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May 31, 2007

Review: Jennifer Government

Jennifer Government by Max Barry
Genre: Sci fi
Pages: 321
Rating: 3.5

This was a selection for the sci fi/fantasy book club I attend. I had heard good things about this book from so many different people, and I ended up being very disappointed by it. It's a book with a message, but the message is so obvious that it ends up being boring. Basically, you can tell what the message is from reading the back cover copy. And then you read the book, and nothing that happens changes that initial impression at all. It was utterly unsurprising, and could have been easily summarized in half a page or, at most, a short story.

That said, I didn't hate it. I enjoyed the writing style, and actually cared about a few of the characters. (Some of them were just annoying.) And it's clever, in a gimmicky sort of way. It just went on way too long for a gimmick without much substance (other than "corporations and big government are bad"). I might try another of Barry's books, since I did enjoy the writing. But this one left me severely underwhelmed.

Posted by Kat at 09:35 AM | Comments (1)

May 30, 2007

Review: The Constant Princess

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 393
Rating: 3.5

This was actually the second attempt I made at reading this book. The first failed about fifty pages in: I simply couldn't buy the premise. Apparently there are some things that are "obviously what happened" in Gregory's brain, but that seemed like huge, wildly improbable conjecture to me and many other readers. I don't want to go into it in detail, so as not to spoil the plot, but basically, Gregory took historical events and assigned feelings and motivations to the major players that seemed completely unrealistic. The first time I tried to read this, I just wanted to throw it across the room.

But then The Last Boleyn came out, and I wanted to read it, but I have that thing about reading series in order. So I decided to give The Constant Princess another try. This time, I forced myself to forget that we were talking about those Tudors; I pretended they were made-up characters. It sort of worked, most of the time. It worked enough for me to conclude that once I got past the historicity issues, it was actually a pretty good book. Gregory's a good writer, and does very well at evoking the atmosphere of Tudor England. I eventually got caught up enough in this atmosphere to end up enjoying the book. So I guess I'd recommend it, but it will probably seem better to those of you who don't know or care much about the historical Tudors.

Oh, and seriously, I'm tempted to buy Gregory's books just for the cover art. Gorgeous.

Posted by Kat at 09:15 AM | Comments (1)

Yarn Harlot tonight, anyone?

So, who's headed to WEBS for Steph's event tonight? I know it will be big enough that it will be hard to actually find people, but I'd like to know if there's anyone I should be watching for...

Posted by Kat at 09:08 AM | Comments (4)

May 29, 2007

Review: When Lightning Strikes

When Lightning Strikes by Meg Cabot
Genre: Young adult, paranormal
Pages: 266
Rating: 4.2

Meg Cabot is one of my favorite authors, and I continue to be surprised by how well she does in such a variety of genres. This is the first in her 1-800-WHERE-R-YOU series of young adult paranormals. The tone is pretty similar to that of most of Cabot's other books, and her blog - you get the definite feeling that she writes the way she speaks. When Lightning Strikes tells the story of a teen girl who is hit by lightning and acquires the ability to look at a picture of a person before bed and wake up the next day knowing where that person is. She begins by helping find missing children on the back of milk cartons, but soon the government gets involved and of course (as this is Cabot) hilarity ensues. As in most of Cabot's books, the everygirl main character is balanced by a quirky coterie of family and friends. I wouldn't say this was one of Cabot's best, but it's definitely a good read.

Posted by Kat at 07:23 PM | Comments (1)

May 28, 2007

Review: Casino Royale

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Genre: Mystery, espionage
Pages: 213
Rating: 4

I've seen several James Bond movies and liked them, but I wouldn't say I was a huge fan. I was curious to see what the books were like, though. This turned out to be a decent spy novel - somewhat dated, as you'd expect, but entertaining enough. It was interesting to see the origin of the phenomenon. Bond himself was somewhat different in the book than in the movies I've seen. (I have not yet seen the recent Casino Royale movie.) The book was well-written and atmospheric. It's certainly not the best spy novel ever, but it's worth a read.

Posted by Kat at 07:21 AM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2007

Come play!

(First, a quick note: some of you have asked why there haven't been any pictures of Dewey or anything else recently. I'm taking pictures, I promise. But I'm still using a borrowed computer, so I'm trying to minimize the amount of stuff I save. Plus, it's a different operating system than I'm used to, so the software is all different, and I'm not sure if there's any photo editing software on it, actually. I'll try to get some pictures soon. I promise.)

I wanted to briefly discuss a few Web sites where I've been spending time recently. I tend to assume that everyone knows about these things, but that's not necessarily true.

1. A few of you have asked whether I'm running a Summer Reading Program this year. I'm not, but a good friend of mine is, and I'll be participating. You can read about it and sign up here. Hope you'll join us! It's in Wiki form... if you have any trouble figuring out how to add your info, just let me know and I'll help out.

2. GoodReads! In some ways, this is similar to Library Thing, but I use Library Thing (or would, if I ever updated it) for books I own, and I've been using GoodReads for books I read. In my case, those are very different lists. Any of you on there? You can read my reviews (which are mostly the same as the reviews I post here), view my books, and add me as a friend here.

3. Twitter! I'll admit that some days I just sort of forget about it, but it's cute. And I have both Barack Obama and Buffy Summers on my friends list, which amuses me muchly. You can find my profile and add me as a friend here.

4. Ravelry! I'm actually not playing there yet, but I'd like to be. So if anyone has any spare invitations floating around...

Posted by Kat at 08:43 AM | Comments (4)

Review: New Moon

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Pages: 563
Rating: 4.5

I tend to call Meyer's books "the one teen vampire romance series worth reading." (In my experience, at least. I'm certainly open to other suggestions.) At the end of the first book, Twilight, Bella, the main character, is finally in some semblence of a stable relationship with her vampire boyfriend, Edward, although they still face the opposition of (parts of) their families and society. New Moon picks up right where Twilight leaves off, and Bella and Edward are immediately faced with more obstacles.

Many readers didn't like this sequel - perhaps because Bella and Edward spend much of the book apart - but I loved it. We revisit the characters we grew to love in the last book and meet some new ones. I was genuinely surprised by a few plot turns that, looking back, seemed completely natural. I had one main issue with this book: at one point, someone lies to a character, and the lie is so transparent that I spent a good chunk of the book annoyed with that character for believing it. I don't want to say much more about the plot, because I highly recommend that you read these books for yourself. (Definitely start with Twilight, though. You'd miss a lot if you jumped in with New Moon.) Book three, Eclipse, comes out in August, and I can't wait.

Posted by Kat at 08:30 AM | Comments (3)

May 25, 2007

Review: Selected Cantos of Ezra Pound

Selected Cantos of Ezra Pound
Genre: Poetry
Pages: 119
Rating: 3.5

I'm not very good at reading contemporary poetry. Give me Catullus or Donne or Tennyson and I'm fine. I'm iffy on most of the new stuff, though. (There are exceptions. Neruda. Li-Young Lee. Elizabeth Bishop.) But I want to be better at it, to like it more. So I'm trying. A good friend regularly raves about Pound, so it seemed as good a place to start as any. And... I don't know. There were some parts I genuinely liked, and some parts I found interesting, and some parts in which the language took my breath away. But there were also many parts that made me say "Huh?" And some that made me say "Yeah, so?" I'm glad I read it, and I will keep trying contemporary poets, both because I think it's good for me and because I'm sure I will surprise myself by liking some that I wouldn't expect. But I don't think I'll be listing Pound among my favorites.

Posted by Kat at 09:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2007

Review: Silent in the Grave

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Mystery, historical (Victorian)
Pages: 509
Rating: 4.1

This debut novel tells the story of a young widow, Lady Julia Grey, who decides that her husband's death was not what it seemed and begins to investigate. She is soon joined in her investigation by a handsome, mysterious man. She is, of course, an intellectual and forward-thinking young woman and, though she has the support of some of her family, she clashes with more narrowminded people along the way. She discovers family secrets, comes to sweeping conclusions about social justice (curiously ahead of her time), daringly puts herself in danger, and eventually finds justice and true love.

Yes, I did deliberately make that sound completely conventional. (Or, more specifically, like every Amanda Quick novel ever.) It was, in a way. But it wasn't bad. Nothing that happened was particularly surprising, but I wasn't bored, either. The characters annoyed me at times, but I couldn't stop reading. I'm not sure why it was classified as mystery rather than romantic suspense - it seemed much closer to Quick and other historical romantic suspense than it did to most historical mysteries. The language was a bit clunky in places, but I'll chalk that up to it being a first novel, and give the next one a try when it is released.

Posted by Kat at 01:18 PM | Comments (1)

Dewey Update

The good news: the vet thinks Dewey should be fine. She couldn't find anything actually wrong, so we're treating him symptomatically. This means no food for 24 hours, and then small bits of special food every few hours, working back to a normal feeding schedule in several days. And calling the vet if any of his symptoms come back.

The bad news: this means I had to cancel the trip I'd planned for this weekend. Ah well. An unexpected long weekend at home won't be bad, exactly...

Also, the look on Dewey face when I just gave him water at breakfast time was pretty priceless. "Mom?? Seriously????"

Posted by Kat at 01:09 PM | Comments (4)

May 23, 2007

Review: Ceremony in Death

Ceremony in Death by J.D. Robb
Genre: Mystery, futuristic
Pages: 329
Rating: 4.3

J.D. Robb is the name under which Nora Roberts writes futuristic mysteries about Eve Dallas, police detective. I will turn in my "literary snob" sash and admit that I love Roberts's books, under either name. She consistently creates compelling characters and settings and tells good stories. And those are the main things I ask for from most novels. Roberts delivers it, over and over (and at a rather astonishing pace), and it annoys me how many people assume her books are bad simply based on the fact that they sell lots of copies.

Anyway. (Stepping off soapbox.) This is the fifth installment of the Eve Dallas series, and like the others, it features an interesting mystery, nifty futuristic technology, personal growth for Eve, and developments in her relationship with her now-husband, the mysterious, sexy Roarke. I tend to read mysteries more for characters than for the actual mystery, and I am impressed by how Robb has kept the Eve/Roarke relationship interesting without imposing too many fake-seeming obstacles. I hope she keeps it up through the rest of the series. The actual mystery in this one involves a cult, and has some interesting things to say in that area. It was a dependably fun read; I'd recommend the series to mystery fans who don't mind a bit of sci fi and romance thrown in - start with Naked in Death.

Posted by Kat at 11:45 AM | Comments (2)

Wednesday Worried Randoms

1. Dewey is sick. :( I don't think it's serious, but of course I'm worried. Vet appointment at 4:30.

2. The prognosis on my laptop isn't looking great at the moment. Sigh.

3. Veronica Mars is over. I can't believe it. The finale was awesome, and set up next season perfectly. Except that there won't be a next season. Why are the networks so dumb?

(3a. I am not so upset about Gilmore Girls being over, because I love it but I think it ran its course.)

4. Shouldn't I have more time now that graduation is over? It doesn't feel like it.

5. Grey's Anatomy season finale made me mad. We'll see how they do next season...

6. I'm trying to catch up on book reviews. I'll try to post one a day until I'm caught up. And I've been reading lots, so I'm not sure how long that will actually take...

And apparently that's all I've got at the moment...

Posted by Kat at 11:04 AM | Comments (3)

May 22, 2007

Review: The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Genre: Literature, classic
Pages: 180
Rating: 4.8

I have no idea why it took me so long to read The Scarlet Letter. Well, I guess I missed the part of high school when they read it, and then in college I read a bunch of Hawthorne's short stories but none of his novels. And maybe I was a little bit scared by all the people - people who read serious, literary stuff - telling me how hard it was. Especially the introduction. That infamous introduction...

In any case, I finally read it, and loved it. Even the introduction. Sure, it wasn't the quickest read, but I loved every word. Hawthorne's language is mesmerizing, the plot is compelling (even though I knew the outline), and some surprisingly modern issues are dealt with in interesting ways. I have visited various Hawthorne sites in Salem and Concord, MA, and this definitely added to my enjoyment of the book. If you're in the area, I'd definitely visit the real House of the Seven Gables and then give Hawthorne a try.

Posted by Kat at 11:35 AM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2007

Random Meme

Arleta tagged me!

Here's how to play...
1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves
2. People who are tagged write a blog post about their own 8 random things and post these rules
3. At the end of your blog you need to tag 8 people and post their names

1. I hate doing things out of order. I need to read series in order, and also to watch TV shows in order. This means that I watch the first few episodes of LOTS of shows, in case they end up being good, because I can't start in the middle.

2. I watch Alton Brown while eating breakfast. (Thank goodness for TiVo.)

3. Putting things in alphabetical order relaxes me. Sorting is good too.

4. I adore ice cream and eat it several times a week year round. It always startles me when people say they don't want ice cream because it's cold out.

5. I am good at remembering names and other details, but I have a horrible time recognizing people. (If I've ever not said hello to you at a festival or other event, that's why.)

6. I've been to at least eight foreign countries, but never the closest - Canada. Must do that one of these days...

7. I'm a vegetarian (as of fairly recently), and I hate mushrooms, which rules out most of the vegetarian-friendly dishes in many restaurants. It's annoying. But I keep trying mushrooms, and just don't like them.

8. I can't sleep if a closet door is open.

Okay, tagging: Chris, FemiKnitMafia, Rachel, Courtney, Kristy and/or Leander, Jennifer, Erica, and Cate. But this has been around and I've lost track of who has done it, so feel free to ignore if desired. :)

Posted by Kat at 10:55 AM | Comments (9)

May 14, 2007

First post-school Monday happy things!

I'm still fairly ecstatic about being done with school, so it seemed a good time to start doing Monday Happy Things again. Things making me happy today...

* No more school! (Obviously.)
* Good books and music
* Discovering that, although I despise scrambled eggs, I love scrambled tofu
* A lovely day at NHS&W yesterday
* Actually having time to knit
* And to cook
* Gorgeous May weather
* Graduation is on Saturday!
Posted by Kat at 11:21 AM | Comments (7)

May 11, 2007

Review: Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Genre: Young adult
Pages: 320
Rating: 3.9

I've heard that Anderson is the originator of the concept behind the popular Traveling Pants series; the publisher bought her idea but hired Brashares to write the series. The Peaches series is similar in concept - a small group of teen girls from different backgrounds/interests are put into a common situation and become friends despite their differences. In this case, the common situation is a summer of working at a peach orchard; the girls are the orchard owner's serious, nerdy daughter, her rich, spoiled cousin, and a smart but "fast" and "troubled" girl caught trespassing (or maybe stealing peaches?) and assigned by the local judge to work in the orchard to make up for it.

This was a fun read, but got a bit annoying at times. It was so obvious that the three girls were going to become friends that I got fed up with all the exposition. JUST START LIKING EACH OTHER ALREADY. Anderson also tried to include some sort of vaguely mystical element involving the peach trees and tying everything together, and that part just didn't quite work for me. The characters were engaging, though, and when I finished the book I immediately wanted to read the sequel, so over all I'd recommend it.

Posted by Kat at 09:00 AM | Comments (1)

May 10, 2007

WOMAN Challenge

I just joined this year's WOMAN Challenge - "Women and girls Out Moving Across the Nation." You enter your goal (minutes, miles, or steps of exercise per day) and record what you do each day, and they move you along a little virtual "route." It looks cute. I do exercise, pretty much every day, but I want to do more now that school is over, so this seems like a good way to kick it off.

Who's with me?

Posted by Kat at 01:34 PM | Comments (4)

May 09, 2007

Random Wednesday: "Done with School" Edition!

1. First of all, thank you all so much for your kind comments for me and my family.

2. As of 9 pm yesterday, I am DONE with school! Done done done! I'm still in shock, mostly. It hasn't really sunk in.

3. So who's going to help me celebrate at NHS&W on Sunday? (Come on, I'm practically begging to be enabled here...)

4. So give me a little while to decompress and sort my mail and clean out the fridge and catch up on laundry, and then I'll work on becoming a halfway decent blogger again.

5. I have been knitting, actually. Lots of new things. Lace. Not much to see yet. Soon.

6. I'm DONE! Just in case you missed that. DONE!

Posted by Kat at 03:30 PM | Comments (15)

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