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ARCHIVE 2012 > Kara - 151 Books in 2012

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message 1: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Dec 27, 2012 10:55AM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The stated goal is to read 75 books, but really, I want to read more than my boyfriend. He beat me last year, and I'm out to get him this year.

--Edit: I had to update it to 151. Wish me luck!--

I'm also trying to read a better mix of fiction and non-fiction, and I lean heavily toward science fiction and magical realism. Any suggestions would be welcome!

1. The Marriage Plot, ****
2. Childhood's End, ****
3. Bossypants, ****
4. The Elephant Vanishes, ****
5. Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success, ***
6. Battle Royale, ****
7. Foundation, ****
8. Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All, ****
9. Interworld, ****
10. Rules for Virgins, ***
11. The Grapes of Wrath, *****
12. Divergent, ***
13. Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, ****
14. The Night Circus, *****
15. The Day of the Triffids, ****
16. The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, **
17. If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This, ****
18. Of Mice and Men, *****
19. Blackout, ****
20. All Clear, ****
21. The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us, ****
22. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, ****
23. The People of Paper, *****
24. A Very Long Engagement, ***
25. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, ****
26. The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, ****
27. Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances and Home Remedies, *****
28. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, ****
29. The White Queen, **
30. 11/22/63, ****
31. The Year of the Flood, ****
32. It's Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks, *
33. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, *****
34. Dear Undercover Economist: Priceless Advice on Money, Work, Sex, Kids, and Life's Other Challenges, ****
35. Dead Until Dark, **
36. Shadows in Flight, ****
37. Ella Enchanted, *****
38. Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, *****
39. The Glass Bead Game, ****
40. Thinking, Fast and Slow, *****
41. The Day the World Ends: Poems, ****
42. The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist's Guide to Success in Business & Life, **
43. Tess of the D'Urbervilles, ****
44. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, ****
45. Bad Science, ***
46. The Surgeon, ****
47. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, *****
48. The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, ****
49. The Left Hand of Darkness, ****
50. Awkward Moments with Men, ****
51. The Stand, ****
52. The Little Lady Agency, ***
53. This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike., ****
54. Steam Laundry, ***
55. The Path of Ascent, *****
56. Lolita, ****
57. Digital Leader: 5 Simple Keys to Success and Influence, **
58. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, *****
59. Catch-22, ****
60. And Laughter Fell from the Sky: A Novel, ***
61. Use of Weapons. *****
62. Waiting for Godot, **
63. The Book Thief, *****
64. The Lightning Thief, ***
65. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, ****
66. How To Win Friends and Influence People
67. The Sea of Monsters, ***
68. Soft Rot, ***
69. In Cold Blood, ****
70. Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, *****
71. The Sheep Look Up, ****
72. Identity, ****
73. The Kite Runner, ****
74. Middlesex, ****
75. Emotional Intelligence 2.0, **
76. The Lifecycle of Software Objects, ****
77. The Name of the Rose, ****
78. Water for Elephants, ****
79. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, ****
80. A Discovery of Witches, ***
81. The Pearl, ****
82. MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search For A New Best Friend, ****
83. Garden Spells, ****
84. Slaughterhouse-Five, *****
85. Gone With the Wind, *****
86. I, Robot, ****
87. How Come That Idiot's Rich and I'm Not?, **
88. The Age of Miracles, ****
89. Graceling, ***
90. Thousand Cranes, ***
91. Ready Player One, *****
92. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, ****
93. Railsea, ****
94. The Knife of Never Letting Go, ****
95. How To Be A Woman, ****
96. A Wrinkle in Time, ***** (reread)
97. Shadow and Bone, ****
98. Among Others, ***
99. Legs Get Led Astray, ****
100. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, ***
101. Storm Front, ***
102. Fahrenheit 451, ****
103. Gone Girl, *****
104. Geisha of Gion, **
105. If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You, ***
106. The Titan's Curse, ****
107. Anna Karenina, ****
108. The Battle of the Labyrinth, ****
109. The Last Olympian, ***
110. The Silver Bough, ****
111. A Wind in the Door, ***
112. The Plugged-In Manager: Get in Tune with Your People, Technology, and Organization to Thrive, ***
113. The Name of the Wind, *****
114. To Kill a Mockingbird, *****
115. The Lies of Locke Lamora, ****
116. A Swiftly Tilting Planet, ***
117. Steve Jobs, *****
118. Shackleton's Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer, **
119. Outlander, ***
120. Frankenstein, ****
121. A War of Gifts, ***
122. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, *****
123. Glass Ceilings and 100-Hour Couples: What the Opt-Out Phenomenon Can Teach Us about Work and Family, ****
124. Great House, ****
125. Fish!: A Proven Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results, *
126. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, ****
127. Honolulu, ****
128. Tree of Codes, *****
129. Unleash Your Hidden Poker Memory: How to Win at Texas Hold'Em by Turning Your Brain into a Poker Tracking Machine, ****
130. Many Waters, ****
131. Poison Study, ****
132. The City and the City, *****
133. The Professor & the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity & the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, ****
134. The Hobbit, *****
135. An Acceptable Time, ***
136. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, ****
137. Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman, ***
138. Interview with the Vampire, ***
139. The Portable Guide to Leading Organizations, *****
140. Seraphina, ****
141. Practical Magic, ****
142. A Christmas Carol, ****
143. The Listeners, *****
144. The Cyberiad, ****

message 2: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Mar 01, 2012 08:53AM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides
Finished January 1

Four stars

This is written to appeal to a very specific type of person, and I just may be that person.

Is it for romantics? Oh, god, no. Although it's called "The Marriage Plot," and focuses on relationships, it absolutely does not fall into the romance genre.

Is it for idealists? No. The characters are real but not perfect. All have their unlikable moments when you want to shake them and say, "No! Why would you do that?" If you want characters that you will love throughout the book, who will always do the right, smart thing, you will hate this.

Is it for people looking for something fluffy? Absolutely not. A lot of it takes place on a college campus, and you kind of have to like learning. There are practically whole chapters dedicated to explaining things like semiotics. There are frequent obscure references to philosophy and literature and religion.

If you are none of those things, give it a shot.

message 3: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Survival of the Savvy High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success by Rick Brandon
Survival of the Savvy, Brandon and Seldman
Finished January 7

Three Stars

If things in this book sound surprising, you may not belong in business.

It's basically saying that you need to be emotionally intelligent: read the situation and people around you and act appropriately.

It was too fluffy for me, and I would've appreciated more statistics, actual case studies, and real (and less fluffy) examples.

I also thought some of the suggestions of how to respond to overly political people were just ludicrous. Here's an example of how the book recommends you respond if someone makes a derisive comment about you arriving late to a meeting: "'Alissa, what's hard to ignore is your linking my lateness to my commitment level. My contribution, hours, and work product speak for themselves. I was late today because of a safety issue Eric had me managing, so I suggest we move on. Later, you and I can clear the air to get back on the same page. Or, if you want, we can work the issue right now, but only if the group agrees.'"

No one talks like that. (The authors do note that it's the idea and not the actual words used in the examples that matter, but come on. You couldn't have taken an extra five minutes to come up with a realistic response?)

I did really enjoy the chapter about elevator speeches. I had just moved into a new role, and it made me realize that I didn't have a concise way of describing what my new responsibilities were if someone asked. "I'm still figuring it out" or laughing and saying, "You know, that's a fantastic question" were just unacceptable responses and the only ones I had at the time.

I'm going to try Political Savvy: Systematic Approaches to Leadership Behind-The-Scenes--I hear that it goes much more in-depth than this one.

message 4: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Rules for Virgins by Amy Tan
Rules for Virgins, Tan
Finished January 11

Three Stars

As an excerpt (or teaser, if you will) of her next novel, this was fine. I'm sure I'll read Valley of Amazement.

As a standalone work (which is what I had thought this was as I read it), it fell flat. There was no character development, and it could've fit right into Memoirs of a Geisha, something I found surprising considering this took place in Shanghai rather than Kyoto, Japan. I finished wanting more and being disappointed in the first Amy Tan book in six years.

I shouldn't say "no character development." There's a little. You get to know a bit about the narrator and her life as a former courtesan through hints she drops and the anecdotes she shares. Those were the best parts, and I intend to read Valley of Amazement to get more of her story.

message 5: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Divergent (Divergent, #1) by Veronica Roth
Divergent, Roth
Finished January 19

Three Stars

I picked this one up because it was the Best Book of 2011 in the Goodreads Choice Awards. I was expecting something spectacular and felt let down.

Please tell me at what point YA fiction degenerated so that every book needed a shallow love story.

The ideas here weren't bad. The writing was pretty engaging--don't get me wrong, it wasn't beautiful prose or anything, but it moved quickly and flowed nicely. I could see myself liking this book if I were a pre-teen.

I think this book could've been great, but why did the author have to resort to such a poorly developed and disproportionately passionate love story? Let's write books for the highest denominator and not sink to the lowest. Let's not assume that pre-teens will only read books if there's a love story. This could have said something about society, and instead, the love story distracts and focuses the story on something empty.

message 6: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Mar 01, 2012 09:16AM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris
Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, Tavris and Aronson
Finished January 22

Four Stars

When I finished, my first thought was, "Wow, I know so many people who really need to read this book" which made me realize that I was one of those people.

I would recommend this to anyone who hasn't previously studied cognitive dissonance. The examples were interesting. And despite what some other reviewers have said, the political examples came from both sides of the aisle.

message 7: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments I know lots of people who enjoyed it, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. Maybe you'll like it much better than I did. :)

message 8: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Night Circus, Morgenstern
Finished January 27

Four and a half stars

This was a lovely book. The characters were distant yet very real, and the mixed up timeline actually added to the way the story was told rather than distracted and confused as I had initially expected. The illusions were particularly spectacular: they seemed emotionally charged, beautiful, and somehow realistic all at the same time. The second person vignettes interspersed in the story brought out the way the circus was supposed to feel. I loved that.

Despite being about magic, I thought the book grounded and relatable.

Definitely one to reread.

message 9: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Mar 01, 2012 09:22AM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, Banks
Finished January 31

Two and a half stars

Look, the writing wasn't bad. The story was told in an interesting way--rather than as a standard novel, we learn about Jane through a series of stories about Jane that are hardly connected. But you know what? My favorite story was the one that had the least to do with Jane. And you know why? Because I didn't like Jane. She thinks humor is all that she has when she's not all that funny. She's insecure. She leads men on but then acts like the victim. She's not passionate about anything. I didn't want her to succeed because I didn't feel like she deserved to succeed. I can't get into a novel with such a pathetic heroine.

This is what start the "chick lit" genre? Well, that makes sense.

message 10: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Mar 01, 2012 09:24AM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This by Robin Black
If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This, Black
Finished February 4

Three and a half stars

I picked up this collection because I had loved Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It and heard that this was in a similar vein. It was, but I found it lacking. The stories were beautifully told. The characters were well-defined but didn't develop even though the events in the stories should have led them too. It left me with a bleak outlook of the human condition which may have been the author's intent.

I would have found most of these stories, had I read each individually as a standalone piece, wonderful. However, taken together as a collection, the overarching sadness and tragedy in so many different ways and from so many different perspectives wore me down.

message 11: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Great by Choice Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins
Great by Choice, Collins
Finished January 13

Four and a half stars

You should absolutely read this is you're the director of a division or even the manager of a team. It'll provide you with great real-life examples you can use to inspire. (It's particularly exciting if your company is one of the ones studied.)

The work behind the book is great. This is not fluffy. It's actually based on data and statistics, and I loved that.

message 12: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Blackout (All Clear, #1) by Connie Willis
Blackout, Willis
Finished February 6

Four stars

This is not a standalone work, and I wish it hadn't been separated from All Clear. I finished this and immediately had to pick up the next. Make sure you have it on hand.

My review for both will be posted under All Clear.

message 13: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments All Clear (All Clear, #2) by Connie Willis
All Clear, Willis
Finished February 7

Four stars

This is not a standalone book, and you must read Blackout first.

I stayed up all night to finish this one. Was it the best prose in the world? No. But I absolutely had to find out what was going to happen. I haven't read a lot of books about time travel, so to me, the ideas here were novel. That may not be the case for connoisseurs of the genre.

Towards the end, though, it got to the point where I just wanted to yell: "OKAY, I get it, I know what happens. Let's just hurry up and get it over with." That's the only reason I didn't give this the full five stars. Both it and Blackout could've been shorter without losing anything in the story.

message 14: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The Secret Life of Pronouns What Our Words Say About Us by James W. Pennebaker
The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us, Pennebaker
Finished February 7

Four stars

One part linguistics, one part statistics, one part psychology. Mix, and add a popular twist. Voila.

message 15: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Mar 01, 2012 09:48AM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Murakami
Finished February 14

Four stars

I might have liked this better had I read it before 1Q84. It struck me as a somewhat pale imitation (which says more about how wonderful 1Q84 was than anything else). The themes were similar (even some of the characters felt similar). It was still a compelling book, and I would highly recommend it.

message 16: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Mar 01, 2012 09:50AM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia
The People of Paper, Plascencia
Finished February 20

Four and a half stars

This, in some sense, is storytelling about storytelling, and the result is absolutely lovely--I can't say much more than that without feeling like I'm giving too much away.

I will, however, leave you with two things:
(1) At one point in the novel, The People of Paper is described as "the war on omniscient narration (a.k.a. the war against the commodification of sadness)" which I thought was fitting.
(2) It takes some of the modern typographical style (that others would call "gimmicks") employed by the likes of Dave Eggers in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and Jonathan Safran Foer in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to a whole new level. If you thought those were gimmicky, avoid this altogether.

message 17: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Mar 02, 2012 05:48AM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments A Very Long Engagement  by Sébastien Japrisot
A Very Long Engagement, Japrisot
Finished February 26

Three stars

Maybe something's missing from the translation, but I couldn't say this story was beautifully told. It was, however, good enough that I needed to finish it to read what happened (which is funny because I've seen the movie and already knew).

The difficult thing is that all of the characters have nicknames, and they call each other by different nicknames. This made the whole telling difficult to follow and quite a lot of work. I don't mind having to work to read a book, but if I do, it should be more satisfying than this one was.

Kara: 24
Boyfriend: 19

message 18: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Dick
Finished March 1

Four stars

I'm a classic sci-fi kind of girl, and this is a classic sci-fi kind of book.

The world has changed into something dramatically different than it is today, and there are androids and electric sheep (ha, surprise) and mood-altering machines. But the story, at its heart (and like lots of great science fiction), is about what it means to be human, and that's what's so appealing about this book. It tackles questions like: "what makes us human?" and "how can we be sure what we're experiencing is real?"

In college, a professor once said that the only real philosophy being written in modern times is in science fiction. This work is a great example of that.

message 19: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The Poisoner's Handbook Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum
The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, Blum

Four stars

I didn't know much about the 1920s beyond the speakeasy culture you see in movies and read in books, and this shows a completely different side of that. You learn why Prohibition was so deadly, that they used to put radium in water because people didn't realize the harmful effects of radiation, and how powerless the FDA used to be. There's corruption and murder and mystery, and this is just as exciting as a lot of fiction books even--maybe more so because it's true, and there's science.

Kara: 26
Boyfriend: 20

message 20: by Adriana (new)

Adriana | 3888 comments Bwahaha! Girl Power!

message 21: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments I'm loving it! He tried to claim that he's reading longer books than I am, but I'm beating him on pages too. 8,657 to his 7,125. His average book is 356 pages while mine is 332--well within the margin of error. He's going down.

message 22: by Adriana (new)

Adriana | 3888 comments lol. That's the best competition ever!

message 23: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Mar 03, 2012 07:14PM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Like Water for Chocolate A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances and Home Remedies by Laura Esquivel
Like Water for Chocolate, Esquivel
Finished March 3

Five stars

What beautiful storytelling.

I picked this up at the library this afternoon and didn't put it down again until I finished. The magical realism is just subtle enough to add a hint of otherworldliness, to remind you that this isn't real. The book is centered around food, and I wonder if this is where Aimee Bender got the idea for The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.

The story is haunting. I don't usually give books five stars so quickly--I usually give four or four and a half until I make sure that the story will stick with me, that it has made a lasting impression. There's no need to wait in this case. It will, and it has.

Kara: 27
Boyfriend: 20

message 24: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, le Carré
Finished March 6

Three and a half stars
This rating is almost entirely my fault, and I'm sure the book is better than this (which is why I'm rounding up to four).

I unfortunately saw the movie first. I knew it was a bad idea--whenever I see the movie before reading the book, I become incapable of viewing the two as separate entities (for some reason, this is not a problem when I read the book first). I kept seeing Gary Oldman and Colin Firth and Toby Jones as I read which was unfortunate because their movie selves didn't always match the book descriptions. This caused a bit of dissonance for me. I also kept hunting for the things that happened in the movie, and this led me to appreciate the overall experience of consuming the story less.

It took about two-thirds of the book before I could start separating it from the movie, and even then, I couldn't do it all the way. (Coincidentally, this is also when the book starts to get really exciting.)

In short: I will give this book another try in a few years after I've forgotten the movie, and I fully expect to give it a more glowing recommendation then.

Kara: 28
Boyfriend: 20

message 25: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Mar 08, 2012 07:45PM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The White Queen (The Cousins' War, #1) by Philippa Gregory
The White Queen, Gregory
Finished March 8

Two and a half stars
I thought the plot here was interesting. I didn't know as much as I should have (read: anything) about Elizabeth Woodville, and I'd heard the story about the boys but didn't know anything else besides that. This filled in a lot of gaps for me--but I should say here that the stuff filling the gaps is still a high percentage fiction; the author's note admits that she had to make quite a few important guesses. Overall, the story kept me interested.

But I just couldn't get over the language. I've read other books of Gregory's and didn't find it as distracting in those for some reason. Now, I'm no student of linguistics, but you can't tell me that they said things like "You are joking with me," "No hard feelings," and "It stinks to me" in the 15th century. It was so distracting. I just kept groaning and sighing and putting the book aside for a second to roll my eyes. My boyfriend watched this whole thing and said, "Just put it down." I didn't but maybe I should have.

I don't need the events in fiction to be historically accurate, but come on. This seemed so lazy.

Kara: 29
Boyfriend: 21

message 26: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments 11/22/63 by Stephen King
11/22/63, King
Finished March 10

Four stars
This wasn't as science fictiony as I like my science fiction, but the story moved well. It was tremendously easy to read--the part of me that tries not to be a snob will put this in the positive trait category. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It was uncomplicated and unsubtle (the twists and turns were easy to follow and not unexpected), but the characters were believable and the plot engaging.

The ending was a tad on the predictable side, and I found it unfulfilling. But I don't know how else it could have ended.

(So much for trying not to be a snob. Even though I gave this book four stars, this review reeks of snobbery.)

Kara: 30
Boyfriend: 21

message 27: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Mar 13, 2012 05:52AM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
The Year of the Flood, Atwood
Finished March 13

Four stars
This book is completely entwined with Oryx and Crake. Oryx and Crake could stand alone, but this book would be much less effective on its own. All of the tension comes from what you know of the events of Oryx and Crake. Definitely read Oryx and Crake before picking this up.

The two books run mostly concurrently with Year of the Flood ending about two hours after Oryx and Crake. They are the first two books in the MaddAddam trilogy, and I wonder if the yet unreleased third book will show another perspective of the same time period or if it will pick up where these two left off.

I enjoyed Year of the Flood. It's told from the perspective of two very different characters who become members of God's Gardeners, a religious sect (or cult, depending on how you look at things) committed to being the next Noahs in what they call the upcoming "waterless flood." They learn as much about their environment as they can while respecting it.

The book tackles issues like what it means to believe, the difference between how a person is perceived and how she perceives herself, the line between science and religion, and the effects of activism, solitude, and love.

All in all, I found it to be one of Atwood's most satisfying works.

Review located here.

Kara: 31
Boyfriend: 22

message 28: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments It's Not About the Coffee Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks by Howard Behar
It's Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks, Behar
Finished March 15

One star
There is not a single original thought in this book. The lessons boil down to this: (1) be true to yourself, (2) love what you do, (3) listen to people, and (4) don't lie even when things get bad. Maybe I've read too many business books, but there's no need to read this one if you've read anything else. He basically outlines other great business writers (like Jim Collins), and even the language is extremely simple--this is business lite.

The only redeemable parts of this book were when he was talking about actual events that happened at Starbucks. Unfortunately, he would spend three pages lecturing on how important it is to listen to people and then one paragraph on a related Starbucks vignette. This book would have been much more effective if the ratio had been switched. Even the tragic Starbucks shooting was summarized in two paragraphs. Unbelievable.

It also kind of read like Starbucks propaganda. Here's one sentence about a mistake we made, but here's a whole paragraph about how we're so amazing that we fixed it. Starbucks employees might enjoy reading it, but the rest of you will probably find yourself rolling your eyes a bit.

Review located here.

Kara: 32
Boyfriend: 24

message 29: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Mar 19, 2012 06:14AM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Flagg
Finished March 18

Four and a half stars
Four and a half stars.

The book is told from roughly three perspectives: that of newspaper clippings from various time periods throughout the story, of Evelyn in the 1980s listening to an old woman who had lived it tell the story, and of an omniscient narrator spanning the whole time period. I could've lived without the newspaper clippings, but they were short and fairly unobtrusive. The perspective of Ninny, the old woman retelling the story, juxtaposed with that of the omniscient narrator was a well-used device.

This book really surprised me. From the start, I thought it was well-written and engaging, but I also thought that plight of both women and blacks in Alabama in the 1930s were shown in too fairy-tale-ish of a light. Without giving too much away, let me just say that the book addressed both beautifully by the end. The scope of the issues covered was just breathtaking: everything from family dynamics to feminism to racism to growing older and body image to religion to family tragedy to domestic abuse. And it didn't gloss over anything. I felt that everything covered was done justice.

I'm glad I read this book when I did. I wouldn't have appreciated it had I been any younger, and I'll probably appreciate it even more when I read it again as I grow older.

Review located here.

Dear Undercover Economist Priceless Advice on Money, Work, Sex, Kids, and Life's Other Challenges by Tim Harford
Dear Undercover Economist: Priceless Advice on Money, Work, Sex, Kids, and Life's Other Challenges, Harford
Finished March 19

Four stars
If you subscribe to the Financial Times, there's no need to get this book. It's a compilation of Harford's columns from there.

He basically takes serious questions (broadly: how should I raise my children, how can I have a successful relationship, how can I get rich, etc.) and answers them with an economics-based joke. As a former econ major, I thought it was hilarious. A little on the light side, sure, but a good coffee-table book. If you don't enjoy economics (or academic wittiness), don't pick this one up. If you're looking for real advice, don't pick this one up.

Do pick it up if you'd like an introduction to some basic (and some esoteric) economic concepts or if you're looking to make interesting cocktail party conversation.

Review located here.

Kara: 34
Boyfriend: 26

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Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1) by Charlaine Harris
Dead Until Dark, Charlaine Harris
Finished March 20

Two and a half stars
Let me tell you what I expected here. I was looking forward to a quick, mindless, entertaining read. I can be kind of a snob about books, and I purposefully tried to put that aside to read this one.

...but I didn't do a good enough job of it. Quick? Yes. Mindless? Absolutely. Entertaining? Unfortunately, no.

I haven't read a lot of vampire fiction, and maybe it's just not my thing. I did, however, like the twist that vampires were publicly known (if not exactly accepted), and I thought Harris cleverly drew similarities to race relations historically (and not so historically).

Aside from that, though, the book was terribly disappointing. At first, I thought that maybe Harris had done a really great job in creating this vampire world, but a little bit of research shows that a lot of the details (such as glamouring) were pulled from existing vampire lore. The characters were one-dimensional and, frankly, annoying. She tries to build up suspense by dropping hints of what's about to come up, but because the hints aren't subtle enough, they do the exact opposite of what they were intended to do. And the sex scenes were more awkward than sexy.

I will not be reading more of the series.

Review located here.

Kara: 35
Boyfriend: 26

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Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Shadows in Flight (Shadow, #5) by Orson Scott Card
Shadows in Flight, Orson Scott Card
Finished March 20

Four stars
Now THIS is what I want out of an Orson Scott Card book. I felt like OSC had kind of lost his way as the Shadow series wore on--the characters started doing things that seemed out of their natures, and the stories seemed to flounder a bit, directionless. But this is more reminiscent of Ender's Game than anything else. Philosophy and religion and even politics are not OSC's strong points--original science fiction and genius children are. Shadows in Flight ties back to a lot of things in both the Ender and Shadow series and would not work as a standalone work.

Bean and the three of his children like him (with Anton's key turned) took to space in the hopes that a cure will be developed and they could return to Earth. That didn't happen. Five years have past for them, but generations have passed on Earth. Bean's children speak more like calculating professors than children, and watching them here was a lot like watching Ender, Petra, and Bean work together to defeat the Formics in Ender's Game.

For the nostalgic Ender's Game fan, this is the perfect novella.

I read the enhanced ebook. While the illustrations didn't add anything for me, I did really enjoy the extra passages OSC added.

Review located here.

Kara: 36
Boyfriend: 26

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Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine
Finished March 21

Five stars
This is what young adults should be reading! Not that trashy, empty stuff with main characters too pathetic to call heroines. This was an adorable book and a unique take on Cinderella.

Ella was cursed at birth--she has to follow any orders given her. When people find out about the curse, they quickly learn to use it to their advantage. She's either rebellious by nature or because she needed to rebel against the curse to prevent feeling like a puppet, but her refreshing sass shines throughout the book.

It had many of the elements that other YA fiction has these days: magic, adventure, and young love. But it contained so much that those other books don't: a coherent story, a creative world, actual character development, and a strong, willful heroine. Ella thinks for herself, she looks out for herself, and she cares about doing the right thing.

This is a high caliber book written for high caliber young people.

Review located here.

Kara: 37
Boyfriend: 26

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Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty
Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, Mignon Fogarty
Finished March 27

Five stars

My life would be less frustrating if everyone read this book.

I can be a little (annoyingly) pedantic when it comes to grammar and usage. I'm not concerned about dangling prepositions or split infinitives, but my god, it gets to me when people misuse "affect" and "effect," comma splice, or think that "e.g." and "i.e." are interchangeable. And don't even get me started on "your" and "you're."

Although I expected this to be kind of dry, I found myself laughing out loud. I thought I would know everything in it, but I learned quite a bit (like about misplaced modifiers). Did you know that a bad apostrophe (like "banana's for sale") is called the greengrocer's apostrophe? Have you heard the term "CamelCase" before?

Fogarty made it clear what the traditional rules were, what is currently acceptable even if it's not traditional, and what varies from style guide to style guide. There's even a little bit of linguistic history thrown in as a bonus.

I'm off to give this book to all of my coworkers. I hope that won't offend them.

Review located here.

Kara: 38
Boyfriend: 27

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Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse
The Glass Bead Game, Herman Hesse

Four stars

This is clearly a masterpiece. The book takes place in the future but never says how far and is centralized around a community of elite men, a physical ivory tower. Hesse starts with a history and analysis of the glass bead game, moves into an academic biography of Joseph Knecht, a master of the game, and ends with stories Joseph Knecht wrote as a student about past lives he had imagined for himself. The story is epic and beautifully wrought, telling the life story of a unique individual and how he transforms and transcends.

So why only four stars? While I can recognize that this is genius and masterful, I didn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to. The novel started out in a tedious way, and although it improved, the writing remained oppressive (albeit in a beautiful way).

Review located here.

Kara: 39
Boyfriend: 29

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Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman
Finished April 1

Five stars

Loved this.

In this book, Kahneman compares his findings of behavioral psychology to the perception we hold of ourselves as rational beings. It deals with cognitive illusions and challenges commonly held beliefs.

There are two systems in our brains, and they think very differently. One is quick and based on intuition, and the other is deliberate and logical. The problem? The systematic and deliberate system is lazy. Kahneman provides multiple examples of this in many different forms. He references a lot of popular books while he's at it (like Blink, Good to Great, Stumbling on Happiness and the work of Milton Friedman).

Kahneman shows how strong he is in the areas of behavioral psychology, economics, and statistics and takes the reader through quite a few revelations. I would recommend this book to anyone.

(It also gave me a bunch of new interview questions to try.)

Review located here.

Kara: 40
Boyfriend: 29

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Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The Day the World Ends Poems by Ethan Coen
The Day the World Ends: Poems, Coen
Finished April 2

Four stars
Does wisdom fret at what's in store
And boggle at what's gone before--
Or rather does it not, like us,
Do what it must, and nothing more?
And is there credo any know
More sound than that--to just adjust,
adjust, adjust, adjust, adjust,
And every trouble, worry, woe,
Ignore, ignore, ignore, ignore?

That's the second stanza of Coen's first poem in this short collection (titled "We Sheep") and not at all what I had expected. I thought it beautiful, Eliot-esque even.

From there it degenerates ("degenerates" sounds more negative than what I was going for) into coarser language for crasser subjects. The difference between the first and second poems is particularly shocking. My initial reaction was distaste, but once I got over the shock, I quite liked it. The sentiments expressed (and oftentimes the words used) were not beautiful, but the total product was--in an odd, twisted way. Coen covers such broad, bawdy subjects as picking up chicks, bestiality, and farts. Lots of farts. Also included are over a dozen pages of limericks. The cadences are sometimes a little off, but they had me giggling.

Between all of that roughness, there's the occasional beautiful poem whose unexpectedness just takes your breath away.

Poetry doesn't haven't to be stuffy. Poetry doesn't have to be so highbrow all the time. This is accessible poetry, rhythmic (and rhyming) poetry, poetry with something genius trying to get out, and I would recommend this collection to anyone who won't offend easily or take it too seriously.

Received through Goodreads First Reads.

Review located here.

Kara: 41
Boyfriend: 29

message 37: by Adriana (new)

Adriana | 3888 comments Oh good! I can never find any good poetry books (:

message 38: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Apr 04, 2012 12:21PM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The Art of Strategy A Game Theorist's Guide to Success in Business & Life by Avinash K. Dixit
The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist's Guide to Success in Business & Life, Dixit
Finished April 4

Two stars
There is absolutely no need to read this book if you've read Thinking Strategically.

I'm not certain why they exist as two separate books. The content is almost identical, and 90% of the examples in this one were lifted from that. I have no idea why this is touted as a "sequel." It is not. It's just Thinking Strategically repackaged (but I will say that its package is prettier). The tagline says that it's a "guide to success in business and life," but it is not. It is game theory explained in an accessible way.

I love game theory. I studied economics in college, and game theory had been my favorite class. I enjoyed Thinking Strategically and looked forward to reading this one. I was disappointed. Had I not read Thinking Strategically, I probably would have found this enjoyable, but I'm giving it two stars for the false advertising.

Review located here.

Kara: 42
Boyfriend: 30

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Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Tess of the D'Urbervilles  by Thomas Hardy
Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Hardy
Finished April 6

Four stars
While I found the first section of the book awfully tiresome (I did, after all, start this at least a half dozen times over the last four years), I'm glad to have finally powered through. It picks up after the first 50 pages or so and artfully explored the themes of love, religion, social status, and sexual mores of its time.

It's been a while since a character in a book has angered me to the same degree that one of them did here. I like books that can make me feel something strongly.

And while I wouldn't necessarily categorize Tess as a strong woman or as a role model, she was a refreshing heroine, one I could root for throughout the trials she was forced to endure in her story. We see her grow from someone who things happen to into someone who makes things happen. And while I can't agree with the path that she chose, I can admire her growth and resolve.

Review located here.

Kara: 43
Boyfriend: 30

message 40: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Wow! Good job on beating your boyfriend!

I'd love to do a challenge like this with my husband, but he's not much of a reader (except philosophy and science fiction). Plus, he is a medical school student, so he doesn't have much time to read right now. :/

message 41: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Haha, thanks!

I'm beating him now, but I'm going to start classes and a new project for work pretty soon, so I'll need the head start. :)

message 42: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Sort of. I tend to read a lot more non-fiction and contemporary fiction than he does and he reads more classics, but we both love science fiction and historical fiction. I'll read anything he recommends and vice versa.

message 43: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Apr 10, 2012 01:23PM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1) by Catherynne M. Valente
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Valente
Finished April 7

Four stars
This is an enchanting little book. It combines The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (minus the heroine's helplessness) with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (minus the religious undertones) with Alice in Wonderland (minus the, um, psychedelia). Given the many allusions to these works in this book, I'm sure it was intentional.

September is a partly heartless little girl tired of her own world who gets swept into Fairyland. Like any little girl in Fairyland, she needs a grand mission, and she finds one. September encounters wonderful characters on the way, my favorite being the Wyvearary (why, the offspring of a wyvern and a library, of course).

My favorite thing about this book is that it's smart. It doesn't simplify its language or sentence structure for children--it sets the bar high than challenges its readers to meet it. It uses "irascible," "diplomatic immunity," "widdershins," and "sacrosanct" all within the first three pages. This is not written at your typical fifth grade level. The style of writing was much more reminiscent of C.S. Lewis than of typical young adult books these days.

September is strong-willed and sweet and smart but not without her very human flaws. A perfect heroine.

(And I think there's an allusion to Plato's The Symposium. Bonus points.)

Review located here.

Kara: 44
Boyfriend: 30

message 44: by Adriana (new)

Adriana | 3888 comments Yes this book was awesome and you hit the nail on the head with the three combinations. The blue girl at the end! Didn't you just love that?

message 45: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Apr 08, 2012 11:04AM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Totally loved it, Adriana!


Bad Science by Ben Goldacre
Bad Science, Goldacre
Finished April 8

Three and a half stars
I really wanted to like this book. I went through the first four chapters highly entertained and thinking this was going to be a four or even five star book, but Goldacre's tone started to grate on me in the second half of the book.

Goldacre is a science writer with a background in both medicine and psychiatry. This book exposes ridiculous claims in the medical world and explains the importance of the scientific method and its nuances. "Well, I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that" is the theme throughout the book. He covers homeopathy, the placebo effect, nutritionists, the MRSA scare, and the MMR vaccine drama. He also really hammers the media for its biased and sensational coverage of health news, its lack of understanding of science, and how it perpetuates that lack of understanding in the general population. He talks about cognitive illusion, how drug companies can skew results of studies, and statistical tricks. All of this was highly enjoyable and insightful.

Here's the thing. This book will appeal to people people who fancy themselves a bit smarter than everyone else who are interested in (but not immersed in the world of) science in general and health & medicine in particular. This book was clearly written for people who already agreed with Goldacre--it could not have been for those who disagree with him because those people would be too highly offended. And the trouble is that I agree with Goldacre. I think he's right and I think this book delivers an important message that should be widely distributed, and I still couldn't get past his tone.

You can be right and explain how you're right without being an ass.

Review located here.

Kara: 45
Boyfriend: 30

message 46: by Nathan (new)

Nathan (nthnlwly) Kara wrote: "You can be right and explain how you're right without being an ass."

haha. I know exactly what you mean. Not with this book, but other books I've read (and people I know...).

message 47: by Kara, TBR Twins (last edited Apr 10, 2012 08:00AM) (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The Surgeon (Jane Rizzoli & Maura Isles, #1) by Tess Gerritsen
The Surgeon, Gerritsen
Finished April 10

Four stars
I went back and forth between three and four stars.

On one hand, the book was highly engaging. It was easy to read and drove me to keep going because I just needed to know what would happen next. The book shifts perspective from a third person narration following the detective side of the case to first person from the view of the murderer himself which created an interesting dynamic. I also thought Gerritsen did a nice job of weaving in a bit of mythology--I love that kind of thing.

Now the bad. Something was making me uncomfortable, and it took me about half the book to put my finger on it. Men are portrayed in an extremely unflattering light in this book. They all fall into one of three categories: douchebags who look down on women, "nice guys" who find vulnerability attractive, or murderers and rapists. In the whole book, there is only one man who might be an exception to this rule.

I ended up going with four stars to give Gerritsen the benefit of the doubt. A lot of the book is told from the perspective of a female cop having a tough time in a male world (Rizzoli), so it kind of makes sense. I'd have to read another work of hers to see if this is a theme.

One more note: this book is not for the faint of heart. There's murder and rape and grisly details. Gerritsen is an M.D., and it shows. The book is littered with medical details which I found added a certain authentic feel.

Review located here.

Kara: 46
Boyfriend: 32

message 48: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Thank you, Sara!

message 49: by Kara, TBR Twins (new)

Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Kingsolver
Finished April 13

Five stars
This is the story lovingly told of a family who decided to spend a year being conscious about where there food came from. They would grow or raise what they could, and they would buy local and get to know the farmers who sold them everything else.

I thought this would be preachy; it was not. Kingsolver doesn't say that everyone needs to do this--in fact, she quite distinctly says that it's a luxury she knows most people don't have. Instead, she's trying to raise the level of awareness. Our food comes from all over the world. It's WEIRD that we don't know where it comes from or even that our meals typically consist of food out of season. (And does anyone know what's in season anymore? I sure couldn't have told you before.) We eat what we want when we want it regardless of when it's naturally available. And there are moral and practical implications.

I learned so much in this book and got a few laughs along the way. I wasn't expecting it to be funny at all. I read part of this while sitting in an airport bar and needed to stifle more than one giggle so that my fellow patrons wouldn't think they were sitting next to a crazy person. I can't remember the last time I took this much pure pleasure from a book.

This was just a joy to read. And you know what? I'm going to try to go to the farmers market more often.

Review located here.

The Zombie Survival Guide Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks
The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, Brooks
Finished April 14

Four stars
I'm having a hard time putting my finger on just what exactly made this book so entertaining. The first 3/4 of it reads like any type of basic survival or self-defense guide but zombies are mentioned. Could it really be that zombies are so funny that a mere allusion to zombies can transform a whole book? Brooks discusses weaponry, defense styles, and types of landscapes in a very calculated, no-nonsense way. It shouldn't have been funny, but it was.

The last quarter of the book documents historic zombie outbreaks. I thought the book lost some of its momentum here. This should have been the most original section, but it got repetitive and tedious.

And for those of you reading this book to get ready for the zombie apocalypse, you might find this handy as well: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/04/zombie-survival-maps-show-danger-zones-armories-and-food-sources-for-entire-u-s/

Review located here.

Awkward Moments with Men by Shannon Lee Miller
Awkward Moments with Men, Miller & Byrd
Finished April 16

Four stars

I wasn't sure I would like this book. I thought it might be a little too Chelsea Handler-ish for me (and I really, really despised My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands), but I was pleasantly surprised.

This is a short, readable collection of stories. I thought they would be all about trying to find love, but they're really about relationships--all kinds of relationships. Yes, there are a lot of stories about men, but they're not all about dating. There are a couple about neighbors, one about a best friend, and even one about Shannon's father. Shannon also writes quite a lot about her husband and the difficulties you can encounter in marriage.

I definitely don't share the perspective of the authors. I didn't appreciate their generalizations of women (like "In the end though, rationality can’t win out. Not with women. Not with me. Because there’s something my gender always wants more than truth: love.") or their negative characterizations of men (and how it's all right for a guy to ditch his best friend for his girlfriend), but you know what? I still thought it was funny. Some of the stories were even touching. Despite our different points of views, I thought I could be friends with Shannon and Megan. I've experienced some of the things they wrote about, and I've felt a lot of the feelings they expressed. I connected with them. You don't need to agree with everything someone says to be affected by her stories.

They bared their souls and took a risk, and this novel is a charming, hilarious product that they should be proud of.

I will definitely read whatever they decide to write next.

Received through Goodreads First Reads.

Review located here.

Kara: 50
Boyfriend: 37

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Kara (karaayako) | 3971 comments The Stand by Stephen King
The Stand, King
Finished April 21

Four stars
Do not read this when you have a cold or the flu. Or even allergies. It'll make you very, very uncomfortable. In the same way that hearing the word "itch" makes you itchy, reading the beginning of this book will make you feel like you might have the plague.

The first quarter of the book is about the outbreak of a superflu, and (I'm pretty sure this isn't a spoiler) the rest of it is dedicated to what happens after most of mankind is wiped out. It's part science thriller, part apocalypse, part dystopia (or maybe utopia depending on how you want to look at it). There's a lot of good stuff packed in here. There's discussion about society, religion, morality...it's all here.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and there are bound to be a few that you feel awfully attached to. The book is easy to follow, easy to read. It may be over 1,000 pages, but it doesn't feel anywhere near that long--a huge accomplishment on the part of King.

This is my second Stephen King novel, and I'm beginning to wonder if he has a problem with women. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now, but I do want to just note it here. If that kind of thing bothers you, maybe skip this one. Here's a quotation from the strongest female character in the novel:
"Women's lib...was nothing more nor less than an outgrowth of the technological society...Before civilization, with its careful and merciful system of protections, women had been slaves...And the Women's Credo...was just this: ...Thank you, Men, for the hospitals, the police, the schools. Now I'd like to vote, please, and have the right to set my own course and make my own destiny. Once I was chattel, but now that is obsolete...Thank you, Men.

...lying here in the night, she knew that she needed a man. Oh God, she badly needed a man.

Yeah, seriously. And like I said, that's from the strongest female character. The men in this book seem to view women as things (no, not really people) that needed to be protected. Those are the good men. The bad men in this book viewed women as sex objects. And the women, every woman that rated more than two sentences, either needed a man for protection or traded herself for sex in one way or another. There are clearly defined roles for the men and women even in this post-societal world. This hits the root of anti-feminism to me: women can only overpower men when they use their sexuality. And when they do, it's sneaky. I'm not a fan of this viewpoint.

Okay, so that long rant may not sound like me giving him the benefit of the doubt, but I still gave the book four stars, didn't I? I had a hard time putting it down (which is amazing considering it's over 1,000 pages long) and loved the ideas behind the story. I've read apocalyptic fiction before, but this takes you through the whole thing from the beginning when the world was normal.

Review located here.

Kara: 51
Boyfriend: 37

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