A Reader's Diary

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Review of Destiny's Daughter by Rebecca Brandewyne

Today's review:

Destiny's Daughter by Rebecca Brandewyne
(romance; historical fiction; contemporary mystery-thriller)

Summary: When archaeologist Bryony St. Blaze learns that her father, a history professor, has been run down and killed, she is devastated. A strange package from him, mailed the day he died, propels Bryony to Scotland to meet a man who might be able to help her solve a timeless mystery, the key to the human past and future, a mystery protected by the members of a secret society who will kill to protect it.

My thoughts: This book is very similar in content to the DaVinci Code, although it was written before that bestseller. Yet Destiny's Daughter is much more complicated and far-reaching, delving into a dozen ancient cultures and areas such as astronomy, astrology, and mathematics. The language spoken by the characters is overly formal to the point of being ridiculous at times. I found that the uninspiring, textbook romance contrasts with the intricate tale of an ancient book with the key to human redemption. Although the mystery is "solved" in the end, many questions remain essentially unanswered and left to the reader.

I'd recommend Destiny's Daughter to those who loved the DaVinci Code and similar books about ancient mysteries like The Holy Grail, or to those interested in comparative religions and mythologies, but it's not a great romance and not a great book in itself. The content carries it, and while fascinating it can get quite confusing at times. But it will make you think.

Happy reading!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Books Sold and Current Reading

I went down to a used bookstore today and sold over 40 of my books that I know I won't be reading again. I got $54 for all of them. I was surprised, they took every single book but one, which had some pages falling out. But I feel so much better, my bookshelves look half decent again and as I keep reading (and buying more books) I can build up another pile of books to sell (so I can buy more books). So yea! for used bookstores. Until all books are printed on recycled paper, the trade in used books will save many trees.

I'm still reading Destiny's Daughter. Although it is classified as a "romance", and there definately is some romance thrown in, I would not have labeled this book as such. Every other chapter follows the journey of a powerful book throughout history (and prehistory) and around the world, Egypt, Babylonia, you name it. I read those parts very closely, and sort of skip over the sexy scenes set in the present (they kinda read like fan fic). I'm about halfway through the novel right now; I'll set a somewhat unrealistic goal of finishing and posting a review for tomorrow.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

James Frey Controversy; Review of Tough Guide to Fantasy Land

Everyone seems to be talking about the James Frey controversy. I was not planning on reading the book so I hadn't paid much attention to it, but the question of defining non-fiction vs. fiction, and where a memoir falls in, caught my interest. Someone made the point that memoir cannot be guaranteed as absolute fact, because memory is faulty. I've seen that in the psych courses I've taken. So maybe there should be some sort of disclaimer on memoirs, that events may not have occured exactly as depicted in the book? Yet there is a difference between remembering differently and purposefully altering details in order to produce a "better" book. At what point does the book cross into the territory of a novel "based on a true story"? These are questions which I think will require a lot of discussion and debate, and I will be interested to see how the publishing industry reacts to these issues of authenticity, accuracy, and sincerity.

Today's review:

The Tough Guide to Fantasy Land by Diana Wynne Jones (nonfiction; fantasy)

A guidebook to the world of fantasy fiction, from "Adept" (someone with a masters of magic) to "Zombie" (the smelly, sad, and easy-to-kill undead). The author reveals the common template under which fantasy novels in the Tolkien tradition operate. The book contains interesting observations such as no one in fantasyland seems to ever suffer from scurvy and forks are non-existant. I found the Guide very funny, as I think other fantasy readers would also. "Official Management Terms" such as a "reek of wrongness" that distinguishes bad characters and locations are familiar, although I never thought of it in quite that way before. From this book it is clear just how influential Tolkien has been in shaping the fantasy genre. Definately a must read for the true and dedicated fantasy fan.

Next I plan to read "His Dark Materials Illuminated: Critical Essays on Philip Pullman's Trilogy". I'm also reading "Destiny's Daughter" by Rebecca Brandewyne. So far it is quite good; I wasn't expecting it to be (was expecting more romance, and I'm a few chapters in and there is none so far. Not that romance is bad, it can just be a bit much). The archaeology angle caught my interest right away, as well as the mythological and historical content (especially after recently reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman). I'll post a review when I'm done; for now here is a link to the author's website: http://www.brandewyne.com/titles/titles_abcd.html#destinysdaughter

Happy reading!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

New Book Sources and Shopaholic Review

Some of my favourite sources of information on new books:
  • BOOKS section of the Globe and Mail Weekend Edition (in-depth reviews)
  • CBC TV's "HOT TYPE" program
  • Powells.com DAILY DOSE e-newsletter
  • Amazon.com or Amazon.ca
  • harpercollins.com, harpercollins.ca, and harperteen.com

Today's review:

Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella ("chick lit")

Summary: Becky is back in debt again. She's looking forward to a bright future and sees her purchases as "investments". She and Luke travel to New York and make plans to further their careers there. But Becky's debts, and her spendthrift habits, have followed her across the pond. It is only with a little luck that complete disaster may be averted.

My thoughts: Like the other Shopaholic books, reading about Becky's shopping habits can be stressful, which is a bit much for light "chick lit". On the other hand, there is enough humour to relieve the tension, and enough plot (romantic and otherwise) to keep the reader from closing the covers before the end. Becky's shopping and her justifications for her purchases are at once outrageous and ridiculous and all too familiar to some of us. Maybe some lessons here for shopaholic book-buyers?

~Happy reading!~

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

More new acquires and review of The Penelopiad

My latest Amazon order of 4 books arrived today:
  • Collapse by Jared Diamond (non-fic; just released in paperback)
  • The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins (non-fic; biology/evolution: "A reverse tour through evolution")
  • Grave Secrets and Fatal Voyage by Kathy Reichs (fiction; mystery/crime/thriller).

I own later ones in this series by Reichs, but I want to read the books in order. The protagonist is a forensic anthropologist. The new TV series "Bones" is based on these books. Having taken a course in forensic anthropology myself, I find these books fascinating; plus I can never resist a good mystery.

Amazon included the latest issue of READ magazine with my books. It has an article in it, "The Myths Series and Me" by Margaret Atwood (available online). Which brings me to today's review...

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

This is the story of The Odyssey told from the perspective of Odysseus's wife Penelope. It follows her life story and offers a different take on the killing of the twelve maids in particular.

The more you know about Greek mythology and Homer's work the more you will enjoy this book, but most people know enough of the stories of the Trojan War and the Odyssey to appreciate this story. Penelope's feminist perspective is fresh and interesting, much like the many retold fairytales published recently. It is a quick and fun read, though not a happy story.

A hint to students and teachers: this would make a great comparison story when reading the Odyssey (I can imagine the essays now...). Atwood's use of a Chorus as in Greek drama would also be interesting to students. Overall I recommend this book to everyone (within age-appropriateness, of course).

http://www.ReadMagazine.ca has an excerpt of The Penelopiad posted. The series website is http://www.TheMyths.ca

And the book was printed on recycled paper, which is always appreciated. All books should be, really.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Currently reading, new acquire, review of Anil's Ghost

I'm still reading The Penelopiad, which is at #3 this week on Maclean's Bestseller Fiction list. It's not very long, and it reads fast, so I might finish it tonight and have a review up sometime tomorrow.

I received Falcondance by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes in the mail today (I won it in a contest a while ago... boy it took a long time to get here). It is Volume 3 in the Kiesha'ra series. I talked to the author when she visited Book Divas a couple months ago; I haven't yet read the books. I don't think I'll read this one until I've read the first two (I remember winning the trilogy on Book Divas, but I haven't received it yet... don't know how long that will take to get here). Amelia Atwater-Rhodes published her first novel at age thirteen!

Today's review:
Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje (adult; literary; contemporary)

Anil, a forensic anthropologist, returns to her native Sri Lanka to do human rights work in the midst of a war. She teams up with an archaeologist and when they uncover a recent victim amongst ancient skeletons in a government-protected site, they work together to identify him and to build a report despite the danger.

It is a good story, especially interesting in terms of the anthropological content. The literary style could make the plot drag a bit, but then this is a book to read and enjoy slowly. The various characters were original and interesting, and I liked how the author showed glimpses of their life stories. The quote from Clyde Snow shows the importance of human rights work: "One victim can speak for many victims." I would have liked a more complete ending, more from Anil's perspective. But overall it was a good read, though a horrifying look into Sri Lanka's civil war.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Book Buys and Review #1: Persepolis

"Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore!"
~ Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)

Made a quick visit yesterday to a thrift store and bought a few books:
  • Hybrids by Robert J. Sawyer (science fiction, Book 3 of a trilogy that I've been reading)
  • The Secret Country by Pamela Dean (fantasy, Book 1 of a trilogy, looks interesting)
  • Pandemic by Daniel Kalla (a medical thriller about a new flu pandemic, published in 2005)

It may be a while before I get to them, though... They are a ways back in the queue. I've just started reading Margaret Atwood's new book The Penelopiad, part of the Myths series.

Today's review:

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (graphic novel; youth/teen; memoir)

Summary: A young woman tells of her life growing up in Iran during the Iranian Revolution, and of having to leave her country. Translated from the French original.

My thoughts: A very interesting story of true events; a real look at life inside Iran and during a revolution from a child's perspective. The wry humour contrasts sharply with violence and intense sadness. I look forward to reading the sequel (I may even try reading it in the original French), and would like to read other graphic novels like this.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Welcome to my book diary!

I've created this blog as a reading diary, a place to talk about what I think of the books I'm reading, what I want to read, and anything else book-related, such as movies based on books.

I will post book reviews and make recommendations, and talk about my adventures buying (and sometimes selling) books and meeting authors (when I'm lucky enough).

I think this will be more convenient and flexible than my current website http://www.geocities.com/booklvr_2000/ I have an eclectic taste, non-fiction and fiction, adult and young adult, although I especially love fantasy and historical fiction. I'm an anthropology and history student, so my tastes lean in that direction. I review casually for a variety of companies and individuals, so often I will post a review of a book that has not yet been released. And I hope in the future to hold a few contests for free books (remember to check back!).

I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts about books and more! Comments welcome!