Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Notable Reads of 2010

2010 is coming to a close, and I'd thought I'd celebrate by wrapping up some of the more notable books I read this year.

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
First off, when I get off my butt and decorate my library with notable book covers, this is going to be the first to go up. But man, what a book. I'm not sure what made it so awesome for me. The decadence? The sin of it all? The setting? When I finished it, I sat for a good half hour just enjoying the aftertaste. On a side note, Baz Luhrmann is directing a movie adaptation of it, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire (may have to see that one).

I may have to save most of my comments for a later FBI related post, but this was a really fun autobiography of the man in charge of recovering lost art, working most notably on the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum heist. I also got to see him speak and meet him, and he was a really cool guy.

She (Penguin Classics) by H. Rider Haggard
SHEI love a good Victorian yarn as much as the next person, and this one tops my list. It was a close call between this and King Solomon's Mines, but Ayesha decided it. She Who Must Be Obeyed...indeed. Also, for your viewing pleasure, I've included one of Penguin's covers for this book (this one will also be added to my library wall).

The Hunger Games: Book 1 by Suzanne Collins
This series was a huge phenomenon this year (obviously). I picked it up rather late, which ended out working in my favor - massive cliff-hangers, anyone? As a whole I enjoyed the entire series, but the first was by far the best.

Changes (Dresden Files, Book 12) by Jim Butcher
Followers of the series know what poor Harry had to go through in this book. If you still haven't read the series, please just go out and buy the first book, Storm Front . You'll thank me later :)

The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
I am now officially hooked on detective fiction. Probably would have never picked it up if it weren't for the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list, but of course I'm glad I did. I also read The Long Goodbye, considered by most Chandler's masterpiece, but I think Marlowe's inner struggles were too much for me. I also felt the pacing of this one was better. Now, any target shooting with crazy heiresses has been crossed off my to-do list.
The Blades of the Rose Bundle: Warrior, Scoundrel, Rebel, & Stranger

Other Notables: I read the entire Percy Jackson & the Olympians series (including the first of the new series The Lost Hero) which were tons of fun, and was introduced to Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody mysteries (love love love!).  On the romance front, Zoe Archer's Blades of the Rose series was my favorite of the year, with exotic locales and paranormal elements (a great twist on your usual regency). My two favorite indie books were Radium Halos (A novel about the Radium Dial Painters) by Shelley Stout and Boomerang by Alan Hutcheson.

If you'd like to see my whole list of books read for the year, click here (my official tally on Goodreads).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

This is what happens...

Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial SeasonA quick followup to last week's book sale post: I immediately started reading Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest's Most Controversial Season by Nick Heil. Much to my suprise (and glee), it featured the story of the climbers of the TV show "Everest: Beyond the Limit" which my TiVo had been recording for me sporadically the past few months. I remembered someone had died (not from that team) but didn't think much about it. After reading Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by John Krakauer I learned this is pretty commonplace, rescue being incredibly difficult at 8,000 meters. It turns out because several members of the team passed the man while he was still alive, major controversy ensued. The book details the circumstances of the situation as well as another climber that season left for dead but ultimately rescued.

Ghosts of Everest: The Search for Mallory & IrvineSo, of course, I had to watch the show in it's entirety (both seasons) over the next few days (gotta love Netflix Instant Watch on my TiVo Premiere). I'm just itching to read something else about Everest. I managed to find Ghosts of Everest: The Search for Mallory & Irvine, which will be next and I can't wait. Super frustrated because I've blown my book budget for the month and I want this one now! Ack! I'm glad to have found it though - I mentioned in an earlier post about Everest I was searching for a good title on Mallory & Irvine. I've also just revisited the comments, and forgot about Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival by Joe Simpson. Double Ack!

Side note: Does anyone know how to find the PBS NOVA program on Mallory & Irvine? I can't find it anywhere, but maybe I'm looking in the wrong places.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Book Sale Finds for the week

First order of business: I'm coming to the sad conclusion that there's probably no way I'll make my reading goal for the year. I just wrapped up book #219 (Murder Most Frothy (Coffeehouse Mysteries, No. 4) by Cleo Coyle), and with 20 days left to go in the year, I'll need to read 1.55 books a day. I'm hoping to at least get close though.

So of course, instead of reading this morning I went to a book sale at a local library. I found few books of interest in fiction, but snagged quite a bit of non-fiction.
I also picked up two true crime books for my mother, all for the grand total of $6.50. See why I love book sales? If you want to see if there are any in your area, check out It's a great resource, and I check it weekly. If you want the best selection of books to choose from, go on the first day of a sale. If you're not picky and want to save money, go on the last day. They usually do some sort of special to move the books. Bring your own tote bags if you can, it'll make shopping much much easier (I have a nice canvas Ikea bag with huge straps,which eases some of the stress on my shoulders - laugh until you try to carry around 50 pounds of books around for over an hour). The big ones (20,000+ books) usually have a great selection of collectible books as well, but you'll need to go to the preview to get anything valuable. You can also pick up movies, audiobooks and puzzles at these sales. Happy hunting :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bankers Behaving Badly

I heard today that the now-infamous Wikileaks is set to drop a "bombshell" about a large bank in 2011 (story and speculation here). I'm not sure what they have to say that we don't already know (or think we know), but at least it gave me inspiration for today's blog post. I always love to read books on things that interest or impact me, and the "Great Recession" is no exception. 

Dumb Money
Dumb Money by Daniel Gross (Sony, Kobo)
This book came out right when things were really starting to get bad, early in 2009 as an ebook exclusive (since it has come out in paperback as well). It's a short, easy to understand explanation of the borrowing trends that got us into this mess, filled with the author's humor. I found the language easy to follow and it was very informative. As you might expect from the title, the author tosses a lot of blame at people, but I think it's clear today that there is plenty of it to go around.
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

This one is not for the faint of heart. Lewis spends the whole book chronicling those who saw the economic collapse coming and decided to profit on it. On first thought it sounds incredibly distasteful, but after reading I couldn't help but being awed by these people's brilliance (if they were truly gleeful of their possibly ill-gotten riches, it's not shown in the book). I spent a good hour after I finished the book trying to think my own investment strategies.

I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay
I just learned about this book via the 2010 Goodreads Choice Awards (it's a contender in non-fiction) and I'm just itching to buy it. Through the description and the reviews, it looks like it goes over similar information as Dumb Money, but focusing mostly on debt (I'm writing this and thinking, "duh!"). I'm wondering if the presentation of it will be different, as the author is British (UK title is Whoops!). It'll be interesting to get a less US-centric view on the meltdown. If anyone here has read this one, let me know what you thought!

Well back to reading. There are 29 days left in the year, and I still have 34 books to make my goal. Crunchtime!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

So's been a while

I have a confession to make...I bit off waaaay more than I could chew this year. I gave myself a goal to read 250 books this year and I started this blog, intending to make one post a day. As you can see, at least on the blog side, I failed miserably. On the book goal side, I'm cutting it close: at current count I'm at 213 books for the year. If you do the math, I have to read more than one book a day at this point to make it.


So for 2011, I'm toning it down big time. I'll keep a goal (probably a more reasonable 200), and start the blog back up again, but without daily postings. In the meantime I'm going to try and pop in when I have a few minutes (or, more likely, need a break from reading).

Also, just saw my earlier post in the year about 1001 books I wanted to read, here's an update:

1) The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers. Read in February. I have to say I liked Murder Must Advertise better, but I was still swooning over Lord Peter Wimsey in this book.
2) The Plague by Albert Camus. Didn't read yet.
3) The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams. Didn't read this yet either, although a coworker lent me a copy a month or so ago. He probably wants it back...
4) The Bonfire of the Vanities: A Novel by Tom Wolfe. Sigh. Also didn't read yet.
5) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Read in April. Easily one of my favorite books ever.
6) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Also read in April, but not one of my favorites. 1984  and Brave New World still win for me in the dystopian fiction front.
7) The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Read in May. Another phenomenal book. I'm not sure what turned me off the first time I tried to read it (only got through the first few pages then), but this time I devoured it.

My count is up to 48 this year, and will be 49 if I actually finish Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, which I've been stuck in for over a month now.

Wish me luck for the rest of the year, and have a safe and wonderful holiday if I don't see you until then ;)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Delayed eBook Release - The Swan Thieves

The Swan Thieves: A NovelA big controversy is heating up in the ebook market - delayed ebook releases by the publishers, who say that low priced ebooks are cutting into the high-margin hardcover profits. Big publishers today keep shooting themselves in the foot these days, and frankly, I'm pretty content to sit back and watch them collapse. In cases like this, I smack my forehead and think, why? Let's use Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves as an example. I see a blurb on this book and go, "Ooh, that sounds interesting!" I have not read The Historian yet, but The Swan Thieves sounds like it's right up my alley (I love art history). So I amble my way over to the Sony eBookstore and my search comes up empty. Hrmm, that's weird, I thought it was out already. Well, yes and no. The publisher is delaying the ebook release for three months, so more people will buy it in hardcover.

Here's where I have a problem: I would never have bought this book in hardcover. I don't buy any hardcovers actually, unless they are used or on the bargain table. The one thing I love about ebooks is that I can buy a book that's out in hardcover, for about the same price as a trade paperback. I'll even pay a little bit more of a premium on one if I don't want to wait til the price drops to $9.99 (I did this recently for Karen Marie Moning's Dreamfever, and if you've read this series you'd too pay the extra $3 to have it a few days sooner). But now I'm stuck. I refuse to purchase this book now, because I want to make a point. Usually in circumstances like these, I'll email the publisher stating my thoughts, and pointing out that I bought the book used (no profit for them) or skipped it all together. I've never gotten a return email.

Now, a group of people have tried a different tactic - they are leaving one star reviews on expressing their displeasure (article here). I'm torn on this tactic. On one hand, people use amazon reviews heavily to decide whether to read a book or not (I recommend using a site like GoodReads instead), not to mention that it also affects the author, not just the publisher. On the other hand, I can see this as being very effective, considering the clout that amazon reviews have and the amount of press it's getting.

So what do I do while publishers get their act together? Read something else! I picked up The Historian at a book sale last week, although I have no idea when I'll get to it. But since I'm in the mood for some art history, I picked up The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century by Edward Dolnick (and it's available in ebook!). I can't think of a good alternate read in historical fiction, so if you think of one post it in the comments!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

So you want to read...True Crime

Want to read true crime, but unsure of where to start? Here's a few books to get you started.

In Cold BloodIn Cold Blood  by Truman Capote
"With the publication of this book, Capote permanently ripped through the barrier separating crime reportage from serious literature. As he reconstructs the 1959 murder of a Kansas farm family and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, Capote generates suspense and empathy."
This book is credited with starting the entire true crime genre, and what better place to start than the beginning? When I told my mother I was writing this post (she's a big true crime fan), she took the opportunity to admonish me for the umpteenth time for not reading "In Cold Blood." Mom, if you're reading this, I promise I'll get to it soon.

The Cases That Haunt UsThe Cases That Haunt Us by John Douglas
America's foremost expert on criminal profiling provides his uniquely gripping analysis of seven of the most notorious murder cases in the history of crime -- from the Whitechapel murders to JonBenet Ramsey -- often contradicting conventional wisdom and legal decisions.
A great book combining all of the famous unsolved murders: Jack the Ripper, Zodiac, Black Dahlia, the Lindbergh baby, etc. There could be no one better to come up with theories on these cases than John Douglas, and his expertise in the profiling field shows here.

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed AmericaAuthor Erik Larson imbues the incredible events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with such drama that readers may find themselves checking the book's categorization to be sure that The Devil in the White City is not, in fact, a highly imaginative novel. Larson tells the stories of two men: Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair's construction, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor.
If you have not read this book yet, please, do yourself a huge favor and run to your nearest bookstore. This is also a good choice for those who want their true crime with a side of American history.

Happy reading!