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!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Book #3 -- Life

The following are the thoughts I posted on the Book Club discussion:

I have to say this first and foremost: I am left with so much respect for this dude. I never really listened to much of the Stones, so all I knew about Keith was that he was a guitarist and he partied a lot and he was Johnny Depp's inspiration for Captain Jack Sparrow. If you'd asked me to judge his character based on those things alone, I'd have said he was a lavish rock and roller who did too many drugs and lived a cushy life. After reading this book, I feel really bad for thinking that.

The most striking thing to me is how much he genuinely loves music. It was never about being a famous guitarist who gets girls and money and drugs. Those things might have come with the package, but Keith literally just loves music. There are many times that he just rambles on and on about this chord and that chord and hand positions and guitar techniques, and to be perfectly honest, I have no clue what he's talking about. Even so, I know just from the way he talks about his craft that making music is the end all be all of his life, and I respect that a lot. There are probably plenty of rock stars who are in the business for several reasons, music being pretty far down on the list. Not the case with Mr. Richards. ("I don't think they quite understand what I get out of this. I'm not doing it just for the money or for you. I'm doing it for me.")

As a huge Beatles fan, I have to touch on the whole "Beatles vs. Stones" thing. Those two bands -- both British, both immensely popular in the 60s -- always seem to be regarded as rivals. You're "either" a Beatles fan "or" a Stones fan, not both. I'm not sure why that is, and apparently Keith isn't either. I loved these quotes -- "The thing is not to try to regurgitate the Beatles. So we're going to have to be the anti-Beatles." And they were. Unkempt, glamorous, and tough. The Beatles (at least at the beginning) were clean cut and wholesome. Keith also mentions specifically working with the Beatles to stagger their album/single releases to not step on each others' toes. I love that they never saw each other as the competition, because I never have, either.

And, ooookkkk, how awesome was it to read about the Stones recording at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios? (Which is actually in Sheffield, but OK.) I totally enjoyed reading that. Made me feel a lot closer to the book.

As for Keith himself... I think Helen pretty much summed it up. He is who he is, regardless of how confusing it may be. He's honest to a fault, and he doesn't care who he rubs the wrong way. He'll talk about doing drugs like candy, but he's very honest about how much they messed him up at times. I also liked that he was clear that he never took drugs to get high and/or be more creative. He did drugs because that was how he lived -- just enough to survive. Just like eating. He's not overindulgent about it. Interesting.

Bottom line -- It was a pretty choppy read, since he never seems to have a clear stream of consciousness. (Would you?) There's no rhyme or reason to the order of it most of the time, but I kind of liked that. Before I read the book, I saw a lot of reviewers complain about the lack of editing, but I didn't so much mind it. Yeah, it was hard to follow sometimes. (And at the beginning, he totally did not bother to explain who certain people were. If he says "Mick" or "Brian," you best know who Mick and Brian are or else you have no reason to be reading the book.) But I think it fit the purpose. It felt like Keith sat down in a room with a tape recorder and started talking. And it was written that way, with weird punctuation and run-ons and bouncing from thought to thought. It's Keith telling you his life story, and I don't think I would've liked a cleaned up, polished version. Kudos to him for not letting someone fix it up for him.

And now to expand on that a bit:

Life is insanely long, and I thought I would never finish it by the end of the month. Honestly, though, he's got a lot to say. As I mentioned, it's choppy and hard to follow, and it lacks the whole "plot" thing that usually makes long books easier to read. That being said, this is totally worth wading through.

Keith is quite witty and charming. I laughed out loud several times while I was reading this. Examples:

(On a proposed Arizona law to regulate rock and roll music) "Love to see the wording of the statute -- 'Where there be loudly and insistently four beats to the bar...'"

(On quickly deciding on a band name to save long distance telephone charges) "First track on The Best of Muddy Waters is 'Rollin Stone.' The cover is on the floor. Desperate, Brian, Mick and I take the dive. 'The Rolling Stones!' Phew! That saved sixpence."

His wit, combined with his "tell-it-like-it-is" attitude make Life a really enjoyable experience. Reading about globe-trekking and drugs and inter-band tension could have very easily been boring and pretentious. With Keith, it's not. For example, I don't think I'd have enjoyed reading an account of the Rolling Stones' career written by Mick Jagger. I don't think he would have carried the grace that Keith does. Keith will tell you what he loves and how lucky he is, but he'll tell you what sucks, too. Since we're on the subject, Keith will also flat out tell you why he and Mick Jagger had a testy relationship for the last few decades (thanks to something he refers to as "LVS" -- Lead Vocalist Syndrome). Jagger seemed to lose himself in the fame eventually, and Keith goes so far as to say, "Do you know Mick Jagger? Yeah, which one? He's a nice bunch of guys." The point is that I don't think all rock stars have managed to stay quite as grounded as Keith Richards. Not that he hasn't has his share of "good times" and luxuries -- he certainly has, but he doesn't brag about them. He tells them for what they are -- wonderful experiences. And he'll admit when something that he looked forward to wasn't all it was cracked up to be, such as how hurt he was when one of his all-time heroes turned out to be a jerk: "Chuck Berry was a big disappointment. He was numero uno hero." He doesn't get caught up in hype, even hype for his own rock idols.

All of these things -- from fame to drugs to relationships to parenting (or lack of parenting...) -- have led Keith to be a very wise man. There is some legitimately smart stuff in here:

"Everything has something to do with something.; nothing is divorced. It becomes an experience, a feeling, or a conglomeration of experiences."

"Preaching is tax free. Very little to do with God, a lot to do with money."

To sum up, this was not the easiest book to get through, and it was not the best book I've ever read. What it is, is an honest and realistic account of the life of a rock legend, who deserves your respect for not losing himself somewhere in the last 5 decades of fame.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Book #2: Sin's Daughter

I'm not really sure what came over me when I downloaded this, because it doesn't sound like anything I would like, the reviews weren't great, and (as someone who admittedly judges books by their covers on a regular basis) that cover is seriously trashy. Should've heeded all of those warnings, because this wasn't really worth my time.

This novella/short story (I'm counting this + the last short story I read as 1 book) is a prequel to Eve Silver's Otherkin trilogy. I'm honestly not sure if this was written and released before the first book, or if was done after. I would wager a guess that it was after, because that would explain the lack of... well, everything. There wasn't any background information, and I felt like I was already supposed to know who the main characters were. If I'd read the first book in the trilogy, I guess I would have.

From what I can tell, these books are about a couple (Amber and Kai) who are both immortal and involved in some sort of "underworld" shenanigans that occasionally bring them to the "topworld." OK. Something happened a long time ago with them, and they fell in love, then they both died... or "died"... then they meet again many years later, although they haven't aged. That's where this story picks up.

It was slow to get started, but then it picked up a lot. I sort of even almost enjoyed it for a while, but then it turned into complete softcore porn. Once Amber and Kai gave in to their "we used to be together, but now I hate you, but really I love you" tension, the rest of the story awkwardly gross.

So, yes. Don't read this. You're welcome.

1/5 Stars

Read from January 4, 2011 to January 5, 2011


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Book #1.5: Serial

Ok, so this is Book #1.5 because it's just a short story, but I have to review it because I have a lot to say about it.

"Serial" is three-chapter horror story written by Jack Kilborn (the pen name of author J.A. Konrath) and Blake Crouch. I found it on Kindle, and I was immediately sold (... well, it was free, so, "sold") by the beginning of the description:

"Jack Kilborn (aka J.A. Konrath) and Blake Crouch turn their attention to the twin golden rules of hitchhiking:
# 1: Don’t go hitchhiking, because the driver who picks you up could be certifiably crazy.
# 2: Don’t pick up hitchhikers, because the traveler you pick up could be a raving nutcase.
So what if, on some dark, isolated road, Crazy #1 offered a ride to Nutcase #2?"

YES!! What a brilliant premise for a horror story.

Fair warning: it's rather graphic, but that's to be expected. It's well-written and always keeps you interested. The authors don't use the trite, over-used murder tactics... These killers have some pretty interesting ideas. It's one of those books that makes you think, "Man, the guy who thought of this is a sick person." But it's awesome.

I'm not going to talk much about what happens in the story, because it's way more fun for you to find out for yourself (download it for free on your Kindle app of choice). What I do want to talk about is how it was written. I didn't know this until after I read the story, but I respected it a lot more when I found out.

The two authors, Konrath and Crouch, decided to collaborate, and after some emails back and forth, chose a loose topic -- hitchhiking. Basically, Konrath was responsible for writing a chapter about a hitchhiker who is killed by the person who picks him up. Crouch was responsible for writing a chapter about a hitchhiker who kills the person who picks him up. They were not allowed to read each others' chapters until the entire story was complete. For the third chapter, where Killer #1 meets Killer #2, Konrath started the text, then passed it Crouch, and the two authors ping-ponged their story until it was done . But I repeat, they had not read each others' first chapters when they finished the story. This is mind-blowing to me. The story got so much cooler after I found that out.

Really, really great short story. Some of the reviews on Amazon are really bad, and I can't figure out why. I didn't see anything wrong with it, nothing boring, nothing cheesy. Can't recommend it enough.

5/5 Stars

Read on January 3, 2011.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Special Post: Name Change, Kindle Lending, Book Club, Etc.

Happy New Year, folks!

You may notice that we changed the name of our blog. I hate to spring that on you, but honestly, "Sixty Books in 2010" just doesn't seem to fit anymore. Out with the old, in with the new. Since we recently started a book club with some friends and family (mentioned in this post), we decided to change the name of the blog to the name of the book club -- Descripted. As promised, we'll still review the books we read outside of the book club, but this just helps streamline things a bit. The URL for the blog will stay the same (http://sixtybooks.blogspot.com). Even though it's not actually sixty books anymore, our followers won't have to change their bookmarks if we keep the old URL.

I thought I'd mention a few things about Kindle, since I do so much of my reading on my Kindle and Kindle applications. First of all, just in case you aren't aware, there are a few options for accessing Kindle content even if you don't actually own a Kindle. You can download the (free!) Kindle application to various cell phones (including iPhone, Android, and Blackberry devices) and the iPad. You can also download (free!) Kindle reading software on your PC or Mac desktop or laptop computers. Click here to download any of these. (I personally have the app on my Droid Eris phone and my computer, as well as owning a Kindle.) Any of these apps gives you full access to the Kindle store, both free and paid content.

Here's my favorite part -- For example, let's say I read 22% of a book on my Kindle, and I find myself waiting in line at the post office (happens more than you might think, since I work across the street from the post office and seem to constantly have something to mail). Let's say I just walked across the street from work without my bag, so I don't have my Kindle. I have my phone in my pocket, though. I take out my phone, open my Kindle app, and choose "Sync to furthest read location." Within seconds, it automatically takes me to where I left off on my Kindle -- 22% into the book. Suddenly the fifteen minutes in line at the post office isn't so bad... I get to be that obnoxious hipster who never puts her phone away. Oh well.

Kindle has also just announced the lending option, which I was really excited about until I did a little more research. I'm now only marginally excited, but I guess it's better than nothing. Kindle lending is basically exactly what it sounds like. If you have purchased a book on Kindle (or any of the Kindle apps), you can "lend" it to another person who uses Kindle for ten days. Most books are available to lend, although not all of them are. (None of the free ones are, but why would you lend a free book anyway?) This is a free service, but it does have its downsides. While your friend has the book you "loaned" them, you don't have access to it. After the ten days is up, you have your book back automatically, and your friend loses access. That's not really a big deal, because chances are, if I loaned you something, I've already read it, and ten days without it won't kill me.

The real problem is that it's only for ten days, and after those ten days, the book cannot be re-loaned to that person or anyone else. Basically you can lend each book one time and only one time. So, if you lend a book to a friend (let's say, Life by Keith Richards, which is, oh, I don't know, 584853948 pages long) and that person can't finish it all in ten days. Too bad, guess you'll have to buy the book to finish it. Or, if you lend a book to Friend A, and they totally love it and say, "You should loan it to Friend B, too!" Too bad, Friend B is left out of the sharing party. But I guess you can't really blame Amazon for that. If you let everyone lend willy nilly, eventually there'd be a big enough community of Kindle users who were willing to share, no one would ever need to buy a book again. The other devices similar to Kindle (eg. the Nook) have lending systems that work very much the same way. So, having the option to lend at all is better than nothing, but I guess it's not as amazing as I thought. You can go here to read more about Kindle lending and learn how to loan your books.

Lastly, I'd like to give y'all a heads up that the first book the Descripted Book Club will read for 2011 (chosen by a vote from all of our members) is Life by Keith Richards. Don't ask me how that happened. Be looking out for reviews by both Derrick and me sometime this month... probably towards the end of the month, since apparently this thing is longer than the Bible.

Hope y'all are having a wonderful beginning to 2011!


Book #1: Sweetie

Ahhh, my first book of 2011. It was a lovely way to start the new year.

Sweetie by Kathryn Magendie takes place in smalltown North Carolina, where a young girl named Sweetie occasionally comes out of her rugged, earthen lifestyle in the mountains to attend the local elementary school. The entire town thinks Sweetie is either crazy, evil, or both. The town has been gossiping about Sweetie's family, holed up in the woods, for decades. Melissa, one of Sweetie's classmates, is also an outcast. Although Melissa comes from a well-to-do family with a pretentious, overbearing mother, she doesn't fit in with the other students because of her weight and a nervous stutter. Over the summer, the two girls, against all odds, form a bond that, the story proves, is impossible to break.

This is a classic tale of unconditional friendship. Even though it's the story of two pre-teen girls, the issues are very adult -- it would touch a person of any age. It's definitely a coming-of-age story that teaches an important lesson about where you should put your loyalties. Even though Melissa loves Sweetie more than anything, there are times with the stigma associated with Sweetie and her lifestyle make Melissa turn away in attempts to become more popular. It seems like juvenile subject matter (it's not -- this book is not written for young adults), but it's the underlying message that's important.

It reminded me a little of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. It's sort of the adult version of the same basic idea. I loved it. Magendie certainly has a way with words, and she tells this story beautifully. I highly suggest downloading this one on your Kindle -- it's free right now, but well worth much more than that.

4/5 Stars

Read from January 1, 2011 to January 3, 2011