We started this blog in 2010 after a New Years' Resolution to read 60 books between the two of us. (40 for C, 20 for D.) After reaching our goal, we decided to keep going in 2011. This year, C has pledged to read 30 books, and D will read 12. By no means are we professional reviewers; we're not even professional bloggers. We're just two people who love to read and decided to share our thoughts and offer our limited insights. We hope you enjoy!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book #12: The Red Tent

Ah, another book that I never would have chosen for myself but ended up loving. There have been a lot of those lately. I must be really bad at picking books for myself. I'm glad other people are apparently good at doing it for me.

This book is about Dinah, the daughter of Jacob. You know. Jacob. From the Bible. Duh. You hear a lot about Jacob's 12 sons, especially Joseph, but you don't hear much about his daughter. I had myself a bit of a refresher course (been a long time since confirmation classes...) and read a few books in Genesis. Genesis 34 tells a very brief portion of Dinah's story. I read this after I read the book, and I'm glad I did, because it's a bit of a spoiler. It's way better if you don't remember what happened. Anyway, the Bible doesn't ever say exactly what happened to Dinah.

That's where Anita Diamant steps in. The book is separated into three sections, the first of which focuses on her mothers stories -- she was raised not only by her mother, Leah, but also by her aunts (Jacob's other wives). Then, she begins to tell her own story. It's written beautifully, and it certainly holds on the tone of Biblical stories without being difficult to read. The entire book focuses on women, whether it's Dinah herself or her mothers or the women that she helps in her role as a midwife. The title The Red Tent refers to the tent where women gathered during menstruation and childbirth. They were separated from the men and thus developed an entirely different bond and way of life inside the tent, which and environment that Dinah loves and often longs for later in life. Again, with so much emphasis placed on Jacob's sons, it's nice to read a story that imagines what Dinah's life may have been like. It's a great idea for a book, and Diamant executes it brilliantly.

By the way, the author page of this book lists other books by Anita Diamant: Choosing a Jewish Life, The New Jewish Baby Book, The New Jewish Wedding, Living a Jewish Life. Hm. She must be a Muslim. Anyway, I don't know why she hasn't written more novels -- she's very good at it. Although the book is based on a Biblical story, it certainly isn't a religious book. I'm fairly certain that most women could find a lot about this book that they love.

Read from May 21, 2010 to May 27, 2010

4/5 stars

-- C

Friday, May 21, 2010

Book #11: Breaking Dawn


Let's start this as positively as possible: This series is over. I'm done. My irrational, morbid need to read books that I don't even like is satisfied. That's the best part about this book.

This was by far the hardest in the series to get through. As I've mentioned, although I find the Twilight "saga" atrocious, I have to admit that they're at least entertaining. I read each of the first three in a couple days' time, but this one... I just wasn't interested. I kind of wanted to quit about 500 or so pages in, but of course I couldn't let myself do that. Something about the plot just didn't really interest me. That's why it took me so long to read... That, and the fact that I may or may not have thrown it across the room a few times, mid-paragraph.

Picking up where I left off in my snarky review of Eclipse, let me try to explain what's going on in Breaking Dawn. (Also, if you haven't read this series yet, you're not going to, so stop pretending like you'd care if I spoiled the ending for you... which I'm about to do.) Let's do this as simply as possible: Bella and Edward get hitched. They go on a honeymoon, and even though Edward is "afraid" to try, Bella eventually convinces him... that their marriage should be consummated, let's say. Well, guess what? Vampires can get you pregnant. They can and they will. Bella's knocked up, and apparently half-vampire babies are a) really strong and like to break your bones internally and b) ready to be born in just a few weeks. Bella dies (yay!) during childbirth, but Edward "saves" her (boo!) by turning her into a vampire. So Bella's a vampire, and she has a half-vampire daughter who she brilliantly names Renesmee. Yes. Really. A hybrid of her mother's name (Renee) and Edward's mother's name (Esme). Yes. Seriously. (And the kid's middle name is Carlie. Like Carslile + Charlie. Yes. Seriously.) Who should be upset about this? Jacob. But he's not, because as it turns out, Renesmee is his soul mate, or will be when she grows up. Yes, that's how werewolves do things. So, everyone is one big, happy family for two seconds, and then the Volturi decide to ruin the party because some idiot tells them that Renesmee is a full vampire, and full vampire babies are against the rules. They come to kill everyone, but then they realize she's half-human, and they're all, "...Oh. Well this is awkward." They're still mad and kinda want to kill everyone anyway, but they get talked out of it. THE END.

Look, I just told you the whole story in one paragraph. Why did I need to read 754 pages? I don't know. Here's what I learned, though. You know that I hate Bella. More than I have ever hated a character in a book before, ever. Again -- she has no redeeming qualities, yet she has people practically killing themselves for her. But... I found myself missing Bella's whiny, dramatic narration in the middle of the book when, for some reason, it switches to Jacob's narration. (None of the other books have any other narrator than Bella.) Honestly, I only thought Bella was annoying. Jacob. Oh. Jacob. Even the titles of the chapters he narrated were annoying: "Why Didn't I Just Walk Away? Oh Right, Because I'm An Idiot." Yeah. Anyway, I will say that the most bothersome thing about this book is obviously the child's name. I mean, come on. But the part that had me (literally) throwing the thing across the room was the part about Jacob "imprinting" on Renesmee. (That's the wolf term for finding your soulmate, basically.) I don't know. It's all just so ridiculous, but I think it's supposed to be. This is a series about vampires, and it's written for pre-teens. I don't know why my expectations are so high. Maybe I'll let go of my hatred for Twilight and say, "You know, at least it encouraged kids all over the world to read."

Orrrrrrrr, maybe I won't.

P.S. -- When Breaking Dawn first came out in 2008, I kept hearing about how all the hardcore Twilight fans hated it, and they were even returning it to bookstores after they had read it in "protest." I thought, "Well, I'm never going to read this crap," so I looked up spoilers about it to see why everyone was so mad. I kept reading that Bella died, but not knowing anything about the series, I didn't know what that meant. I vaguely recalled those spoilers when I started reading this. Imagine my disappointment when I realized that "dying" just meant becoming immortal. Boo.

1/5 stars

Read from May 13, 2010 to May 21, 2010


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book #10: The Hunger Games

So, I totally read this book in about 28 hours. The Girl Who Played with Fire is certainly a tough contender in the Best Books I've Read This Year battle, but this one gives it a run for its money. I have to give a big, fat "thank you" to my sister-in-law for recommending this book, because there is literally no way I ever would have picked it up otherwise. It sounds more like something Derrick would read -- not really my style. But oh. It is magnificent.

What used to be North America is now known as Panem. It is divided into twelve districts and ruled by a harsh government known as the Capitol. To ensure the citizens in the districts are always aware that the Capitol controls them completely, there is a yearly contest known as The Hunger Games. In the Games, one boy and one girl (between the ages of 12 and 18) from each of the districts are taken to an arena in which they fight to the death. The last child remaining is the winner, and their district will be rewarded. The children participating in the games are expected to use whatever they can -- wit, charm, combat, hunting, deception, whatever -- to make it out alive. And everyone in the nation is watching the whole thing on television.

I can't explain how insanely awesome this book is. It's written for young adults, but make no mistake about the content -- it's deep and sophisticated and brilliant. It's so twisted that at times it reminded me of a scaled-down Palahniuk book, but the bizarre society aspect reminded me a little of The Giver by Lois Lowry (one of my all-time favorites). So... it's like The Giver meets meets The Most Dangerous Game (the short story by Richard Connell) meets the reality show Survivor. Except it's better than all of them.

The narrator, Katniss, is a tough 16-year-old from the poorest district (District 12) who finds herself fighting against 23 other teenagers in the Games. This character easily carries the plot of the book, and you're fighting right there with her the entire time. The sheer weight of the situation, the strange celebratory feel of such a horrible event, and some unlikely alliances make The Hunger Games the best book I've read in 2010. This is the first book in a trilogy by Suzanne Collins, and I can't wait to get my hands on the second book. The third comes out in August, so start reading now.

Read from May 11, 2010 to May 12, 2010

5/5 stars


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book #9: The Memory Keeper's Daughter

...Well. There were a few things that should have tipped me off about how I would ultimately feel about this book. First of all, the cover includes some praise from author Jodi Picoult. Warning sign #1. Second, apparently this book has already been made into a Lifetime movie. Big, huge, flashing warning sign #2.

The book follows the lives of Dr. David Henry and his wife Norah. It opens in 1964 with David delivering his twins late one night due to a winter storm. Norah is heavily medicated during the procedure, (as was apparently customary at the time) and the couple was not expecting twins. When the second child, a girl, is delivered, David immediately realizes she has Downs Syndrome. Instead of put his wife through the "grief" of raising a disabled child who would likely have medical problems, he sends the child with his nurse to be taken to a mental institution. David tells Norah that she had twins, but the female infant died.

The rest of the book, which follows the family for about 25 years, details how David deals with the decision he made, how Norah deals with the loss of the child she thinks is dead, and what actually happens to the child (Phoebe). David and Norah's marriage is all but destroyed because of the situation, and their son, Paul, has a troubled relationship with his reserved, distant parents.

It's not that I didn't like The Memory Keeper's Daughter, because I sort of did, but there just wasn't much to it. Obviously the ultimate question here is, "When is Norah going to find out the truth?" I feel like at least 200 pages in the middle were useless filler. Get to the point already, Edwards. Kim Edwards isn't a bad author, in the way that, say, Stephanie Meyer is a bad author. She phrases things well, and there's something poetic about her words at times, but she's not very good at carrying plots along.

Also... I didn't actually like a single character in this book. Even the characters with good qualities were annoying in one way or another. David obviously isn't Mr. Terrific, since he gave his daughter away and then told his wife she was dead. Norah is a flightly, dramatic, bitter wench, Paul is an annoying teenager for most of the book, and the people who wind up caring for Phoebe aren't real winners, either. I generally have an issue with reading books that are full of people I don't like, unless I'm not supposed to like them. I get the feeling that I was supposed to like just about everyone in this book, even David, but I totally didn't.

I'm kind of curious to see exactly how atrocious the Lifetime movie is. Maybe I'll do that one of these days. Bottom line: It's an easy book to read, but it won't really keep you captivated... at least not if you're used to reading the kind of books that I read. Even the Twilight books keep me entertained, so it's not even about the quality of the book. It just doesn't carry itself well, period.

Read April 14, 2010 to May 10, 2010

2.5/5 stars

On another note, I am pleased to announce that tomorrow is the final day of my internship. This means I'm going to read... Incessantly... For three months. So get ready.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Y: The Last Man -- A Second Opinion (6)

I can't say much about this series that Chassi hasn't already said, so I'll keep this short. This comic series is one for the masses. If you have never read a comic and have never had any desire to read a graphic story about men in tights with phenomenal cosmic powers, you could still enjoy this series. Y builds a wold of intrigue, captures and builds the characters, and creates a compelling story that anyone can appreciate. I can't say enough good things it, so let me just say this: READ IT!

5/5 Stars


Daemon by Daniel Suarez (5)

Daemon is by far the best book I've read this year. Bar none. Daniel Suarez's first attempt at fiction writing is going to be hard to top. Daemon starts out with a few characters and a veil of secrecy and technological innuendo that catches you early on in the book. The small cast of characters then blooms as a man begins reaching back from the grave through a computer program called a daemon.

Soon, the character list grows, those characters are fleshed out, and a world of political and technological mysteries emerges. From one chapter to the next, I found it hard to put this book down. I was constantly being pulled in multiple directions, engrossed in the characters as they grew and overwhelmed by the societal and political implications of the Daemon.

Still, I think that what I enjoyed most about this book is the thing that may be a bit overwhelming for the non-technical reader. From the combination of real-time GPS coordinates and HUDs that keep the Daemon's minions on course, to the use of video game technology in real-world applications, it's apparent that Daniel Suarez's history as an avid gamer and systems analyst has served him well.

Daemon justs scratches the surface of Suarez's world, though, as the novel is left a bit open ended. That's as close as I'll come to saying anything bad about this book, though, because I simply loved it. I've just picked up the sequel, FredomTM, and it looks like Suarez has picked up right where he left off. I can't wait to delve deeper into this world.

5/5 Stars