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BOOK REVIEWS > Dionisia's 2010 Challenge Book Blurbs

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message 1: by Dionisia (last edited Dec 12, 2010 05:21PM) (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments I am so excited about this year of reading and the potential great reads lying in wait. When I joined Goodreads a year ago, I was determined to broaden my reading horizons. Thank you Cynthia for helping me to achieve my goal! My TBR pile is monstrous and the reading challenges help me chip away at it in earnest.

This year I am focusing on reading the books I own. This has made filling tasks especially challenging!

*Summer challenge reviews begin on message 12.

*Winter challenge reviews begin on message 16.

message 2: by Dionisia (last edited Mar 06, 2010 11:06AM) (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments In the Woods by Tana French
Task: #10.2 Three/Four/Five
Rating: 4 stars

First book of the spring challenge! I really enjoyed reading this book but I can understand why other reviewers may have rated it more harshly than I. If you find the lack of a clean resolution disturbing, then you may have some major qualms about this novel. If, on the other-hand, you find loose ends only mildly irritating, then dive right in!
In the Woods reminded me a little of the American television show Law & Order: SVU. The bulk of the novel is about following the detectives as they try to make heads or tails of the case before them and then a smidgen of the trial phase at the end. I became completely absorbed in the story, despite the fact that the narrator, and lead detective, happens to be incredibly foolish and a blatant asshole.

message 3: by TMBookluvr (new)

TMBookluvr (tmb1981) | 285 comments Dionisia wrote: "I am so excited about this year of reading and the potential great reads lying in wait. When I joined Goodreads a year ago, I was determined to broaden my reading horizons. Thank you Cynthia for ..."

I know what you mean....I have a pile next to my bookshself of the books I own that fit in this task, it's probably about 10, even if I get through those (which is unlikely) I still probably won't finish this task, but I am increasing my TBR list within Goodreads, which was also a goal of mine. :-) Good Luck!

message 4: by Dionisia (last edited May 19, 2010 03:55PM) (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments Even the Dogs A Novel by Jon McGregor
Task: #25.1 Future Aspirations.
Rating: 4 stars

I knew bupkiss about this book or the author at the time I entered its Goodreads giveaway. It was so much more than I anticipated! Jon McGregor writes a novel that, I think, intentionally is disjointed and keeps the reader on unsteady footing. Pages were full of run-on sentences and incomplete phrases, but I think it works. It's about the ugliness and the loneliness and the rawness of addiction. The reader is jostled between the voices of various addicts with no transition between their scattered thoughts. We are left to sift through their garbled speech and distracted thoughts, to piece together the story.

At times it is graphic. This is one of the rare books that made me a bit squeamish. Not an easy read, but it is a great one. I hope I haven't scared anyone off. I would hate for someone to shy away from this book simply because of the subject matter.

message 5: by Dionisia (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Task: #25.9 Spring Break
Rating: 4 stars

I gather from other reviews that people either love or hate this book. Count me in among one of the lovers.

message 6: by Dionisia (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments Tell Me Where It Hurts A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeon by Nick Trout
Task: #5.8 “Mr. Watson, Come Here, I Want To See You.”
Rating: 1 star

Boy was I disappointed by this book. This is usually the type of book I would love! Maybe I set my expectations too high. This book just didn't work for me. Dr. Nick Trout's attempt at humor fell flat. I usually winced instead of chuckled at his "jokes." I also think it was a HUGE mistake to warp his years of experiences into a "day in the life" type tale. The story lacked focus! All his digressions and skips down memory lane ended up being distractions rather than adding richness to his story. The biggest disappointment for me was the total lack of emotional impact his story had on me. I could tell that Dr. Trout takes pride in being an animal surgeon and loves animals, but by the end of the book I just didn't care. There are so many great animal books out there. You won't miss a thing skipping this one.

message 7: by Dionisia (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments A Time to Kill by John Grisham
Task: #25.5 "Spring Cleaning"
Rating: 2 stars

Yet another dud. The story follows a young lawyer in Mississippi who lands a high profile case defending a black man charged with killing the two white men who raped his young daughter. This is one of John Grisham's early books. I guess I was expecting for this to be a page turner. I don't know where it all went wrong for me. By the end I had to fight the urge to skim just to get it finished.

message 8: by Dionisia (last edited Apr 19, 2010 03:36PM) (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments Street Angel by Rob Batista
Task: #5.9 “I think even lying on my bed I can still do something.”
Rating: 2 Stars

This book contains two novellas: Street Angel and The City Game. They both have a very strong anti-violence message.

message 9: by Dionisia (last edited May 06, 2010 06:15AM) (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman
Task: #30.5 Six Degrees of Separation
Rating: 4 Stars

This book brought me out of my reading slump and has definite re-read appeal. The chapters are extremely short, a few pages maybe, but each one felt like I was stepping into a different world. Though the people were introduced to the reader in mostly general terms, like man, woman, and child, I felt a connection to them and how time has shaped their lives. A beautiful and imaginative piece of fiction.

message 10: by Dionisia (last edited May 22, 2010 12:23PM) (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments The War Within A Secret White House History 2006-2008 by Bob Woodward
Task: #30.5 Six Degrees of Separation
Rating: 3 Stars

This book seems well researched and I was impressed by the level of access Woodward had to the key players and relevant supporting documents of the period. It illustrates beyond dispute what a clusterf**k America has gotten itself involved in.

message 11: by Dionisia (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Task: #25.5 "Spring Cleaning"
Rating: 2 stars
I was yet again disappointed by Alice Sebold. It's bad enough that I already slogged my way through The Almost Moon, a book I am still convinced is one of the worst ever written. I had hoped that this was some kind of freak fluke since I had heard good things about this earlier novel. Shame on me for giving her the benefit of the doubt. The Lovely Bones is not terrible, but it is only ok at best.
I was immediately sucked in at the beginning. A deceased narrator shares the circumstances surrounding her own murder and it's impact on her family, murderer, and community. Such promise! Ultimately, it's the writing style that disappoints. Sebold stumbles into some peculiar, head-scratching phrases. I also found the ending to be random and flat. I won't be reading anything else by this author.

Doubt A Parable by John Patrick Shanley
Task: #25.5 "Spring Cleaning"
Rating: 4 stars
Wow. I haven't read many plays outside of Shakespeare, but I thought it might be nice to incorporate a more modern play or two into my reading diet. So glad I did! I saw the film version well before stumbling upon this book so I couldn't help hearing the actor's voices inside my head as I read. The actors were fantastic so I didn't find this too bothersome. Once I started I found it hard to put down. Every line carries weight. I would recommend this to anyone.

message 12: by Dionisia (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments Super Sad True Love Story A Novel by Gary Shteyngart
Task: #20.6 List Maker
Rating: 2 stars

I'd like to start off on a positive note. I love this title. It's what initially attracted me to the book. The story sounded like it was right up my alley. A doomed romance set in a dystopian America? Sounds great! And then I read it. I was surprised to find it was a blend of diary entries and chat room logs. Hard as I tried I just couldn't get into it. I couldn't even muster enough energy to care about the characters and found Shteyngart's vision of the future more repulsive than frightening. The brand names created for the story were so over the top and distracting. There were gems like AssLuxury and JuicyPussy. It all seemed so flat. I guess I was expecting something a little darker. The story takes place in a dystopian setting so dark things definitely occurred. The problem is I just didn't care. I didn't care about the characters and when their lives began to unravel I felt little to nothing. I have this sneaking suspicion that Gary Shteyngart was too busy being clever to write a story with some heart. Did I mention I loved the title?

message 13: by Dionisia (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millenium, #3) by Stieg Larsson
Task: #10.2 The (Fill In The Blank) Who...
Rating: 4 stars

It was hard to put this one down. Too bad we won't be seeing any more books from Mr. Larsson. His books were a joy to read. I spent my nights hovered over this book hungrily eating the pages till the wee hours of the morning.

message 14: by Dionisia (last edited Jun 22, 2010 07:26PM) (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen
Task: #10.7 I Think We Can Handle The Truth
Rating: 4 stars

This book has taken me through a month long emotional journey. It has an impressive amount of detail about the 1975 Pine Ridge shoot-out and subsequent trials. This is a book that will stay with me. A must read.

message 15: by Dionisia (last edited Jul 06, 2010 06:59AM) (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Task: #5.9 - Get Caught Reading
Rating: 3 stars

The idea behind this story is pretty interesting and I mostly enjoyed this YA novel. It takes place in the fictional country of Opium. In the context of the story, Opium was formed as a solution to the problem of illegal immigration and to curb the flow of illegal drugs into the United States and Mexico. The story is told through the eyes of Matteo "Matt" Alacran, a human clone of the most powerful drug lord of Opium. As wrapped up in this tale as I was, there were things that bothered me. There were many cookie cutter "bad" guys in this story but I found myself feeling a great aversion to the character of Maria. Of all the characters available, I loathed the sweet and innocent young girl. She was disgustingly sweet, ignorant to a fault and not-so-subtly patronizing. Honestly, I just wanted to slap the girl sometimes. A younger reader would probably be more forgiving.

Mexican Hat (Kevin Kerney, book 2) by Michael McGarrity
Task: #5.3 S.U.M.M.E.R.
Rating: 2 stars

message 16: by Dionisia (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments The October Killings by Wessel Ebersohn
Task: #5.3 - Starts with...
Rating: 4 stars
What a great series debut! The minute I began reading I knew I was in for a treat. Wessel Ebersohn succeeded in pulling me in from the very first line and by the end I simply could not put it down. I was so wrapped up in the story that I ended up holding it literally inches from my face. What a page turner!

The story takes place in post-apartheid South Africa and follows the unlikely pair Abigail Bukula, a lawyer in the new government, and Yudel Gordon, a peculiar prison psychologist, as they try to track down a serial killer. The characters were complex and the story satisfying. I can only hope that the wait for the next addition to this series won't be too long! There are so many things I still want to know.

Tales of the Bark Lodges by Bertrand N. O. Walker
Task: #10.6 - Cookie Exchange
Rating: 3 stars
I was really happy to stumble upon this collection of Wyandot animal tales in a local Goodwill. The twelve tales, mostly revolving around Old Fox and Old Coon, are written using the vernacular of an older Wyandot woman living in the nineteenth century. I could almost hear her voice as I read.

message 17: by Dionisia (last edited Jan 14, 2011 07:50PM) (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments Metrophilias by Brendan Connell
Task: #5.1 - Short and Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
This may not be a book for everyone but I would enthusiastically recommend it to the more adventurous readers out there. It's at times exciting and disturbing. It's strange. It pulses. Brendan Connell jumps around the world from city to city shining a bright light in the dark corners of human obsession. Connell playfully shifts between prose and poetry with ease. Thirty-six cities in all. Here's a taste of New York:

"A maggot heap millions strong a beast of glass and steel black pollutants puss. Taxis buzz bees on asphalt steaming miasma eyes mask not just for faces a city that wakes up early goes to bed late at night a great bed of burning coals."

Each city is a story. Each story is notably short. If you let it, Metrophilias will slip by much too fast.

message 18: by Dionisia (last edited Jan 14, 2011 07:50PM) (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments Einstein's Monsters by Martin Amis
Task: #30.4 - By the Numbers, Book A
Rating: 2 stars
I know a rating of two stars is not enough to make you want to run out and grab the nearest copy of Einstein's Monsters. It's not exactly an enthusiastic recommendation for sure. I only hope that if you happen upon it in your local library you'll feel an irrational need to pick it up and read the introduction....because it is amazing.
The author's opening essay "Thinkability" is all about nuclear weapons. It turned out to be both the best and the worst possible way to open this book. It sets the reader in the right frame of mind. It plants the seed that grows into unwieldy thoughts of nuclear winters and bleak postwar futures. Unfortunately, the stories that follow pale in comparison to the introduction. I really only enjoyed reading the last two: "The Little Puppy That Could" and "The Immortals." Everything else was eh.

message 19: by Dionisia (last edited Jan 14, 2011 08:02PM) (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments The Color of Magic (Discworld, #1) by Terry Pratchett
Task #5.8 - Here's to a New Beginning
Rating: 3 stars
I thought this book got off to a slow start but ultimately I enjoyed reading the misadventures of Rincewind the "wizard" and the tourist Twoflower. This is a series I can see myself continuing.

message 20: by Dionisia (last edited Jan 21, 2011 06:10PM) (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments The Idiot Girls' Action-Adventure Club True Tales from a Magnificent and Clumsy Life by Laurie Notaro
Task: #10.1 - Birthday Wishes
Rating: 1 star
Another case of the cover being the best thing about this book. Maybe it's just me but I found these stories to be cringe inducing. Laurie Notaro takes self-deprecation to a whole new level. She spends the whole book telling the reader how ugly and stupid she is. It's not tongue-in-cheek, this woman really hates herself and seems to spend a lot of time drowning her sorrows in booze. Sorry, I just had a hard time understanding how stories about being a hot drunken mess translated into "True Tales from a Magnificent and Clumsy Life"

NOON 09 by Diane Williams
Task: #5.2 - Singles Awareness Day
Rating: 2 stars
A literary annual released in 2009 that includes essays, short stories, photographs and drawings from various contributors. I'm glad I took the time to read it but I did not find it particularly absorbing. The standouts for me were the colored drawings of Augusta Cross and the inclusion of Rebecca Curtis' essay "On Rape."

message 21: by Dionisia (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw
Task: #50.1 Land Among the Stars, Book B
Rating: 4 stars
What a lovely book and a perfect fit for the winter season! Ali Shaw really brought the fictional archipelago of St. Hauda's Land and the people within it to life. His was a beautiful, yet tragic love story and I am so glad I had the opportunity to read it. I had a hard time tearing myself away from this one.

message 22: by Dionisia (last edited Feb 10, 2011 09:08PM) (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments Bloods An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans by Wallace Terry
Task: #15.5 - “Never get involved in a land war in Asia…”
Rating: 5 stars
This book will haunt me. These men have been through so much. It covers such a wide range of experiences, causes such a wild mix of emotions. I read and felt proud and angry and heartbroken. I cried.
This book is almost as old as I am. I read and thought about the wars my country is currently engaged in. What have we learned? I think about these things and I feel so small.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Task: #5.6 - It’s All in the Numbers
Rating: 2 stars
An epistolary novel. This book is a collection of letters from a senior level devil named Screwtape to his nephew, a novice "tempter" named Wormwood. In the letters, Screwtape attempts to provide guidance and advises how best to tempt Christians away from "the Enemy," and ultimately collect a human soul. This particular edition also included the later piece "Screwtape Proposes A Toast."

message 23: by Dionisia (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments Salem's Lot by Stephen King
Task: #25.1 - "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire..."
Rating: 5 stars
Loved it! Vampires done right. I have always loved horror stories. There was a time growing up when I read little else. Since then I've made it a point to broaden my reading habits a bit but it was oh so nice to curl up with such a satisfyingly chilling read. A perfect Valentine's Day read? You betcha!

message 24: by Dionisia (last edited Feb 25, 2011 10:54PM) (new)

Dionisia (therabidreader) | 436 comments Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Task: #25.1 - "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire..."
Rating: 4 stars
Thoroughly enjoyed this one. Another horror pick, this time featuring a ghost instead of vampires.

Djibouti by Elmore Leonard
Task: #20.5 - "Bigger is Better, and Larger than Life"
Rating: 3 stars
I've heard good things about this author in the past but I truly had no idea what to expect from this particular book. The plot involving a documentary film making duo in Djibouti, out to get the low-down on the modern-day pirates of the region, really piqued my interest. Although the pacing zipped right along, it took me a while to get used to Elmore Leonard's writing style. I couldn't quite find my footing. I was never one hundred percent sure if what I was reading happened in real-time or was just a scene from the documentary being filmed in Djibouti. I found the transitions between the documentary footage and the character's experiences behind the camera jarring, somewhat frustrating. In the end, I'm glad I stuck with it.
This definitely wasn't a knockout for me but I enjoyed all the twists and turns in the story. It has pirates, gun fights, explosions, exotic locations, booze, sex, and terrorists. At the very least I was entertained. The ending really secured that third star. That ending....I rolled my eyes but dammit I could not deny how perfect it was for this story. Doesn't matter how contrived and ridiculous that scenario was. Somehow it still worked.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Task: #15.10 - Keep it Simple
Rating: 2 stars
I was drawn to this book despite the mixed reviews here on Goodreads. I liked the seeming contrast between the simple, happy blue dominating the book cover and the hint of melancholia lurking behind it. It had such promise!
It begins with an interesting premise. On her ninth birthday, a young girl discovers she can taste the emotions of whoever makes her food. She is overwhelmed by how saturated her meals have become with other people's anxieties. It is inescapable. The story wanders aimlessly from there. I found the writing fluid, easy to read, but was underwhelmed by the story as a whole. It was almost as if Aimee Bender was unsure what she wanted to do with her characters.
The book is a road to nowhere. Some pretty scenery along the way. Nothing very memorable. The trip is not entirely unpleasant, just ok.

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