I slammed it right out of the park for my first book in 2014. I've been holding on to A Memory of Light for most of 2013 with the intention of endingI slammed it right out of the park for my first book in 2014. I've been holding on to A Memory of Light for most of 2013 with the intention of ending it at the beginning of 2014. (Any true Jordan fan will get my meaning with that last remark.)
I started Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series in high school. That was back in 1990 with Eye of the World. Since then, I've endured endless waits between each book release - all 14 of 800+page novels. I've also read each book several times because the story lines are JUST THAT GOOD. Jordan died in 2007, and he never got his see his dream completed. Before leaving, though, he passed on the keys to his kingdom to Brandon Sanderson, who completed the giant series off Jordan's notes. Bravo, Mr. Sanderson!
In Jordan's world, Rand al'Thor is a simple sheepherder who is destined to become the champion of light in a battle against an ultimate evil. What results from his story is a tale of epic proportions. In fact, epic doesn't even begin to describe this series. Each book is loaded with vivid characters and unforgettable story lines.
Rand, Matt, Perrin, Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve have become lifelong companions; it is hard to imagine not having new tales to look forward to. I am quite sad to say good-bye to them, and I am feeling the loss of this series already. From beginning to end, A Memory of Light was a fantastic read. The battle scenes blew my mind, and the ending lived up to my expectations in so many different ways. It was just perfect.
After a 24-year love affair with The Wheel of Time series, I couldn't have asked for a better book to start 2014 with. Farewell, my Two Rivers friends. This fantasy geek will certainly miss you!...more
The Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey was a terrific book to end my 2013 reading project with. I owe a big thanks to my cousin Kathleen,The Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey was a terrific book to end my 2013 reading project with. I owe a big thanks to my cousin Kathleen, who presented me with it for Christmas. She gave it a strong recommendation, and she very obviously learned a valuable lesson that our grandmother instilled in us at a very young age: Books are meant to be loved and shared. I'm fairly certain, now that I've had this book in my possession, that it once belonged to my grandmother. Thank you, Kathleen!
In short, The Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey has earned its place amongst my growing list of favorite travelogues. It's written by a Canadian woman named Diane Stuemer from Ottawa, Canada. In September 1997, after a year of preparation, Diane embarked on a four-year journey around the world with her husband and three young sons on a 42-foot yacht called Northern Magic. This is a classic tale of adventure and travel-lust. With no sailing skills to speak of, Diane and her husband Herbert navigated through horrific storms, a terrifying waterspout in Indonesia, pirate-filled waters and an epic fight against the North Atlantic sea. They also grew immeasurably as a family and as individuals.
The Stuemers were deeply touched by their adventures, and they undertook a number of projects to 'give back' to some of the incredible individuals who helped them along their journey. In Kilifi, Kenya, they started the Boniface and Hamisi Educational Project, which aims to provide tuition fees for students, and to help establish small businesses to provide additional income to poor families. Additionally, their efforts to help endangered primates in Borneo are still going strong today.
Written by a Canadian from my old stomping grounds no less, there was much that I could identify with in The Voyage of the Northern Magic: A Family Odyssey. I've been to many of the places that the Stuemers visited, and it was a fun and engaging read to be able to relive those experiences right along with them. All in all, a fantastic read and one that I highly recommend!
This is one of the most moving books I've read this year. The Lotus Eaters follows American photojournalist Helen Adams as a young photographer freshlThis is one of the most moving books I've read this year. The Lotus Eaters follows American photojournalist Helen Adams as a young photographer freshly arrived in Saigon to document the Vietnam War. She meets Sam Darrow and his assistant Linh shortly after arriving, and quickly becomes embroiled with these two men. She begins a torrid love affair with Darrow, a man who she greatly admires and who consistently infuriates her. After a disastrous trip into the jungle with Darrow, Helen strikes out on her own and finds her own ways to get in on the war action.
From there, Helen goes out into the hot, steamy jungles of Vietnam, where she becomes engrossed in the lives of the young men who are serving her country. Helen finds herself drawn to Darrow, and when they begin their affair again, he assigns his assistant Linh to help her on her photography missions. Linh, however, is jealous of Helen's relationship with Darrow, and he can't hide his own growing feelings for her.
Twelve years later, the NVA is getting ready to take over Saigon; Helen and Linh are making a desperate run to flee the city. This is a gorgeous novel of passion and ambition, set amongst the realities of war.
Is there any controversial topic that Jodi Picoult won't tackle? Picoult is one of my favorite authors, but one of my chief complaints about her writiIs there any controversial topic that Jodi Picoult won't tackle? Picoult is one of my favorite authors, but one of my chief complaints about her writing style is that she usually includes these big, sweeping passages in all of her novels that tend to get a little irritating.
Well, she's obviously changed tactics with The Storyteller. I thought she did a fantastic job of writing about the Holocaust, and she did so in a very unusual way. The story begins with Sage, a young woman absorbed by her mother's death in a terrible car accident, leaving her with a disfiguring facial scar. She withdraws from her family and friends and hides behind a curtain of hair. A talented baker, Sage works at a bakery on the evening shift, which allows her to stay hidden from the public eye. Eventually she ends up befriending an elderly man named Josef Weber. The two get along famously until Josef asks Sage for her help and reveals that he is a Nazi War Criminal with a horrific past. To add to the confusion, Sage's grandmother is a Holocaust death camp survivor, and although Sage doesn't identify with herself as Jewish, she is incredibly torn on how to handle the situation.
The storyline is rich and complex; Picoult really shows her skills as a masterful storyteller here. Throughout the novel, a secondary fictional story written by Sage's grandmother echoes Sage's own reality. It also illustrates the connection between Sage's grandmother and Josef Weber.
I think this is one of her best books, simply because it's so different from her other novels. The subject matter is difficult to read at times, but it also really opened my eyes to the atrocities of the Holocaust. So much time has passed since Hitler's Third Reich that I am ashamed to admit I haven't really given it much thought. The Storyteller is a terrific story that reminds us that we shouldn't ever forget.
Although Picoult doesn't normally write historical fiction, I hope with all my heart that she will continue on this trend on tackle other important dates in time. We would all certainly benefit from it....more
What a brilliant concept for a book, and for a zombie story no less! I never thought I'd be awarding five stars for a book about zombies.
I started thiWhat a brilliant concept for a book, and for a zombie story no less! I never thought I'd be awarding five stars for a book about zombies.
I started this book thinking that it was going to take more of a comedic approach to a zombie thriller. It's written by Max Brooks-son of comedy writer Mel Brooks-who also wrote for Saturday Night Live. The book wasn't funny in any sense of the word, so shame on me for walking into something with a preconceived idea about what to expect.
World War Z reads almost like a documentary, since it's essentially a compilation of interviews from all over the world which have been told by the survivors of the war. I know the movie is due out this year, and I just really, really hope that Brad Pitt does the book justice. I hate it when an awesome book is ruined by a terrible movie!
Another thing that really impressed me was the sheer amount of creativity that went into putting this book together. I'm pretty sure Max Brooks came up with every possible scenario that could play out in a Zombie Apocalypse. We read accounts of what happened when people first started hearing about the outbreaks of 'African Rabies'; we read about entire governments collapsing, how entire cities were overrun, how the plague went as far as it did without making anyone the wiser, and what militaries around the world had to go through when they realized that all of their training and weaponry meant nothing when they were pitted against a new kind of enemy, one that would never stop coming and would never know fear. How do you fight against 200 million zombies that have taken over the world?
I think probably the biggest surprise, though, is the quality of Brooks' writing. I thought it was going to be a simple and easy to digest tale about zombies, but by the time I finished reading World War Z, I have been fervently hoping that it won't be his last.
The Waste Lands is the third installment in Stephen King's Dark Towers series. It's also my favorite of the three so far. The Waste Lands opens with oThe Waste Lands is the third installment in Stephen King's Dark Towers series. It's also my favorite of the three so far. The Waste Lands opens with our three friends moving through the North Central Positronics’ Outdoor Nature Park on the path of the Beam. It's here that they encounter the giant bear Shardik, one of 12 guardians of the Beam.
The gunslingers, mainly Susannah, face him down with some fancy shooting, and they continue on their way through the forest. Meanwhile, Roland is slowly going mad from the voices in his head, and Eddie discovers that he has some pretty nifty skills in wood carving. Eddie manages to carve a talisman for Roland to keep the voices at bay, but the three of them realize that they need to do something quickly before Roland loses it completely. Roland has a feeling that young Jake is near, and they conspire to bring him over to Mid World.
When the gunslingers encounter the Ring of Stones, they realize they have their chance to bring Jake over. The only problem is the demon who guards the Ring of Stones. While Eddie carves a door to bring Jake through from his world, Susannah and Roland take on the demon. In the end, the only way to keep the demon occupied is for Susannah to keep it busy. She does this by allowing the demon to rape her and then she traps it until Eddie and Roland can pull Jake through.
Our little band of heroes, now four, continue on to River Crossing, where they wine and dine with the villagers of the town and learn what to expect from the rest of their journey to Lud. The villagers warn the Gunslinger and his friends that the people of Lud will do anything within their power to seize Jake. The Greys and the Pubes are disease-riddled and elderly, and young children are a hot commodity amongst their kind.
As they are approaching Lud, Jake is taken. Roland goes in search of him, while Susannah and Eddie go off in search of Blaine the Mono. They must travel across the Waste Lands on Blaine in order to reach the Black Tower, but before they do that, they have to find Jake and deal with the Tick Tock Man.
In short, shit gets crazy in Book Three, and I can hardly wait to read Book Four.
I loved reading Stephen King in high school and university, and it's been a while since I've picked up a Stephen King novel. My respect for him has continued to deepen and grow after rereading some of my favorites of his. What a talented writer! ...more
Paula McLain has written a beautiful and somewhat sad account of Earnest Hemingway's affair and relationship with his first wife, Hadley. Their relatiPaula McLain has written a beautiful and somewhat sad account of Earnest Hemingway's affair and relationship with his first wife, Hadley. Their relationship is told through Hadley's voice, and it recounts Earnest's first years as a new writer and how his career took off after meeting his muse. Although the story is historical fiction, McLain has written a story that remains true to historical fact.
Hadley was a rock for Hemingway and she loved him deeply. Hemingway owes a good part of his success to Hadley, and it was awful to read about how he treated her towards the end of the relationship. They moved to Paris together and traveled around Europe on money that came from her trust fund. Their story makes one question how much of a success he'd have been if he'd remained in America, given that some of his most famous literary works were based on their travels in Europe and on their friendships with other writers of that age, primarily F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound.
Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises was written while Earnest and Hadley were together and many of the details in that novel were based on events that they witnessed together. Shortly after he left Hadley, he dedicated this book to her and their son. It has been widely speculated that he showed some regret towards ending their relationship, and he acknowledged that their marriage ended mostly because of his unfaithfulness.
I really enjoyed the story. McLain's descriptions of Paris are beautiful, while her characters were vivid and interesting. To write the story of one of the greatest writers of all time and do it as wonderfully as Paula McLain did is no small feat. This is a writer that bears watching! I'm looking forward to her next book.
How would you feel if your doctor took a sample of your tissue without your consent and then used it to further his own research studies and then sharHow would you feel if your doctor took a sample of your tissue without your consent and then used it to further his own research studies and then shared that tissue with laboratories and medical research centers around the world for a profit?
After your death, what would happen if your family discovered that your cells had been used in medical research against the family's wishes for years, but that those cells had also been used to make some of the most important innovations that modern science has ever known?
This is what happened to an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks in 1951. Henrietta was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that eventually led to her death. Her doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore discovered that Henrietta's cells were immortal, meaning that they could be grown in a lab without dying after a few cell divisions. Samples of Henrietta's cancerous tissue were taken without her knowledge or consent during her treatments and then again after her death. Henrietta's cells were used to conduct many experiments from developing a cure for polio and studying the effects of radiation and other toxic substances on the human body to gene mapping as well as cancer and AIDS research. Her cells represented a boon to medical research.
In the meantime, Henrietta's family had been kept in the dark. They lived in poverty and poor health, often without health insurance, and they only found out about her contribution to science years later.
Journalist Rebecca Skloot does an excellent job of gathering what little information there is on Henrietta's life and telling her remarkable story and the aftermath of her death. It's unusual for a journalist to get so close to the subjects she is writing about, but Rebecca's close relationship with the family only made me feel more indignant about how they were treated. The end of the novel, in particular, was a real eye-opener for me. I had spent so much time feeling angry about what had happened to the Lacks' that I never stopped to consider what would've happened if Henrietta's cells hadn't been used.
This isn't a story about Henrietta Lacks, although she is certainly the most important figure in this novel. It's about her children, her friends, and the debate over whether or not human tissue should be used with or without a patient's consent and what that means for the future of medical science.
I finished reading Shanghai Girls it in less than two days - that's how much I loved it. This book takes us from the busy streets of Shanghai in the 1I finished reading Shanghai Girls it in less than two days - that's how much I loved it. This book takes us from the busy streets of Shanghai in the 1930s through the evilness of the second Sino-Japanese War and on to America, where Pearl and her sister are detained at the immigration station on Angel Island.
Eventually they are released and join their husbands, whom they have met once, in Chinatown in Los Angeles in the 1930s-1960s. We also learn about the rise of Communism in China, and how it affects Chinese families living in America at the time.
Lee's description of life for Pearl and her family reminded me in many ways of her family memoir, On Gold Mountain. Her books are always beautifully written, full of adventure and emotion, and meticulously researched.