...never judge a book by its movie

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays - January 31, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along; you don't have to be a blogger! Just do the following:

Grab your current read

Open to a random page

Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week is from another of my personal books (trying to get my TBR bookshelf down so I can buy more books!)

My teaser this week: 

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

"Could you tell," Asagao asks Sadaie, "I'ai's phather phon his phoice?"
"That's it," says Yayoi.  "Your dream was a clue about I'ai's father."
Even Kagero shows interest in the theory:  "Which monks were your engifters?"

- page 197, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (The Book Depository / Amazon)

Goodreads description:

In 2007, Time magazine named him one of the most influential novelists in the world. He has twice been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. The New York Times Book Review called him simply “a genius.” Now David Mitchell lends fresh credence to The Guardian’s claim that “each of his books seems entirely different from that which preceded it.” The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is a stunning departure for this brilliant, restless, and wildly ambitious author, a giant leap forward by even his own high standards. A bold and epic novel of a rarely visited point in history, it is a work as exquisitely rendered as it is irresistibly readable.

The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the “high-walled, fan-shaped artificial island” that is the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay; the farthest outpost of the war-ravaged Dutch East Indies Company; and a de facto prison for the dozen foreigners permitted to live and work there. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, costly courtesans, earthquakes, and typhoons comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancĂ©e back in Holland.

But Jacob’s original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor and midwife to the city’s powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken. The consequences will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings.  As one cynical colleague asks, “Who ain’t a gambler in the glorious Orient, with his very life?”

A magnificent mix of luminous writing, prodigious research, and heedless imagination, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is the most impressive achievement of its eminent author.

If you read this one, make sure that you keep reading after the initial pages.  When I first started reading it, I was confuzzled by all of the characters and the setting, and the different things that were happening.  It was as though I were simply dumped into the midst of the coast of Japan in the late 1700's, with a bunch of sailors and "company" men with no clue what was what and who was who and why.  Keep reading, though, it all sorts itself out, and it's REALLY a good read (at least so far-I'm about 60% done).

Feel free to leave your teaser or link to it in the comments section; I find that I always end up adding to my to-buy list when I visit!

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie - BOOK REVIEW

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
Title:  Catherine the Great
Author: Robert K. Massie                                 
Publisher:   Random House
Release Date:  November 8, 2011
Hardcover, 625 pages
ISBN 10:      0679456724
ISBN 13:   9780679456728
The Book Depository / Amazon

December, 2011 Indie Next List

Goodreads description:

The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who traveled to Russia at fourteen and rose to become one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.

Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into Empress of Russia by sheer determination. Possessing a brilliant mind and an insatiable curiosity as a young woman, she devoured the works of Enlightenment philosophers and, when she reached the throne, attempted to use their principles to guide her rule of the vast and backward Russian empire. She knew or corresponded with the preeminent historical figures of her time: Voltaire, Diderot, Frederick the Great, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie Antoinette, and, surprisingly, the American naval hero, John Paul Jones.

Reaching the throne fired by Enlightenment philosophy and determined to become the embodiment of the “benevolent despot” idealized by Montesquieu, she found herself always contending with the deeply ingrained realities of Russian life, including serfdom. She persevered, and for thirty-four years the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution that swept across Europe. Her reputation depended entirely on the perspective of the speaker. She was praised by Voltaire as the equal of the greatest of classical philosophers; she was condemned by her enemies, mostly foreign, as “the Messalina of the north.”

Catherine’s family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies—all are here, vividly described. These included her ambitious, perpetually scheming mother; her weak, bullying husband, Peter (who left her lying untouched beside him for nine years after their marriage); her unhappy son and heir, Paul; her beloved grandchildren; and her “favorites”—the parade of young men from whom she sought companionship and the recapture of youth as well as sex. Here, too, is the giant figure of Gregory Potemkin, her most significant lover and possible husband, with whom she shared a passionate correspondence of love and separation, followed by seventeen years of unparalleled mutual achievement.

The story is superbly told. All the special qualities that Robert K. Massie brought to Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great are present here: historical accuracy, depth of understanding, felicity of style, mastery of detail, ability to shatter myth, and a rare genius for finding and expressing the human drama in extraordinary lives.

History offers few stories richer in drama than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, this eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.

My Take: 

I don't read a lot of biographies, mainly because they tend to be dry and difficult to really get into.  

This biography is a wonderful exception. Written as a narrative biography and impeccably researched, you will come away feeling as though you know almost everything there is to know about Catherine the Great - her life, her marriage(s)? (there is one that may or may not have been a marriage - Mr. Massie offers up excerpts from letters that indicate that she may have had a second marriage), her lovers, her family, her first husband Peter - his personality, overthrow, imprisonment and subsequent death - her children, the intrigues between Prussia, Austria, France, England and Turkey - just a plethora of information that  includes information gleaned from letters, writing, and other historical accounts.

 Some tidbits: 
  • Peter didn't consummate his marriage to Catherine for nine years
  • None of Catherine's children were biologically Peter's
  • Elizabeth, a fickle empress, kept Peter and Catherine under her thumb with harsh overseers and virtually no outside sommunication
  • Catherine's own written memoirs end on her 29th birthday
  • When Catherine first took the throne, she had a goal of gradually freeing the serfs, but found that it would be almost impossible to do.  The French Revolution and the mayhem and executions that followed put that idea completely out of her mind.
  • Catherine may or may not have been married to Gregory Potemkin
I had only a few quibbles with this novel - there were a couple of instances of fact repeating, where something would be stated on one page and a few pages later, the same thing would be repeated.  There was also mention of her three children, all born from different lovers, but two of them disappear from the pages, so much so that midway through:

Except for her son, Paul, and, later, her grandchildren, she had no family, and to Grimm alone she could pour out her thoughts and feelings as she might have done with a fond uncle or an older brother.

I would have liked to know a bit more about what happened to her other son and daughter.

The book almost faithfully follows a chronological sequence, except toward the end, when quite a few non-related items that weren't mentioned earlier in the reading are gone into.

I applaud this book as a wonderful, fully fact-based representation of a fascinating woman. 

QUOTES (from an ARC; may be different in final copy):

On Diderot:  The man she saw before her possessed a "high brow receding on a half-bald head; large rustic ears and a big bent nose, firm mouth ..[and] brown eyes, heavy and sad, as if recalling unrecallable errors, or realizing the indestructibility of superstition, or noting the high birth rate of simpletons."

On love:  Desire for love and sex played little part in attracting her lovers to her; they were motivated by ambition, desire for prestige, wealth, and, in some cases, power.  Catherine knew this.

It was Catherine's wish, however, that the deterioration of their private relationship be kept hidden. Peter, lacking both the inner resources and Catherine's consuming ambition, could put on no such show.  Smallpox had delivered a shattering blow to his mental as well as his physical health; his gross disfigurement had affected his psychological balance.

Catherine soon realized that the harsh treatment of Maria Zhukova was a clear signal to everyone in the young court that those who were suspected of closeness to either Catherine or Peter were liable to find themselves, on one pretext or another, transferred, dismissed, disgraced, or even imprisoned.

BOOK RATING:  4.75 out of 5 stars

BLOGGERS:  Have you reviewed this book? If so, please feel free to leave a link to your review in the comments section; I will also add your link to the body of my review.

Catherine The Great Critic Rating by idreambooks.com

BUY IT:  At Amazon, The Book Depository, through the publisher's website,  and through other on-and-off-line booksellers.

One of my listed titles for the 2012 150+ Reading Challenge
One of my listed titles for the 2012 ARC Reading Challenge
One of my listed titles for the 2012 Chunkster Challenge

Disclosure:  I  received a  complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher to facilitate my review.  No other compensation was received and I was not required to post a positive review.
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A Winter's Respite Read-a-Thon Wrap Up

A Winter's Respite Read-a-Thon 2012 was hosted by Michelle at The True Book Addict.

Currently reading:

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
on page 102
Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver
on page 59
15 pages read


All I Did was Shoot my Man by Walter 
336 pages
The Perfect Suspect by Margaret Coel
304 pages
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
last 154 pages
The Various Haunts of Men by Susan 
438 pages
Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel
352 pages
Citizen Out by Marie Crist
272 pages

Total pages read during read-a-thon: 1,807 (the page totals of the books don't represent pages read, as some were started prior to the read-a-thon)
Total books read during read-a-thon:  5 1/4 (15% of Bleak House, 85% of Call Me Princess, and 1/4 of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet)

Although I didn't participate in the mini-challenges (just a LOT going on at my house this week!), I DID read a lot more than I usually would have!  So, yay, I had fun!

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Mystery and Suspense Reading Challenge 2012

Mystery and Suspense Reading Challenge 2012

 The Mystery and Suspense Reading Challenge 2012 is being hosted by Book Chick City.

From the blog:


- Read TWELVE (12) mystery & suspense novels in 2012 
- Read TWENTY FOUR (24) mystery & suspense novels in 2012 

• You don't have to select your books ahead of time, you can just add them as you go. Also if you do list them upfront you can change them, nothing is set in stone! The books you choose can crossover into other challenges you have on the go.
You can sign up anytime and you don't have to write reviews of each book, but you are more than welcome to; there will be a link each month to link up your reviews to.  You don't have to be a blogger, and all types of sub-genres count as well (see the sign-up post for more info on this).

I am not going to list my titles ahead of time, but will list them as I go along.  I will be participating at the first level, although I'm pretty certain that I might make it to the second level.


All I Did Was Shoot my Man by Walter Moseley
READ 1/26


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Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 Books Won Reading Challenge

2012 Books Won Reading Challenge

The 2012 Books Won Reading Challenge is being hosted by Teddy Rose at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time.

From the blog:

I created this challenge in 2010 to challenge myself and others that have won books, to read and review some of them.  The reason publishing companies supply books for book bloggers to give away is to get word out about the books and create buzz.  

The Levels are:

Honorable Mention: Read 1-3 book you won.
Bronze: Read 4-6 books you won.
Silver: Read 7-9 Books you won.
Gold: Read 10 or more books you won.

 I participated in this challenge last year, but fell short of getting reviews up :(.  This will be a better year! 

I'm participating at the Gold level.  In order for a book to count, you must write a review.  You can join anytime throughout the year.  Audiobooks and eBooks count, as long as you won them.
For my purposes, (trying to get my TBR bookshelf down), I will only count physical copies of books won.  So .. let me go to my shelf .... and here are the first books I pulled out:

Queenmaker by India Edghill
Wisdom's Daughter by India Edghill
Delilah by India Edghill
Ivan and Misha by Michael Alenyikov
Exposure by Terese Fowler
Evermore by Alyson Noel
READ 2/3
The Night Train by Clyde Edgerton
The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore
READ 2/5
Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende
READ 4/13
The Honored Dead by Joseph Braude

 As I review these, I will link up to the blogger that I won them from!  Some of these have been waiting simply too long for me to read them!


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One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni - BOOK REVIEW

One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni
Title:  One Amazing Thing
Author:  Chitra Divakaruni
Publisher:   Hyperion Books
Paperback, 240 pages
ISBN 10:    1401341586
ISBN 13:  9781401341589
The Book Depository / Amazon

Goodreads description:

Late afternoon sun sneaks through the windows of a passport and visa office in an unnamed American city. Most customers and even most office workers have come and gone, but nine people remain. A punky teenager with an unexpected gift. An upper-class Caucasian couple whose relationship is disintegrating. A young Muslim-American man struggling with the fallout of 9/11. A graduate student haunted by a question about love. An African-American ex-soldier searching for redemption. A Chinese grandmother with a secret past. And two visa office workers on the verge of an adulterous affair.
When an earthquake rips through the afternoon lull, trapping these nine characters together, their focus first jolts to their collective struggle to survive.

There's little food. The office begins to flood. Then, at a moment when the psychological and emotional stress seems nearly too much for them to bear, the young graduate student suggests that each tell a personal tale, "one amazing thing" from their lives, which they have never told anyone before. And as their surprising stories of romance, marriage, family, political upheaval, and self- discovery unfold against the urgency of their life-or-death circumstances, the novel proves the transcendent power of stories and the meaningfulness of human expression itself. From Chitra Divakaruni, author of such finely wrought, bestselling novels as Sister of My Heart, The Palace of Illusions, and The Mistress of Spices, comes her most compelling and transporting story to date. One Amazing Thing is a passionate creation about survival—and about the reasons to survive.

My Take: 

This novel revolves around nine disparate people trapped together in a visa office after an earthquake, their work to survive until they are rescued, and the tension that comes out when people are worried for their lives.

To break up the tension, Uma, a graduate student, suggests that they each tell an important story from their lives to give them all something to focus on.

THIS is where the story gets interesting.  Although a couple of the stories never get fully told as they are interrupted by shifting of debris, the stories that we DO read give the reader a greater insight into each character.  Because they are so different from each other, each story is unique and some are rather heartbreaking.

The beginning third of the book was almost ho-hum for me.  I didn't feel much connection with the characters, and there was a lot of animosity between a few of the characters that I felt was not fully justified or explained very well.

When the stories started coming, however, I was caught up.  Many of them revolved around love and marriage:  love lost, expectations thwarted, love found.  These glimpses are what made me finally feel for the characters and somewhat redeemed the novel for me, especially those that gave me insight into different cultures.

Worth a read, even if the first part does sort of drag along.  I really would have liked to see more development of character closer to the beginning of the novel, but when I think about it, if you really WERE stuck in an office with a bunch of other people, how much would you know about them in the beginning/


"Please don't be afraid of me," he said.  He wanted to tell them what he'd seen in Mexico, where he'd gone to help after an earthquake in one of his attempts at expiation.  People who had been too impatient and had tried to dig themselves out of the rubble often died as more debris collapsed on them, while people who had stay put - sometimes without food and water for a week or more - were finally, miraculously rescued.

The time and money he had spent planning this trip to India, the tickets he had booked.  Just because here eyes had shone for a moment when she saw the cursed picture.  The words were in his mouth:  If it weren't for tying to take care of you, I wouldn't be stuck down here, bout to die. Everything I worked so hard for brought to zero.

"Everyone has a story," said Uma, relieved that one of them was considering the idea.  "I don't believe anyone can go through life without encountering at least one amazing thing."

Writing:  4 out of 5 stars
Plot:  3 out of 5 stars
Characters: 3 out of 5 stars
Reading Immersion:  3 out 5 stars

BOOK RATING:  3.25 out of 5 stars

BLOGGERS:  Have you reviewed this book? If so, please feel free to leave a link to your review in the comments section; I will also add your link to the body of my review.

About Chitra Divakaruni

BUY IT:  At Amazon, The Book Depository, through the publisher's website,  and through other on-and-off-line booksellers.

One of my listed titles for the 2012 150+ Reading Challenge
One of my listed titles for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2012

 Disclosure:  This is a review for a book in my personal library.
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Friday, January 27, 2012

A Winter's Respite Read-a-Thon update (1/27)

A Winter's Respite Read-a-Thon 2012 is being hosted by Michelle at The True Book Addict.

Things have been rather busy here, so I really haven't been able to keep track of my reading time, but here is my progress so far:

Currently reading:

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan 
on page 240
Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver
on page 59
15 pages read
Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel
on page 113
60 pages read


All I Did was Shoot my Man by Walter 
336 pages
The Perfect Suspect by Margaret Coel
304 pages
Bleak House by Charles Dickens
last 154 pages

Total pages read during read-a-thon: 1,109

Although I haven't participated in any of the mini-challenges, I may participate in the last Mega challenge, but I have books ALL over - piled on the filing cabinets, on top of the dining room cabinet, and in the bookshelves (oh! and on the coffee and side table in the living room!)


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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Dystopia 2012 Challenge

The Dystopia 2012 Challenge

The Dystopia 2012 Challenge is being hosted by Bookish Ardour.  You can sign up anytime through the last two weeks of December, and you don't have to be a blogger to join.  Reviews are optional, but there is a review page set up for your reviews.  There is a Must Reads page full of wonderful book suggestions to help you in your reading choices as well.

From the blog:

Challenge Levels
  1. Asocial– Choose 5 books to read
  2. Contagion – Choose 15 books to read
  3. Soldier – Choose 30 books to read
  4. Drone – Choose 50 books to read
  5. Conditioned – Choose 75 books to read
  6. Brainwashed – Choose anywhere between 76-135 books to read
  7. Totalitarian – Choose anywhere between 136-200 books to read

Extra Challenges

If you feel like that extra kick to your reading challenges here’s several you can choose from.
  • World:Choose a country as your theme, reading only books from that country or where it’s the setting. For how high you go you can choose more than one country;
    • Level Asocial to Soldier: Choose one country
    • Level Soldier to Conditioned: Choose two countries
    • Level Conditioned to end of Brainwashed: Choose three countries
    • Level Totalitarian: Choose four countries.
  • Gender Battle: Read books only by female or male authors. Another alternative is to read equal amounts of both.
Crossover Genres: Our Dystopia challenge also includes Post-Apocalypse and Ecotopia (environmentally dystopian).

I will participate at the Contagion level.  I have a couple of books right now that are on my reading list for this year, and I will add as I go:

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

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