Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: R.O.D. (Read or Die) Volumes 2-4 by Hideyuki Kirata and Shutaro Yamada

Synopsis: Yomiko Readman's love for literature goes far beyond any run-of-the-mill bookworm's! In fact, she has a supernatural ability to manipulate paper in the most amazing ways. From turning a tiny scrap into a lethal throwing dagger to making a single sheet hard enough to block bullets, she's only limited by her imagination. She uses her phenomenal power to seek out legendary books containing secret information that, in the wrong hands, could be dangerous. Backed by a Special Operations Division in England, Yomiko has her hands full battling evildoers, saving the world, and trying to find time to curl up with a good book. (from the back of the book)

Review: In my review of the first volume, I mentioned I hoped this story got better. Sadly, it did not. The characters remain blah, with the exception of Donnie and Ridley, and never gathered my sympathies. Yomiko's character never developed much depth, despite the author's desperate try. Donnie and Ridley, however, were interesting - Light and Dark, Angel and Demon, the dichotomy gave life to an otherwise bland story. There was a sub plot with two of the students at the academy that made little sense and the resolution of that conflict was ambiguous. There was another sub plot, with Yomiko and a little girl that had absolutely nothing to do with the story. Often, I had no idea what the characters were doing - although I a tribute that to the art. Often the shading and the word-bubbles made it difficult to see who was doing what and what was happening! Very Frustrating. So much of the ploy seemed to be physical action and it was hard to tell what was happening. As for the plot in general, there was too much in too small a space. You had students fighting students, the underground library, the back stories, and the heroine-villain interactions. Too much for the author to focus enough attention on the story, leaving huge holes, rushed resolutions, and an ending that made no sense. It's probably a personal thing, but the whole "believe in paper" thing seemed super cheesy. In the end, I was disappointed in this series, as a whole. So much potential and it just fizzled like a damp firework.
Bookmarks: 5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4215-0257-1 / 978-1-4215-0508-4 / 978-1-4215-0509-1
Year Published:
Date Finished: 1-24-2016
Pages: 250 / 250 / 250

Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: Named by God: Overcoming Your Past, Transforming Your Present, Embracing Your Future by Kasey Van Norman

Synopsis: In many ways, Kasey Van Norman has suffered more heartbreak than one woman can bear. Growing up, she endured her parents’ divorce, date rape, and years of addiction to sex, cutting, and eating disorders. As an adult, Kasey has endured a painful miscarriage; the heartbreak (and restoration) of infidelity; a cancer diagnosis; rejection by her friends, church, and community; and her mother’s death from cancer. But at the end of this twisting path of sorrow, Kasey walked out of the wilderness and into a place of God’s merciful and miraculous healing and redemption. In Named by God, Kasey shares her story of God’s infinite grace and compassion so that others might learn from her experience as they encounter a depth of Jesus like never before! (from the online description)

Review: From first glance, this book had the promise of being another shallow, best-life-now, following-Jesus-is-perfect-hair-and-puppies - the type of book that lines the shelves of any modern Christian bookstore. I abhor books like this. They usually say nothing of worth, create emotions that give the illusion of nearness of God while simultaneously telling us we're okay without having the change. This book has its share of this. There is lots of Christian jargon, lots of affirmations and comforts and southern charm. This book stands on the precipice of trite fluff not worth the time to read the back blurb. Oddly enough, what saves this book from being another in a tall pile of "Chicken-Soul-Soup-Fluff-n-Nonsense" is Kacey herself. Her story has power and the way she tells her story has power. It's unusual to find a Christian woman in a place of leadership who has walk through what she has. And I'm not talking about tragedies - I'm talking about clear-cut sins. Kacey is honest about her sins. honest about the pain, honest about the consequences, and honest about her repentance. She is forgiven and she knows it, and more importantly, she lives it. Regardless of the what else is in the book, this is a powerful message that many of us need. Not only are we forgiven, but the people around us desperately need forgiveness too. Christians are eager to gossip and put-down those in our midst who fall into sin, and we forget that we are only a step away from that ourselves. Kacey, by sharing her story, reminds us to love one another, and that all of us our sinners. Some just hide it better than others. In addition, as a trained counselor and an experience teacher, her instructions and admonishments have a practical side not often seen in these sorts of books. Looking to our past to better understand ourselves, our present and our future is important, and has merit.
While I did not complete the workbook, many other women in my Bible Study did and I highly recommend doing so. In the end, this was not my cup of tea, but I am glad to have read it, as it is a valuable resource for many women and I will recommend it if I feel that it can do a person good.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4143-6474-2
Year Published: 2012
Date Finished: 1-21-2016
Pages: 239

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Review: R.O.D. Read or Die (Volume 1) by Hideyuki Kirata and Shutaro Yamada

Synopsis: Yomiko Readman's love for literature goes far beyond any run-of-the-mill bookworm's! In fact, she has a supernatural ability to manipulate paper in the most amazing ways. From turning a tiny scrap into a lethal throwing dagger to making a single sheet hard enough to block bullets, she's only limited by her imagination. She uses her phenomenal power to seek out legendary books containing secret information that, in the wrong hands, could be dangerous. Backed by a Special Operations Division in England, Yomiko has her hands full battling evildoers, saving the world, and trying to find time to curl up with a good book. (from the back of the book)

Review: Given my own bibliophile nature, when I stumbled across Volumes 2-4 at a thrift store (dollar a bag), I quickly purchased this volume and dug in the moment it arrived. And was, just as quickly, disappointed. It's a neat premise, but the execution is lacking. The villain seemed completely implausible, Yomiko is neither likable, nor a character I abhor - she's just, blah. The side characters are just as bland, and the plot seems contrived and unnecessarily dramatic. There is also a strange bit where Yomiko tries on a bunch of clothes? Anyway, sadly disappointed in this first volume. However, since there are only 4, I'll read all of them, with the hope that the story improves in future volumes.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4215-0248-9
Year Published:
Date Finished: 1-17-2016
Pages: 250

Friday, January 22, 2016

Review: Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan

Synopsis: God is Love. Have you ever wondered if we're missing it? It's crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe - the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor - loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss. Whether you've verbalized it yet or not...we all know some thing's wrong. Does something deep inside your hart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions? God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn't working harder at a list of do's and don'ts - it's falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis describes it, you will never be the same. Because when you're wildly in love with someone, it changes everything. (from the back of the book)

Review: Several years ago, this was the "it" book to read in Evangelical Christian circles. It sold over 2 million copies and topped bestseller lists, both Christian and Secular. It's still popular. And yet, given how little our society has changed, my guess is that most of the people who read it, like the rich young ruler, went away sad because they found the road too hard and the sacrifice too much. And as one of those reader myself, I can tell you - the idea of rejecting Chan's call to a different Christian life is appealing. Who wants to give away most of their wealth and time and resources? Who wants to live without the illusion of control and security? Who wants to be at the mercy of the God who thought it was "good" the Jesus die on the cross? Because I don't. And yet, I do. Chan states, clearly, why living this way, this dangerous way, is what Christ meant when He called us to follow Him. Through passionate words and timely Scriptures, Chan unfolds his thoughts on what being a Christian is suppose to mean and to look like. He does so with the premise that God loves us with a "crazy love" - and intends for us to love Him back with the same. It's powerful and enticing and scary. While I am not quite at the place where I am ready to toss of the entrapments of my rich American life, Chan's book will stay with me long after I set it down. Worth reading, in every sense.

Favorite Quotes:

"Friends, we need to stop living selfish lives, forgetful of our God" pg. 51

"In other words, God knew me before He made me" pg. 58

"Lukewarm people rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, or friends. They do not want to be rejected nor do they want to make people uncomfortable by talkinh about private issues like religion" pg. 71

"My conclusion? Jesus' call to commitment is clear. He wants all or nothing. The thought of a person calling himself a "Christian" without being a devoted follower fo Christ is absurd." pg. 85

"The reality is that, whether we acknowledge our wealth or not, being rich is a serious disadvantage spiritually" pg. 90

"Leftovers are not merely inadequate; from God's point of view (and lest we forget, His is the only one that matters), they're evil. Let's stop calling it "a busy schedule", or "bills" or "forgetfulness.". It's called evil." pg. 92

"But the fact is that nothing should concern us more than our relationship with God; it's about eternity, and nothing compares with that. God is not someone who can be tacked on to our lives." pg. 96

"I need God to help me love God" pg. 104

 "But that is exactly what we do when we fail to give freely and joyfully. We are loaded down with too many good things, ore than we could ever need, while other are desperate for a small loaf.  The good things we cling to are more than money; we hoard our resources, our gifts, our time, our families, our friends. As we begin to practice regular giving, we see how ludicrous it is to hold on to the abundance God has given us and merely repeat the words thank you." pg 120-121

"But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through." pg 124

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4347-6851-3
Year Published: 2009
Date Finished: 1-15-2016
Pages: 205

Monday, January 11, 2016

Review: In the Heart of The Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers by John Chryssavgis

Synopsis: Father John's inspiring introduction to the spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers brings their words to life for the modern reader. These key figures of the early church chose lives of hardship and solitude, where they could point their hearts away from the outward world and toward an introspective path of God's calling in a deliberate and individual way. Contains a Foreword by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, the second highest ranking Orthodox Bishop in England (from the online description)

Review: I purchased this thinking it was an exploration of the theology and practices of the desert Fathers and Mothers. It wasn't quite that. It was less hardcore theology and practices and more a fluffy expose on the sayings. From the beginning the author made it clear that while this was based entirely on early Christian monks, the teachings are intended for anyone seeking spirituality, Christian or not. This is probably because it is part of the Treasures of World Religions Series and is intended for a wider audience that just those of the Judeo-Christian Traditions. Because of this, the prose often felt less based on Christ and more like nebulous hippie advice. Additional, Chryssavgis's prose felt loosely organized and disconnect – more esoteric verbal vomit than concise study.  It read like a companion to the actual Sayings of the Desert Fathers, almost a study guide of sorts. Having never read the Sayings, I felt occasionally lost as to the point.
That being said, Chryssavgis made some important points, particular his section on passion. He explained that some say we are to kill passions, but Chryssavgis said the desert fathers taught passion was good as long as it was directed in the right direction (p. 58). While I am uncertain as to the theological veracity of this teaching, it’s unique and worth further studying. The other idea he spoke about was this concept of Detachment (Ch. 10) and that it isn’t removing oneself from the world, but rather the ability to live in the world without being affected by the desire for its offerings (p. 69). And while I thought his words on prayer were mostly fluff’n’nonsense, I liked the following, “Prayer is the acceptance of frailty and failure – in ourselves and then in the world around us” (p.98). Again, not sure this is true, but it’s worth further investigation.
The supplemental information adds to the book. Along with Chryssavgis’s words, he included a translation of Abba Zosimas’ Reflections, a map of where these venerated monks lived, pictures of icons and monasteries, and an extensive bibliography for further study.
In conclusion, while this is not what I’d hope for and is much more esoteric and nebulous for my taste, if used as a companion to the Sayings of the Desert Fathers or as an introduction to the basic feelings of their teaching, then it is worth reading.
Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-941532-51-8
Year Published: 2003
Date Finished: 1-10-2016
Pages: 163

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Ramble: TBR

As of this second, I own 2433 books sitting on my shelf that need to be read. I say "as of this second" because I have 3 more books coming in the mail, and who knows what I'll find when I stop by the bookshop tomorrow.

I don't usually do TBR piles or lists. I pick what I want to read based on how feel at the moment. But given my goals, which are rather lofty, I can't be so whimsical. Also, I shuffled my shelves recently, and unearthed some fine tomes that I mean to read in the next few weeks. Here is what I plan:

Christian 

Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God by Dallas Willard
The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus's Essential Teachings on Discipleship by Dallas Willard

The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God by Dallas Willard

Reflections on the Psalms by C. S. Lewis

Power for Living by Jamie Buckingham

Light Force: A Stirring Account of the Church Caught in the Middle East Crossfire by Brother Andrew

Can Man Live Without God? By Ravi Zacharias

The Lessons of Saint Francis: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality into Your Daily Life by John Michael Talbot

Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. By David Platt

Science Fiction / Fantasy Series

The Damned Series by Alan Dean Foster (A Call to Arms, The False Mirror, The Spoils of War)

In the Time of the Six Sun Series by Thomas Harlan (Wasteland of Flint, House of Reeds, Land of the Dead)

The Tales of Lanen Kaelar by Elizabeth Kerner (Song in the Silence, The Lesser Kindred, Redeeming the Lost)

Other:

R.O.D.: Read or Die, Volumes 1-4 by Hideyuki Kurata (Author) and Shutaro Yamada (Illustrator)

R.O.D.: Read or Dream, Volumes 1-4 by Hideyuki Kurata (Author) and Shutaro Yamada (Illustrator)

Requiem of the Stars by Tracy Hickman

One Hundred Afghan Persian Proverbs by J. Christy Wilson

Sound the Bells, O Moon Arise: Pashto Proverbs and Folk Songs by J. Enevoldsen

This is what I'm set to read for the next span of time. I'm sure others shall come into the mix, and a few may leave. But this is a fine start and I've already started with this portion of the adventure!


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Review: Caught in Crystal by Patricia C. Wrede

Synopsis: There stands of Twisted Tower...hidden in the Windhome Mountains. Something in imprisoned there - the Sisterhood of Stars does not know precisely what, but something is bound tight with a wizard's spell so that it can never escape again. Kayl is one of the few to have looked upon the Twisted Tower. She has no desire to see it again - she left the Sisterhood long ago, settling down to a quiet life. Her sword lies unused in a secret place beneath the stones of her hearth. But something evil is leaking from the Tower. And now a sorceress and a wizard have appeared on Kayl's doorstep, demanding she take up the sword again.... (from the back of the book)

Review: Wrede writes female characters who are strong, smart, complex, and believable! Kayl is no exception. Having walked out on the Sisterhood 15 years prior, she is now thrust back into the heart of the very issue that caused her to walk away. She's forced to face the reason she ran away, the reason she never went back - and the reason she failed. Watching her change and grow made the story for me. Granted, they were some cheesy parts, but they were few. And the Twisted Tower wasn't the real focus - it was Kayl's journey to make peace with her past and her future. The magic was fun and the world building solid - and given that this is a few 1,000 years before Daughter of Witches, if was neat to see that matching references. This is a vital part of Wrede's Lyra Chronicles, worth reading, if only for the fantastic female lead.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-441-76006-6
Year Published:1987
Date Finished: 1-6-2016
Pages: 293

Friday, January 8, 2016

Review: Inspiralized: Turn Vegetables into Healthy, Creative, Satisfying Meals by Ali Maffucci

Synopsis: On her wildly popular blog, Inspiralized, Ali Maffucci is revolutionizing healthy eating. Whether you’re low-carb, gluten-free, Paleo, or raw, you don’t have to give up the foods you love. Inspiralized shows you how to transform more than 20 vegetables and fruits into delicious meals that look and taste just like your favorite indulgent originals. Zucchini turns into pesto spaghetti; jicama becomes shoestring fries; sweet potatoes lay the foundation for fried rice; plantains transform into “tortillas” for huevos rancheros. Ali’s recipes for breakfast, snacks, appetizers, sandwiches, soups, salads, casseroles, rices, pastas, and even desserts are easy to follow, hard to mess up, healthful, and completely fresh and flavorful. Best of all, she tells you how to customize them for whatever vegetables you have on hand and whatever your personal goal may be—losing weight, following a healthier lifestyle, or simply making easy meals at home. Here, too, are tons of technical tips and tricks; nutritional information for each dish and every vegetable you can possibly spiralize; and advice for spiralizing whether you’re feeding just yourself, your family, or even a crowd. So bring on a hearty appetite and a sense of adventure—you’re ready to make the most of this secret weapon for healthy cooking. (from the online description)

Review: This book is from the popular blog of the same name. It's intended for use with the machine sold on her website. I didn't buy that machine. I bought a simpler one for a lot less money. But she addresses that in the beginning so the book can be used with other machines. The main benefit of this book is the how-to for making proper "noodles" from the veggies. Having tried it before reading her methods, I can say that her method works way better! Mine were soggy or crunchy in all the wrong ways. Her method produced yummy, noodle-like dishes. As for the recipes - only about 1/3 of them are actually recipes that require spirialized veggies. The others are make-overs of popular recipes or ones she has add veggies in a spirialized form when you could use veggies in chopped or shredded form. The recipes, however, are still tasty and worth the price (I paid $11.99) so that is okay. My only other complaint is that not all the recipes have pictures, which I prefer. But the book has a clean layout, easy to read instructions, and lots of supplementary information, like cooking times for multiple veggies and cooking techniques and tools. This is a technique and recipe collection I will be using regularly.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-8041-8683-4
Year Published: 2015
Date Finished: 1-6-2016
Pages: 224

Review: The Intellectual Devotional: American History by David S. Kidder and Noah D. Oppenheim

Synopsis: Modeled after those bedside books of prayer and contemplation that millions turn to for daily spiritual guidance and growth, the national bestseller The Intellectual Devotional―offering secular wisdom and cerebral nourishment―drew a year's worth of readings from seven different fields of knowledge. In The Intellectual Devotional: American History, authors David S. Kidder and Noah D. Oppenheim have turned to the rich legacy of American history for their selections. From Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin to Martin Luther King Jr., from the Federalist Papers to Watergate, the giant figures, cultural touchstones, and pivotal events in our national heritage provide a bountiful source of reflection and education that will refresh knowledge, revitalize the mind, and open new horizons of intellectual discovery. (from the online description)

Review: After reading the first one, I immediately purchased this one - being that I'm an American History aficionado. With short entries, interesting facts, and the ribbon bookmark, this is perfect for short moments – like waiting in long grocery story lines or doctor’s offices. I kept mine in my purse for just these sorts of occasions. The only drawback is that it was published in 2007, so by 2015, it’s now 7 years behind. However, it is what it is, and I don’t think publishing an updated on would do any good. I love this series and intend to eventually read them all.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 1-59486-744-5
Year Published: 2007
Date Finished: 1-3-2015
Pages: 365

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Review: Furthest by Suzette Haden Elgin

Synopsis: Coyote Jones, agent for the Tri-Galactic Intelligence Service, had been sent to the plant to unimaginably distant from the rest of the Federation that it bore the descriptive name Furthest. His mission: to find out why the total body of data about Furthest shoes the world’s inhabitants to be absolutely average down to the last decimal place. That data had to be false. Jones was permitted to live on the planet, but the natives were so wary of him that he could uncover nothing – until he chanced into a personal crises faced by his young Furthester assistant. The boy’s sister had been sentenced to Erasure, and he wanted Coyote Jones to take the fugitive girl in and hide her. Against his judgment, Jones agreed, and thereby became a criminal on a world he didn’t understand But suddenly the answers began to come, and he found that his planet named Furthest held more strangeness than he could ever have imagined. (from the back of the book)

Review: This book is notably dated, being published in 1971, and while that occasionally detracts from the story, over all, it’s mostly a solid plot with plausible characters. Elgin explores the idea that a people so isolated from other cultures can eventually live and breathe something as truth that is a lie. The people of Furthest have no idea what the outside galaxy is like, and believe only what the original colonist to their planet believes – something that hasn’t been true for 1,000 years!
The novel is short, and I think the plot would have benefits from expansions. Several times, major events happen in a few paragraphs, or major character growth in a few sentences. For example, Coyote Jones persuades another character to reverse a lifetime of indoctrination in just a few sentences, which is unrealistic to me. I would rather have events like this take place over a chapter at least.
 Coyote Jones is a clich├ęd hero, although fits that classic Sci-Fi stereotypes from the late 60s / early 70s. A spy who works under the guise of a being a folk singer, he is a ladies’ man and a telepath. He’s also a failed member of a Maklunites, a religious group defined by living together, sharing all things in common, and having only open sexual relationships. Essentially, a hippie commune.  Not surprising given this was written back when people still thought communes and free love was a viable social system. This is a fine example of classic 70s Sci-Fi, and worth reading if you find a copy. 

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: -
Year Published: 1971
Date Finished: 1-2-2015
Pages: 191

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Review: Daughter of Witches by Patricia C. Wrede

Synopsis: Come….enter the city of Drinn, if you dare. The entering is easy during Festival time; no guard will stop you, no priest will question you as you shuffle through the gates among the crowds, hiding the glow of forbidden magic beneath your brown pilgrim robes. Yes, entering is easy. The hard part is getting out again…. (from the back of the book)

Review: Having thoroughly enjoyed Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles, I was eager to read her other works. It did not disappoint. While missing the humor and tongue-in-cheek sarcasm of Dealing with Dragons, her ability to create worlds remains. A complex world set with rounded characters created a solid story. At times, it felt slightly like one was reading the script for a cheesy 80s fantasy flick, but that is hardly surprising considering the book was published in 1983. And I enjoyed those dreadful 80s movies, so it made no mind to me. This is one of her books set in the world of Lyra, and while they can be read in any order, this one references events that took place, I assuming, in Shadow Magic. This is a fine fantasy store, easily read in an afternoon, with fun characters and an intriguing plot. Worth the time to read!

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-441-13894-2
Year Published: 1983
Date Finished: 1-1-2016
Pages: 215

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Ramble: 2016 Reading Goals

Having experienced the pleasing results of setting goals in 2015, I shall continue the exercise in 2016 and will be attempting the following achievements.

Total Read Goal: 130 

This is the same as 2015. Of course, I surpassed the 2015 goal, but that is most likely a one-off and I can't count on that again. I also have no idea what 2016 holds, so to set myself a goal that requires extra work is foolish.

Mini-Challenges:

Christian Books: 50+.

Yes, that is fifty. 5-0. They may be fiction or non-fiction, but no more than 20% or 10 (ten) may be fiction. This is an enormous challenge, and one I'm not sure I can meet. Non-fiction requires more time to read, particular if I wish to mark passages or think about the concepts. However, I am compelled to set this challenge for myself. I own 187 unread Christian books, and I buy more on a regular bases - as if having them makes me holy and more pleasing to God. Wrong! Not that reading them will either, but God speaks to me through books (as He speaks to others through music or nature) so I wish to open myself up to this. Even if I do not make 50, having reached any number at all will be better than were I am now. 

Evolution: 4+

I set 5+ for myself last year and I read 1. So, I'm continuing this challenge and wish to finish it. There are several books which are both Christian and Evolution, so will count for both challenges, thus easing the burden a bit. 

Series: 5+ Series
Must be 2 or more books per series, but preferably 3 or more. The series must be complete and I must own all the books. Manga does not count. At least 3 of the 5 should be science fiction or fantasy.

And there you have it. The gauntlet is laid down and now I must rise or perish. Well, not perish. That’s a bit dramatic. But you get the idea.


Goodbye for now – I’m off to read!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Ramble: The Obligatory End of Year Survey and Assessment

My Goals for 2015 were, as Follows:

Total Read Goal: 130

Mini-Challenges:

Evolution: 5+ books, including Origin of the Species by Darwin
Economics and Finance: 2+ books
Memoir and Essay: 2+ books
Mystery and Horror: 3+ books
Science Fiction: 10+ books including at least 2 trilogies or series.

How Did I Do?

Total Read: 153

Mini-Challenges:

Evolution:  1/5

Economics and Finance:  2/2


Memoir and Essay:  2/2

West with the Night by Beryl Markham
Toujours Provence by Peter Mayle

Mystery and Horror:  2/2

Sanibel Flats by Randy Wayne White (Doc Ford Series, Book 1)
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
The Sweetness at the Bottom ofthe Pie by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce, Book 1)
The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce Mystery, Book 2)
A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan C. Bradley (A Flavia de Luce Novel, Book 3)

Science Fiction: 10/10

Gamer Fantastic ed. by Martin Greenberg & Kerrie Hughes
Imperial Stars by E.E. Smith with Stephen Goldin (The Family d'Alembert Series, Book 1)
Masks of the Martyrs by Jack L. Chalker (The Rings of the Master, Book 4) 
Warriors of the Storm by Jack L. Chalker (The Rings of the Master, Book 3) 
Pirates of the Thunder by Jack L. Chalker (The Rings of the Master, Book 2) 
Lords of the Middle Dark by Jack L. Chalker (The Rings of the Master, Book 1) 
The Empress of Earth by Melissa Scott (The Roads of Heaven Trilogy, Book 3)
Silence in Solitude by Melissa Scott (The Roads of Heaven Trilogy, Book 2)
Five-Twelfths of Heaven by Melissa Scott (The Roads of Heaven Trilogy, Book 1)
Jade Darcy and the Zen Pirates by Stephin Goldin and Mary Mason (The Rehumanization of Jade Dacry, Book Two)
Jade Darcy and the Affair ofHonor by Stephen Goldin and Mary Mason (The Rehumanization of Jade Darcy, Book One)
Cybernetic Samurai by Victor Milan
The Martian by Andy Weir
Fatal Alliance by Sean Williams (Star Wars: The Old Republic) 
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov


Despite missing the Evolution Mini-Challenge, I am enormously pleased with my overall reading. I read 23 more books that I planned, and reached a life time High Score for number of books read in one year. I also over read in several categories, and explored books I’ve been meaning to pick up for years.
Eventually, I'll need to breakdown the books read into different stats: Purchased vs. From my Shelves, or male authors to female authors, or international to domestic, or fiction to non-fiction, but that requires more time that I have.
Now, on to 2016 and the bookish adventures that await!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Review: Vampire Knight (Volume 1 and Volume 2) by Matsuri Hino

 Synopsis: Yuki's earliest memory is of a stormy night in winter, where she was attacked by a rogue vampire and rescued by Kaname Kuran, a Pureblood vampire. Now ten years later, Yuki Cross, the adopted daughter of the headmaster of Cross Academy, Kaien Cross, has grown up and become a guardian of the vampire race, protecting her childhood crush, Kaname, from discovery as he leads a group of vampires at the elite boarding school. At her side is Zero Kiryu, a childhood friend who's hatred for the creatures that destroyed everything he held dear leaves him determined never to trust them. This coexisting arrangement seems all well and good, but have the vampires truly renounced their murderous ways, or is there a darker truth behind their actions? Because in this world of secrets, nothing is as it seems. And the price of misplaced trust may even be worse than death. Should Yuki truly find out what was in her past, is the truth going to hurt her worse than not knowing? (from the Wikipdia article)

Review: I picked these up because the local used bookshop has stacks of them and I could get them free because of my credit. I'm glad I did. While I find the drawing sometime a bit confusing, I don't know if that is because of my limited experience with manga or just how Hino draws. The story is Gothic (as most things with vampires are) and has a dark, sexy, tone. I'm enjoying the characters, although they are a bit maudlin for my taste.
I'll keep reading as I can get the next few easily, although I'm not sure I would actively seek out stories like this. It's not because the story or art is bad it’s good, actually - but I don't tend to go for the super dramatic Goth stuff. If you do, then you will very much enjoy this story.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4215-0822-1 / 978-1-215-1130-6
Date Finished: 12-31-2015
Pages: 208 / 208

Review: Physics I for Dummies by Steven Holzner, Ph.D.

Synopsis: For high school and undergraduate students alike, physics classes are recommended or required courses for a wide variety of majors, and continue to be a challenging and often confusing course. Physics I For Dummies tracks specifically to an introductory course and, keeping with the traditionally easy-to-follow Dummies style, teaches you the basic principles and formulas in a clear and concise manner, proving that you don't have to be Einstein to understand physics!
-Explains the basic principles in a simple, clear, and entertaining fashion
-New edition includes updated examples and explanations, as well as the newest discoveries in the field
-Contains the newest teaching techniques
If just thinking about the laws of physics makes your head spin, this hands-on, friendly guide gets you out of the black hole and sheds light on this often-intimidating subject. (from the online description)

Review: This book has a few good features, but one bad one that overshadows all the good and makes it worthless. The Good: The concepts are laid out in concise, easy to read prose with pictures. It has many practice problems (and practice is the key to understanding Physics), with the problems having the answers. The Bad: The math has SO many errors it's worthless. His calculations has small and large errors in addition, multiplication, mix-ed up numbers - it's like no one proofed the numbers! In the end, this book was useless because of the errors. 

Bookmarks: 5 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-470-9034-7
Date Finished: 12-31-2015
Pages: 384

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Review: 6 Title from the Mr. Men and Little Miss Series by Robert Hargreaves

Synopsis: These are colorful children's works, with simply prose and bright pictures. Part of the Mr. Men and Little Miss series. The six I read are as follows: Mr. Happy / Mr. Mischief / Mr. Grumpy / Mr. Noisy / Mr. Messey / Little Miss Star

Review: I picked these 6 titles up at a thrift store because they were 58 cents a piece, and buy one get one free. I didn't read them as a kid but I recognized them as being popular. While brightly colored with fun prose, they just didn't do it for me - probably why I didn't read them as a kid. Unless the parents have a nostalgic connection to them, think twice before buying them for a kid in your life. It would be cruel to inflict these upon so hapless Mom or Dad.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-8431-2563-4 / 978-1-4351-1325-1 / 978-1-4351-1327-5 / 978-1-4351-1323-7 / 978-1-4351-1326-8 / 978-1-4351-1324-4
Date Finished: 12-31-2015

Pages: 16-20 per Book (180 total)

Review: Pirates and Patriots of the Revolution: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Colonial Seamanship by C. Keith Wilbur, M.D.

Synopsis: America’s legalized pirates plundered on high seas to win freedom for their country and a fortune for themselves. Discover the little-known story of how 2,000 privately armed Yankee vessels captured sixteen British warships and almost 3,000 merchantmen during the Revolution. This makeshift “civilian navy” crippled British commerce, seized crucial supplies for Washington’s Army, and earn $50 million for its owners and crew. (from the back of the book)

Review: Written like actual handwriting, with plentiful illustrations, this is a excellent and lively exploration of American Privateers during the Revolution. Wilbur's prose and illustrations are incredibly detailed. This is an excellent book for students and amateur academics wishing to explore this particular segment of Revolutionary War history. I plan to buy more in this series.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-87106-866-4
Date Finished: 12-31-2015
Pages: 96

Friday, January 1, 2016

Review: Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse

Synopsis: Rifka knows nothing about America when she flees from Russia with her family in 1919. But she dreams she will at last be safe from the Russian soldiers and their harsh treatment of the Jews in the new country. Throughout her journey, Rifka carries with her a cherished volume of poetry by Alexander Pushkin. In it, she records her observations and experiences in the form of letters to her beloved cousin she has left behind. Strong-hearted and determined, Rifka must endure a great deal: humiliating examinations by doctors and soldiers, deadly typhus, separation from all she has ever known and loved, murderous storms at sea―and as if this is not enough, the loss of her glorious golden hair. And even if she does make it to America, she's not sure America will have her. (from the online description)


Review: Told in a series of letters from Rifka to her cousin, this is an endearing, realistic, and ultimately, hopeful book. Hesse takes the reader with Rifka from Russia to America, through hardship and hope. Rifka's voice draws in the reader, placing you with her as she walks through the trials. I highly recommend this for kids, as a way to learn about history from an engaging viewpoint. This would be excellent in conjunction with the history of Russian during the revolution after WWI, and for learning about immigration to the US during that turbulent time.


Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: 1992 International Reading Association Award; 1992 National Jewish Book Award;
2012 Phoenix Award from the Children's Literature Association

ISBN: 0-440-83050-8
Date Finished: 12-30-2015
Pages: 148


Review: The Adventures of Miss Petitfour by Anne Michaels, ill. by Emma Block


Synopsis: Miss Petitfour is an expert at baking and eating little cakes. She also has the most marvelous, everyday adventures. Her favorite mode of travel is by tablecloth, and on windy days she always takes her sixteen cats out for an airing. Join Miss Petitfour and her feline companions as they embark on five magical outings, including a quest for "birthday cheddar" and a visit to eh village's annual Festooning Festival. And if you prefer books in which nothing ever happens, books in which people (and cats) sit by the fire with buttery shortbread biscuits and steaming mugs of cocoa, books full of interesting facts that will never come in useful, and books with digressions and meanwhiles and long words and lists, then you will find plenty of that here too. So fetch a tablecloth and turn to the first page of this book. (from the inside cover of the book)
 
Review: Charming. That is the perfect word for this story. With whimsical pastel illustrations, a soft pink ribbon page marker , and silky pages, this is the perfect book for a magical bedtime story. Miss Petitfour travels by tablecloth, bakes leaf-shaped cookies for her sixteen cats, and firmly believes in having adventures. And many adventures she has – from a jumbled-up jumble sale to a confetti explosion, her life is never dull – and it is a delight to travel along with her.
Michaels has a lovely command of language. In a clever and humorous way, she teaches the reader about the meaning of words in stories (and life), using highlighted words, side notes, and digressions (inside joke throughout the story).  This a perfect book for anyone who enjoys tea, cakes, cats, adventures, and words. I highly recommend.

Note: I received this book free as part of LibraryThings' Early Reviewers Program in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.
 
Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-77049-500-5
Date Finished: 12-29-2015
Pages: 124