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Finish Line 2013! Yay! > KJ's 2013 Book Challenge

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KJ | 24 comments 2013 Book Challenge - Bring it on!

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KJ | 24 comments 1. Of Human Bondage Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham: 1/13/13 - I liked it. In some reviews it talks about the book and all of it's "deeper meaning" (such as the subject of personal freedom) but I thought it was just an interesting semi-autobiographic book about the author. I didn't really pick up on a lot of mind-blowing life lessons that others have apparently seen in it; but then again, I rarely seem to in a lot of books that have been deemed to be life altering. It was very interesting to see topics that we have often defined as issues of our present society, how these same issues were typically dealt with during the author's youth.

Oct 2012: I got this book after hearing the MPR interview of Abraham Verghese (Cutting for Stone) where he said that this book was largely responsible for why he became a doctor. Intriguing! I was in Rochester when I heard the interview and buzzed over to the library to get it. I got some effed up looks from the librarian when I asked if she knew who the author of 'On Human Bondage' was (I couldn't find it in the computer as I thought it was 'On' Human Bondage). From the title and the looks she gave me I believe she assumed I was some kind of sexual pervert looking for dirty adult books. I was so embarrassed that I stammered out how 'it's a classic' and I subtly hinted that any librarian worth her weight should know who the hell the author of a classic is. Didn't work. I was still embarrassed and found it on my own; though I did show her the book later as in, "Look! This is it!" I even dragged my hand under the author's name as in "Learn! A classic! I shouldn't have to show you this!" Gawd that was an awkward day. BTW - good book so far.

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KJ | 24 comments 2.Those Who Save Us Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum: FIVE STARS - This book was amazing and emotionally draining at the same time. What happens to Anna is so upsetting that I literally stepped away from the book for a month and a half. I contemplated taking it back to the library but a part of me felt as though that by not finishing the book, not listening to Anna's story, would be a dishonor to the women who really did endure such horrors, and variations of such horror, during war time. I cried multiple times when I read the book, imagining the pain and hopelessness and loneliness Anna endured. There were times when I wanted to shake Anna and yell at her to just talk already and tell people what happened to her - though I can also understand how she wouldn't want to talk about it.

I remember reading somewhere that 80% of the casualties of war are civilians, those who are not soldiers in the war. I believe that by casualties they didn't mean death alone, but other war related horrors included. This story is an example of such casualties. It's also painful to imagine that of all of those people who endured during war time, those who survived, that their stories aren't recognized as the stories of heroes, or even heard by others. This is one of those books that you wish everyone would read to understand the truth behind war. I think we are so apart from it sometimes that it's hard to wrap our minds around how awful it truly is.

It's also an interesting case of 'blaming the victim' in that Anna did what she had to survive and keep her child alive, but she was thought of as the enemy due to who she had to associate with. I recently saw a video of German women after the war and their hair was shaved and they were being pushed around the streets of Berlin (I think) for being Nazi sympathizers. They very well could have been but now I wonder how many were in that catch 22 of doing what they had to to survive.

Anna's story is also interesting in how her mind twisted in regards to her abuser. Rather than breaking, her mind bent. Her thoughts hint at the effects of Stockholm syndrome. It seems that her mind, in survival mode for so long, tried to make sense of the abuse and tried to twist it as a way of dealing with what was happening. The author did an interesting thing in regards to Anna and her abuser in that Anna's father was also an aggressive and selfish person, so perhaps Anna's confused mental attachment to the Nazi is even more tangled possibly as a result of growing up with a father who was similar in ways.

When I first began reading the book there was something about the writing style that I didn’t like and I got so caught up in the story that I have no idea now what it was! An amazing story and one that will most likely stick with me for the rest of my life.

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KJ | 24 comments 3.Chains of Ice Chains of Ice - Christina Dodd: Meh.

4.Gone Girl Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn: I really liked the first half and then once I found out who was really responsible for the shenanigans I lost interest and had a hard time getting back into it. Interesting ending though.

5. Darkness Awakened Darkness Awakened - Stephanie Rowe
6. Darkness Seduced Darkness Seduced - Stephanie Rowe
7. Darkness Surrendered Darkness Surrendered - Stephanie Rowe: I can always tell when I'm experiencing stress as I burn through a lot of 'fluff' books (read: romance novels or 'girl porn' as I call it). Having started school again this year, well... exhibit A. These books were recommended to me. At first I hated the writing style. It's so repetitive and one minute the characters are so dramatically claiming, "No! We can never be together! *placing back of hand on forehead*" and literally one line later that same character is, "Hey, do you wanna do it?" But after about 1/4 of the way in I wanted to know what happened to the characters and I got used to the awkward writing style. I read through the third book as they are my favorite characters but I definitely need a break from this author's books now.

8.The Help The Help - Kathryn Stockett - I didn't think I'd like it as normally those that are popular in pop culture just suck (Fifty Shades of Grey anybody?) but I really enjoyed this story. When you think about civil rights, especially in the early days of civil rights, you know it was horrible and icky and painful for so many, but to hear individual examples of the day-to-day experiences really makes it hit home. You can get a tiny sense of what it must have been like. I enjoyed how the story moved along and hearing the different characters' stories. Interesting book.

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KJ | 24 comments 9. Warm Bodies 4 Stars. I liked it. It wasn't a book I looked forward to reading, but once I would start reading it again I had a hard time walking away from it. It moves quickly and yet has just enough "deeper meaning" or "thought provoking" comments and lines that it keeps it engaging. I really like the author's writing style and wouldn't mind reading more from him.

10. Rise of the Fallen Oh sweet baby jeezuz I love the campiness of romance novel covers. And this one certainly does not let you down. I some how missed a part in the beginning that explains how the main character is basically dying as his partner left him. So for the first 1/4 of the book I was thinking to myself, "Good gawd man! Put your big boy panties on and deal with the break up!" As a result the first part of the book was rather tainted for me by my utter lack of respect for the main character. Once I got that he was dying and had every right to behave as if he was... well, dying, I paid more attention. OKay romantic fluff.

11. The Amazon's Curse 3 Stars. A free nooky-book that I finally got to on my ereader. Nice weekend calgon-take-me-away read.

12. Beauty Awakened 3-4 Stars. I loved the characer of Koldo. All the BS he went through makes you really pull for him. Apparently I am not the only one to have noticed that the author has "found Jesus" and there is some religion thrown in on this book. It took away from the story for me as whenever religion is mentioned seriously in fiction I always feel like someone is trying to sell something to me. Just a knee jerk reaction that makes the read less enjoyable for me. If it's the author's gig then she can obviously go for it all she wants but I'm not sure I'll continue with her stories. Outside of the religious tones (most of which I skipped over) the story was good and I hope Koldo is in future stories (more Koldo, less church lady in the future mayhap?) as I really liked his character.

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KJ | 24 comments 13. April in Paris I'd like to rate this book a 3.5. It was good up until the end where I felt the author ended the book the way he did to add "depth" to it. Like "all great books end in tragedy!" but instead it just pissed you off. I noticed this book rating was 3.1something and I wondered why it was so low as I was listening to it. But at the end you react in a sorta, "Aww come ON! Seriously?!" way that I think one is pissed off enough to take it down a star. Good story except for the trying-too-hard ending.

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KJ | 24 comments 14. Skinny Bitch: Home, Beauty, and Style A No-Nonsense Guide to Cutting the Crap Out of Your Life for a Better Body and a Kinder World To be honest with you this is exactly what I was looking for. Basically something to tell me what to buy and what not to buy. I don't have time to dick around and look at various ingredients or research the sources of products so to have someone give me a short cut for buying the kind of products I want is exactly what I was hoping for in this book. I feel badly for the author as she had a lot of very scientifically dense terminology and information to get across and she tried very hard to make it entertaining and broken up in digestable pieces. The book is not perfect but I think it's the best anyone can do with the kind of information the author was discussing. At the very least people can say it gets them thinking and makes you more aware of just how much gunk we are exposed to everyday.

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KJ | 24 comments 15. Lover At Last Not bad but it didn't reach out and grab me like the original BDB books did. There are some book series where the next book just keeps the story going along but for some reason with Ward's BDB books I feel like "it" slips away more and more with each book. I can't put my finger on why but the umph isn't there for her books for me like they used to be. I know everyone loves Qhuinn but I ADORE Blay! He is my little baby and I am happy for his happy ending. Even though the end of he book was predictable, the old Ward "it" that has been missing in these last few books and for most of this book came through at the very end and things just clicked then. I know I won't stop reading the BDB story line but I hope Ward can bring the magic back again.

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KJ | 24 comments 16. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan I love books where you walk away feeling like you were immersed in another culture or time. The author does well at explaining customs, expectations and perceptions but without taking away from the momentum of the story or the story line itself. From having read a previous Lisa See book I knew that one of the characters was going to do something really self absorbed and, well, dipshitty. And one of the characters did (seriously, emotionally overreact much?). But I know the author was trying to round out the plot and create a bit of excitement and tension. And naturally it came full circle in a final emotional coup d'etat for the main character. Good book and worth the read.

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KJ | 24 comments 17. Castles April 2013: Screw you, Colin, and the horse you road in on! I gave up. After writing the review below I never did pick the book back up again. Neurotic or not about finishing books I just couldn't do it. I am counting this book as 'read' as I did read the whole thing when I was younger (and what shitty taste in books I must have had back then!).

Earlier in 2013: I originally read this book back in college and I don't remember thinking it was good or bad. I recently got it for super cheap from a used book store and thank gawd for that. What a bunch of crap. Somehow in my younger days I completely missed how creepy this book is in it's "read between the lines" way. I'm about halfway through and I want to kick Colin in the balls for being such an ass. He's arrogant, which is suppose to be cute and make one feel confident that he knows what he's doing, but instead he comes off as a complete bully to Alesandra. Yes this is suppose to be historical fiction at a time when 'the husband knows best' but the author tries to make the female leads strong, intelligent, etc despite those circumstances. Unfortunately Alesandra is a complete Door.Mat. And I've wanted to throw the book every time Colin treats her like a child (too numerous to count). I just read a part where shocking news is being divulged from a third party and Alesandra says something like, "But how did he...." and Colin, the ass, condescendingly says, "Let him have his say, Alesandra; don't interrupt him." YES DADDY DICK HEAD! It's gross and creepy that these two hook up as Colin treats her more like a child than a partner; which makes him a mental pedophile (kinda? sorta? you know what I mean) since he obviously thinks of her as an overgrown seven year old.

Alright, enough bitching. I just had to vent this. I just finished a PBS special on feminism that was really inspiring and positive and then I read this book on 'How to Bully One's Wife.' I feel better now. And yeah, I'm going to finish it - because I'm neurotic like that.

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KJ | 24 comments 18. Delirium

It was okay. Part of me wants to read the next couple of books to see what happens but I probably won't. I have this odd knee-jerk reaction to YA books that I can't explain. If I hear a book is YA I immediately respond with, "Oh yuck. *shudder* That's got to be some sucky horse shit of a story." Not sure how I got trained to respond in that way, like one of Pavlov's dogs, but I can't seem to break it. Glad to hear other's enjoy it but it was only so-so for me.

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KJ | 24 comments 19. The Moonstone

I really, really liked it! I kind of miss this book actually. I don't read many mystery stories so I'm not sure if this is considered good by someone who is more of a mystery connoisseur, but it was intriguing and fun to me. It was amusing to me also in the absolute bitterness of the author towards women. It seems every 3-4 pages or so there was a comment about how all women are worthless and how a woman's best talent is gossip, etc. It made me laugh because A: This book was written in, what, 1850 or something? and B. The author must have gotten his ass BURNED by a lady friend. The level of bitterness exhibited by the author is the kind that comes about from getting his ass handed to him in a relationship. I got the impression that he is one of those people who bitches about there not being any good women (or men) left and then searches out and dates the most effed up, trailer trash, hot mess of a person they can find. Sabotoge a relationship before it's even started, Mr. Wilkie? But outside of the amusing bitterness the story was still very good.

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Rose (obsessedreader9) | 215 comments KJ, I taught a class on Wilkie Collins--whom I adore.

He actually kept two families going at one time--without the entanglement of marriage. It's amazing he found time to write such intricate, enticing novels!


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KJ wrote: "18. Delirium

It was okay. Part of me wants to read the next couple of books to see what happens but I probably won't. I have this odd knee-jerk reaction to YA books that I can't explain. If I hea..."

I think that's become 95% of them have some sucky horse shit of a story. I'm glad someone else feels the same way I do.

I didn't mind Delirium at all, but I wasn't interested in continuing because I'm so tired of all these overdramatic love affairs between teenagers. I'd be interested in knowing if you do continue.

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KJ | 24 comments Lindsey wrote: "KJ wrote: "18. Delirium

It was okay. Part of me wants to read the next couple of books to see what happens but I probably won't. I have this odd knee-jerk reaction to YA books that I can't explai..."

HAHA! I'm so glad I'm not the only one who doesn't enjoy YA books. So many people are fans and I was wondering if I was just missing something. Unless I get the next Delirium book for free it's unlikely I'll continue with the series.

I agree the overdramatic teenage loves are exhausting. They are making life and death decisions in these books when in real life most teenage couples would be more concerned about who was having a kegger on Saturday and if they could get their older cousin to buy them smokes or not. ...Or at least that was what it was like when I was a teen back in the day. I guess there just weren't enough dehumanizing, totalitarian governments when I was younger to incite true maturity in me at 15. Le sigh. Such a shame I missed out on that; but on the bright side I did usually make it to the keggers on Saturday!

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KJ | 24 comments Obsessedreader wrote: "KJ, I taught a class on Wilkie Collins--whom I adore.

He actually kept two families going at one time--without the entanglement of marriage. It's amazing he found time to write such intricate, en..."

That dirty dog Wilkie! And wasn't he best chums with Charles Dickens, the big super star of his time? Also another rather bitter man towards woman (specifically his mother due to her decision to keep him working when he was a child). Their lives are like the basis for modern day soap operas.

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KJ | 24 comments 20. Sarah's Key
Oh dear god. I don't even know how much time I want to spend on this review. First, I really enjoyed the historical part of the book, Sarah's part of the story. It's always good to learn more about the Jewish experiences during WWII as I believe that telling their stories is one of the truely authentic ways of honoring the victims. With that being said, I was so damned irritated at the rest of the book. I literally just finished the book this afternoon and already I have spaced the main characters name. I'll just refer to her as Ass Hat Alice. She whined and whined about her French husband arguing with her but she would start it half the time. In the one part he was rubbing her feet and being very kind and she just laid into him about something and he fought back. Then she played the victim and whined about it.

The writing style drove me nuts. It would be a line or two of the story followed by lines and lines of questioning. Something like, "After the arguement Ass Hat Alice and Bob walked to the liquor store. Bob bought a cabernet sauvignon. Was Bob still angry because Ass Hat Alice lit into him about rubbing her feet? Was Bob still attracted to her? Why did Bob buy a cab? Cabs are so dry and would Alice's mouth feel like sand paper after just one glass or would it take two? Did Bob pay too much for the cab? Did Bob think she was cheap because she preferred pinot grigio? Ass Hat Alice was just never sure."

The main character was so shallow. The first half of the book that wasn't about Sarah was the main character going on and on (with questions constantly thrown in of course) about how good looking her French husband was. And normally this isn't a make or break for me but the reader, who, bless her heart, I am sure is a nice person, had the most irritating voice! The cadence of her voice was like that of an elementary school teacher who was unable to leave her work at school. The rhythm of her speech is one I hope to never hear again.

Overall the idea of the book is good but the story itself was clumsy and frustrating to follow.

21. Nefertiti For the majority of this book I was thinking to myself, "I must just not like historical fiction" as the book seemed to drag on. Nefertiti was very cliche a character and the other characters came off as flat though I can't say exactly why. I understand there is a second book and I thought there would be no way I would want to read it. But for some reason, at the end of the book, the story picked up and the characters rounded out and I actually enjoyed it. If I come across the next book I'll give it a shot. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the everyday norms for the time (the herbs and their uses for example). Overall, I was relatively bored for 70% of the book but the other 30% was good enough that it made it worth it for me.

22. The Millionaire Next Door I like the main point of the book - live under your means, don't let your children know you are wealthy don't fall for the flashy lifestyle, etc., etc. The only downside is that the millionaires who live frugally almost come off as martyrs and long-suffering victims to their own Type A personalities. I read another finance and lifestyle related book that had a similar message except it advised that within reasonable limitations one should enjoy spending their money on things they specifically want, not what society dictates one should spend money on. A simplistic example would be if someone really enjoyed designer clothes (but still spent money on those clothes within reason) and made the conscious decision to sacrifice having a nice apartment for a dive with four roommates in order to afford the clothes and still have savings and investments. This book is good, but should be tempered. It's definitely best to live frugally, but you are not a bad person if there are key things you enjoy earning the money for and not just with the goal of dying a rich person. And maybe it's just my short attention span but their charts were a bit dense.

23. Dark Prince There is absolutely no sense in me reinventing the wheel on this one. The first listed review under this book, the one by Kat Kennedy, sums it up PERFECTLY! Kat Kennedy, whoever you are, I salute you!

I can't explain why but I continued to read the book. To the end. The whole damned twisted thing. And strangely enough, there is a mini book at the end about another character, Traian (like a choo-choo but I guess that extra A make him straight up pimpin' to mountain people). And the mini book is much better! The lady (whose name I can't recall) is funny, self sufficient, confident, etc. TrAiAn is respectful and, I dunno, shall we say 'modern thinking?' He sure as shit doesn't call his lady friend, "Little One." Chyst on a Cracker I cringe every time I think of that... If I ever knew a couple where the man called his lady friend Little One I would immediately knock the man out, grab Little One by the wrist and run like hell to the local police station to report the kidnapping, assault and poor taste.

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KJ | 24 comments 24. The Myths of Happiness Very interesting. Long story short - everything you assume either by your personal assumptions or by society standards of happiness are NOT what will make you happy. If you do experience happiness it's short lived and ultimately unsatisfying as you expect so much more joy from it. There were parts of the book that I wish I would have made a note-to-self to re-read or really make sure I absorb as I think they will need to be revisited again and again to break habits of assumption that we all have about what will make us happy. It read a bit like a text book for school, but she is a college professor so what can one expect. As a random side note, she would throw in words here and there that were odd and sporadic to me. You would be reading along and suddenly, "Through this knowledge we can experience an aeolian trasport of knowledge and wisdom." What in the sam hell? She has got to be one of those overachievers who tries to learn a new word a day from a dictionary - thereby making the rest of us feel dumb on a daily basis. The new, additional myth of happiness: Learning a new word a day will impress others with my brilliant and preeminent vocabulary. No, it just makes everyone else feel like an ass. Overall though an interesting read.

25. The Missing Piece Meets the Big O I feel a little weird marking this as 'read' as I don't think the whole book has 100 words in it. But, on the flip side, I am reading Stephen King's 11/22/63 which is over 1000 pages long so yeah, f*ck that, I'm counting this as a book read. I was told this book is one of the best books on relationships out there and yeah, I agree. Awesome little book.

26. A Love Untamed Part of me wants to start an entire new bookshelf on goodreads called, "The Cheeze" for the most corn ball of all book covers. This one would be one of the first ones listed. That being said, the book was a good Pamela Palmer book. When I first read her books her style is so unique and out-in-left-field that I didn't get the rhythm of her books. Her stories remind me of a quirky neighbor. The one who is 65 years old, dyes her hair apricot orange and obsessively clutters her yard with potted plants and stone gnomes. The neighbor who is slightly off-putting but one you can't help but feel affection for. She is nothing if not consistent in her quirkiness. That is a Pamela Palmer story. It's out there but the more you read her stories the more you like to hear what ol' Kara, Jag, Olivia and the other characters are up to. I didn't think I'd like Fox's story as the past Fox character seemed like such a vapid jokester, but I liked this Fox character. I hadn't read one of her books for a while so it was fun to come back after a break and see what the gang is up to.

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