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Title: Witch Eyes
Author: Scott Tracey
Number of Pages: 336 pages
Book Number/Goal: 25/50 for 2011
My Rating: 3.5/5

Amazon Summary (edited for spoileriness): Braden's witch eyes give him an enormous power. A mere look causes a kaleidoscopic explosion of emotions, memories, darkness, and magic. But this rare gift is also his biggest curse.

Compelled to learn about his shadowed past and the family he never knew, Braden is drawn to the city of Belle Dam, where he is soon caught between two feuding witch dynasties. Sworn rivals Catherine Lansing and Jason Thorpe will use anything--lies, manipulation, illusion, and even murder--to seize control of Braden's powers. To stop an ancient evil from destroying the town, Braden must master his gift despite a series of shocking revelations.

Review: This isn't a book I would have picked up on my own, but it was the first book for [personal profile] rachelmanija's Permanent Floating YA Diversity Book Club, so I decided to give it a go. Aside from the fact that the romance is between two boys, there isn't a single original thing about it. I felt like I was reading an amalgam of a bunch of current supernatural-themed things, including Supernatural, but also Lost Girl and Twilight, which are not terribly original things to begin with. But despite kind of rolling my eyes at everything, I found myself getting drawn in, and as it is unsurprisingly the first book in a series (no one has any love for stand-alone books but me, or at least no writers/publishers), I will definitely be checking out the next one when it's released. If nothing else, it's nice to see a book with gay characters that's not about being gay (as much as I do enjoy those stories, too).
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Title: Song of Susannah
Author: Stephen King
Number of Pages: 560 pages
Book Number/Goal: 24/50 for 2011
My Rating: 5/5

Amazon Summary: Susannah Dean is possessed, her body a living vessel for the demon-mother Mia. Something is growing inside Susannah's belly, something terrible, and soon she will give birth to Mia's "chap." But three unlikely allies are following them from New York City to the border of End World, hoping to prevent the unthinkable. Meanwhile, Eddie and Roland have tumbled into the state of Maine -- where the author of a novel called 'Salem's Lot is about to meet his destiny...

Review: Wow, I can't believe I finally finished the second to last book. I'm reading the final book now and don't know what to do once I've actually finished. I first read The Gunslinger over twenty years ago!

Anyway, while I am not thrilled with either the meta level of having Stephen King as a character in the series or with the done-to-death alien/possessed/whatever pregnancy plot, I enjoyed this book a lot. I loved the journal at the end (and the ending of it!) and I came to actually like Mia. This definitely felt more like a connector book than any other book in the series, though, and thus I don't really have a lot to say about it.
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Title: Watchmen
Author: Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
Number of Pages: 416 pages
Book Number/Goal: 23/50 for 2011
My Rating: 3.5/5

Summary: In an alternate 1985, masked heroes exist, but with a few exceptions have been banned by the US government since the seventies. When one of the remaining active heroes is murdered, another exiled to Mars, and a third thrown in prison, two retired heroes team up to try and find out what's going on, but what they discover is beyond anything they could have imagined.

Review: I hated the art for this, but the story was interesting, if a bit hard to follow at times due to the way I couldn't keep anyone straight at first and it kept jumping all over the place in the timeline. Once I got a few chapters in, it was easier to keep everyone straight, though. This did interesting things with the idea of superheroes, making it a bit more realistic. None of the heroes or villains have any sort of superpowers, except for Dr Manhattan, and I like things like the way the heroes were inspired to start fighting crime by reading comic books, and the government ban and such. Like, one of the things that I find hard to deal with in US superhero comics is how everyone exists in the same universe. Like, I really think they should be separate. I don't think they necessarily cross over well. But they are all supposed to exist at once. It strains my credulity (one superhero is something I can accept; fifty with fifty different powers and origins less so). Anyway, so I liked the "realism" of this set-up. I wasn't that thrilled with the big reveal, idk. But still, I enjoyed it overall.

But one thing I cannot not comment on, and that is the wtfery of Sally's plotline/backstory/reveal/whatever you want to call it. Like, really? Really? The last we see of her, she is KISSING A PICTURE OF THE COMEDIAN? Because I guess all these years she has been pining for her rapist? Way to fucking go, Alan Moore. Gross. And it's not like we ever see a single redeeming thing about The Comedian. He is a thorough asshole, who killed a woman he got pregnant and raped another woman and is a total asshole in general. But Sally not only got over the rape enough to have sex with him again (just once? more than once? it wasn't really clear to me), but has apparently been in love with him all these years. If this had been a physical copy I read, I really might have thrown it across the room at that point. Also, just in general, and this has probably been noted by people who read comics more often than I do, but jfc, Moore has issues with women.
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Title: Wolves of the Calla
Author: Stephen King
Number of Pages: 960 pages
Book Number/Goal: 22/50 for 2011
My Rating: 5/5

Jacket Summary: Roland Deschain and his ka-tet are bearing southeast through the forests of Mid-World, the almost timeless landscape that seems to stretch from the wreckage of civility that defined Roland's youth to the crimson chaos that seems the future's only promise. Readers of Stephen King's epic series know Roland well, or as well as this enigmatic hero can be known. They also know the companions who have been drawn to his quest for the DarkTower: Eddie Dean and his wife, Susannah; Jake Chambers, the boy who has come twice through the doorway of death into Roland's world; and Oy, the Billy-Bumbler. In this long-awaited fifth novel in the saga, their path takes them to the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis, a tranquil valley community of farmers and ranchers on Mid-World's borderlands. Beyond the town, the rocky ground rises toward the hulking darkness of Thunderclap, the source of a terrible affliction that is slowly stealing the community's soul. For Calla Bryn Sturgis, danger gathers in the east like a storm cloud. The Wolves of Thunderclap and their unspeakable depredation are coming. To resist them is to risk all, but these are odds the gunslingers are used to, and they can give the Calla-folken both courage and cunning. Their guns, however, will not be enough.

Review: I was unspoiled for this book, not even reading the jacket summary beforehand (because why bother when I already know I'm going to want to read it?), so I was totally surprised by Father Callahan's appearance. So I even cut that mention out of the summary above just in case anyone else is similarly unspoiled. XD (Not sure how likely that is at this late date, but who knows.)

I read Salem's Lot in high school, so it's been aaaaaages, but Wikipedia plus the story given in Wolves of the Calla itself were more than enough to get me up to speed. I know the Dark Tower books link to other King works all the time, but I never suspected a crossover as big as this, with Callahan becoming a major character.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this. I'm not thrilled with the Susannah plotline, and there are a ton of things I could talk about if I had any interest in doing anything other than going awhrjewhqjkerhejqwhekqw DARK TOWER, but I really don't. :p I love this series SO MUCH and this installment was definitely not disappointing at all.

Oh! And I loved that the sneetches turned out to be SNITCHES!

Now to read Song of Susannah. :D
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Title: Almost Perfect
Author: Brian Katcher
Number of Pages: 368 pages
Book Number/Goal: 21/50 for 2011
My Rating: 1/5

Jacket Summary: Logan Whitherspoon recently discovered that his girlfriend of three years cheated on him. Since then–much to his friends’ dismay–he has been despressed, pessimistic, and obessed with this ex, Brenda.

But things start to look up for Logan when a new student breezes through the halls of his small-town high school. Tall, unconventionally pretty, and a bit awkward, Sage Hendricks somehow appeals to Logan even at a time when he trusts no one. As Logan learns more about Sage, he realizes that she needs a friend as much as he does, if not more. She has been homeschooled for several years, and her parents have forbidden her to date, but she won’t tell Logan why. The mystery of Sage’s past and the oddities of her personality intrigue Logan, and one day, he acts on his growing attraction and kisses her. Moments later, however, he wishes he hadn’t. Sage finally discloses her big secret: she’s actually a boy.

Review: I would never say that people should not write about disprivileged groups they're not a part of, but this book is an example of why such books are often best avoided. Sadly, this book has received a lot of praise and even won awards.

It is written by a straight cis man and it shows. This is not a book about a trans girl; it's a book about how hard it is to be a straight cis guy who falls for a trans girl. This is an intensely hurtful book and one I would never recommend to a trans teen or even a cis queer teen, because the homophobia is just as bad as the transphobia, but unlike the transphobia, left completely unchallenged. In fact, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone.

The protagonist's homophobia was relentless, and it's not that it's something uncommon in a teenage boy, in fact quite the opposite. But to have this sort of thing, especially in a first-person narrative, seems to assume that the audience is not going to be queer people, but rather straight people who probably identify at least a little with what the protagonist is saying. It's very alienating to read.

The transphobia is bad, but as I mentioned above, is actually somewhat less than the homophobia, because Logan does learn to mostly see Sage as a woman, even if he still sees her more as someone who will eventually become a real woman when she gets surgery. The homophobia is never challenged. In fact, it's implicitly reinforced by Logan's growing acceptance of Sage, since he is able to stop questioning his sexuality and see himself as really 100% straight and not one of those gross disgusting queers despite his attraction to Sage. I kept hoping one of the other characters would be revealed as queer, but no, there are no queer characters at all in this book.

Then there's the plot itself, which is formulaic, and of course ends up with Sage in the hospital after some guy nearly kills her when he finds out she's trans. I mean, how could we have a book about how hard it is to be a cis straight person who knows a trans person if the trans person wasn't horribly injured in order for the cis person to learn a lesson?

And as if that wasn't enough, the book is filled with all sorts of misinformation about trans people (well, trans women; trans men don't exist in this universe, either). For example, at one point Sage takes out a picture of another trans woman, a friend she's met on the internet. This woman is described as looking like a man in a dress, complete with wig and visible stubble. Sage says this is what trans women look like if they don't transition in their teens.

There are plenty of other problems with the book, including fat hatred and racism (combined in one character!). While Logan's friend Tim is not a stereotypical Asian character (in fact Logan introduces him by saying he's not a stereotypical Asian, bleh), the author couldn't be arsed to do two seconds of research on Google to find out the correct spelling of the name he was using. TokuGOwa is not a Japanese name. Like, at all. At first I hoped it might be just a typo, but it appears more than once. Anyway, while Tim may not be a stereotypical Asian, he does get to be a stereotypical fat kid, face constantly covered in food crumbs until the love of a good (white) woman finally gets him to clean himself up.

This book is bad. The other two books I've read about trans teens, Luna and Parrotfish, both had their own problems, but were miles better than this. Maybe next we can have a book that's actually about a trans character AND written by a trans person. (Luna is by a cis author and is about the sister of a trans girl, while Parrotfish is about a trans guy but is still by a cis author.)
torachan: sakaki from azumanga daioh holding a cat, with the text "I like cats" in Japanese (sakaki)
Title: The Intuitionist
Author: Colson Whitehead
Number of Pages: 255 pages
Book Number/Goal: 20/50 for 2011
My Rating: 3.5/5

Jacket Summary: It is a time of calamity in a major metrolpolitan city's Department of Elevator Inspectors, and Lila Mae Watson, the first black female evelator inspector in the history of the department, is at the center of it. Lila Mae is an Intuitionist and, it just so happens, has the highest accuracy rate in the entire department. But when an elevator in a new city building goes into total freefall on Lila Mae's watch, chaos ensues. When Lila Mae goes underground to investigate the crash, she becomes involved in the search for the lost notebooks of Intuitionism's founder, James Fulton, and uncovers a secret that will change her life forever.

Review: So, on the jacket, it's called "sidesplittingly funny", and I don't know if I totally missed the humor or the person writing the cover copy just read it completely differently to me (or didn't read it at all), because I don't know what they're talking about. Anyway, it was definitely interesting, even if I couldn't totally get into the whole "in this universe elevators are the biggest thing ever" premise. I liked the intrigue, though was a little disappointed with the ending. I see a lot of people in reviews raving over Whitehead's prose, but I found his style really off-putting. It seems like it might be one of those love it or hate it things. Still, I'm interested in reading more by him.
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Title: My Year of Meats
Author: Ruth L. Ozeki
Number of Pages: 366 pages
Book Number/Goal: 19/50 for 2011
My Rating: 2/5

Jacket Summary: Jane Takagi-Little, by trade a documentary filmmaker, by nature a truth seeker, is "racially half", Japanese and American, and, as she tells us, "neither here nor there..." Jane is sharp-edged, desperate for a job, and determined not to fall in love again.

Akiko Ueno, a young Japanese housewife, lives with her husband in a bleack high-rise apartment complext in a suburb of Tokyo. At night she lies awake, silently turning the pages of The Pillow Book, marveling at Sei Shounagon's deft, sure prose. Akiko is so thin her bones hurt, and her husband, an ad agency salaryman who wants her to get pregnant, is insisting that she put some meat on them--literally.

Ruth L. Ozeki's exuberant, shocking, mesmerizing novel opens with two women on opposite sides of the globe, whose lives cannot be further apart. But when Jane get a job, coordinating a television series whose mission is to bring the American heartland, and American meat, into the homes of Japan, she makes some wrenching discoveries--about love, meat, honor, and a hormone called DES. When Jane and Akiko's lives converge, what is revealed taps the deepest concerns of our time--how the past informs the present and how we live and love in this "blessed, ever-shrinking world".

Review: That summary sounds pretty horrible, and let me tell you, the book is not any better. If I had read that summary, I would not have read the book. But I read a review somewhere (I poked around at places I thought it might be and can't find anything anywhere, so I really don't know) that made it sound interesting, so I picked it up based on the review (and jacked summaries often sound horrid compared to the actual book). But really, the summary accurately reflects what the book is like.

There were plenty of things that bugged me (the angelic girl in a wheelchair who makes everyone a better person just by existing, and the multiple times hormones in meat cause men to get higher voices (estrogen: it doesn't work that way!) are two that come to mind), but the two biggest problems I had were the way Japan and Japanese people were consistently exotified and stereotyped and the way the book actually turned out to be about how every women just really wants a baby and needs children to be happy. Blargh.
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Title: The Calcutta Chromosome
Author: Amitav Ghosh
Number of Pages: 306 pages
Book Number/Goal: 18/50 for 2011
My Rating: 2/5

Jacket Summary: It begins in a near-future New York City, with a low-level data analyst's investigation into the disappearance of L. Murugan--a driven eccentric who vanished from the steamy, overcrowded streets of 1995 Calcutta. From here, the story leaps backward and forward across one hundred years--from a teeming contemporary city of clashing cultures and hidden facs back to the laboratory of Ronald Ross, the British scientist who was led by weird, fortuitous coincidences to the groundbreaking discovery of how malaria is transmitted to humans. Alternately following the analyst Antar's search for Murugan--and Murugan's own obsessive pursuit of the truth behind Dr. Ross's remarkable findings--Ghosh brilliantly unveils an impossible experiment in controlled destiny protected by a powerful unseen society that moves the world in secret and in silence.

Review: I wish I had read this review of the book before picking it up myself, because it would have made it clear that this book is not for me. I found the story very slow going at first, and then eventually it picked up and was getting quite interesting, all the threads coming together, and then...it ends. With nothing resolved. Because apparently he's writing the book to give the reader the same experience as the people in the book, of not being able to get it all. But I do not want that. At all. I am not one to throw books across the room, but if I were, I would have thrown this. I do not read mysteries to get to the end and not have any resolution.
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Title: The Real History of the End of the World
Author: Sharan Newman
Number of Pages: 313 pages
Book Number/Goal: 17/50 for 2011
My Rating: 3.5/5

Jacket Summary: Ever since people realized that things have a beginning and an end, they have wondered if the world was fated to end. In entertaining and sharp prose, historian Sharan Newman explores the various theories of world destruction from ancient times to the present day--theories that reveal as much about human nature as they do about the predominant historical, scientific, and religious beliefs of the times.

Review: Does what it says on the tin. This was an easy read, and it was interesting seeing how so many people throughout history have felt that they were living in the end times.
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Title: Sea, Swallow Me
Author: Craig Laurance Gidney
Number of Pages: 199 pages
Book Number/Goal: 16/50 for 2011
My Rating: 2.5/5

Jacket Summary: Ancient folklore and modern myth come together in these stories by author Craig Laurance Gidney. Here are found the struggles of a medieval Japanese monk, seduced by a mischievous fairy, and a young slave who finds mystery deep within the briar patch of an antebellum plantation. Gidney offers readers a gay teen obsessed with his patron saint, Lena Horne, and, in the title story, an ailing tourist seeking to escape his troubles at a distant shore, but who never anticipates encountering an African seagod. Rich, poetic, dark and disturbing, these are tales not soon forgotten.

Review: Honestly I wasn't really impressed with this book. There were a few stories I really liked and the rest were just okay. Also, the copy I have is an ARC, so it's got a lot of mistakes, which hopefully were corrected in the final proof (the most annoying one was in the Japanese story, where Amaterasu was misspelled as Amaratsu throughout the story).
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I'm not doing a proper review post for these because I've already posted reviews for the later ones in the past and I just don't feel like it! But I wanted to make a note, since my count is going to skip a bunch. :p

Anyway, I really enjoyed rereading these. The series has a lot of problems, but I do like it a lot, and while books 1-4 were somewhat fresh in my mind from playing Lego Harry Potter, it had been long enough since I'd read the last three books that I really couldn't remember much at all, so it was almost as good as reading them for the first time.

And now I will probably be reading HP fic for a while...
torachan: charlotte from bad machinery saying "oh the mysteries of the moth farm" (oh the mysteries of the moth farm)
Title: I Shall Wear Midnight
Author: Terry Pratchett
Number of Pages: 368 pages
Book Number/Goal: 8/50 for 2011
My Rating: 5/5

Amazon Summary: This is the final adventure of the young witch, Tiffany Aching, and her obnoxious, fawning, and yet lovable small blue companions, the Nac Mac Feegles. In many ways it's a coming-of-age novel, as Tiffany is now on her own. Known as "The Hag O'the Hills," she spends her time tending to the messy, menial, everyday things that no one else will take care of, such as fixing bones or easing the pain of a dying man. But as she tries to serve the people of the Chalk hills, she senses a growing distrust of her, and a loss of respect for witches in general. Along with the Nac Mac Feegles, she has to seek out the source of this growing fear. Tiffany discovers she may have been responsible for waking an evil force when she kissed the winter in Wintersmith. The Cunning Man is in need of a host body and is searching for Tiffany.

Review: I missed the other junior witches and wished there was more of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, but I loved Mrs Proust and Letitia and especially Preston. The actual story with the Cunning Man didn't grab me that much, though. I think of the four, Wintersmith and A Hat Full of Sky are my favorites (especially A Hat Full of Sky). One thing I really didn't like about this one is that I hate when the plot of something requires everyone to hate/misunderstand the main character. I actually find it really hard to read. So all the parts where people were being affected by the Cunning Man and turning against Tiffany were really unpleasant. (Also the stuff with Roland.)
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Title: Wintersmith
Author: Terry Pratchett
Number of Pages: 295 pages
Book Number/Goal: 7/50 for 2011
My Rating: 5/5

Jacket Summary: When witch-in-training Tiffany Aching accidentally interrupts the Dance of the Seasons and awakens the interest of the elemental spirit of Winter, she requires the help of the six-inch-high, sword-wielding, sheep-stealing Wee Free Men to put the seasons aright.

Review: These Tiffany Aching books just keep getting better and better. I loved Miss Treason and her Boffo, and Annagramma. And omg Horace! Horace was the best! And I'm liking Roland, too. (And of course Tiffany and Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, as well.)
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Title: A Hat Full of Sky
Author: Terry Pratchett
Number of Pages: 350 pages
Book Number/Goal: 6/50 for 2011
My Rating: 5/5

Jacket Summary: A real witch can ride a broomstick, cast spells and make a proper shamble out of anything. Eleven-year-old Tiffany Aching can't. A real witch never casually steps out of her body, leaving it empty. Tiffany does. And there's something just waiting for a handy body to take over. Something ancient and horrible, which can't die. Now she's got to fight back and learn to be a real witch really quickly, with the help of arch-witch Mistress Weatherwax and the truly amazing Miss Level... 'Crivens! And us!' Oh, yes. And the Nac Mac Feegle - the rowdiest, toughest, smelliest bunch of fairies ever to be thrown out of Fairyland for being drunk at two in the afternoon. They'll fight anything. And even they might not be enough...

Review: I liked this a lot more than the first one. I hadn't been planning to read it all in one day, but I read the first hundred pages on the bus yesterday, then kept reading a chapter here and there when I got home, and finally just ignored everything else to finish it. :p I loved Miss Level, and of course Granny Weatherwax.
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Title: The Handmaid's Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Number of Pages: 395 pages
Book Number/Goal: 5/50 for 2011
My Rating: 3/5

Jacket Summary: Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...everything has changed.

Review: This was interesting and well-written, but I wasn't wowed. It felt very dated in that way old sci-fi often does and some things were just so over the top I was laughing (like the pornomobiles or whatever). Offred annoyed me. The fact that the only non-heterosexual person in the story was a political lesbian annoyed me (Offred specifically says that Moira "decided to prefer women" because she was sick of men's misogyny). The way race is not dealt with at all annoyed me (clearly the author was aware that she was writing an entirely white world with Gilead, because the epilogue is all people of color talking about the history of Gilead at some conference or something, but no one in Offred's story or in the epilogue makes any mention of what happened to all the people of color in the US when it became Gilead; they all just act as if there were only white people there to begin with, idk). (Also the way the few non-Gilead people of color are described is so stereotypical. The Japanese tourists snapping photos of everything and the Arabs dressed in "white robes and headbands" or something. I don't remember the exact wording.)
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Title: The Time Traveler's Wife
Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Number of Pages: 518 pages
Book Number/Goal: 4/50 for 2011
My Rating: 2/5

Jacket Summary: When Henry meets Clare, he is twenty-eight and she is twenty. He is a hip librarian; she is a beautiful art student. Henry has never met Clare before; Clare has known Henry since she was six...

Review: I wanted to read this because it's an interesting idea and I like time-travel stuff. This guy can time-travel, but it's not something he can control or something that he needs any sort of device for. It's a genetic thing that causes him to randomly travel in time (and space as well; he doesn't just end up in the same place but a different time), especially when he's stressed, etc.

Anyway, so. The idea was cool, but I can't say I was that fond of the book itself. I don't find it "dizzyingly romantic" as the blurb on the back cover says, but neither did I find it creepy as I've heard some people say (he often meets his wife when she was a kid and teenager, but I didn't get a creepy vibe from that myself).

I might have given it a three for the story, but it was so overwhelmingly white, straight, and heteronormative that I kept getting annoyed. Everyone is white except for a handful of minor characters, who are all described in skeevy ways and are total stereotypes. There are two black women, one of whom is an angry lesbian with dreads and the other is Clare's family's cook. There is the Korean woman, Mrs Kim, who practically raised Henry when his mother died, and also takes care of his father. Other than the angry lesbian, the only other queer character is a friend of Henry's who's there for a few pages and of course has AIDS.

ETA: This is the problem with book reviews. I never remember at the end the things I was thinking while I was reading. But I just now remembered one of the things that I found so eyerolly and irritating was how she gets pregnant. Because of course she has to have a baby or their love isn't true (and of course they can't adopt, because that would be "faking" (which, wow, totally made me want to slap her)). Henry comes from the past, finds himself in bed with Clare and himself, and just fucks her while she's sleeping, and that's how she gets pregnant. Soooooo gross romantic!
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Title: Lost City Radio
Author: Daniel Alarcón
Number of Pages: 257 pages
Book Number/Goal: 3/50 for 2011
My Rating: 3.5/5

Jacket Summary: For ten years, Norma has been the on-air voice of consolation and hope for the Indians in the mountains and the poor from the barrios--a people broken by war's violence. As the host of Lost City Radio, she reads the names of those who have disappeared--those whom the furiously expanding city has swallowed. Through their efforts lovers are reunited and the lost are found. But in the aftermath of the decadelong bloody civil conflict, her own life is about to forever change--thanks to teh arrival of a young boy from the jungle who provides a cryptic clue to the fate of Norma's vanished husband.

Review: I just didn't find this all that interesting. It seemed like he was always building things up like there would be some great reveal or intrigue and there just never was. It's not that I don't like books where everyone is ordinary and nothing surprising happens, but this made me feel like there was supposed to be something surprising and it was all just predictable and ordinary instead.
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Title: The History of White People
Author: Nell Irvin Painter
Number of Pages: 496 pages
Book Number/Goal: 2/50 for 2011
My Rating: 4.5/5

Amazon Summary: Who are white people and where did they come from? Elementary questions with elusive, contradictory, and complicated answers set historian Painter's inquiry into motion. From notions of whiteness in Greek literature to the changing nature of white identity in direct response to Malcolm X and his black power successors, Painter's wide-ranging response is a who's who of racial thinkers and a synoptic guide to their work. Her commodious history of an idea accommodates Caesar; Saint Patrick, history's most famous British slave of the early medieval period; Madame de Staël; and Emerson, the philosopher king of American white race theory. Painter reviews the diverse cast in their intellectual milieus, linking them to one another across time and language barriers. Conceptions of beauty (ideals of white beauty firmly embedded in the science of race), social science research, and persistent North/South stereotypes prove relevant to defining whiteness. What we can see, the author observes, depends heavily on what our culture has trained us to look for. For the variable, changing, and often capricious definition of whiteness, Painter offers a kaleidoscopic lens.

Review: This was an interesting book, but I often felt like I was slogging through a textbook trying to read it (especially the early chapters), so I kept setting it down and it actually took me several months to finally finish. I just didn't find the writing style engaging at all, otherwise I would probably have given it five stars.

But it was interesting, and I learned a lot of things about famous people of the past (none of them good) that I didn't know before. It was also interesting to see how little anti-immigrant rhetoric has changed. A lot of things people were saying about Irish, Italian, Eastern European, Jewish, etc. immigrants is pretty much word for word what people say about Latin@ immigrants today. A lot of "oh noes, the right people aren't having enough babies and the wrong people are having too many!" and that sort of thing. Except it wasn't Those Brown People who were going to destroy the White Race, is was Those Other Inferior White People.

Also, while this book is called The History of White People, it's very US-centric. She traces things from Europe to the US, but once she gets to the US, she really never talks about whiteness elsewhere for the rest of the book.
torachan: maru the cat sitting in a bucket (maru)
Title: The Wee Free Men
Author: Terry Pratchett
Number of Pages: 318 pages
Book Number/Goal: 1/50 for 2011
My Rating: 5/5

Jacket Summary: There's trouble on the Aching farm - nightmares spreading down from the hills. And Tiffany Aching's little brother has been stolen away. To get him back, Tiffany has a weapon (a frying pan), her granny's magic book (well, Diseases of the Sheep) - and the Nac Mac Feegle, the Weee Free Men, the fightin', thievin', tiny blue-skinned pictsies who were thrown out of Fairyland for being Drunk and Disorderly...

Review: I liked this a lot, but then I would have been surprised if I hadn't. It's Pratchett, after all. Although it is a Discworld book, it didn't really feel Discworldish to me, and I can't really explain why. I had the same feeling with The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. It's not just that it's mostly cut-off from other Discworld locations and characters... Anyway, it's a fun book and I'm looking forward to reading the rest in the series.

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