Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Omens (Cainsville #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Omens (Cainsville #1) by Kelley Armstrong

Rating: 3/5

I was not sure I was going to keep reading Kelley Armstrong after her Women of the Otherworld series was over earlier this year, since the quality of her writing seemed to be declining in the later books. However, WotO is still my favourite of the urban fantasy series I've read, and Armstrong is always an easy read, so I figured I wouldn't be losing much if I picked this book up and gave it a shot. I was curious about what she was going to do next. 

True to form, Omens was an easy, fairly fast read. There are supernatural elements in this world, but they are slow-to-be revealed, mostly only hinted at in this first book of what I believe is planned to be a trilogy. One can only assume they will become more important in the next two books. Unlike the WotO series, however, this deals with superstitions ('omens', obviously) and folklore, rather than witch's magic, shapeshifting and the like. There are characters who have certain extrasensory abilities, but everybody (so far) appears human. 

There isn't a whole lot of action and imminent danger in this book, until the end, which is fine by me. Most of the book covers the protagonist's situation (Olivia, the adult daughter of a prominent and rich family discovers she is adopted and her real parents are imprisoned for serial killings) and her encounters with characters in Cainsville, to which she is drawn by various forces. She is investigating the set of four murders to find out if her birth parents are truly guilty, with the help of an enigmatic lawyer named Gabriel, who is clearly being set up as a love interest.  I was a bit disappointed with the trope between the two, who by the end of this book are unaware of each other's interest and convinced their feelings couldn't possibly mutual. It's a pretty tired device, in my opinion. 

Olivia is an alright character, there's nothing really special about her personality aside from the gift for reading omens that she is slowly discovering. She's determined to be independent, stubborn, attractive, curious...Nothing to dislike, but nothing to feel strongly about either. Armstrong's women characters are generally like this imperfect but strong-minded "everywoman" type. The other characters in this book are far more interesting, if only because they are mysterious and seem to be keeping a lot of secrets.  For the most part this story is told in the first person from Olivia's perspective, but short chapters appear every once in awhile from various other characters' perspectives, offering hints to their roles in the larger picture, which is quite effective at creating interest. 

I find Cainsville itself more intriguing than the plot about investigating the murders, personally. The way the first murder was 'solved' was kind of implausible and unsatisfying, even given the supernatural elements in this world. However, my curiosity about exactly what is going on in Cainsville and how it relates to Olivia and her birth parents is enough to make me want to continue with this series. 

My other reviews of this author:
Awakenings (Darkest Powers #2)
Spellbound (Women of the Otherworld #12)
Thirteen (Women of the Otherworld #13)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Paris by Edward Rutherfurd

Paris - Edward Rutherfurd
Rating: 4/5

I received a bound galley copy of this book in a goodreads giveaway, which will have no effect on the objectivity of this review.

In order to do a proper review, I would have to read this monolith again. I really had no idea what I was getting into when I started it. I thought I'd experienced historical fiction before, but Rutherfurd's tome needs its own category. "Super historical fiction" or something. It took me four months to get through this book, which is probably a record for me. Usually I am either in or out, but I was determined to experience this book.

I dare say a personal familiarity with Paris; and an excellent memory would have benefited my enjoyment of this story, but I have neither. At times I felt like I was getting a walking tour of the city, but blindfolded, with only a guide to describe the scenery. I had difficulty picturing a lot of places that were mentioned in passing, and I felt like every significant place in Paris history was mentioned, whether it added to the story or not. Locations where plot happened were easier to imagine, but the rest felt like obligatory place-name-dropping. This may be enjoyable for someone who has actually been to Paris, but for me it was occasionally tedious.

The story follows several families in Paris through about 300 years of history, up until the late 1960s. Well, "follows" is not exactly an accurate term, since the narrative jumps back and forth through time and between characters. I had some difficulty with this. My memory is poor, and it was hard to remember which characters did what when. I assume it was arranged this way because Rutherfurd had a plan regarding when key information about how the families' histories were intertwined would be revealed. This trade-off of clarity for drama might give a reader with a better memory less trouble. The jumping around also made it harder for me to stay involved in the story -- it took me awhile to get situated in each setting, and I found that setting changing rather too shortly after I really started to get involved in the plot. So it was jarring. And the long chapters made it difficult to keep reading -- each chapter requires a leap to another time and set of characters, and a big chunk of time if you want to get through it all at once. I personally don't like putting a book down in the middle of a chapter, but I made do with section breaks.

The characters in this book were fairly well delineated and developed, but it took the whole book to really get to know any of them, since there were so many and their stories were told in chunks separated by long narrative interruptions. I quite liked Marie, but it was difficult to become entirely emotionally engaged with any of them for some reason. 

The plots in this book were excellently woven and varied, intertwined with the most important events in Paris' history during the periods covered. There were family grudges, murders, political intrigues, wars, romances, infidelities, tragedies, triumphs...nearly every plot point you could imagine, and all brought off with great plausibility. Though it was difficult to rejoin the story whenever I picked the book up from a long pause, eventually I was always drawn back in.

Rutherfurd's writing style is graceful and pleasing, his words setting a tone rather than being the focus of the work. It leant itself well to its story-telling. 

This is a book I would like to read again some day, but it does require a big commitment, so I am not sure I will ever get around to it. I am looking forward to reading this author's novel about London, which I think I will enjoy, being more familiar with British history than French. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
by Susannah Cahalan

Rating: 4/5

It's not often a journalist tells a story of their own illness, and even it's rarer for one to do it with much objectivity. Cahalan has an advantage in this respect, since she has almost no memories of the acute stage of her illness (the month of madness), and so has had to research her story like any other journalist might. She interviewed doctors, nurses, friends and family, watched surveillance video taken during her hospital stay, and used journals written by herself and her parents to piece together the events that she suffered but cannot remember. She's added to that information the things she does recall from before and after the acute stage of her recently discovered autoimmune disease, in which autoantibodies attacked neuro-receptors in her brain, which resulted in an amazing number of bizarre symptoms, some of which could have (and probably have been, in others) mistaken for schizophrenia. I like that, even after going through this trauma and struggling with about a two year recovery, she realizes how lucky she was. As far as debilitating illnesses go, she basically won the lottery - not because of the illness she got, but because it was discovered and treated and she more or less got her (arguably charmed) life back. 

Susannah is by all accounts a gifted, successful and well-loved individual. Her million dollar treatment was covered by insurance and well-off parents. She had a very large support network that were incredibly involved and not one of them abandonned her. She happened to be able to get into a hospital and eventually be referred to arguably the only doctor in the world that could help her. She had understanding employers that kept her job open for her. Susannah was very fortunate, indeed.

This is not to downplay her horrible, nightmarish journey, which I bet a part of her is thankful for not remembering. She suffered, and the people around her suffered too. The story she tells is both fascinating and heart-breaking. For the most part, this book is fast-paced and smooth, but it also includes some scientific information that you may have to slow down to understand.

On a personal note: 
As someone who has suffered from (non-psychotic) mental illness since childhood, and debilitating, incurable and untreatable physical illness for the past ten years, I have to admit I was envious of Susannah. Her family and closest friends showed a level of loyalty and support that I can't even imagine having. These relationships have remained intact, some of them have even improved, and she has returned to the job she loves. She's even helping others by sharing her story and offering compassion and information to people who contact her with tales of similar illnesses. Once you've had chronic illness for awhile, you realize how preferable acute illness is, even if it is as severe as Susannah's. With chronic illness, family and friends eventually slip away, as do any dreams and plans you had for your future. Your entire life is reduced to infirmity and survival, with literally no end in sight except death. So yeah, I was envious, reading about Susannah's supportive family and ultimate recovery.

To her credit, there is not even a whiff of self-pity in Cahalan's story. She knows how fortunate she was, and how many others aren't nearly so lucky. She's extremely grateful to everyone involved. All in all, a well-written, interesting book that I would recommend to people who like medical memoirs.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dead Ever After (Sookie Stackhouse #13) by Charlaine Harris

Dead Ever After (Sookie Stackhouse #13) 

by Charlaine Harris

Rating: 1/5

Ughhhh. This book was pretty painful reading. Look, I've never been a huge fan of Charlaine Harris. I enjoyed the first few books of the series like I enjoy Cheetos -- it's total crap, but it's easy going down and kind of fun. There were things that annoyed me about Harris' writing right from the beginning, but I just tried to overlook them. The longer this series went on, the more these things bugged me and the less I cared about these characters. When I heard this was to be the last book in the series, I was relieved. I felt too invested to stop reading them, even though I didn't enjoy them anymore. It's like the bag of Cheetos was 3/4 empty and I figured I may as well finish them, even though I felt slightly sick and could no longer taste them.

I could tell very early on in this book who Sookie was going to end up with. I knew before reading it a lot of people were upset about it, and I'd thought I really didn't care who she wound up with in the end. But I'll admit, when I got the first whiff of it in Chapter 1 or 2, I was surprised to find out I had quite a negative reaction. It seemed wrong somehow. By the time they actually hooked up, I was more resigned to it and back to my state of apathy. It's far from the truimphant homecoming I assume Harris feels it to be in her own mind. But that's not the reason I gave this book such a low rating.

I've got to be honest - this was just a generally shitty book. It reads like a first draft, like Harris never went back to polish it at all. Maybe she didn't. It's sloppy, lazy, and often tedious. Do we really need an item-by-item inventory of Sookie's dresser drawers? This book was so laden with filler, the actual plot probably couldn't even carry a novella. As far as I can tell, nearly every character that made an appearance in the whole series was either mentioned or showed up in person to give Sookie a piece of the puzzle. And of course, each time someone popped in out of the blue, we had a short history lesson along with a "how's the family" dialogue, neither of which added anything at all. Every piece of plot information these characters provided (if they provided any) could easily have come from someone more centrally involved. Harris threw her story's integrity under the bus in service to her wish to have a parade of former cast members.

In this book, Sookie is downright rescued by everyone she's ever known (who's still alive). She does absolutely nothing to help herself besides play hostess to a bunch of people who inexplicably arrive in desperate desire to help her, and then, one by one, leave before the job is finished. While the only three friends that remain in the end are off tracking down people who are actively hunting her, Sookie leaves her protected house to go out for a fun line-dancing double date. I can't even. I just. No. 


See my reviews of 
Dead Until Dark (#1)
Dead in the Family (#10)
Deadlocked (#12)

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Rating 3.75/5

I always meant to re-read this book, because I originally read it in high school, where I hated most of the "classics" I was forced to read (one notable exception: Tess of the d'Urbervilles). So when Stephen Colbert decided to have book club in celebration of the release of the new film adaptation, I figured it was a good time to give Gatsby a second chance.

I don't remember exactly why I hated this book in school, but I can give a pretty good guess: I most likely thought it was pointless and boring. Nothing actually happens until the last quarter of the story. I had no historical/cultural context in which to place this book. I knew nothing about that period in history. I'd also never been around disgustingly rich people (nor have I since, though I've seen them on television), or given much thought to this iconic thing called "The American Dream". Aside from the two years I lived in Tennessee in grade 2-3, I've spent all my life in Canada, where our dreams are probably less grandiose (grandiosity isn't very polite, you see). I was a hard-working student, and an athlete, concerned (to the point of constant anxiety) with excelling in achievements that didn't involve fame, money and pomp. I had no context in which to place the characters in Gatsby - they may as well have been aliens, they were so unrelatable. 

I've recently read some opinions online regarding whether or not the "relatablilty" of a book's characters is a valid way to evaluate a book. I think it is, though it shouldn't be the only standard. The Great Gatsby has many redeeming qualities that have been pointed out by others - its prose, its social criticism, its portrait of an era in American history. But I think the average teenager needs to connect with a story on a personal level in order to enjoy it.   And I don't know that a lot of them could do this with any character in Gatsby, without a lot of help from a talented English teacher. Which I obviously did not have. Most kids can relate to a Holden Caulfield, but not a Nick Carraway (who is kind of a blank slate, anyway), or even a Daisy Buchanan. I think this is an adult book, with adult topics, and if you force kids to read it, they are going to hate it and never go back to it, which is a shame, because reading it now in my late thirties I can finally begin to "get it". 

You might ask why I bothered to pick it up again if I hated it so much when I was younger. I've read a lot more classics since then, and learned a little bit more history. I have more context. I knew the book couldn't be as bad as I remembered it. And it's not. But it's not the best book I have ever read, either. I don't think there is such a thing as "THE Great American Novel", and even if there was, I don't think this is it. I think there is much more to America than the themes explored in The Great Gatsby, especially now. Gatsby makes a good-sized dent, but it's incomplete and one-sided. Maybe it's the Great White American Novel of Its Day, but it's not so accessible to a lot of people. 

The Great Gatsby sometimes reminds me of a television soap opera my mom has been watching pretty much since I was born - a bunch of bored rich people creating their own drama because they're so rich they have nothing better to do. I get that that's not what it's really about, but that's the window dressing, and it's so blindingly banal, it's off-putting. You have to do some work to get inside the house, otherwise you're just standing on the lawn feeling uneasy about what's going on in there. 

Look, I get it. Wealth, obsession, the American illusion, and I get why this would be a wake up call to people caught in the trap. I've never been in the trap, and in a sense my whole life has been an exercise in being Nick Carraway, looking at the illusion from the outside, sometimes drawn to it, other times repulsed, but always on the outside, analyzing and shaking my head (okay, Nick doesn't do "judging", so that's all me). I'm not a professional reader, I'm just a reader that likes getting sucked in, feeling involved, feeling a connection. I can appreciate The Great Gatsby's cultural criticism and often amazing prose. I can appreciate the 'snapshot' of a mass illusion in progress. I like Gatsby as a tragic figure. I can even appreciate a book that makes you work for it. But I don't really do book reviews. I do personal reading experience reports. And my personal experience reading this book was kind of "meh" until near the end. Which is improved from the "zzz" I must have had when I read it in high school. 

Recommendation: Get yourself some context before reading it. Know what you're supposed to be looking for, and why it matters, and you may not get bored.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Emperor's Conspiracy by Michelle Diener

The Emperor's Conspiracy 

by Michelle Diener

Rating: 2/5

Don't let the beautiful cover and the grand-sounding title fool you, this book is not a serious work of historical fiction. It's a bit of a period caper dressed up in finery. There's even a reading guide with discussion questions at the back, as if the publishers expect this book to be taught in school or used often in book clubs. I don't know why it would be. The only thing historical about it is the "conspiracy", i.e. Napoleon's plot to steal England's gold. 

The title itself is misleading. It suggests a wide-spread plot involving royalty, but it actually takes place solely in a small section of London, over the course of a week or two, and the players involved are entirely fictional. None of them are important historical figures, and yet they alone seem to be tasked with uncovering a serious historical event. There is no emperor in this book, and there's scant reference to his conspiracy until the second half of the book. However, the plot--despite not being as advertised--is a nicely complicated work of intrigue. 

This is definitely a plot-driven story, fast-paced. An author's blurb on the back describes Diener's writing as "richly detailed", but I have to strongly disagree. It just isn't. Much of the book is dialogue, and the rest of it is either action or (less so) character introspection. The descriptions are very minimal.

The character backgrounds are very minimal as well, and told (i.e. not shown) in retrospect. That is references are made to the past quite often, but they are often repetitive and just tell of significant events, rather than create an atmosphere and a scene. And only Charlotte's past is discussed in any depth. Catherine, who is an often present character, is ridiculously underdeveloped, to the point where she seems like just a device. We never even find out why she's a widow, or her thoughts and motivations behind adopting Charlotte. She's just some angelic guardian whose presence is the very foundation that makes any of the story possible. She's essential, but neglected. 

Charlotte also seems to be developed specifically to fit the plot, and I find it implausible that a character such as herself even exists in that setting. Not that she started as a poor street urchin and wound up a lady thanks to Catherine's benevolence, but that she is able to keep a foot in both worlds without having a tarnished reputation. In some ways, she is much too mature for her age (even taking her childhood experiences into account). She's too cool, too calm and collected, too able to maneuver without gaff in both circles. She has the poise and self-confidence of a matron. On the other hand, she's emotionally immature enough to mistake gratitude and compassion for love. 

Over and over again, she tells of how much she loves Luke, a self-destructive, murderous crime boss who stalks and surveilles her in the most organized and elaborate fashion. He saved her from the streets when she was a child, and she felt obliged by her gratitude to let him have sex with her from the age of twelve. Then he was seriously injured and ill, and she nursed him back to health. You'd think at that point she would have felt her obligations fulfilled, but instead she feels so sorry for him because he's chronically injured and impotent, and she still carries her overwhelming gratitude. She forgives him instantly for murdering people, and trying to hurt people she cares about. She says he's her family and she loves him like a brother. I say she's suffering from something like Stockholm Syndrome. The reader is supposed to think she's this amazing person for being so compassionate and forgiving towards him, because he's so tortured, but the man is an obsessed violent stalker who she allows to remain in her life out of "loyalty". Even at the end of the book, when he decides to leave town for awhile, she promises to see him when he comes back. 

The setting for this book is early 19th century England, but the dialect and the characters' attitudes are far too modern to sound authentic. I have read quite a lot of 18th and 19th century English literature, enough to know that Diener's syntax and vocabulary (for the upperclass 'nobs', anyway) is all wrong for this period. I know less about the culture of the poorer folk, but it seemed more authentic. 

Edward and Charlotte's romance wasn't quite 'instalove', but it was close enough to bother me a little. Fortunately, it wasn't the main focus of the story. 

The ending was rather abrupt and unsatisfying. We never find out whether Edward and Charlotte actually end up together. It seemed to be heading that way, but since she kept the door open for Luke's return into her life, and Edward has a problem with that, it seems there could be issues. The conspiracy, as well, was left hanging. Did they have enough information to find and convict the rest of the conspirators? We will never know. 

I gave this book 2 instead of 1 out of five because of the plot, the fast-pace and how quick and easy it was to read. This is non-serious beach reading, if anything. But there is a wealth of historical fiction out there, and I'd recommend somebody like Margaret George instead. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello

The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello

Rating: 2.5/5

I hesitate to call this book a "thriller", because the first 275 pages were anything but thrilling. They were extremely slow-paced, even dull. At times, they even threatened to put me to sleep. It literally took half the book to "set-up" for the thrill ride. After page 300, it does become much faster-paced and action-packed, and as such is a much easier read. 

I have difficulty with authors who seem to want to prove how much research they've done by putting every piece of it in their book, regardless of how much it slows down the pacing. There weren't any huge info-dumps, but rather a lot of information spread out through the entire first half. As a reader expecting a quick, fun, light read, it took some effort to push through this. 

I can't fault the plot in any real way. It was a good plot. The modern-day characters were more or less typical of what you'd expect from this genre, and mostly likeable. The plainly idiotic ones drove me up the wall, ruining everything for everyone just by being stupid and selfish. People like that are a pet peeve of mine. I enjoyed the historical sections, about the Romanovs during the revolution, from Anastasia's perspective. I know absolutely nothing about Rasputin (maybe less than nothing, since I'm familiar with the lyrics of that 80's song) or the Romanovs. But I liked Anastasia and her relationship with Sergei. I thought it was a sweet romance.

I had a rather opposite feeling about the romance that developed between Frank and Nika. It seemed so pat, almost forced. These are both two extremely practical, rational, job-focused individuals, so it seemed way out of character for both of them to go from "he/she's attractive and has admirable qualities" to "I'm totally in lurve!" in a matter of days. Days filled with seriously distracting and important work. I really dislike romances that don't advance the plot and are just stuck in a book because the genre seems to demand it. I had a similar issue with the romance in another of Masello's books, Blood and Ice. 

The ending of this book was a little clumsy, a little cheesy, but mostly satisfactory. I didn't like how the (fire) gaff made Frank look even more incompetent to the other characters in authority. Even though none of what went wrong was his fault, he ends up looking like a bumbling fool who can't do anything right in the eyes of all but his team. And he just accepts that reputation without complaint, as if he deserves it. I'd have been able to keep my respect for him if he'd stood up for himself at least a little. Instead he's all "who cares if my career is over, I'm IN LOVE!!" 

If you can get through the first half of this book without resentment, you'll probably enjoy the second half. There is nothing inherently bad about the plot development or writing style (except I noticed a 'then' in place of a 'than' in one passage). I guess I just keep wanting Masello's books to be a little bit more engrossing than they turn out to be. After reading three of them, I think I will be looking elsewhere when I feel like a thriller.

See my reviews for Masello's The Medusa Amulet and Blood and Ice

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Rating: 4/5

"What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?"

Life After Life combines the notion of eternal recurrence (and Nietzsche's amor fati) with the well-known thought experiment: if you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you do it?

Ursula Todd, born just before World War I, lives the same life over and over again, making small changes each time that have big consequences. In one of these iterations, she kills Hilter. In the others, she saves herself and other people. We witness the many variations of her death, which are almost always horrific and tragic. 

This book was difficult to read for two reasons, the first being the above-mentioned deaths. But that's also what's really great about it. As we read, we know she's going to die again, but not how or when, and that creates a lot of suspense. Watching her deaths also creates a lot of compassion for the character. The title may be Life After Life, but what really stood out for me were the deaths. Maybe that's just my morbidness showing.  

The other difficulty was the confusion created by the narrative. We are necessarily taken back to the past with each new beginning, but that's not the problem. Even within each life, the story is told out of sequence, with Ursula being one place and flashing back in her memory to previous experiences. There were also a lot of characters and places and details to keep track of, some of which are mentioned once in an early life and only referenced again much later. I have a terrible memory, though, so this may not be a problem for most readers.

There was a lot of untranslated German language, which I found frustrating. There was some French, too, but I was able to use the remnants of my 6 years of school French to figure it out. I'm completely lost when it comes to German. In the climactic scene, I had to stop and Google the phrase "Wacht auf, es nahet gen dem Tag," (Awake, the dawn of day draws near), which ruined the flow. There were a ton of other casual references to things I'd never heard of as well. Those parts were an alienating reading experience. Don't get me wrong, I don't expect everything I read to be familiar to me, but I do expect some context, some translation. Instead they were dropped into the narrative as though Atkinson expected them to be common knowledge to her reader. Not everyone is a history buff, but historical fiction should be accessible to everyone. Mind you, as frustrating as this feature is, it's not an insurmountable obstacle to reading this book.

Ursula's many lives are an emotional roller-coaster. Her family is extremely well-written, each character delineated and individual without seeming like one-trait caricatures. Atkinson does a pretty good job with the minor characters as well, making them seem like real people despite their short amount of "screen time". There were so many of them, though, it was hard to keep track. 

At the end of this book, I found myself feeling a sense of profound horror. Because after Ursula manages to put herself in a place to kill Hitler, and does it, she's born yet again. It's one thing to contemplate eternal recurrence, quite another to realize that, in the end, there is no end. Did she really accomplish her goal if she's born yet again, forever? Does she have to kill Hitler forever? By the dozenth or so life, her sense of deja vu was making her crazy. And it all seems so pointless, because when she resets, everything she did is erased. Even when she arguably lived the best possible life, she has to do it again. It may start out seeming like an opportunity, but eventually seems like the most hellish kind of trap. 

Anyway, this book will make you think, if you choose to. Or you can just ignore the implications and focus on Ursula's variations, almost all of which are interesting but tragic and heart-breaking. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fox Forever (Jenna Fox Chronicles #3) by Mary E. Pearson

Fox Forever (Jenna Fox Chronicles #3) by Mary E. Pearson 

Rating: 3/5

I can't figure out why this YA trilogy isn't more popular. My library only ordered one copy of this book, and I was the only one who put it on hold. Even after having it for the entire 3 week loan period, there was still nobody waiting when I returned it. Sure, it's science fiction, not urban fantasy (no angels or vampires), but I also suspect this series wasn't marketed much. Which is a shame, because it is of much better quality than series like Hush Hush or The Lorien Legacies.

Not that The Jenna Fox Chronicles doesn't have its faults. My biggest problem with books 2 and 3 is how little things have changed in the 260 years Locke was trapped in a computer matrix, including Locke himself. He was basically in a sensory deprivation tank. He should either be irrevocably insane, or a zen master. Instead, he's (mentally, emotionally) the same average teenage boy he was when he was downloaded into the computer. I tried to figure out how this could be possible. I thought perhaps the matrix wouldn't allow for his brain patterns to change, but then how would he have created memories? And he definitely remembers being in the "box". So it really makes no sense that his personality didn't mature at all, after 260 years. And thus his relationship with the teenaged Raine is kind of creepy, much like, oh, a centuries-old vampire or angel falling in love with a teenager.

The world outside has changed a bit, but everybody still speaks with the exact same vocabulary as Locke. It is too easy for him to fit in with Raine and her friends - they should have all kinds of slang that Locke has never heard of, and vice versa. Pearson gives a couple of nods to this fact, and Locke almost gets caught, but really, he had it much easier than is realistic. If you time-travelled back to 1753, you'd stick out like a laser show in a sea of campfires. These implausibilities bothered me quite a bit while reading this series (though it wasn't as big an issue in The Adoration of Jenna Fox).

The plot of this third book was decent, a bit of an unlikely spy thriller, really. Pearson's writing is fluid, introspective and mature, but still highly accessible. I rolled my eyes a bit at Locke and Raine's "instalove", but at least it was a watered-down version, not immediately requited, and not the main focus of the plot. The political aspect of the series (citizens vs. non-pacts & bots) gets satisfactorily wrapped up by the end of this book, but it's a bit of an afterthought/info-dump.

I had a difficult time when I first picked up the book, the same week the Boston Marathon bombings occurred, and the manhunt was getting constant live news coverage. (This book is set in Boston and Locke travels to many locations mentioned in the news, including Copley Square where the bombs exploded). For this reason, I had to put the book aside for about a week. Even then, it was sometimes hard to concentrate on it. I have a hard time knowing whether that was my issue or if the story just wasn't that interesting to me. It's a decent finish to the trilogy, more like the second book than the first.

See my reviews of The Adoration of Jenna Fox (#1) and The Fox Inheritance (#2)

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon Live Updates

Dewey's Readathon April 2013

Live updates:

8:00 - WE DID IT! 

Final Page count: 616

Congrats to everybody who participated and a huge thank you to everyone who volunteered. Such fun :)

7:21 - Final hour! Here are my answers to the End of Event Meme questions
I will be updating with my final page count at 8 a.m. sharp, though I'm having difficulty actually reading now, and have been spending most of my time just trying to stay awake!


6:16 - Page Count 565 - I'm dyin' ova here! Last ditch effort to stay awake, taking the dog for a walk. It's light enough out now. Then, one more coffee. Not sure I'm going to make it. :(
Skipped the last two challenges, they were too tough for me!

5:25 - Page Count: 545

Time to wash my hair, maybe it'll wake me up for the final stretch. I already broke out the chocolate....

4:11 - Changing books to Forbidden by Kelley Armstrong. My current book is a bit dry for sleepy reading!

Mini-Challenge #20 - Mad-Lib:

I read, pleased with myself. Then I grooved to the other side of the cupboard. As promised, I was downwind of him, where he couldn't tickle me. I slumped in to wait, head on my cookie, pantaloons curled around me. Inside the yacht, I could hear Clay smacking up. I could punch him, too, sneaky fur bright through the band-aid.
Page Count: 475

3:12 - Mini-Challenge #20 - Haiku:

To marry a Duke,

Marquess, Earl, or a Viscount,

Have lots of money.

- inspired by To Marry an English Lord, by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace

Page Count: 426

2:37 - I needed some inspiration, so I opened a fortune cookie (picture on right). Does it mean I should take a nap or complete the readathon?! Both would be pleasing...

Not much progress on the actual reading this hour. 

1:30 - I. AM. STILL. HERE. I'm shocked my own self. I spent the past 2 hours in the bathtub and finished Fox Forever.

Challenge 18: Cover Me complete, well, half of it anyway, answered on the host's blog. I'm not doing the second option, because I don't keep up with new releases much, other than series I'm following.

Page count - 410

Next book: To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Caroline McD. Wallace. (pictured on the left) Starting page: 142. I have my doubts about being able to stay awake reading this one. I like it, and it's interesting, but choppy and not so much with the engrossing qualities. Also - TIRED.

12:12 - Challenge #17: 6 words in celebration of Dewey's Readathon: Bleary eyes, blurry words. Worth it.

Page count: 357

11:08 - MOAR COFFEE! 

Challenge #16: Turn the Page - "I would rather read than get in good with his daughter and her friends so I'm invited over any day!"

Page Count: 326

Heading to the bathtub right now. Hopefully the coffee will counteract its sleepy effect.

10:26 - Challenge 15: Casting Couch. Short answer - I would cast Rachel McAdams & Diane Lane to play Kim/Patricia at various ages in All of Me. Click the link above to see pics & find out why! 

Page Count: 300

I'm about to migrate to reading in the bathtub at any minute! This recliner is comfy, but I've been in it for 14 hours. Can't believe I'm still awake at all.

9:34 - Challenge 14: Share a quote complete. I included background information and a video about Kim Noble to explain why I chose the particular quote. 

Page Count: 284

8:37 - Challenge 13: I left my answer in the comments on the host's blog. Short answer: Secret Life of Beans by Sue Mung Kidd. I kinda did it wrong, because my brain is becoming noticeably fried. I hope I'm still eligible :/ A little bummed I haven't won anything yet, since there's so many prizes and I've entered most of the challenges, but there's still a long way to go if I can stay awake!

Page Count: 268

7:20 - My responses to the Mid-Event Survey (Challenge #12). Next book on the docket is Fox Forever (Jenna Fox Chronicles #3) by Mary E. Pearson (pictured on the left). Starting page: 117.

6:59 - Just finished All of Me by Kim Noble. It was really an amazing story. DID is fascinating, and Patricia's ordeal was terrifying, heart-breaking and ultimately triumphant.  I'll be writing a review next week. ;)
Page Count: 239

6: 29 - Okay so I went back and did Challege #9: Clearing the Cobwebs, because I needed to stretch! 

6:04 - Hour 11! To the right is my picture for Challenge #11, which is my comfy recliner with handknitted lap blanket, and my book, All of Me by Kim Noble.

Page Count: 230

5:04 - Skipped Challenge 9 (until later, maybe) and 10 (I can identify about 4 of 17 book covers, obviously that's not good enough to win!) 
Page count: 189 - Almost done All of Me!
I'll be needing another coffee soon....
Had some trouble with my blog post for the Book Puzzle challenge, apparently the first picture (of four) wasn't showing up, but I think it's fixed now, so if by chance you visited that page and couldn't figure it out, try again with the extra clue, I think it'll be easier!

Page count: 146

2:05 - so I've decided to skip Challenge 7, since all the books I'm reading have only one or two covers to choose from, being new-ish. I also spent the last half-hour visiting other people's book puzzles and need to get back to reading!!

Lunch: Sesame chicken, vegetables with almonds on
steamed rice, spring roll. 
1:31 - Just had lunch - pictured on the left -YUM, and completed the Book Puzzle Challenge. Can you guess the title of the book? 
Page Count: 93 (Dismal, I know)

12:32 - Mini-Challenge #5 Complete in which I take the liberty of using a stand-in for the required "selfie". 
Page Tally - 71
I had to take a break to wash my hair and order lunch. 

11:13 - Mini-Challenge #4 Complete in which I rename my current book, not so cleverly.
Page Tally - 40 (I know, terrible. But the challenges are taking up so much time!)

10:27 - Mini-Challenge #3 Complete!  A menu fit for the Earl of Grantham.

9:38 - 

Reading: All of Me: How I Learned to Live with the Many Personalities Sharing My Body by Kim Noble
Start Page: 120

9:22 - Just finished Mini-Challenge #2, here's the blog post: Book Spine Poetry, and here's the result! 

 What a fun thing to do!

Dog did not appreciate having her morning walk rushed! Now time for coffee and oatmeal...hopefully I will finally be able to read before 10 a.m. LOL

8:40 - okay okay, did the Introductory Questionnaire and visited a nice blog of a fellow 'thoner, but I still need to walk the dog and eat a quick breakfast before I can hit the books!

8:01 - uuurrrrrggggggghhh. I'm awake I'm awake....

Mini-challenge 1- Introductory Quiz Answers:
1. Kitchener, Ontario, Canada where it is still kind of winter :(
2. All of Me - Kim Noble
3. I don't have snacks planned, but I will probably be ordering Chinese food later.
4. I barely got any sleep last night :(
5. I participated in the readathon several years ago, and I don't remember enough about it to say I'll do anything differently this time!

Beginning at 8 a.m. I will be participating in Dewey's 24 hour readathon, which basically just means I'll be doing very little except reading and updating this blog about it for as long as I can until 8 a.m. Sunday morning. 

This is my second time participating. My previous attempt was several years ago when my health was much better, and it was a success - I managed to stay up and read for the whole 24 hours! I also won a lovely hard copy of The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova. 

I have wanted to participate in the bi-annual event since, but have hesitated because my health is so bad. However, I figure, why not give it a try again? I have a lot of books due back at the library on Monday, so I need to read them this weekend anyway :) 

On my reading list: 
All of Me by Kim Noble - memoir
To Marry an English Lord - non-fiction, history
Fox Forever by Mary E. Pearson - YA dystopia/scifi
Forbidden by Kelley Armstrong - Urban Fantasy

I've already started the first 3 in my list, and won't be counting previously read pages in my final tally. I also have some other back-up books if I get these finished. I will be updating this page once every 1-2 hours with page counts and activity logs. 

Wish me luck!

Readathon End of Event Meme

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you? This one! We're in torture territory now!
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Not sure what you mean by high-interest. Books that kept my interest or books that are popular? The book I liked best that I read for the even was All of Me by Kim Noble. Other good books I've read recently include The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, Heart-shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne and The Painted Girls by Cathy Buchanan
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? More prizes? I didn't win one this year *sadface*
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Most of the mini-challenges were really fun.
  5. How many books did you read? About 2.5
  6. What were the names of the books you read? All of Me by Kim Noble, Fox Forever by Mary E. Pearson, and Forbidden by Kelley Armstrong. I also read a little from To Marry an English Lord.
  7. Which book did you enjoy most? All of me
  8. Which did you enjoy least? To Marry an English Lord. I like the book, but it's too dry and un-absorbing for tired reading!
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? I wasn't a cheerleader, but I did try to leave some positive comments on blogs and twitters.
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?  I will definitely participate again, as a reader, and think about hosting a mini-challenge.

Readathon Mini-challenge #21: Mad-Libs

I read, pleased with myself. Then I grooved to the other side of the cupboard. As promised, I was downwind of him, where he couldn't tickle me. I slumped in to wait, head on my cookie, pantaloons curled around me. Inside the yacht, I could hear Clay smacking up. I could punch him, too, sneaky fur bright through the band-aid.

Readathon Mini-Challenge 19 - Picture Break

Here are some of the photos I've taken during the readathon:

Books read
Books in progress or to read
Wake up juice!
Fortune Cookie
Reading space
Companion 1: Loki
Companion 2: Daisy

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Readathon Challenge #15: Casting Couch

Book: All of Me by Kim Noble

Character: Kim Noble or Patricia, the now-dominant personality of Kim Noble, a woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder, who is host to over 100 distinct personalities. The book tells Patricia's story of growing up existing intermittently, finding herself suddenly appearing in unfamiliar situations, being sent to psychiatric facilities, being misdiagnosed. Eventually Patricia takes over from others as the dominant personality and wins back custody of their daughter.


Young Patricia: Rachel McAdams

Older Patricia: Diane Lane

I picked these two actors because I think they are both very talented, and would be able to succeed in the role. Also, they bear some resemblance to the real Kim Noble, and look enough alike to be believable as the same woman at different ages.

Readathon Challenge #14: Share A Quote

Share a Quote Challenge

The quote I've chosen requires a little background info. I tried to think of an easier one but to be honest this was the only specific thing that struck me, even though as a whole the book was amazing. It's from All of Me: How I Learned to Live with the Many Personalities Sharing My Body by Kim Noble.

Kim Noble appeared on the television show Oprah in 2010. As a result of severe and repeated abuse as a very small child, her personality fractured into hundreds of separate people, a condition known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Here is a video clip from the interview Oprah's producers did with Kim before she appeared on the show.

"Kim Noble" is the designation for the body that hosts all of these disparate personalities. All of Me is written by Patricia, the now-dominant personality. She fought, and succeeded to regain legal custody of her daughter Aimee, who for the most part, did grow up in Kim's care, but under "placement" conditions. Kim was treated by social services as a foster parent, despite being Aimee's birth mother, and subject to bi-annual reviews. Aimee is by all accounts a healthy teenager, who has always been able to distinguish between Kim's personalities and accepts it as a normal part of her life, although it is sometimes emotionally difficult. In the book, Patricia speaks about her appearance on Oprah, which included a guest who's mother also had DID.

      What really concerned me, however, was when another guest on the show, the adult daughter of a woman with DID who'd died recently, was asked if she had any advice for Aimee. She had three words: 'Support your mother.'
      Aimee and I were sitting in the audience by this stage. If we hadn't been I'd have leapt up to answer that. I've got support workers and therapists to support me. Aimee's my daughter, not my caretaker. She deserves the childhood this body was so brutally denied. It's my job to love and raise her to the best of my abilities, not to depend on her. She's a child, for goodness' sake!

This section of the book struck me powerfully. After everything Patricia had been through, leading such a devastatingly confusing and difficult life, she still had her head on straight. A weaker person would have indeed leaned too heavily on her child, but Patricia refuses to see herself as a victim, and makes Aimee her absolute first priority at all times. It's truly inspiring.

Readathon Challenge #12: Mid-Event Survey

Mid-Event Survey

1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?

I just had my second cup of coffee, right after completing the yoga challenge, so I'm doing better than I was an hour ago!

2) What have you finished reading?

All of Me, by Kim Noble 

3) What is your favorite read so far?

Same as above, it's the only book I've finished, since I've been doing a lot of the challenges and they take lots of time. That's okay though, I am having fun!

4) What about your favorite snacks?

All I've eaten so far is a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, and chinese take-out for lunch, plus two cups of coffee. The chinese food is the clear winner, though the coffee was absolutely essential.

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!

Oh no, I haven't been keeping track! Checking my browser history:

I'm sure there's more, including the mini-challenge hosts, but these are just some blogs that I have visited today :)

Readathon Challenge #9: Clear the Cobwebs

I wasn't going to do this challenge but the past hour I started to feel like I needed to stretch. I did all the poses, plus threw in a twisting pose - you gotta have a twisting pose in your yoga routine! I had to be careful because almost two years ago I badly tore a tendon in my upper right arm doing Downward Dog, and it still hasn't healed properly. Needless to say, I haven't done that pose since, or much yoga at all. It was nice to put my yoga mat to use again. The sequence took me about 10 minutes - I am anxious to get back to reading. Here's a picture of my yoga mat in lieu of proof  that I did it ;)

Readathon Challenge #8: Book Sentence

Challenge: Create a sentence using only book titles.You must use all the words in a book title, but you can add punctuation.

How to be sick: covet the inheritance.

Readathon Challenge #6 - Book Puzzle

Challenge: For this challenge, you will be creating a Book Puzzle.  Essentially, this is a series of pictures, graphics, or photos that you put together that will describe a book title.

Canadian entry, just for fun.

Hint: It's an English Classic.