Sunday, May 31, 2009

Books Read In May

It has been a bad reading month. I spent days not reading anything and really had no interest in even picking up a book. Maybe it was the stress, maybe it was the lack of good reading material or maybe just having other things to do. It did pick up at the end of the month though and in the end I read 8 books. My lowest so far but its better then none. The books that I read were: 52.

Tropic Of Orange - Karen Tei Yamashita
Deadly Web - Barbara Nadel
Club Dead - Charlaine Harris
The Ruby in the Smoke - Philip Pullman
The Lion Tamer's Daughter - Peter Dickinson
Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith
The Double Eagle - James Twining
The Gift of Rain - Tan Twan Eng

I didn't finish all the books that I had on my list for the month of May for various reasons. I started A Secret History - Donna Tart, A Prayer For Owen Meany - John Irving and My Own Country Abraham Verghesse but I wasn't interested in the first two. I will try to finish My Own Country next month as well as read Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe.

No non-fiction this month. I read 2 Young Adult novels and 4 murder-mystery type novels. I also read 2 more books for the Diversity Rocks Challenge. I liked all the books I read this month but my favorites were The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng and Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. Both books were very different and really really good!!

I am up to 52 books for the year. At this rate I will definatly be able to reach my goal of 100 books by the end of the year. Especially when I get to begin my summer vacation reading.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tropic Of Orange - Karen Tei Yamashita

This book was interesting. Not my usual read but I wanted to give it a try because I had heard good things about it. The book is set in Los Angeles and is narrated by seven different people for seven different days. Each person narrates a part of each day. says "This fiercely satirical, semifantastical novel ... features an Asian-American television news executive, Emi, and a Latino newspaper reporter, Gabriel, who are so focused on chasing stories they almost don't notice that the world is falling apart all around them." This is just part of the book. The author focuses on Asian-American, African American and Latin American characters and their lives in LA and Mexico.

I liked this book but I can't say I fully understood it. I liked how it was written and when I began the book I got into it right away. The last 50 pages dragged a little for me but when I finished it it seemed to wrap some things up that I wasn't sure about. I have heard people say that this book is full of magical realism and maybe that's why I find myself not understanding some of it. I have read some books like this (for instance One Hundred Years of Solitude) and really enjoyed them, so I am not sure why I feel this way.

What I did enjoy in this book was all the cultural and political references that were going on when it was published (NAFTA, Rodney King, illegal immigrants, illegal harvesting of body parts, homelessness etc). I think that there might have been too many different focuses and it got to be too much. I think I will try out another one of Karen Tei Yamashita's books in the near future. I feel there is a lot of possibility for me to really enjoy them!

Rating - 2

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Deadly Web - Barbara Nadel

Seems I got my taste for reading back. Finished this one up in a day - I loved when I have mornings off! This novel is part of a (9 or 10 book and counting) murder mystery series that takes place in Turkey - mostly Istanbul. I have read one previously and really enjoyed reading a modern book about the country that I am living in. description of the book says "A naked teenage girl is found dead near the beautiful Byzantine Yoros Castle in Turkey. She has stabbed herself through the heart but there is evidence of bizarre sexual practice. In another part of Istanbul, a young boy seems to have committed suicide in similar circumstances. What dark rituals could have compelled them to fatal self-abuse? Inspectors Çetin İkmen and Mehmet Süleyman follow an Internet trail that leads them to an underworld of Goth nightclubs and Satanic worship. But even those murky shadows hide more than they reveal and the answers to an ever increasing number of suspicious deaths is more shocking and terrible than they could ever have imagined."

There was a great mixture of supernatural and mystery in this book. I loved how you never really knew what was "magic" and what wasn't. There is a lot of magical elements to this series because the main character, Çetin İkmen's mother had been an Albanian "witch" and he believes in many supernatural things. The city of Istanbul has such a diverse culture and many different religious practices. Mystic beliefs are a part of some peoples lives.

The novel talks about the Yezidi religion, which is a religious minority in Iraq. I looked it up on the Internet after reading this book because I didn't know anything about it. It seems that the religion takes from many different ones such as Sufism, Christianity, Islam and Mesopotamian religious traditions. It is really interesting. I suggest if you read this book you take the time to look up some of the things you do not know. I did and it made the book more enjoyable. The book is graphic - in mostly violent sex. So you need a strong stomach for some parts.

I also did not know that sorcery has been prohibited in Turkey. I find that really interesting. Its fun to live in such a cool place!

Rating - 3

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Club Dead - Charlaine Harris

I have been in a HUGE reading slump lately. I have had no ambition to pick anything up - I have started about 4 different books but kept putting them down. I decided if I wanted to get my love of reading back I was going to have to go for something that couldn't do me wrong. And that would have to be my last Sookie Stackhouse novel - Club Dead. Now this is not the last in the series; this is only number 3 but it is the last one I have here in Turkey. I was saving it for a rainy day and it and has certainly been raining lately!!

I feel that the series keeps getting better and better. I thought the first one was okay, the second one better and this one great! I loved this book. According to Booklist "Sookie Stackhouse is having man trouble. Her vampire boyfriend, Bill, has been distant and inattentive lately. Then he announces that he is going on a business trip, which clearly is more than it seems. After a werewolf tries to abduct Sookie at work, Bill's boss, Eric, tells her that Bill fell under the sway of his--Bill's, that is--ex, a sexy vamp named Lorena, and has been kidnapped. Eric wants Sookie's help in getting Bill back, and despite her hurt over Bill's betrayal, Sookie agrees to go to Jackson, Mississippi, to find her wayward lover. Eric has persuaded Alcide, a dashing werewolf, to get Sookie access to Josephine's, aka Club Dead, the local hangout of Jackson's supernatural element. In between dodging kidnappers, the advances of amorous Eric, and her growing feelings for Alcide, Sookie has to find out who kidnapped Bill and figure out a way to rescue him."

Sounds great doesn't it! I really enjoyed the new character Alicide. I thought him and Sookie should get together the moment he was described in the book. Big and strong, always warm and eats up a storm - besides being the strong part he is almost the exact opposite of Bill. Sookie has her fair share of men in this novel - she seems to get caught up with a lot of them when she escapes danger. I guess that can be pretty sexy!

Sookie's character has always been strong but she seems to be getting stronger in every novel. She doesn't take money from anyone (even if she really needs it and would like Bill to offer!) and wants to get things done on her own. She is a great female character - especially in the face of having weak characters such as Bella in the "Twilight" series. These books are always fun and always make me smile!

Rating - 4

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Ruby In The Smoke - Philip Pullman

This is such a cute book. I picked it up after I had downloaded the BBC show with Billie Piper in it. Everyone was saying the book was really fun. says "a fast-paced, finely crafted thriller set in a rogue- and scalawag-ridden Victorian London. Sally Lockhart, the 16-year-old heroine has no time for the usual trials of adolescence: her father has been murdered, and she needs to find out how and why. But everywhere she turns, she encounters new scoundrels and secrets. Why do the mere words "seven blessings" cause one man to keel over and die at their utterance? Who has possession of the rare, stolen ruby? And what does the opium trade have to do with it?"

Doesn't it sound fun! A book for young adults that deals with the opium trade - not your usual young adult novel. This book was easy to read but kept me interested. Sally's character is everything I loved about reading mystery books as a kid. She is a strong female character that wants to do things for herself - which is hard to do in Victorian England. I also loved that she met up with some characters that are as unusual as herself - I am hoping she can try to recreate the family that she has recently lost.

I need to start keeping a list of all the great young adult books that I have been reading lately. I can't wait to have kids that I get to pass these titles on to!

Rating - 3

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith

There are times where I am in the middle of a book and I put it down and think to myself - this is why I love reading. I had that kind of feeling while reading Child 44. I had read a review of it in a magazine and it caught my interest right away. I put it on my TBR list and then found it in a used bookstore in Munich.

As i posted previously I have been in a reading slump lately so I really needed something that I wasn't going to be able to put down. That is what I got! Here is what Publishers Weekly says "When war hero Leo Stepanovich Demidov, a rising star in the MGB, the State Security force, is assigned to look into the death of a child, Leo is annoyed, first because this takes him away from a more important case, but, more importantly, because the parents insist the child was murdered. In Stalinist Russia, there's no such thing as murder; the only criminals are those who are enemies of the state. After attempting to curb the violent excesses of his second-in-command, Leo is forced to investigate his own wife, the beautiful Raisa, who's suspected of being an Anglo-American sympathizer. Demoted and exiled from Moscow, Leo stumbles onto more evidence of the child killer."

Sounds good huh? Well I throughly enjoyed very bit of this book and was so excited when I found out that there was going to be a follow up book. I really liked the characters and I loved how Leo's blind obediance to the Soviet State fell apart when he started really thinking about what he was being asked to do. I realized after reading this book that I need to read more about Stalin and the Soviet Union. I know very little about the subject and was horrified by what I have been finding out. I had previously read some novels that dealt with work camps but I never really went any further than that.

I like books that open my eyes to new things. And this one certainly did!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Reading Slump

So I literally read nothing for 4 or 5 days. This is really strange for me because I love to read. I have hit the gym hard the last week and have been completely exhausted. Also I began reading The Secret History by Donna Tart and could hardly get through the first 20 pages. I really want to read it but I guess I am just not in the mood for it. It may be hard for me to get my 10 books in for May. I am so restless lately that I need some books that are going to keep my attention.

I have been downloading audio books like crazy lately. I am now listening to (and loving) Outlander (which I have read at least 3 times) and am downloading all the rest in the series. It is an amazing book to read and even better to listen to. I go to bed early every night so I can have a listen before I go to bed. I also have Lamb by Christopher Moore and all of the Sookie Stackhouse books to listen to. I usually only listen to books that I have already read because I find it hard to concentrate on the entire story while listening. It is easier if I have an idea of what is happening.

I started reading Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. So far it has got my attention. Hopefully it will get me back on track and I can plow through all the books I was supposed to read before the end of the month!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Double Eagle - James Twining

From Booklist "The Double Eagle is a gold coin recalled by the U.S. government during the Depression. All extant examples were melted down--all, that is, except five, which wound up in Fort Knox. Now the coins, with a value of $40 million, are missing. Jennifer Browne, a disgraced FBI agent looking to jump-start her career, teams up with Tim Kirk, a former CIA agent now making his living as an international jewel thief. Predictably, Jennifer discovers that the coins are at the heart of a nasty conspiracy."

This book was fast-paced, exciting and interesting. A really good action novel. I sailed through this book pretty fast. Probably because I read the second in this series already and knew who the bad guy was before I even started. That probably wasn't a good idea because I became a little bit bored because I knew what was going to happen.

I did like that parts of it took place in Istanbul (somewhere I have been) and that the characters moved from place to place. That is my favorite part of spy/ international crime novels - the fact that they go from country to country. Its always interesting.

I would recommend this to anyone who needs a good fast paced read. It would be a great book for a long trip!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Gift of Rain - Tan Twan Eng

This book was good - wait not just good it was excellent. It made my brain work in overtime trying to figure out why the characters did what they did. I think I am getting a little ahead of myself here. Here is a brief synopsis from The NewYorker
"Set in Penang in the years just before and during the Second World War, this début novel explores the consequences of love and duty. Philip Hutton, born to a British father and a Chinese mother, finds himself drawn to a mysterious Japanese diplomat and aikido master, and soon becomes his devoted student. But their friendship—described in romantic, even erotic terms—is called into question when the Japanese invade the island and Philip must decide whether to join the resistance or collaborate with the occupying army."

The novel sounds very straight forward - another war book but it is so much more than that. The characters are so developed and are so complex that I kept saying out loud to myself "WHY!!" I loved (and hated) the relationship between the narrator (Philip Hutton) and his sensei (Endo-san) because it was so all encompassing and affected every part of each others lives. They did horrible things to each other but I don't believe that they ever hated each other.

A big theme in this novel is the idea of duty. This is widely seen in Asian cultures but I think the author Tan Twan Eng takes it to the extreme in this case. Duty towards family is the most important thing and I saw from the very beginning why Philip Hutton did what he did but I was almost at the final pages when I really saw the reasons behind Endo-San's actions.

I loved this book because it appealed to all of my senses. When the author described taken the boat from Penang to Kuala Lumpur I felt if i was there. I could see the huge beetles and feel the mist on my arms. The Malaysian/Chinese food that was described were things that I had eaten and loved. I also enjoyed the stories about the Chinese and Japanese forms of martial arts and the training that Endo-San and Philips grandfather had went through.

The story is sad. Many people die in this book but I do believe that when you finish it leaves you with a sense of peace. This book made me want to travel back to Asia and see all the countries that I missed out on the first time around - Especially Malaysia!

Friday, May 1, 2009

List For May 2009

So the list of 10 books I will be reading for the month of May are:

The Gift of Rain - Tan Twan Eng
The Secret History - Donna Tart
A Prayer For Owen Meany - John Irving
The Double Eagle - James Twining
Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe
Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith
Club Dead - Charlaine Harris
When Will There Be Good News - Kate Atkinson
My Own Country - Abraham Verghese
Tracks - Louise Erdich

I have included 1 non fiction, 1 book from my 1% Well Read Challenge, 3 from Diversity Rocks Challenge and 1 from Paranormal 666 challenge.

Happy Reading everyone!