Saturday, December 31, 2011

End of Year Wrap-Up

So it looks like I read 81 books this past year. That seems a bit excessive to most people except that a few were re-reads (which go faster) and many were young adult novels and series'. Most of it was light and fluffy and fun.

I have a new goal for next year.

When I was young, my family would often play a card game called Authors. It is essentially the same as Go Fish with a literary twist. There are 13 Authors represented and each one has four cards. Each card represents one of their books, usually the more famous or popular ones. These means there are 52 books (in a few cases, poems) represented. These authors and books were considered to be "the classics." Many I have read as required reading in high school or college but I haven't read them all.

I have decided to try to read them all. A daunting task considering that I will still read my book club books and probably a junk book or two for reprieve. I doubt that I'll get them all read this year but I'll give it a go and see how far I get.

Here's the list:
James Fenimore Cooper
The Deerslayer, The Last of the Mohicans, The Spy, The Pathfinder
Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter, House of the Seven Gables, Twice-Told Tales, The Wonder Book
Sir Walter Scott
The Talisman, Ivanhoe, Kenilworth, The Lady of the Lake
Washington Irving
Rip Van Winkle, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Alhambra, Tales of a Traveler
Louisa May Alcott
Little Men, Little Women, Eight Cousins, An Old-Fashioned Girl
Edgar Allan Poe
Fall of the House of Usher, God Bug, The Raven, Annabel Lee
Henry W Longfellow
Courtship of Miles Standish, Song of Hiawatha, The Village Blacksmith, Evangeline
William Makepeace Thackeray
Henry Esmond, Vanity Fair, The Virginians, Pendennis
Mark Twain
Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper, The Mysterious Stranger, Tom Sawyer
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Crossing the Bar, Idylls of the King, Charge of the Light Brigade, The Brook
William Shakespeare
Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest
Robert Louis Stevenson
Treasure Island, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, A Child's Garden of Verses, Kidnapped
Charles Dickens
The Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol

Wish me luck! Have a safe and happy New Year's eve!

City of Thieves

City of Thieves by David Benioff

This book takes place during World War II in Leningrad during the "seige of Leningrad". Our narrator and main character is alleged to be the author's grandfather, Lev Beniov. The author visits his grandparents in Florida and asks them for their stories of the seige. His grandmother won't talk about it but his grandfather tells his story. When the grandson asks for more details to fill in the gaps, his grandfather tells him, "make it up, you're a writer"

Lev is seventeen and not old enough to join the army. After his mother and sister are evacuated to the country, Lev remains behind in Leningrad. He and his friends are on fire watch duty when they spot a paratrooper falling from the sky. With the hope of food, specifically chocolate, they decide to break curfew and run into the street where the body lay. The teens don't find chocolate but brandy or schnapps and Lev procures a knife. When the police arrive, all escape but Lev.

After surviving the night in the prison known as The Crosses, Lev and his cell mate, Kolya are taken to the NKVD headquarters in Leningrad. Kolya is a soldier in the Red Army who was picked up for desertion. Lev is being held for looting. The general of the NKVD charges them with a task: bring him a dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding cake. If they do not, they will be found and shot. If they do, they will get first class ration cards.

This book is the tale of two young men who become friends as they make their way through food deficient Leningrad and out into the countryside. They have to get by both the Red Army as well as the German Army in their quest.

This was a very good book I highly recommend it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Clockwork Prince

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

This is Book 2 of the Infernal Devices series and it picks up right where Clockwork Angel ended.
It is a fun fast read that is young adult fiction.

I may just stop and wait for all the books to be written in this and the "modern" series The Mortal Instruments. Then, I can start at the beginning and read them all in succession. Maybe not.

The frustrating aspect of these books is that the teen characters are so characteristically teen that I want to slap them up side the head. I just keep thinking, "if they'd only just say what they mean/feel, this could be resolved immediately." But, of course, that doesn't happen in teenager world and it would make the books much shorter to boot.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Worst Hard Time

The Worst Hard Time - The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl by Timothy Egan

This is a non-fiction account following about a dozen families through the "dirty thirties" and beyond. This book was very interesting and extremely readable considering the amount of factual information that was given.

I had never really understood the enormity of what has been termed "the dustbowl". I read The Grapes of Wrath but that didn't even scratch the surface of explaining exactly what life was like in the Great Plains region. It really gave me perspective on what we need in life during this holiday season.

I highly recommend this book!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Eleventh Plague

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

This is another post-apocalyptic young adult novel. In this scenario, the US declared war with China. The US sent nukes to China and China returned the favor with a biological weapon, P11H3. In the end, everyone just called it P11 or the Eleventh Plague. A souped-up strain of the flu swept through the US, Mexico and Canada. Beyond that, no one really knew because the country had collapsed. The lack of staff caused the entire infrastructure to collapse. People tried barricading themselves in their homes in a reverse quarantine but they ended up being barricaded in a tomb.

Twenty years after it all went down, a few people are still struggling to survive. A fifteen year old boy, Stephen has been traveling with his family as scavengers his entire life. Now, only he and his father survive. The question Stephen asks is, "will everything be the same?" Will they survive, will they keep going the way they always have? The idea of change is a frightening one for Stephen because there has been only one way he has ever known, his grandfather's way. His grandfather is gone now but will their way of life be gone too?

I liked this book. I thought it offered a good representation of how people would evolve in such a scenario. There are, of course, the predators as well as the people who keep moving in order to stay safe. There are also those who strive for a life that is safe without having to be on the move or on the run. The big question is whether Stephen and the friends he finds along the way allow the people that destroyed to world to keep on running the world or whether they will force a change.

The Way of the Warrior

The Way of the Warrior by Chris Bradford

This is book 1 of the Young Samurai series.

The year is 1611, Jack Fletcher is a young English boy who is sailing toward the Japans with his father, the pilot, and a crew on a trade ship. Until now, only the Portuguese have known the route but Jack's father claims to have knowledge of the way in his rutter, a navigational diary of sorts that apparently others would kill for.

After the ship becomes damaged and waylaid in a bay off the coast, it is attacked by ninja. The next morning, Jack finds himself orphaned and shipwrecked in Japan. He knows nothing of the language or customs save one thing, if you see a samurai, bow low. This bit of knowledge saves him in a tense situation. After that, he tries to begin learning everyday words to help him communicate. Soon after, the leader of the Samurai adopts him into his family and with the help of a Portuguese priest, Jack learns the language of his captors turned saviors.

This book talks about karate and the training of the samurai but also covers the values of this training. Loyalty, honesty, courage are all inspected in different ways in this book. While Jack never forgets the little sister he left behind in England and wonders about her fate, he stays focused on the task at hand. The task placed before him is to complete samurai training at a school in Kyoto. He also must figure out who has hired the ninja assassin to kill him and steal his father's rutter.

The Son of Neptune

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Book 2 of the Heroes of Olympus series

Percy Jackson is back! Only, he doesn't remember anything about himself except his name and a vague memory of Annabeth. After spending time on the west coast with a pack of wolves, he arrives at a camp for demi-gods. He knows this is where he belongs but it doesn't feel quite right. He quickly falls in with a pair of mis-fits who are fairly new to the camp. Soon, they are tasked by the God of War to take on a quest.

As the quest continues, Percy's memory slowly comes back as the horrors of what is to come unfold before them. These three unlikely heroes must join with others to save the world - again.

I am looking forward to the next installment in this series.

The Lost Hero

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

This is book 1 in the Heroes of Olympus series. This series picks up where the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series left off.

In this series we meet three teenagers who are at a Wilderness Camp for Wayward Youth. They are visiting the Grand Canyon visitors center at the south rim on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. One of the kids claims to have no memory of who he is or anything else for that matter. His two best friends claim to have months of memories together with him. Their strange and very grumpy counselor also has no idea who this kid is but suspects that he is the "special package" that the counselor has been waiting for.

In this book, we realize that there is more than one camp for the demi-gods of Olympus. The mystery and adventure is wrapped up in the revelations since the amnesiac hero, Jason, slowly unravels the mystery of himself while on a life-threatening quest with his friends, Piper and Leo.

This is a great addition/continuation of the Olympians series. Again, I think this is a wonderful way to get today's kids interested in the mythology of old.