Archive for January 2012

January Recap

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Well, it has been a month since I challenged myself to read a book a week, and I must say, things seem to be progressing nicely. I'm five books into my goal, and I'm finding that setting deadlines has really helped me to make a conscious effort to read every day. What has surprised me the most in this month is the encouragement of this blogging community. I really am astounded at the interest that has been shown in this blog. In one month, this site has gained 35 followers(thats more than one new follower each day!) and over 300 views! While I started this as a simple means to hold myself accountable to my goal, it has become a place to inform readers of different books, and, more importantly, a place of thoughtful discussion.

Because of this, I am determined to make this blog an even more engaging community of readers. In order to do this, I am interested in hearing your opinions, ideas and suggestions. I have noticed that many of my blogger buddies offer giveaways on their sites, and I plan to do the same, as soon as I ascertain the best way to go about doing this. With so many books and so few days in a year, I'm also considering posting guest reviews. This would provide a greater variety of opinions and a different perspective on books. In addition, I'd like to be able to interact more with those who have joined my challenge, and hear from those who have set different goals for themselves. Being a novice blogger, your advice will help me to improve the quality of this blog, and bring an enhanced experience to all readers.

I have some exciting books lined up for review for this month. There are four weeks in February, so look forward to at least four new reviews this month(I'm finding that I may complete more than one book in a week, so I may post more reviews accordingly). As always, I love getting feedback from readers, so please don't hesitate to comment and voice your opinion. I wish each of you a great February and happy reading!

-Ethan

In Other Worlds: SF And The Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood

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These days, it seems like everyone is writing their memoirs. While I agree that some biographies are worth the read, many seem just plain unnecessary. Did the world honestly need the life stories of Flavor Flav? It is not that I don't enjoy reading the occasional autobiography (I recently read and reviewed one that I really enjoyed), but many times, these stories get bogged down in details that are unimportant to the story and boring to the average readers.

In her latest book, In Other Worlds: SF And The Human Imagination, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood has found a way to provide an insight into her beliefs, life, and writing process without following a typical "life story" format. Through personal stories and examples form her works and other influential novels, Atwood argues that there is a clear difference between works of Science Fiction, all of which must take place on some far away planet, and her "Speculative Fiction" novels, which are built upon the idea that everything "could" happen on Earth.

This is not a memoir. Instead, Atwood provides readers with small, essay style insights into her life. Because the book follows no real narrative structure, it can be very choppy at times. The ending section, in which the author provides short snapshots of stories, felt particularly tedious. I wouldn't recommend this book to all readers, but fans of the author, science fiction, and those looking for a history of the genre  should definitely check this out. It is by no means perfect, but it is a commendable attempt at redefining the way opinions and histories are presented to readers.

For more information, visit the author's
website http://margaretatwood.ca/,
the publisher's site, http://www.randomhouse.com/book/205858/in-other-worlds-by-margaret-atwood/9780385533966/,
and http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10481151-in-other-worlds.

(week 5, book 5)

A Bitter Truth: A Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd

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As she heads home, on leave from the ongoing First World War, battlefield nurse Bess Crawford finds a troubled young woman huddled in her doorway. With the biting cold London air chilling them both, Bess invites the woman inside. With the interior lighting now clearly illuminating the young woman, Bess recognizes that the woman appears to have been recently stuck in the face. Despite the fear and protests from the woman, Bess invites her to, at least, stay the night.

The next day, Bess learns that the woman, Lydia, has run away from her home after an altercation with her husband. While Bess had planned to visit her own family during her leave, she agrees to accompany Lydia back home, to offer support for reconciling with her husband, Roger Ellis, and to monitor what, she fears, may be a concussion. Upon arrival, they find the family grieving the recent loss of Roger's brother and the still haunting loss of his young sister many years ago. Bess agrees to stay for a meal between the family and friends in anticipation for the laying of the memorial stone on the brother's grave the following morning. When one of the men, also in attendance at the meal, is found dead the next day, Bess finds herself as a suspect in the middle of a murder investigation. 

This is not a typical action driven story. The mother/son author team has crafted an intricate, character driven, English mystery, similar to those of author P.D. James. I appreciated the strong character development and the well-imagined relationship between families, strongly affected by the war. Sometimes, the drama between the characters seemed to verge on soap opera level, but I felt that the mystery was strong enough to overcome these slight faults. While fans of fast paced thrillers may find this a bit slow, I think those looking for strong characters and a believable mystery will enjoy this book. 

For more information, visit the author's website 

(week 4, book 4)

Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco, and Destiny by Nile Rodgers

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You have probably never heard of Nile Rodgers. Born to a teenage, junkie mother and a deadbeat father, Nile never had what most would consider a normal life. As his mother went from boyfriend to boyfriend, he found himself embarking on multiple cross country trips between New York and California and in the care of his two grandmothers. With a lack of guidance, structure, and discipline, young Nile was forced to grow up quickly, and discover a self reliance that would serve as the foundation for the rest of his life.

While you may have never heard of Nile Rodgers, you have definitely heard his music. amongst a childhood full of drugs, abuse, incest, and even murder, a young Nile Rodgers discovered a natural talent for music. By the age of fifteen, he ran away from his family and devoted the rest of his life to his craft. Through his band, Chic, and through many other artists such as Diana Ross, David Bowie, Duran Duran, Madonna, and countless others, Rodgers became the man behind multiple hits including, Le Freak, good Times, We Are Family, Like a Virgin, Modern Love, I'm Coming Out, The Reflex, and Rapper's Delight.

While this story mirrors that of many other artists, all of whom struggle with addiction, poverty, and reaching artistic fulfillment, Nile's tale is a uniquely moving recollection that reads like a great work of fiction. He has a clear voice that is accessible, even to those who, like me, are unfamiliar with his name and career. I was surprised that I could relate to the kind of "matter of fact" views that Rodgers expressed about his life. This memoir is not only an inside look into the creation of some of the best music of the past forty years, but an introspective portrait of a flawed character striving to create a perfect art in an imperfect world.

For more information, visit the author's website at
http://www.nilerodgers.com/
and http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11361604-le-freak.

(week 3, book 3)

Operation Napoleon by Arnaldur Indriðason

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As the end of the second world war draws near, an American plane crashes into an Icelandic glacier. The U.S. Army sends a team of soldiers, lead by a captain whose brother was on the flight, to uncover the wreckage and search for survivors. Unfortunately, by the time the team arrives, the plane is buried by the ice and is invisible to those searching for it. As treaties are signed and the war officially ends, it seems that this may be one of the last tragedies of the war. 

Flash forward to the year 1999. Kristin is working in a legal office and dealing with disgruntled clients who are seemingly involved with the mob. Her brother, Elias, calls from a glacier where he is part of a team of seventy or so people involved with exploration and rescue. Kristin warns her brother to be carful and he, like any younger sibling, brushes off the warning as unnecessary. Kristen is startled when she receives a call from her brother a few days later. He tells her that he and a friend went out on snowmobiles when they spotted a plane. The call ends suddenly when mentions a group of soldiers. The events that follow, trust Kristin in the midst of a huge conspiracy that threatens the life of her, loved ones, and the future of US and Iceland national security. 

Author Arnaldur Indriðason layers his novel with interesting characters, all motivated by their own personal appetite to either destroy or reveal the secrets held in this buried plane. Action is the driving force of this novel, but Indriðason provides enough emotion in his characters to keep the story from becoming a purely plot driven book. There is also a great exploration of US/Iceland relationship on both a government and person to person level, that gives the story a striking element of realism. Without these touches of reality, the story may have seemed a bit over the top. Through his use of historical accuracy, emotional character connections, a thrilling plot, and an ending that left me reeling,  Arnaldur Indriðason has crafted an exciting story that I really enjoyed reading.

For more information check out the author's Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/ArnaldurIndridason
and http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10913278-operation-napoleon

(week 2, book 2)

Bitter Legacy by H. Terrell Griffin

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Taking a hint from other authors, such as Carl Hiaasen and Jeff Lindsay, H. Terrell Griffin sets his story in a fascinating Florida, that sets the tone for this wildly entertaining mystery. Matt Royal, retired soldier, lawyer, and occasional fisherman and beer drinker, becomes entangled in a web of conspiracy when an attempt is made on his life, and the life of his best friend, Logan. Royal, assisted by the chief of police, Logan, and his buddy Jock, a high up member of a secretive government agency with considerable influence and resources, embarks on a cat and mouse chase to find the people who want him dead.

The small town Florida setting allows Griffin to juxtapose his protagonist and supporting characters, all of who seem to possess that rare quality found only in small town, working class America, with the cold corrupt tone of the rich greedy villains. On top of the attempts at his life, Matt Royal is also forced to learn to work with the new female detective, J.D. Duncan, who not only threatens to disrupt the "good ole boy" cooperation between Royal and the Longboat Key Police Department, but also stirs feelings somewhere deeper in Royal's heart. Duncan is a great fish out of water, by the book, contrast to Royal's more maverick ideals. Through J.D. Duncan, Griffin manages to produce a surprisingly believable, romantic subplot.

This is the fifth novel to feature Matt Royal, but as this was the first novel I read, I don't think it is important to read the other installments in the series before reading this one. From the moment I began reading this book, I could not put it down! The novel takes place over a weeklong period of time, and is divided into sections by the different days of the week(it seemed oddly fitting that I read this weeklong story as the first novel in my Book A Week challenge). With the fairly short chapters and quick pacing, this novel had me flying through the pages and kept me engaged to the very end. As a fan of great mysteries, interesting characters, and beautiful settings, I found Bitter Legacy to be a great read! I give this novel 4 out of 5 stars.

For more information check out the author's website http://www.hterrellgriffin.com/
the publisher's website http://oceanviewpub.com/
and http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9078717-bitter-legacy

(week 1, book 1)

The Goal: How I Plan to Read A New Book Each Week

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My goal is simple. There are 52 weeks in a year, and I plan to read at least 1 book per week. Therefore, I plan to read no less than 52 books this year.

Allow me to explain this madness. I am an active composer, teacher, and student. To say my schedule is busy would be an understatement. As a child, I struggled with reading, and was encouraged by my mother to read as much as possible to help overcome my challenges. By the time I entered high school, my reading skills improved significantly and I was a fairly avid reader. Now, as my schedule has gotten so overcrowded, I have struggled to maintain the pace of reading that I would like to have. One of the last novels that I read took me a little less than three months to complete. It was only 350 pages!

All this considered, I have decided to set the goal of reading one book each week. As with other aspects of my life, a deadline will help me to maintain this goal. As I read, I will write a review of each book and post it on this blog. I invite other's to join me in this challenge, and look forward to hearing about your successes , and receiving book recommendations from you. The year is young and I only have 52 books to go. Good Luck!

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