11
.....Selected Tales of Edgar Allan Poe
.....Ryan North et al., Machine of Death

Hot off the Presses: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE

Ye Olde Historical Fiction: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE
.....Nikki Poppen, The Madcap

The Butler Did It: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE

Pomegranate Seeds, Anyone?: 9/11
.....Dorothy Whipple, The Priory

Time Is out of Joint: 8/11
.....Kady Cross, The Girl in the Steel Corset

On the Shelf: 9/11
.....Wendy Webb, The Tale of Halcyon Crane

Gallimaufry: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE

I now have 16 books left in this challenge, and 2 months to read them in...if I stay focused, I can do it. Onward to November!

Nov 1, 2011, 7:38am

You can do it!

Nov 1, 2011, 9:33am

Hey, 9 books read in October is good! I can see you making it through the 16 remaining and finishing your challenge on time!

Nov 1, 2011, 1:11pm

Thanks Victoria and Lori! Yeah, I guess 9 books in a month isn't bad. I just always seem to lose steam at the end of the year!

Nov 1, 2011, 4:21pm

Book #106: Gail Carriger, Heartless
Completed on: November 1
Category: Time Is out of Joint

Warning: MAJOR spoilers for previous Parasol Protectorate books, especially Blameless.

After the alarming events of Blameless, Lady Alexia Maccon is dealing with several huge changes in her life. She is extremely pregnant with a child whose very existence is probably dangerous to supernatural beings – which might be why the vampires are once again trying to kill her. Her husband is having difficulties with Biffy, the newest member of his pack, who is still heartbroken over being transformed into a werewolf. Worst of all, she has just learned that there is an assassination plot of supernatural origin against Queen Victoria. Can Alexia sort out her husband’s pack, the vampires’ threats, and the attempt on the queen’s life, all while days away from giving birth?

I’ve been a fan of this series from the beginning, and I think this is another very strong installment. The book’s central plot is the possible threat to Queen Victoria, but there are also several interconnected sub-plots that begin to make sense of the loose ends in earlier books. For example, the 20-year-old plot against the Queen by Lord Maccon’s former pack (described in Changeless) is finally explained. There is some more insight into Professor Lyall’s character, as well as Lord Akeldama’s. The book also drops some tantalizing information about Alexia’s father, and I anticipate that the final book in this series will finally address his character in depth. Overall, this is another fun, steampunk-flavored Victorian romp that sets up the last book quite nicely. I can’t wait for the release of Timeless next year!

Nov 2, 2011, 5:43pm

Congrats on passing the bar exam!! (I've been awol and just saw the news). I'll bet you're relieved.

Do you have an official swearing in ceremony? In Chicago, it was a large event and a group swearing in. Out in the suburbs, and presumably downstate, we had more intimate swearings in.

Nov 2, 2011, 7:03pm

Thanks Linda! I am definitely I just need to find a job! And yes, I did have my swearing-in ceremony this past Monday. It was for all of Virginia, so it was a pretty long ceremony. :)

Nov 3, 2011, 10:03pm

Book #107: Frances Towers, Tea with Mr. Rochester
Completed on: November 3
Category: Pomegranate Seeds, Anyone?

This book is a collection of short stories published posthumously in 1949. Overall, I really liked this book; the stories are beautifully written and very charming. Here are my thoughts on the individual stories:

.....“Violet” – A mysterious maidservant meddles in the affairs of her employer’s family, which results in romance for their daughter Sophy. I liked this one, and it had a bit of a creepy twist ending.
.....“Tea with Mr. Rochester” – A young schoolgirl discovers the wonders of Jane Eyre and develops a crush on the man she perceives to be her real-life Mr. Rochester. This one was cute, but not one of my favorites in the collection.
.....“The Little Willow” – Three intelligent sisters live together and host parties of soldiers on leave from World War II; one of these soldiers makes a special impact on the youngest girl. This was definitely my favorite story in the bunch, both sweet and heartbreaking.
.....“Don Juan and the Lily” – A young woman takes a mundane job in an office and becomes enthralled with an older, more mysterious colleague. I thought this story was a bit uneven – it seemed to switch gears halfway through – but I still liked it.
.....“The Rose in the Picture” – A girl frets over the return of a neighbor’s son to her country village, because she simultaneously dislikes him and feels an attraction to him. I liked this one but thought it could have been expanded more, maybe even into a full-length novel.
.....“Spade Man from over the Water” – Two women are neighbors and extremely close friends, but everything changes when one of their husbands returns from out of town. This was a strange story that left me with more questions than answers.
.....“Strings in Hollow Shells” – A young and somewhat superficial girl stays for several weeks at a country house and slowly begins to revise her poor opinion of country life. This was one of my favorites as well; the heroine reminded me a lot of Jane Austen’s Emma.
.....“The Chosen and the Rejected” – Two friends living in a country cottage are fascinated by the local lady of the manor and her husband, but one of the friends soon perceives a deeper relationship between herself and the husband. This was a very intriguing story with a “Lady or the Tiger?”-ish ending.
.....“Lucinda” – The intellectual and artistic Quarles family believes it has a ghost named Lucinda in its midst. This was a quaint story with an interesting gimmick, but to me it didn’t feel as substantial as the other stories.
.....“The Golden Rose” – The narrator’s Aunt Essie is despised by most of her family for being old-fashioned and irrelevant, but she turns out to be hiding a romantic secret. This was another very good story that I wanted to be developed more fully.

Nov 4, 2011, 5:07pm

Great reviews! Machine of Death looks interesting, but I'm like you. I wouldn't want to read that many stories about death in a row. It would take me months to get through the entire anthology.

Nov 4, 2011, 6:23pm

@ 108 -- It's still worth reading, but I'd definitely space it out between some lighter reads!

Nov 9, 2011, 10:06pm

Book #108: D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover
Completed on: November 9
Category: Classics

This novel, originally censored in the United States, tells the story of Lady Constance Chatterley’s illicit affair with her husband’s gamekeeper. Connie’s husband has returned from World War I paralyzed from the waist down, and he has thus lost the ability to sire an heir for his estate. Therefore, he encourages Connie to sleep with another man in order to get pregnant, planning to adopt the child as his own. However, Connie is not stimulated by her husband’s intellectual, upper-class friends; only by bridging the gap between the classes is she able to find physical fulfillment.

Considering that this book was condemned in its time for obscenity, the adult scenes aren’t particularly racy, especially by today’s standards. (No, I didn’t read this book for that reason, but it’s certainly interesting to see how public standards of morality have changed over the years!) I was reminded of something one of my literature professors once said: most literature is about sex, except when it’s actually about sex, and then it’s really about power. This book definitely supports that idea, because Connie’s affair with the gamekeeper is really just an excuse for Lawrence to complain about England’s industrialization and disparity between social classes. He advocates a sort of vague return to nature, in opposition to the hyper-intellectual and mechanical tendencies of his era. Because this novel is primarily a social polemic and not a story, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. The transcript of its 1959 obscenity trial, which is included in the back of the Modern Library edition, was by far the most interesting part of the book, in my opinion.

Nov 9, 2011, 10:29pm

Good review of Lady Chatterley's Lover! I keep dodging that one and your mention of this novel as being a social polemic has stayed any sudden impulse to pick the book up.... and I have been waffling over this one for decades!

Nov 9, 2011, 10:57pm

@ 111 -- Well, honestly, my advice is to skip it! Unless you really feel the need to read it because of its 'classic' status. Personally, I don't think it was worth it.

Nov 10, 2011, 7:59pm

Book #109: Connie Willis, Impossible Things
Completed on: November 10
Category: In Brief

In this collection of short stories, mostly published in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, Connie Willis showcases her remarkable imagination, humor, love of literature, and knowledge of quantum physics. I’ve really enjoyed all of her books that I’ve read so far, and this anthology is no exception. Though I enjoyed some stories more than others, they’re all interesting and unique – no clunkers! Here are my thoughts on the individual stories:

.....“The Last of the Winnebagos” – Sometime in the near future, it’s a felony to kill animals, and the Humane Society has become a totalitarian secret police. I found this story a bit hard to follow at first, but it all came together in the end.
.....“Even the Queen” – After a radically egalitarian revolution called the Liberation, women no longer have to experience menstruation. This was a very funny story about the far-reaching implications that such a development might have.
.....“Schwarzschild Radius” – A young scientist’s thesis about black holes becomes tied to a German soldier’s horrific experiences in World War I. One of the darker stories in this collection, it’s also one of the least emotionally impactful, in my opinion.
.....“Ado” – A college professor tries to teach Shakespeare without offending anyone. This is a lightweight but extremely funny satire about what would happen if political correctness were taken to its logical extreme.
.....“Spice Pogrom” – A woman on a space colony desperately attempts to communicate with the local aliens, but she is frequently hindered by overcrowding, language barriers, and two insufferable little girls. I absolutely loved this homage to the great Hollywood screwball comedies – definitely one of my favorites in the bunch!
.....“Winter’s Tale” – Willis takes on the question of Who Was Shakespeare, Really from a unique perspective. I disagree with her ultimate theory but thought the story was extremely interesting.
.....“Chance” – An unhappily married woman, having just moved back to her college town, relives a tragic incident from her past. This is a great but ultimately heartbreaking story.
.....“In the Late Cretaceous” – A university’s paleontology department must face radical reorganization and budget cuts; the professors are trapped in this madness until one of them decides she’s had enough. I enjoyed this satire about academia, especially the jokes about the parking Nazis (it’s not every day you read a story where a character is described as “an adolescent Himmler”!).
.....“Time Out” – A science experiment intended to prove that time travel is possible wreaks havoc on a small Midwestern town. I really liked this story, which had an interesting balance of humor and psychological insight.
.....“Jack” – In World War II-era London, a group of air raid wardens struggles to survive the war while rescuing people who have been trapped beneath piles of rubble. At first this story seems like an average horros-of-war story, but it soon takes a really cool turn!
.....“At the Rialto” – Confronted with the chaos of a physics convention being hosted in a Hollywood hotel, a scientist begins to draw parallels between the insanity around her and quantum physics. This comic story is another one of my favorites in the collection.

Nov 12, 2011, 3:45pm

It's November 12, and that means I have exactly 50 days left to complete my challenge. Time to take stock! I have 12 books to go, which works out to about 1 book every 4 days. Since most of my remaining books are short, I think I can do it! Here are the slots that still need filling:

3 in Livin' on a Prayer
.....Time for God by Jacques Philippe (NOV)
.....The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand (NOV)
.....The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis by Robert P. George (DEC)
2 in Other Worlds
.....A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (NOV)
.....Forest Born by Shannon Hale (DEC)
1 in Classics
.....Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky (DEC)
1 in In Brief
.....Murder for Christmas by Thomas Godfrey, ed. (DEC)
1 in Pomegranate Seeds, Anyone?
.....Greenery Street by Denis Mackail (DEC)
2 in Time Is out of Joint
.....The Hidden Goddess by M. K. Hobson (NOV)
.....Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede (DEC)
2 in On the Shelf
.....Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (NOV - currently reading)
.....A Broken Vessel by Kate Ross (DEC)

I'm pretty sure these are the books I'll be reading, and I'm really looking forward to most of them. Now it's off to hit the books!

Nov 12, 2011, 4:21pm

You can do it! On the flip side, your mention of exactly 50 days left to complete your challenge means there are even less days left in the lead up to Christmas...... darn, it looks like this will be another year where I pull everything together more or less last minute....

Nov 12, 2011, 5:26pm

I'm here to root you on as well, Christina. I'm sure you can do it!

I went to Costco yesterday and, yes, Christmas has arrived in full force. I guess all the stores are done up by now. I am already feeling the pressure. One of these years I am just going to buy book gift cards for everyone on my list.

Nov 12, 2011, 5:49pm

Wow, I didn't make the Christmas connection...and I really should have, considering that some stores already have their holiday displays up! I really love the holiday season, but I wish it would start after Thanksgiving like it's supposed to!

Nov 12, 2011, 5:56pm

At least it's just getting more Christmas-y in most stores now. I think it was in late September that I saw ornaments being put out in Pier 1. I know it made me stop in my tracks and think "Seriously?!?". That's more than a little ridiculous. I think I've got about half of my Christmas gifts purchased, but I need to check in with my friends and see if we're exchanging this year or not. Books are always a must for gifts! :)

Nov 14, 2011, 3:38am

Good luck with the rest of your books Christina! We made it to mid October before all the Christmas decorations appeared, another shopper and I shared our "Seriously?!" moment.

Nov 14, 2011, 11:17am

@ 118 -- Good job with those Christmas presents, Laura! I still don't even know what I'm getting most of my family.

@ 119 -- Same here, I think; it was about mid-October when I started seeing Christmas stuff in the grocery store. Haven't been to a mall in a while, though, so I don't know if they're all decorated yet. I just hope Santa isn't there yet!

Nov 16, 2011, 7:50pm

Book #110: Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Completed on: November 16
Category: On the Shelf

This massive novel conjures up an alternate universe wherein England was once a land filled with magic. Unfortunately, by the beginning of the 19th century, this magic seems to have disappeared: while there are many English scholars of magical history and theory, not one of them is capable of actually performing any magic. That is, until a reclusive gentleman from Yorkshire, Mr. Norrell, claims to be a practical magician – and demonstrates his abilities in a very convincing manner. Now Mr. Norrell is a celebrity, and he has moved to London in order to assist the English government with its war against Napoleon. He proclaims to be the greatest magician of the age, and no one is able to contradict him – until a brilliant young man named Jonathan Strange demonstrates some extraordinary abilities of his own.

I’m having some trouble collecting my thoughts about this book. I can’t say that it will rank among my all-time favorites, but I truly believe that it is a remarkable achievement. The book is incredibly long and diffuse; Clarke imitates the style of the great Victorian novelists (and does so very well, I might add) with numerous digressions, a laundry list of characters, and extensive footnotes. The plot meanders along at a glacial pace, and there is hardly any real “action” in the book. However, Clarke has created a complete and meticulously crafted world, in which the historical context of 19th-century England is interwoven with ancient mythology and faerie magic. Honestly, I was amazed by the result. I strongly recommend this book and will be looking out for more of Clarke’s work in the future.

Nov 16, 2011, 9:02pm

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell has just moved up my TBR list. I'm going to read it next year. (I've been saying that since ~2005, so we'll see if I actually get it done this time.)

Oh, and please stop reading so fast. You're going to finish before I do. :)

Nov 16, 2011, 9:48pm

Haha, sorry! :) It took me a long time to work up the motivation for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell too, but it was definitely worth it! One nice thing about my copy is that it's broken up into 3 volumes, which made it a lot easier to read and carry around.

Nov 16, 2011, 10:18pm

Nice review for Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell Christina! I am thinking of limiting the number of books in my 12 in 12 categories so that I can include big tomes like this one and feel like I have to race to complete my challenge.

Nov 16, 2011, 10:39pm

Lori, there's definitely something to be said for the "less is more" approach! I've definitely been deterred from reading long books in these category challenges because of the high numbers.

Nov 17, 2011, 12:03pm

>121 christina_reads: Nice review of Jonathan Strange, Christina! I thought it was an interesting concept and well done, but I don't really care for Victorian novels and I found it rather tedious.

I cut my target number this year, mostly so I could read some of the longer books. It's helped and I have gotten to several of them (including Jonathan Strange). But I'm also finding that there's a weird psychological element of LT: I want to report on a finished book every few days, not every few weeks! I think that's one reason that group reads are so helpful with long books; it gives me a place to report and interact before I've finished.

Nov 17, 2011, 1:51pm

Ivy, I definitely agree with you about the need to report back on a frequent basis! I love how chatty these LT groups are, but it makes me feel like I need to keep up. :) Your point about group reads is well taken; I'm planning to get involved in a few next year, which should help make the longer/more difficult books more enjoyable.

Nov 17, 2011, 5:54pm

Book #111: Jacques Philippe, Time for God (trans. Helena Scott)
Completed on: November 17
Category: Livin' on a Prayer

This slim little volume on prayer manages to cover a lot of ground. It focuses on the private prayer between individuals and God and details some important principles to keep in mind while praying. The primary message I took from this book is that prayer is less about what we do, and more about what we allow God to do in us. The book also emphasizes the importance of perseverance, humility, and making time for God. There are also a few extremely practical tips concerning times and places to pray.

I was very impressed by this book and would recommend it to any Christian who is hoping to strengthen his or her prayer life. The book is written by a Catholic priest and contains several references to the writings of saints, particularly Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Thérèse of Lisieux. However, I definitely think that the “meat” of the book is appropriate for, and would be acceptable to, all Christians. I highly recommend it for a simple yet helpful guide to prayer. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book, which seems to encapsulate its central message:

For the moment, what we need to grasp is that if, despite having good will, we are incapable of praying well, or producing any good sentiments or beautiful reflections, that should not make us sad. We should offer our poverty to the action of God. Then we will be making a prayer much more valuable than the kind that would leave us feeling self-satisfied. St. Francis de Sales used to pray, "Lord, I am nothing but a block of wood: set fire to it!"

Nov 18, 2011, 7:39am

Nice review Christina!

Editado: Nov 18, 2011, 8:09am

Christina, I love your review of Time for God. I think that's one I may add to my list! I'm Protestant, but don't have a problem with references to the writings of saints. They walked the path of faith/life before us, and their writings can offer great insights from their journeys. I've read writings by and about Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux, among others.

Nov 18, 2011, 12:04pm

@ 129 -- Thanks Victoria!

@ 130 -- I hope you do decide to read it! And I'm glad the references to the saints won't bother you...whenever I read religious books by Catholic authors, I always try to mention the specifically "Catholic" parts, so that other Christians will be able to gauge whether they'd enjoy it or not.

Nov 20, 2011, 5:24pm

Book #112: Megan Whalen Turner, A Conspiracy of Kings
Completed on: November 19
Category: Other Worlds

This latest installment of the Thief of Eddis series features Sophos, a minor character from the previous novels. Sophos is the heir apparent of Sounis, a small country bordering Eddis and Attolia that is threatened both by its neighbors and by the might of the Mede empire. However, Sophos must confront a problem much closer to home when his family is attacked and he is kidnapped by slavers. Eventually he discovers that some of Sounis’s barons are engaged in a rebellion against the crown, and he must figure out how to save his country while also learning how to fulfill his destiny as the king of Sounis.

I’m always surprised to find that this series is marketed toward a middle-grade audience. While there’s no overt sexuality or graphic violence, the complexity of these characters and the intricacy of their political maneuvering make these books seem like “adult” reads to me. I love Turner’s writing style; she always gives the impression of very profound things happening just beneath the surface. She also likes to withhold information only to spring it on the reader later for maximum emotional impact – which would bother me, except that she does it so well! I really enjoyed reading about Sophos’ personal journey in this book, although I did miss Eugenides (he’s in the book, but not as much as I’d like!). I certainly hope that Turner continues with this series, because I’d definitely like to keep reading!

Nov 20, 2011, 5:26pm

Book #113: Alice von Hildebrand, The Privilege of Being a Woman
Completed on: November 19
Category: Livin' on a Prayer

This very short book explores the concept of femininity from a Christian (specifically Catholic) point of view. The author takes issue with the historical perception of women as an inferior sex; rather, she argues, femininity is privileged because the feminine virtues of receptivity, empathy, and sensitivity are what make women naturally able to respond to their call as Christians. The author also criticizes the modern feminist movement insofar as it denies the differences between men and women; rather, she claims, women’s unique qualities make them privileged when viewed in the light of Christianity.

While this book made several good points, it ultimately rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t particularly consider myself a feminist, and I certainly think that there are differences between men and women that go deeper than mere biology, but I didn’t like the book’s treatment of feminism. It seems to lump all feminists into one narrow category and then dismiss all feminist beliefs as antithetical to Christian teaching. The author also makes several assertions about history and sociology that aren’t supported by citations; the book does contain endnotes, but only for certain statements, which I found a little odd. Ultimately, I don’t think this book would convince anyone who didn’t already agree with the author’s premises, and it would probably antagonize the average reader.

Nov 23, 2011, 1:05pm

Book #114: M. K. Hobson, The Hidden Goddess
Completed on: November 23
Category: Time Is out of Joint

Warning: SPOILERS for The Native Star.

Emily Edwards has gone from being the local witch of Lost Pine, California to becoming engaged to one of the most powerful warlocks in America. She has just moved to New York to be closer to her fiancé, Dreadnought Stanton, who is now the leader of the Institute of Credomancy. However, despite her seeming good fortune, Emily finds it hard to adjust to her new life as a belle of society. She continually fails to act like a proper lady; she hardly ever sees her fiancé; the Institute’s balance of power is extremely unstable; and a sinister group of Russian scientists seems to be chasing Emily. In addition to all of this, Emily must save the world from an evil Aztec goddess who plans to destroy it in a blaze of wicked magic.

I read the first book in this series, The Native Star, earlier this year, and I recall enjoying it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as pleased with this sequel. The love-hate relationship between Emily and Stanton, which was such a delightful aspect of the first book, is completely absent here; in fact, Stanton is barely “on page” until the novel’s climax. Additionally, the writing style is extremely melodramatic, especially when secrets from Emily’s past are revealed. Instead of being shocked and moved by these revelations, I found myself apathetic. I suppose my ambivalence toward this book might be my own fault; I just didn’t feel emotionally invested in the story or characters, but since I liked the first book, maybe I simply wasn’t in the right mood to read this one. At any rate, this book is a decent-enough follow-up to The Native Star, but I’m glad there’s no cliffhanger ending, because I don’t plan to read more in this series.

Nov 23, 2011, 1:41pm

I really hate it when sequels don't satisfy.
You're almost done!

Nov 23, 2011, 1:50pm

YES! :) Only 7 to go...I'm excited!

Nov 24, 2011, 12:24pm

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! May your day be filled with family, friends, and delicious food!

Nov 24, 2011, 1:34pm

Happy Thanksgiving, Christina!

Nov 24, 2011, 2:52pm

Hope you have a nice holiday, Christina.

Nov 24, 2011, 7:52pm

Thanks, Ivy and Judy -- hope you both had a great day!

Nov 24, 2011, 10:25pm

Book #115: Denis Mackail, Greenery Street
Completed on: November 24
Category: Pomegranate Seeds, Anyone?

This novel, both written and set in the 1920s, centers around the fictional Greenery Street in London, where newlyweds Felicity and Ian Foster have just bought a house. The book has no plot to speak of; rather, it chronicles the first year of the Fosters’ marriage in a lighthearted and affectionate manner. Ian and Felicity struggle with daily finances, irritating neighbors, unmanageable servants, and occasional arguments between themselves. However, their mutual love and boundless optimism seem to carry them through all their difficulties.

As with the other Persephone books I’ve read this year, I enjoyed this book very much as a light and charming read. Ian and Felicity aren’t the brightest people in the world, but they still remain lovable throughout all their muddles and mix-ups. Though their problems are often self-inflicted and a bit silly, these characters are always well-meaning and goodhearted, which makes them fun to read about. The authorial voice often intrudes into this novel, which may bother some people – Mackail does get a bit cute at times – but I didn’t mind it at all. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to dive into the frivolous side of the 1920s.

Nov 27, 2011, 10:05pm

Book #116: Robert P. George, The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis
Completed on: November 27
Category: Livin' on a Prayer

In this book, Robert P. George – a conservative, Catholic professor at Princeton – discusses some of the most controversial issues in contemporary American political life, including contraception, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, pornography, and (especially) abortion. His primary goal is to show that Catholic Church’s positions on these issues are intellectually defensible; he therefore attempts to answer criticism of the Catholic positions with arguments based on reason rather than the Bible or divine revelation. Professor George also examines the American legal tradition, especially pondering what role natural law theory should (or shouldn’t) play in judicial decisionmaking.

First of all, I should note that this book is primarily a collection of essays and articles that have already been published elsewhere, so there is no single overarching argument or thesis. Additionally, George doesn’t spend a lot of time arguing the intellectual merits of specific Catholic teachings; many of his claims “on the merits” are followed by an endnote saying he has argued the matter more fully elsewhere. Therefore, this would not be a good book for someone hoping to engage with the reason-based arguments for specific Catholic moral teachings. Rather, the book is really about what changes legitimately can (or should) be made in the U.S., if the Catholic Church is correct on these issues. I found George’s comments regarding American law and public policy to be very thought-provoking, and the book as a whole is presented in a scholarly way. However, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t already have a background in law, philosophy, theology, ethics, or another similar field.

Nov 29, 2011, 11:58am

Book #117: Patricia C. Wrede, Thirteenth Child
Completed on: November 29
Category: Time Is out of Joint

This novel, set in an alternate-universe Wild West, creates a world where magic is everywhere. Fantastical creatures menace the settlers as they head west, so nearly every settlement includes a magician to cast protective spells around it. In this world, numbers also have extremely important meanings: seventh sons are thought to have strong magical powers, and thirteenth children are notoriously unlucky. Eff is a thirteenth child, and as such she’s always felt like she’s cursed. To make matters worse, her twin brother Lan is the seventh son of a seventh son, and thus presumably will become a great magician. Eff has spent most of her life believing that she’ll never be able to do magic; but when she and her family move to a settlement in the far West, she eventually discovers that her own unique talents might actually be useful after all.

I think my summary is a bit misleading, since it focuses so much on the world of the novel. While Wrede does create a very interesting alternate-universe America (called Columbia in the book), she does so unobtrusively through Eff’s first-person narration. Most of the plot concerns Eff and her family’s journey west, and the various challenges they face when they get there. I was fascinated by the world of this book, and Eff is a very likable character. My only complaint is that I want to know more about Eff and her family, as well as the magical systems described in the book. Fortunately there’s at least one sequel, Across the Great Barrier, and I look forward to reading it as well.

Nov 30, 2011, 12:58am

You appear (unless I can no longer count) to only have 3 books left, nice going! I hope you saved some good ones for last :-)

Nov 30, 2011, 9:33am

Yay Christina, sounds like you are almost finished!

Nov 30, 2011, 11:03am

@ 144 -- Well, technically 3 1/2...I'm in the middle of book #118 now (A Broken Vessel by Kate Ross), and then I'll have 3 more to go. Don't worry, I did save some good ones for the end! :)

@ 145 -- Yup, I'm in the home stretch! I'm definitely looking forward to some "free" reading in December!

Nov 30, 2011, 8:53pm

Book #118: Kate Ross, A Broken Vessel
Completed on: November 30
Category: On the Shelf

Regency dandy Julian Kestrel has recently discovered a taste for detective work, and now a second mystery will put his newfound skills to the test. A young prostitute named Sally – who just happens to be the sister of Dipper, Julian’s valet – accidentally stole a suspicious letter from one of her clients, but she’s not sure from which one. This letter was written by a fallen woman who is now pleading for her family’s mercy. However, the letter has no address or signature, so the identities of both writer and recipient are unknown. Julian, Dipper, and Sally resolve to find out who the woman is and return the letter to her; but when they find her, she is already dead. Their new task is to track down her killer, but the search may be dangerous for Julian in more ways than one.

Last year I read the first Julian Kestrel mystery, Cut to the Quick, and was blown away; so my main concern in starting this book was that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I’m thrilled to say that, for the most part, A Broken Vessel is an equally excellent Regency-era mystery. Julian Kestrel is an intriguing character, and I hope to learn more about his past as the series progresses (alas, only two books left!). He reminds me of Heyer’s suave, unflappable heroes with perfect manners and a witty comeback at the ready. The plot is full of twists and turns, and the resolution is clever. I particularly liked the book’s various settings, ranging from a refuge for fallen women to Julian’s moneyed neighborhood to a variety of pubs and brothels. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the development of Julian and Sally’s relationship; I felt like it was unnecessary and out of character for him. Other than that, however, I loved this book and can’t wait to continue with the series!

Nov 30, 2011, 9:04pm

November recap:

Well, this month turned out to be pretty productive! I've now completed 8 of my 11 categories, with just one left to go in each of the remaining 3. Here's what I read in November:

Livin' on a Prayer: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE
.....Jacques Philippe, Time for God
.....Alice von Hildebrand, The Privilege of Being a Woman
.....Robert P. George, The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis

Other Worlds: 10/11
.....Megan Whalen Turner, A Conspiracy of Kings

Classics: 10/11
.....D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover

In Brief: 10/11
.....Connie Willis, Impossible Things

Hot off the Presses: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE

Ye Olde Historical Fiction: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE

The Butler Did It: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE

Pomegranate Seeds, Anyone?: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE
.....Frances Towers, Tea with Mr. Rochester
.....Denis Mackail, Greenery Street

Time Is out of Joint: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE
.....Gail Carriger, Heartless
.....M. K. Hobson, The Hidden Goddess
.....Patricia C. Wrede, Thirteenth Child

On the Shelf: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE
.....Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
.....Kate Ross, A Broken Vessel

Gallimaufry: 11/11 - CATEGORY COMPLETE

Only three books to go! Looks like I'll have plenty of time for some non-challenge reading in December...but of course, then comes the 12 in 12! :)

Nov 30, 2011, 10:11pm

I am considering having a Regency theme category for the 2013 challenge. Your review of A Broken Vessel is leaning me closer to that decision.... along with all the other regency period pieces I keep encountering on various threads!

Dic 1, 2011, 1:11am

Ooh, a Regency theme? Sounds amazing!!! If you do it, I'll be following it avidly to pick up some great new book suggestions!

Dic 1, 2011, 7:08am

Consider this my concession speech in our unofficial race to 121 books. I shall challenge you again in the new year, when you are reading 144 books, while I am reading only 60. :)

Dic 1, 2011, 12:14pm

@ 151 -- Haha, in that case, let me admit defeat for 2012 right now!

Dic 1, 2011, 9:46pm

>149 lkernagh: - Lori - I am so glad that I am not the only one who is already working out categories for 2013! I am thinking of having a 2013 category for authors that I've been avoiding or that scare me for one reason or another.

Dic 1, 2011, 10:29pm

>153 DeltaQueen50: - LOL! Judy, I am sure we are not the only ones already planning categories for 2013... we just haven't received the message when and where the next 'category challenge planners anonymous' meeting is occurring!

Dic 2, 2011, 10:53am

@ 153, 154 -- I too have a tentative 2013 challenge planned out, so you two are definitely not alone! I'm sure I'll be changing it about a million times between now and then, though!

Dic 4, 2011, 6:43pm

Book #119: Shannon Hale, Forest Born
Completed on: December 4
Category: Other Worlds

Rinna, more commonly known as Rin, has spent her whole life in the forest of Bayern helping Ma take care of her numerous and ever-growing family. Though Rin loves her siblings (and nieces and nephews), she feels as though she’s losing her own identity; yet she’s afraid to speak about her own needs for fear of losing her family’s love. When Rin gets an opportunity to accompany her brother Razo to the capital city of Bayern, she hopes that a change of place will help her grow. However, Rin gets more than she bargained for when someone apparently wants to wage war against Bayern. Now Rin must discover what she’s capable of, as she faces some old fears and comes to terms with her identity.

I’ve read and enjoyed Hale’s previous three Books of Bayern, but this installment was quite disappointing by comparison. For one thing, there’s no romance in this book; while that’s not a problem generally speaking, I was expecting a romance because the other books in this series all have one. Leaving that aside, though, my biggest problem was that Rin frankly annoyed me. She spends the entire book angsting about how weak and pathetic she is, and how she might have some Great Evil inside of her. (Spoiler alert: she doesn’t.) While she does manage to find some courage in the end, by then it was too little, too late. I did like the parts of this novel that refer to earlier events and characters in the series; it was especially nice to see Razo again. However, I’m ultimately disappointed in this book, and I hope the series won’t end on such a limp note.

Dic 7, 2011, 8:28pm

Wow, you're almost there!

Dic 8, 2011, 11:05pm

Book #120: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground (trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)
Completed on: December 8
Category: Classics

In this two-part novel, the unnamed narrator immediately informs his readers that he is a sick and wicked man. He then proceeds to rail against the learned gentlemen of his day (the 1860s) and pick apart the flaws in their culture and philosophy. Part one is the narrator’s philosophical diatribe, which lacks the novel-esque elements of plot and characters. In part two, however, the narrator thinks back to the 1840s and reminisces about some of his most memorable experiences from that time. He talks about various acquaintances he’s met and how much he despises them; he also mentions a strange encounter with a prostitute named Liza. Through it all, the narrator’s mental disturbance and anguish become more and more evident.

This book is a tricky one to describe, because it’s much more a work of philosophy than a novel. One of Dostoevsky’s major purposes in writing this book was to criticize various aspects of his own society, particularly the prevailing intellectual climate. The translator’s forward was helpful in giving some of this historical context, but as a cultural outsider, I still felt like I wasn’t able to understand Dostoevsky’s point in some places. I do think the narrator is a very interesting character from a psychological point of view. He’s incredibly unlikeable, yet I could definitely recognize some of my own character traits in him; he seems to embody the worst qualities in mankind generally. This novel is definitely driven by the narrator’s personality, so how intriguing you find him will determine how much you like the book.

Dic 8, 2011, 11:27pm

Now, Notes From the Underground is on my reading bucket list.... I figure Ii have a few years - and lets just leave it at that ;-P - before I need to dust off that list and start ticking things off so kudos for tackling it!

Dic 9, 2011, 12:03am

@ 157 -- Yup, I'm on my last book now! :)

@ 159 -- Lori, the good thing about Notes from Underground is that it's short! So when you do get around to it, at least it won't take too long to read. Personally, I prefer Crime and Punishment and especially The Brothers Karamazov.

Dic 16, 2011, 11:31am

Book #121: Thomas Godfrey, ed., Murder for Christmas
Completed on: December 16
Category: In Brief

This collection of short stories seeks to put readers in the Christmas spirit by offering "26 tales of seasonal malice." Most of the stories are mysteries, involving everything from murder to jewel theft, kidnapping to highway robbery. There are also a few suspenseful thrillers, a couple of comic tales, and even a ghost story or two. The collection predominantly includes works by extremely famous authors, including Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rex Stout, Ellery Queen, G. K. Chesterton, Woody Allen, and Charles Dickens. Interspersed throughout the stories are cartoons by illustrator Gahan Wilson, introductions to each story by editor Thomas Godfrey, and the occasional brain teaser.

I picked up this book because I couldn't resist a collection of mystery stories that contained so many authors that I love. By and large, I really enjoyed these stories, especially those of the murder-at-an-English-country-house variety. (What can I say, I'm a diehard Agatha Christie fan!) I was also able to expand my horizons quite a bit: for example, I'd never read anything by Rex Stout before, and now I'm interested in giving his Nero Wolfe books a try. I was also impressed by the Ellery Queen and Georges Simenon installments, and I look forward to reading some more of their works. All in all, while I liked some stories more than others, I can't remember any that I really disliked. I think this book would be a wonderful Christmas gift for any mystery lover, especially someone who enjoys the "classics" of the genre.

Editado: Dic 16, 2011, 11:34am

And with that, I am DONE with the 11 in 11 challenge!!! (And on Jane Austen's birthday, no less!) I'll be back tonight to post a challenge summary, best and worst books, etc. In the meantime, I plan to enjoy the next two weeks of total reading freedom until I begin the 12 in 12 on January 1!

Dic 16, 2011, 2:25pm


Dic 16, 2011, 3:21pm

Congratulations on completing your challenge! Enjoy your free time.

Dic 16, 2011, 11:01pm

Hooray! Congratulations on completing you Challenge - now you get to rest for a couple of weeks and then start in on the 2012 Challenge.

Dic 16, 2011, 11:40pm

Victoria, Wolfy, and DQ, thank you all! I'm looking forward to some non-structured reading for a change...but I'm sure I'll be chomping at the bit for 2012 in no time!

Dic 17, 2011, 12:00am

Great job Christina! Congratulations!

Dic 17, 2011, 12:22am

Congratulations Christina! Enjoy your free reading time!

Editado: Dic 17, 2011, 12:41am


Past Threads

ONE and TWO.



First completed -- Gallimaufry. Obviously my catch-all category would be filled first; I think I finished it in April!

Last completed -- In Brief. I wanted to end on a fun note with Murder for Christmas.

Pleasantest surprise -- Hot off the Presses. It really allowed me to have fun with my challenge and read some brand-new, shiny books! I also got to put all my ER wins here, which helped me to consolidate my reading.

Biggest let-down -- Time Is out of Joint. I thought a steampunk category was going to be so cool, but I had a lot of disappointing reads in this category. I did enjoy Gail Carriger's series and the Leviathan books, but there were a lot of clunkers. Also, it seems like a lot of books are being marketed as steampunk even though they don't really have any steampunk elements! *coughcoughM.K.Hobsoncough*

Worst overall -- Classics. Not that I dislike classic literature, but I didn't love any of the books I read for this category. Even the ones I did like, such as Death Comes for the Archbishop and The Awakening, would get at most 3.5 stars from me.

Best overall -- Pomegranate Seeds, Anyone? Persephone Books was one of my most brilliant discoveries last year, and I had to dedicate a whole 11 in 11 category to it. The only book I didn't really love was Saplings, and that was primarily because it was a bit more depressing/ambiguous than the others. But I absolutely adored this category overall!


Best Books

Historical romance with the most fascinating setting -- Roselynde by Roberta Gellis. If you want a good medieval romance with some substance, look no further!

Most edge-of-your-seat series installment -- Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire. Oh, how the stakes were raised for Toby in this book! I couldn't put it down; and if you haven't started the series yet, what are you waiting for?

Pleasantest surprise from a beloved children's author -- The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I didn't know she'd written books for adults, but this was such a good book!

Best new fantasy series that knocked my socks off -- The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron, which currently contains The Spirit Thief, The Spirit Rebellion, and The Spirit Eater. Each of these books was fantastic, and I can't wait for the next installment to come out next year! If you like your epic fantasy with plenty of magic, roguish heroes, and lighthearted ass-kicking, you must check this out!

Most charming book set in an English country village -- Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson. I also loved the sequel, Miss Buncle Married. They're the perfect reads for someone who enjoys a good comedy of manners!

Most helpful guide to prayer -- It's a tie between C. S. Lewis' Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer and Jacques Philippe's Time for God. Both are must-reads for Christians hoping to improve their prayer life.

Most swoon-worthy teen romance -- Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Yes, it's a teen romance, which is not a genre one expects much from these days. But it was passionate and romantic without being sickly-sweet, and it made me want to fall in love! Perkins' follow-up novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door, was also extremely good.

Most unique fantasy setting -- The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier. This book not only provides an interesting plot and a tender romance, but it also gives a fascinating glimpse into Druid culture. I'm beginning to think Marillier can do no wrong.

Most epic faux-Victorian novel -- Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Yes, it's ridiculously long, and the plot moves incredibly slowly, but this book is a remarkable achievement. If you're not put off by a Dickensian style, give this a try!

Book whose plot I hope to imitate in my own life -- Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. Cute guy driving me across America to the accompaniment of an impossibly cool soundtrack? Yes please!


Worst Books

Most disappointing mystery -- Death and the Running Patterer by Robin Adair. The setting of colonial Australia had a lot of potential, but it couldn't make up for the bad writing and pointless info dumps.

Blah-est family saga -- The Legacy by Katherine Webb. Three hundred pages of boredom.

Dullest chick-lit read -- The Best Day of Someone Else's Life by Kerry Reichs. Chick lit is supposed to be fun, but this one just dragged on and on.

Most all-over-the-place steampunk slog -- The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt. I got halfway through it and then had to give up. My only did-not-finish of the challenge.

Classic that I most wanted to set on fire -- Light in August by William Faulkner. I've tried and tried, and I just don't like Faulkner. His writing style bugs me, and at the end of this book, I was left thinking, "What was the point?"

Most superficial historical romance -- The Madcap by Nikki Poppen. Not only were the plot and characters totally clichéd, but it's like Poppen didn't even try to make the book fun or interesting. Entirely two-dimensional.

Worst book ever -- The Crime of Sheila McGough by Janet Malcolm. You think I'm exaggerating, but I am so not.


I don't want to end on a downer, so I'll reiterate that I really enjoyed this challenge! I'll continue to check in with this community, although I likely won't post to this thread anymore. As of January 1, I'll be over HERE at the 12 in 12, so be sure to stop by!

Editado: Dic 17, 2011, 12:40am

@ 167, 168 -- Thank you both!

Dic 17, 2011, 5:01am

Congratulations! A wide variety of books, and always good to know the best and worst. See you in the 12 in 12.

Dic 17, 2011, 12:11pm

Thanks -- see you there!

Dic 17, 2011, 1:59pm

Congratulations, Christina! And a very interesting summary!

Dic 17, 2011, 3:42pm

Thanks Ivy!

Dic 17, 2011, 9:59pm

Congratulations on finishing! And, I totally loved your best and worst post - it's currently "favorited" so I can go back and refer to it at leisure!

Hope you're enjoying your 2 weeks of free reading time!!!

Dic 18, 2011, 12:02am

Congratulations on finishing the challenge!

Dic 18, 2011, 1:23pm

Thanks, Laura and tymfos! And Laura, I'm very flattered! :)

Dic 18, 2011, 8:58pm

Just read Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog!) and really enjoyed it. A hilarious and charming read! Now I want to go back and re-read Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog!

Dic 19, 2011, 11:50am


Dic 19, 2011, 8:24pm

@ 179 -- Thank you!

Dic 22, 2011, 12:22am

Anna Dean's A Gentleman of Fortune is a worthy sequel to the excellent Bellfield Hall. Both books are about Dido Kent, an amateur sleuth in an Austen-esque world, and the mysteries that she solves. Anna Dean writes the period very well, although she's a bit too indebted too Austen in some respects. Still, this series is definitely worth a read if the idea of a Regency-era mystery appeals to you.

Dic 26, 2011, 10:29pm

I know I'm a bit late, but I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas! I certainly did. :) Not only did I have a lovely time with my family, but I also got to kick back with some great re-reads -- Agatha Christie's The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Caprice Crane's Stupid and Contagious, and Georgette Heyer's Cotillion.

So what great books did you all get as holiday gifts? Strangely enough, I got NONE; but I did get gift cards to Barnes & Noble and Amazon, so I look forward to treating myself! :)

Dic 29, 2011, 10:44pm

As the year draws to a close, I've been luxuriating in some all-too-rare re-reads. Most recently it was Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, which is a fun little Regency romp of an epistolary novel -- with magic!

Now I'm reading The Floating Opera by John Barth, for reasons which would take me too long to explain. It's not really my kind of book, but I'm hoping to finish it before 1/1/12. I really can't wait to start a brand-new challenge!

Ene 2, 2012, 5:03pm

I know I'm a bit late with this, but Happy New Year to everyone! May your 2012 be better than your 2011. :) I am now closing this thread and moving over to the 12 in 12, so feel free to visit!