Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre follows the life of a maltreated orphan who eventually grows up in a charitable school under miserable conditions. I found the first quarter of the book hard to plod through and excessive in its cruelty to the point of unreality. The middle half picks up when Jane becomes a governess for the young ward of Mr. Rochester and falls in love with him despite their difference in age and social standing. During her time at Mr. Rochester’s estate, several mysterious goings-on occur for which any normal person would demand an answer. Jane, however--ever docile and submissive--doesn’t press for an explanation. The secret I won’t give away, but suffice it to say it is important enough to break apart their relationship and is revealed, in classic fashion, at the altar. This isn’t the only cliché to be found in the novel. In the final quarter, after Jane and Mr. Rochester have parted, Jane is sheltered by strangers she finds out are long-lost cousins, and of course, another long-lost uncle dies and leaves her a fortune. This whole sequence seems quite played out, but perhaps it is because I have read too many romance novels that follow in the same vein, although with an admittedly less-impressive vocabulary. At the end, Jane searches for Mr. Rochester, finds that the impediment to their relationship no longer exists, and they reunite somewhat blissfully, although in the intervening time he has lost his sight and one hand. No matter, this type of bludgeoning by fate is par for the course in Jane Eyre. In fact, it almost seems like the author had to somehow maim her protagonist to put them on an equal playing field.

But perhaps I’m being too critical. It always seems a little arrogant to criticize a work that has stood the test of time and which I don’t feel I could equal as a writer. A duller main character one cannot imagine, but it is a tribute to the author that the humble day-to-day activities of the character become absorbing. The language is rather florid, but I enjoyed the story immensely. It is the sort of thing you feel smarter after reading. I do have one complaint about Charlotte Brontë, and it is her tendency to intersperse French throughout the novel without any sort of translation or context clues to let you know what is being said (I found Villette to be even worse). More than likely people were more educated in England back in those days and knew French as a matter of course, but I still feel like she’s just showing off.

I know that Charlotte and Emily Brontë were entirely different in their style, but one can’t help but compare them in some respects. To me, the dark, starkly religious characters seem oddly similar, and upon reading a little of their history, it seems their minister father inspired these characters as he was also a strict, religious disciplinarian. Charlotte was also a governess, as was her main character, Jane Eyre. I found it interesting that all of her siblings died when she was 32 and she, herself, died at the age of 39, in 1855. Reading a little about her life made me realize that perhaps life during those times was accurately reflected in the harsh environment depicted in her novel and wasn’t quite as exaggerated as I initially thought.

In short, I thought Jane Eyre was a good read, and it definitely brushed up my vocabulary. And when it seems that many points of the storyline mirror hundreds of romance novels on the shelves today, I guess it is just a tribute to the author, who pioneered the material when it was still original.

Monday, April 28, 2008

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is a very funny name. It sounds like, if rap ever decides to embrace Russian lit, like the sort of name that people make into a rap pun: Snoop Dogg's "Smokin' a Bowl', remix by Soulja Gnat-sin. I don't know that Solzheinitsyn would like me saying that, though. I don't know, maybe he would. I guess he probably wouldn't care. Once you're Alexsandr Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, probably having a two-bit book reviewer on an obscure blog in Texas think your name sounds funny is probably not such a big deal to you. Who knows, maybe he likes rap, for all I know. I know after the iron curtain fell that Russians were crazy about all kinds of American stuff, like McDonald's, Levis, that sort of thing. Rap music is pretty American. I have this great image of this skinny white Moscow kid, now, going 'Bow-wow-wow-yippie-o-yippie-ah' with a thick Russian drawl, and wearing gold colored tin jewelry like they sell in the dollar stores here. I wonder if they'll still like Snoop now that he's going to church, I'll have to ask Amanda...

By the way, that guy you see there is the self proclaimed 'King of Russian Rap'. I'd tell you his name, but on his website it seems his name actually IS 'King of Russian Rap'. IT seems like a small kingdom to rule, I would think, but perhaps not. Still, you have to give the guy credit, actually naming yourself 'King of _____' would seem to be pretty clever ploy to obtain the position of King of _______. I think I'll change my name to 'King of People Who Need Not Work For a Living.' See how things turn out.

Which brings me to prison. Well, hopefully not, but the possibility is there. But for Ivan Denisovich, he didn't even have to do anything, really, to end up in prison. Honestly, with a little very simple tweaking, this book could have read like Catch-22 - then again with tweaking the other direction it could have read like Schindler's List. The fact that it reads like neither, I think, is the wonderful thing about htis book - Mr. Solzheinitsyn, creates characters who are amazingly human, in a world that is frighteningly inhuman, without making 'amazingly human' mean 'amazingly compassionate, wonderful, and heroic' and without making 'frighteningly inhuman' mean 'wildly caricatured and utterly absurd.' Not that there's anything wrong with the other choices he could have made, but I loved this book because it felt, truly, confessional, int he best of ways, that you felt like what you - or at least me - would feel like iin this situation, not what the really amazing person you met once would feel like, and then the situation is more real. I woudl adapt, and that almost makes it worse - I don't think I'd have the strength to survive, but I wouldn't have the strength to refuse to survive either, I would meld into the culture like everyone else, and march along and try to do a job that I was not strong enough to do, and then one day I would do something stupid, get locked in a cell and die, not heroically, not hauntingly, but painfully, embarrasingly, and with no semblance of strength of will left by the end. I'd be ready to sell my best friend and comrade for a bowl of hot porridge, even if I wanted to be heroic about it all. The characters in Ivan Denisovich make you love htem because you can really understand them, not because you worhsip them. And in the end of the book, I think you feel much of what Ivan and his fellows feel - a sense of the immediacy of not being dead, and a subliminal undercurrent of overpowering bewilderment at the world you're in. At least that's what I felt. Lots of poeple apparently read this book and want to go march in peace parades and galvanize around causes of human rights and such. That's wonderful, I'm very happy for them, I don't think I have the strength to protect these fellows, I'm just sort of embarrased and lost, and not sure what to do with myself at the end... but in a good way, I suppose...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Humans by Robert J. Sawyer

Humans is the second book of the Neanderthal Parallax, a series about the interactions of homo sapiens and homo neanderthalensis after the latter accidentally opens a portal into our reality during a quantum computing experiment mishap. The first book, Hominids, was the 2003 Hugo award winner (thus my introduction to the series), while Humans was a finalist in 2004.

In the first book, Ponter Boddit (a Neanderthal man) is thrust into our reality, makes contact with us and begins the process of trying to understand what has happened to him. On the other side, Adikor, a fellow Neanderthal scientist, finally determines what went wrong and sets out to reopen the portal between realities. *SPOILER WARNING* Even though Adikor winds up on trial for Ponter's supposed murder, he is finally able to re-establish contact with our reality. Ponter returns to his side of the portal, and needless to say, Adikor is found not guilty. In the end the Neanderthals are left with something to think about - should they take a risk and maintain contact with our side, or keep safely to themselves? *END SPOILER*

Humans picks up in the office of a psychiatrist (a 'personality sculptor' as they call it), where Ponter is admitting in confidentiality that he has committed a mysterious crime. He proceeds to tell the story to his shrink. It goes something like this: The Neanderthals' governing power decides to re-establish contact with the humans ('gliksins' is their word), and to try to share/trade technological advancements and knowledge with us. They send diplomats across, our worlds interact, and stuff happens. By the end of the narrative, Ponter confesses his crime, and the reader is left to decide for him/herself what to think about it.

Despite finding the books very intriguing, I think the author's use of comparing our two cultures as a way to point out our many flaws to be a bit heavy-handed. I appreciate the irony that the Neanderthals are actually the better civilization, more advanced in nearly every way, especially given our common perception of the Neanderthal man as a pretty stupid brute. Unfortunately, I got tired of hearing how bad we've been to our environment, how wasteful, how violent, how paranoid and irrational, weak and greedy we are. That's not to say that I disagree with his assessment. Mankind has quite an ugly history, it's true. The current state of things isn't too great, either. It's just that it comes up so often that I start thinking, "OK, I get it. Yes, the Neanderthal man was appalled by how we ____, terribly sorry." Also, some readers may be offended by the Neanderthals' sexual practices, and others may not like their lack of religion and the way they consider such beliefs highly illogical.

Other than that, it was a fine story (as my reviews show, I'm almost always pleased), and I plan to read the third book, Hybrids, sometime soon. I must admit that I'm curious to see whether we annihilate them, or whether we begin to incorporate their superior ideas into making our own reality a better one. Yeah, you'll all be on the edge of your seats for that review, I'm sure.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Thunderer by Felix Gilman

This novel was an impulse grab off of a display shelf at the library. Something about the flying man in a brightly colored silk shirt captured my interest. Then, reading about Ararat, a city that changes and flows in accordance to the whims of the multitude of "gods" (which seem more like fundamental forces, perhaps unthinking natural phenomena that nevertheless catch people up and change lives on a daily basis), I was hooked. While I found the beginning to be a little slow, my interest picked up once I learned who the main characters were and understood a little more about the environment they find themselves in.

First there is Arjun, a foreigner from far off Gad. He is a composer and a follower of the Voice, a god which mysteriously disappeared. Left bereft by the absence of the Voice, he hears of Ararat and it's plenitude of deities, and decides that if their god could have gone anywhere, that was probably the most likely place to begin searching. So he sets off in search of his lost god.

During his arrival to the city, the elusive Thunderbird makes a visitation to the skies above Ararat. Its powers cause "flocks" (haha) of people to throw themselves into the air to fly after it, borrowing its powers for a short while. One youth, Jack, a laborer in a silk factory, uses the opportunity to fly to freedom. He finds his powers growing, while others' are merely fleeting, and he becomes a Peter Pan-esque thief and gangleader of street children, and freer of bondsmen and prisoners of the city. Another big event as a result of the bird god's passage is the raising of the Thunderer, a warship fitted with a large balloon, into the skies above the city to become a weapon in the hands of the Countess Ilona.

Some of the other notable gods in the city include Tiber, a pillar of perpetual flame that has many followers. There is the Typhon - I don't want to spoil it too much, but this river god is one messed up, sickening, malevolent force. But it adds an incredible amount of horror and fascination to the story. And there is the Spider - a pretty minor player but a very provocative concept - believers give and receive envelopes at random. Upon opening an envelope, they are instructed to perform one deed (good or bad), which they must complete, then write new instructions and seal it and it goes to someone else. An inkeeper, Defour, explains how the Spider has impacted her life, an interesting minor tale within the larger one.

There is the scholar Holbach and his quest to map out the city, and the mysterious individuals of Shay and Lemuel, who have mysterious devices and knowledge and have a large but behind-the-scenes effect on everything going on. Also interesting are the Countess Ilona with her enemies and her soldiers, and the running-amock Ararat with its teeming poverty and crime. All in all, a lesson on the darker side of humanity and the struggles of the poverty-stricken in the slums.

Thunderer came fresh off the presses in January 2008, and is Felix Gilman's first novel. It was a great first effort, and I will be interested to see where he goes from here.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett

Hmm. Everybody seems to be reading literature except for me. Classic stories with titles I recognize from AP booklists. Yeah, well, you won't find me showing that kind of sophistication. Take Interesting Times, for example. Terry Pratchett is a well-known author (see introduction here) with a huge number of books to his credit, but his stories tend to be very satirical, silly, and not like serious literature at all. Interesting Times is the 17th of 36 books currently in the Discworld series. The title comes from an ancient curse: "May you live in interesting times." It was a fun and diverting read, just as I have come to expect from Pratchett. But not advanced reading, by any stretch.

The hero of the story (well, main character at least) is Rincewind, a hapless "wizzard" who seemingly has no control over his destiny. From the start, he is whisked to and fro by magic, winding up on the Counterweight Continent (a parody of the orient, particularly China). There, the emperor is dying and the typical fighting for succession is taking place among the nobility. At the same time, a very weak rebellion is building, inspired by the writings of a former companion of Rincewind's from a previous book. Though Rincewind would love to turn tail and live to run away another day, that proves to be beyond his capabilities. Instead, he is reluctantly dragged through one hazard after another, surviving due to some extraordinary luck, which unfortunately for him doesn't seem to benefit him in any other way, except continued survival.

There are countless quirky characters that interact with Rincewind. The plot moves along quickly enough, and the characters are interesting if not loveable in their unique ways. For a comedy, the author shows some interesting perspectives on things and will make you think occasionally. On the downside, many of the jokes occur over and over, until you dread reading them again. By the end, the aargh joke, the age of the barbarians, and Rincewind's cowardice were getting annoying. And there are a lot of puns of dubious quality. But I'm patient, and I was satisfied with the read.

I don't consider Interesting Times to be Pratchett's best novel, but it was exactly what I was looking for: something light and whimsical, with no promises of sophistication to scare away the slacker within me.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Victor Hugo)

So let's be frank. When your brain goes 'golly, it'd be nice to read something pleasant and cheerful and simple', let's just say that Good Master Hugo doesn't come to mind. You don't come into a Hugo novel thinking 'oh how lovely it will be to read this!' It's sort of... penance you pay for being a human being. I, on that count, am a kind of medieval sort, a flagellant, who continues to punish himself with beautiful thinks that hurt me, I suppose, because I keep reading, like one of those people who crawls all the way to the Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe every year. I love Victor Hugo, I do. There's a peculiar church from vietnam who venerate Cao Dai as a saint, beside Buddha, Moses, and Lenin (Saint Lenin? Hrm...), and I can understand them, not that I worship Hugo or anything, but Hugo, like the ancient saints, is a man with a love so great it cannot stand wickedness - he would forgive the adulteress, and cleanse the temple (not, mind you, that he lived an EXEMPLARY life, as it were...). Hugo is a writer who does not hate wickedness, but who loves humanity so much that he cannot abide anything that hurts it. He does not wear his heart on his sleeve, he holds it in ihs hand and uses it like a sap.

That being said, this book is not as cruel to it's readers as Les Miserables, which is beyond words for me.

I don't know, I guess there is spoilers in here, maybe. But, really, honestly, it is not hard to see how things turn out in this book. The only spoiler would be that I can tell you now, Hugo may tease you with the possibility of some of his characters escaping their fate. They don't, they can't. The world, unliberated, still bearing the heavy weight of dehumanizing feudalism, not yet ready to percolate into the beloved Revolution of our author, is not about to let a soul live a happy life. Except the goat. I guess things turn out okay for Gringoire and the goat. Then again, knowing Gringoire, he may have had a fickle day and treated it in Jamaican fashion.

Ok, as long as we're on the subject - how did ANYONE in their RIGHT MIND, sit down and think 'Hey, you know what would make a good Disney Movie? The Hunchback of Notre Dame!' Yeah, let's see, a lecherous priest, a virulently racist mother who spends the book damning her own child, a beautiful girl who decides to give up her virginity, who is later hung for witchcraft... yeah, sounds like Disney! Just put in some dancing gargoyles for comic relief, it'll work itself out!

Alright, now that THAT is off my chest...

This really is a great, a beautiful, crushing work. You won't get half of it - I don't get three quarters of it. Honestly I think Hugo intends it that way, he puts in so many little details, about the age the book takes place: the guy the king has had locked up for fourteen years (the Bishop of Verdun) , the jokes the academics make, the shape of this persons nose, the difference between stripes on country versus city dresses (Parisians wear their stripes vertically, apparently, round about Louis XI's time). This is supposed to sweep over you like a tide, to force you to just accept that the time is past. the very ancientness of the book, at first, makes you feel a certain sense of cultural gratification, like, we're past that now. We don't lock ourselves into towers to mourn, or hang people in the public square (thought we do feature it on the local news...). TYou get lulled into that, and then it creeps over you, that all of these people, these are people like you - myself, I'm so like Claude Frollo the evil Archdeacon, that I feel like the book was WRITTEN to me - and that, really, we're no better than we were then, that we cling to all the same old wickedness, that we take pleasure in vengeance in slaughter, that we think ourselves better than others for arbitrary reasons, that even our charitable acts are tinged with something less admirable, usually. It's a sobering book, not just because everyone dies, but because you feel like you could of prevented it...

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath is the story of the Joads—a sharecropping family from Oklahoma which is driven from its land during the Dust Bowl era. The Joads proceed to travel west to California in hopes of finding work. This road trip in search of the American Dream is fraught with disappointment and defeat at every turn. The family starts out optimistically with all of them—Granma and Granpa, Uncle John, Ma and Pa Joad, slightly odd oldest son Noah, recently paroled Tom, tomcatting Al, pregnant daughter Rose of Sharon and her husband Connie, young children Winfield and Ruthie, and ex-preacher Casy—hoping for a land where they can pick and eat fruit straight from the tree and make enough money to afford a house with a white picket fence. They procure a used vehicle and convert the bed to hold the entire family and all of its worldly possessions, including the family dog. From the moment shortly into the journey that the dog is run over on the highway (to be honest, the foreshadowing begins even earlier than that), the reader knows that this family’s journey is not going to end well.

I found The Grapes of Wrath to be one of the most well-written books I have ever read. It is the sort of book that stays with you, provoking thought long after you are through with it. Steinbeck’s characterization of each member of the family is so vivid and thorough that it felt like they could be my own relatives. Each of them has a strong sense of family and humanity and the reader is left pulling for them as the last of their resources dwindle away and they reach their destination only to be faced with persecution and impending starvation. Steinbeck interchanges his chapters between telling the family’s story and providing a broader social commentary—showing that this family’s journey is only a microcosm of the journey of hundreds of thousands of Americans at the time. If you have not read The Grapes of Wrath, I would definitely recommend it. Not only does it provide a fascinating look into a dark period of American history, but its relevance continues as it mirrors many of the challenges faced by immigrants today.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Paladin of Souls, by Lois McMaster Bujold

About a month ago I began the project of reading through the books that were winners of the Hugo award, the Nebula award, or both. While it doesn't always guarantee a wonderful read, I consider it important to know what books have made a big impact in the worlds of sci-fi and fantasy. I was a bit surprised at the number of titles and authors that I was unfamiliar with, so I set out to educate myself.

That search has led me to Paladin of Souls, the 2004 winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards. Pleased not only because two medals are better than one (hmm?), but also because by reading something from both lists I can trick myself into feeling like I'm making twice the headway in my project, I requested it from a local library system. Even though it is a sequel to "The Curse of Chalion" (a medal nominee in a previous year), I decided to push ahead and read it anyway, both because of a long list of things to read, and the trust that an award-winning author should be able to provide any pertinent backstory without boring me to tears or confusing me. It turns out that other readers complained that this "sequel" is a bit far removed from book 1 anyway, so in that way it was nice not to have preconceived notions to dispel.

The primary character of Paladin of Souls is Ista, a middle-aged woman of high nobility, who at one point has dealt with gods, the death of her son, and a few years of madness. Now pampered and constantly supervised by those close to her, she has grown restless with her life. Ista determines to get away for a while, and comes up with the idea of taking a pilgrimage to various holy sites dotting the land. She assembles an interesting group of characters to travel with her, and adventures begin. With five gods, demons loose in the land, sorcerors, and enemy kingdoms all stirring towards war, she finds herself in the heart of a perilous situation being used as an instrument of the gods as she was once before.

I found the story to be very engaging. The writing didn't throw excessive detail in my way. The plot was interesting, the solutions for problems were not obvious but they were realistic (to that world's laws, anyway), and I found the dialogue humorous and full of real humanity. I especially enjoyed Ista, who bitterly cursed the gods but couldn't refuse them because of what was at stake. Mixed in with a host of interesting characters that undergo great development throughout the story, and a little mystery that slowly, teasingly comes together into a believable yet unusual story within the larger one, I was well pleased from the beginning pretty much through the end. It is no surprise to see Bujold's name sprinkled throughout the list of books I plan to read as the recipient of so many awards.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Watership Down

Okay, I'm not good at the whole spoiler alert, so if you don't want to know, for instance, that Fiver is actually communicating with extra-terrestrial rabbits to save the warren, just stop reading here.

But speaking of Fiver - I love Fiver. I loved him when I was a kid, I love him now. I love Fiver, because Fiver has a foot in both worlds, without trying to cross-pollinate them. I love how the person who comes closest to understanding him is the poet-rabbit in the glum human-warren, and that's the rabbit he screams at and goes ballistic when he here's - it's not about being understood, it's not about destiny, it's not even about being right - it's about doing what the world you're in needs most, about being a contributor. Fiver is there to point out, to me, the animal, natural way to be a poet/visionary/intellectual/whatever. The poet-rabbit is what most intellectuals are, self-absorbed, writing poems about how sad things are to him, about his little nugget of the tragedy of the world. And it's like Fiver says (paraphrased, I'm a horrible quoter) - just because something's true doesn't mean it's not monstrous. What the poet said is true - but it's irrelevant, unless the rabbits, like humans, start thinking that their individual moments in life are more important than the great communal tapestry of Life, itself. The average artist and visionary is the most selfish, destructive, counterproductive force in the universe, because he sacrifices the We for the I, taking the beauty of human artifice, and the 'secrets from the other world' and twisting them into a sort of self-portrait, tiresome, narcissistic, and demeaning to the very human spirit that it pretends to support. It is only through the sublimation of self to greater human (or rabbit) destiny, that you have the great, ruggedly individual heroes of Bigwig, Fiver, Hazel, and all the rest of the lot.

BTW - I was kidding about the extra-terrestrials. But there IS a story that includes Death personified as a rabbit. How can you NOT read a book that has Little Bunny Fufu Goes To Hell and Back, in it? Well, not with that title, mind you...

Nikki's Books 2008

Goal (starting Oct 5): 6 books
1) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
2) New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
3) Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
4) Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
5) A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire
6) The Devil's Labyrinth by John Saul
7) The Watchmen by Alan Moore
8) Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
9) Up In Smoke by Katie MacAlister
10) The Pact by Jodi Picoult
11) Just After Sunset by Stephen King

Amber's Books 2008

Goal (starting Aug 1): 11 books
1) A Dark Oval Stone by Marsena Konkle
2) Don't Move by Margaret Mazzantini
3) Traveler by Ron McLarty
4) The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
5) The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
6) What You Have Left by Will Allison
7) Speciman Days by Michael Cunningham
8) Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon
9) The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
10) The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner
11) Backslide by Teresa Stores
12) The Afterlife Diet by Daniel Pinkwater

Jocelyn's Books 2008

Goal (starting Aug 1): 11 books
1) Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
2) The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Terry's Books 2008

Goal (starting July 21): 11 books
1) The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis
2) Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut
3) What's So Funny? by Donald Westlake
4) The Crossroads of Time by Andre Norton
5) The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader
6) Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris
7) A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter Miller
8) The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell
9 and 10) Of Mice and Men and Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
11) Days of Infamy by Harry Turtledove
12) When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? by George Carlin
13) The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks
14) Thunderstruck by Erik Larson
15) Pirates of the Universe by Terry Bisson
16) The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
17) The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
18) Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
19) Galileo by Bertolt Brecht
20) Playing for Pizza by John Grisham
21) The Wheel of Darkness by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
22) The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
23) Whiskey Sour by J.A. Konrath
24) I'm a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson
25) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
26) Brimstone by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
27) The Return of Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
28) The Stranger by Albert Camus
29) Thud by Terry Pratchett
30) The Code of Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
31) A Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman
32) Fantasy Gone Wrong edited by Martin Greenberg and Brittiany Koren
33) The Journals of Sylvia Plath
34) The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Trixie's Books 2008

Goal (starting July 18): 11 books
1) The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer
2) Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin
3) The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
4) The Host by Stephenie Meyer
5) I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris
6) The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
7) Bill Bryson's African Diary by Bill Bryson, Jenny Matthews, and CARE International
8) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

John's Books 2008:

Goal (starting May 4th): 16 books
1) Teacher Man by Frank McCourt
2) Ines of my Soul by Isabel Allende
3) Talk, Talk by T.C. Boyle
4) Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
5) Swimming to Cambodia by Spalding Gray
6) The Known World by Edward P. Jones
7) 26a by Diana Evans
8) Getting Mother's Body by Susan Lori Parks
9) The Gathering by Anne Enright

Christina's Books 2008:

Goal (starting May 4th): 16 books
1) Murder at the PTA Luncheon by Valerie Wolzien
2) Verse of the Vampyre by Diane Killian
3) Killer Insight by Victoria Laurie
4) Sonnet of the Sphinx by Diana Killian
5) Mrs. Malory Investigates by Hazel Holt
6) Murder in Scorpio by Martha Lawrence
7) Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn
8) The Cruellest Month by Hazel Holt
9) A Bicycle Built for Murder by Kate Kingsbury
10) Nightingale's Lament by Simon Green
11) The Trouble With Magic by Madelyn Alt
12) Arson and Old Lace by Patricia Harwin
13) The Winter Garden Mystery by Carola Dunn
14) Nine Lives to Murder by Marian Babson
15) The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
16) High Marks for Murder by Rebecca Kent (aka Kate Kingsbury)
17) Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
18) Death is in the Air by Kate Kingsbury
19) Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
20) Key Lime Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke
21) Misspelled edited by Julie E. Czerneda
22) For Whom Death Tolls by Kate Kingsbury
23) Capable of Murder by Brian Kavanagh
24) Elementary, Mrs. Hudson by Sydney Hosier
25) What's a Ghoul to do? by Victoria Laurie
26) Only the Cat Knows by Marian Babson
27) Fate Fantastic edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Daniel M. Hoyt

Byron's Books 2008:

Goal (starting April 9th): 17 books
1) Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
2) Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett
3) Thunderer by Felix Gilman
4) Humans by Robert J. Sawyer
5) Hunter's Run by George R. R. Martin, Gardner Dezois, and Daniel Abraham
6) Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear
7) Hybrids by Robert J. Sawyer
8) Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
9) Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
10) Vitals by Greg Bear
11) Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
12) Songs of Earth and Power by Greg Bear
13) Hollow Earth by David Standish
14) Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
15) The Shadow Isle by Katherine Kerr
16) Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin

Jen's Books 2008:

Goal (starting April 9th): 17 books
1) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
2) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
3) Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain!: Cartoonist Ignores Helpful Advice by Scott Adams
4) The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
5) Bhagavad Gita translated by Stephen Mitchell
6) Coyotes by Ted Conover
7) The Aztecs by Richard F. Townsend
8) The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz
9) 1984 by George Orwell
10) The Awakening by Kate Chopin
11) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
12) Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Julie's Books 2008:

Goal (starting April 9th): 17 books
1) The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman
2) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
3) Last of the Breed by Louis L'Amour
4) The Secret of Mojo by Regina Walker McCally
5) The Awakening by Kate Chopin
6) Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
7) The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
8) The Stranger by Albert Camus
9) The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright
10) Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters
11) The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow
12) The Gift of the Magi and other stories by O. Henry
13) My Antonia by Willa Cather
14) Till We Have Faces, A Myth Retold by C.S. Lewis
15) The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
16) Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

Marcia's Books 2008:

Goal (starting April 9th): 17 books
1) Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
2) Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
3) Heaven Scent by Rebecca Talley
4) Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
5 and 6) See Jane Date and Love You to Death by Melissa Senate
7) True Believer by Nicholas Sparks
8) Spare Change by Aubrey Mace
9) Meet Your Match by Stephanie Fowers
10) Fool Me Twice by Stephanie Black
11) Her Good Name by Josi Kilpack
12) The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch-Anderson

Jason's Books 2008:

Goal (starting April 9th): 17 books
1) Watership Down by Richard Adams
2) The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
3) One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
4) North and South by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
5) Waverly by Sir Walter Scott
6) Kilmeny of the Orchard by Lucy Maud Montgomery
7) Journal of the Plague Years by Daniel Defoe
8) The Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker
9) 1984 by George Orwell
10) Emily Dickinson by Cynthia Griffin Wolff
11) Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez
12) Reasonable Doubt by Marcia Mickelson
13) Poems - A Bilingual Anthology by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden
14) Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
15) Wild Nights by Joyce Carol Oates
16) Lilith by George MacDonald
17) Toussaint Louverture by Madison Smartt Bell
18) After the Dance by Edwidge Danticat
19) Da Vinci Decoded by Michael J. Gelb
20) Moby Dick by Herman Melville
21) White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higgins by Brenda Wineapple
22) The American Civil War: A Hands-On History by Christopher J. Olsen

Information on the group

1) The goal of the group is for each person to read 25 books/year (17 books in 2008 as the group started mid-April). Yes, it is okay if you read more or less than 25 - it's a goal, not a requirement. If you join the group at other times of the year, the goal for that year will be prorated.

2) Each member of the group, after reading a book, posts a review here (as short or long as they wish). I will update the book counts/html lists in the sidebar with each review. Note: If you post spoilers in your review, please state so at the top of your blog so we're forewarned. Thank you!!

3) Yes, please write up your review even if the book has already been reviewed by someone else.

4) Almost any form of writing can be reviewed - literature, nonfiction, poetry collections, short story collections, young adult fiction, etc. I only ask that you stay away from young children's fiction (i.e. Fox In Sox) and anything that would...hem...sully our group (i.e. pornography).

5) Speaking of sullying, we'd like to stay clean in all ways, so reviews should stay family-friendly, too, if you don't mind. Mature is okay. Overtly vulgar is not. In the same vein, please don't use this blog to force opinions on people, make inflammatory remarks, or do anything else that would ordinarily be considered offensive in polite company. Simply stating your personal opinion in a non-inflammatory way *even on controversial subjects* is, of course, just fine.

6) If you don't currently belong to the group and wish to join, even if it's mid-year, please contact Julie at jflamingo2[at]yahoo[dot]com and I'm trying to set up a contact button off to the side. This is a great place to help you get started into the wonderful world of book blogging. Beware that it may become addicting. Yay for 5-Squared!