Last year I set a goal of 50, based on what I had read in 2010, and then only managed 25 (though if you count manga, I read 177 books total). Here it is the end of January and I've only finished one book (which I think I had actually read quite a bit of in 2011), but I'm still going to try for 25 this year. After all, not every book will be 1000+ pages like this one was!

Title: The Dark Tower
Author: Stephen King
Number of Pages: 1072 pages
Book Number/Goal: 1/25 for 2012
My Rating: 5/5

Summary: Roland’s ka-tet is reunited, but not without cost. The last episode of the story takes them on the final stretch of their journey to The Dark Tower. Though they have rescued Susannah, there are still enemies who must be dealt with along the way and who could be their ultimate destruction. The journey is long and ka is but a wheel.

Review: This book was dense, and had so much going on it felt like several books (like, in the future, I'm sure I'll forget which stuff happened in this book because it felt like it spanned so much time that surely stuff at the beginning must have been in a previous book). Overall I felt pretty happy with how things wrapped up. I was sad about Eddie, but especially about Jake, who I'd really hoped would make it to the end, so I was really happy that Susannah was reunited with an alternate version of them. The ending felt right to me, though I do wonder if Roland is redoing things over and over so that they're different (like maybe next time he will have different companions, etc.) and if so are the Beams really breaking over and over? Or is he just going back in time to relive the same events the same way? Oh! And I especially loved the stuff about John, Aaron, and Moses and would totally read a whole book about them and the Tet Corporation and everything going on in the keystone world.

Anyway, it feels weird to be done with the series. I first read The Gunslinger in 9th grade, so over twenty years ago. O_o That's kind of a long time to be reading a series.
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.
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
Title: Wizard and Glass
Author: Stephen King
Number of Pages: 672 pages
Book Number/Goal: 58/75 for 2009
My Rating: 4/5

I had hoped that this would be the year I finally finished reading The Dark Tower. That's...obviously not going to happen. But at least it's the year I finally finish rereading the books I read years ago, so that I can finally read the final three.

I read Wizard and Glass not long after it came out, so it's been a while. I found there was a lot I didn't remember, though I still remembered the gist of things. I wasn't quite as annoyed by the detour this time around, since I have the final three right here, whereas the first time I read it, I'd been waiting years and years for a new book in the series and then instead of furthering the plot, it was all backstory.

Still, I didn't like this as much as the first three books. Which is weird, because usually I love backstory and flashbacks and reveals and all that sort of stuff, but I just find the story of Roland's time in Hambry really dull. I mean, obviously I still liked the book, since I gave it a four, but really. Especially anything to do with Roland and Susan was just beyond tedious. Someone needs to sit Stephen King down and tell him not to write romance, because it's really not his strong suit.

I won't be starting Wolves of the Calla right yet, because it's super long and would take most of the rest of the year to read. Instead I'll read short books to try and get closer to my goal. XD Then Wolves of the Calla will probably be one of the first books I read in 2010. :)
Title: Fording the Stream of Consciousness [read in Russian translation]
Author: Dubravka Ugrešić
Book Number/Goal: 111/150

This novel is extremely self-conscious & hilarious in that slightly histerical way. The plot boils down to this: the high Party functionaries of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia organize an international writers' conference, at which several writers are murdered, several manuscripts are stolen, and several interviews are forged, and, oh, one uber-spy is striving for control over all world's literature. Ugrešić casually makes fun of the literary establishment, totalitarian rhetorics, post-colonial rhetorics, feminist discourse, masculine discourse, and pretty much everything else she sees, which makes for a refreshing read.

Title: Technologies of Gender [read in Ukrainian translation]
Author: Teresa de Lauretis
Genre: gender studies
Book Number/Goal: 112/150

An analysis of ways gender is constructed in mass culture texts.

Title: Song of Susannah [Dark Tower VI]
Author: Stephen King
Genre: fantasy
Book Number/Goal: 113/150

7 books is too much even for most skillful narrators. Even most pressing intrigue rapidly devolves into a parody of itself if stretched over hundreds and hundreds of pages. One of the most important questions of the series got answered in this installment, but at this point, I couldn't care less *how* the problem got resolved, just that it would end at last.
Also, why the hell had King decided that bringing himself into the story as Demiurg almighty was a good (or at least not-too-disastrous) idea?

Title: The Morning Star [Shadow of the Templar I]
Author: M. Chandler
Genre: m/m romance, spy novel
Book Number/Goal: 114/150

As the villain tries to create laser swords (or something equally SF-sounding & puzzling), the art thief & the FBI agent pursuing him are forced to cooperate in order to save world peace and democracy (or something). Of course, slash ensues. On the plus side, this novel has more plot than most m/m romances, and some of its dialogues shine & sparkle. But what jumbled sequence of events pass for plot here was not too gripping, and the romance could use some build-up (it just appeared out of the blue in the epilogue, as if in afterthought).

Title: Novalis in Selbstzeugnissen und Bilddokumenten [read in Russian translation]
Author: Gerhard Schulz
Genre: biography
Book Number/Goal: 115/150
Title: On the Other Hand, Death [2d Donald Strachey mystery novel]
Author: Richard Stevenson
Genre: mystery, m/m romance
Book Number/Goal: 106/150

The plot of this novel pretty much lagged & stumbled rather than moved, but it features a charming elderly lesbian couple of retired teachers as supporting characters, which ensured my eternal devotion to the author. The main characters are interesting, well drawn-out & with realistic flaws too.

Title: Wolves of Calla [Dark Tower V]
Author: Stephen King
Genre: fantasy
Book Number/Goal: 107/150

Better plotted than most of the previous novels, but the frantic search for signs the characters indulge in reminds me of paranoid conspiracy theories rather than actual, y'know, plot developments :)

Title: Український патріот з династії Габсбургів [Ukrainian - "Ukrainian Patriot from the Habsburg Dynasty"]
Author: Терещенко Ю., Осташко Т.
Genre: biography
Book Number/Goal: 108/150

A biography of Archduke Wilhelm of Austria, who's definitely one of my favourite characters in Ukrainian history. Read wikipedia, seriously - this guy's life reads like a spy novel, in good biographer's hands, that is. While I'm immensely happy that his biography had at last appeared in Ukrainian, I wasn't quite happy with it: it's too impersonal, never gives any human touches & is written in Soviet historiographic style. On the plus side, Wilhelm's autobiography & poetry are included.

Title: Mythologies [read in Russian translation]
Author: Roland Barthes
Genre: cultural history?
Book Number/Goal: 109/150

A collection of essays in which Barthes explicates ideological messages out of all sorts of cultural artifacts, from politicians' photos to detergent ads. A cool read.

Title: 120 сторінок Содому. Сучасна світова лесбі/гей/бі література. Квір-антологія [Ukrainian - "120 pages of Sodom. Contemporary LGB literature. Queer anthology"]
Author: various
Genre: anthology
Book Number/Goal: 110/150

This might be the book of the year for me. It's the first anthology of such sort on post-Soviet territories, and I'm immensely happy that this happened in Ukraine, that there are people courageous enough to arrange and print such a book despite it's presentation nearly getting prohibited and then being stormed by rampant homophobes. The texts are a mixed bag, which is always the case with anthologies, I guess, but there were some truly brilliant ones. And as a cultural event, it's priceless.
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([personal profile] potted_music Aug. 1st, 2009 12:06 am)
Title: Narratology
Author: Wolf Schmidt
Genre: litcrit
Book Number/Goal: 71/150

Title: Persepolis [2 volumes, English translation]
Author: Marjane Satrape
Genre: graphic novel, autobiography
Book Number/Goal: 72/150

This autobiographical coming-of-age story of the Iranian girl in the years following the revolution sure was an interesting read, but just in the way travelogues are interesting. It treats all the cliched topics in all the cliched ways: dictatorships are bad, massacres are bad, the state intruding on the private lives of its citizens is bad... nothing a reader could not have surmised on her own.

Title: Tele Vision
Author: Jacques Lacan
Book Number/Goal: 73/150

I chose it as a Lacan primer because it's quite short, and I had a bilingual French-Russian edition, which allowed me to brush up on my French somewhat. Though this book might be interesting, it's definitely not a place to start reading Lacan, as it explains nothing, referring to some of his established concepts without going into any detail.

Title: Woman in the Dunes [read in Ukrainian translation]
Author: Kobo Abe
Book Number/Goal: 74/150

A man gets kidnapped to help local villagers shovel ever-shifting sands. The tale is Kafkaesque in its mundane horror - not quite so bleak on the surface (which, I think, is a plus), but all the more horrific for it in the long run (for the defeat gets treated like a win).

Title: Очерк истории европейского стиха [read in Russian - Notes on the History of European Verse]
Author: М. Гаспаров [M. Hasparov]
Genre: litcrit
Book Number/Goal: 75/150

Title: Wizard and Glass [the 4th book of the Dark Tower series]
Author: Stephen King
Genre: fantasy
Book Number/Goal: 76/150

I'm pretty torn about this volume. On the one hand, I like King's writing style (audiobooks do bring out how *precise* he is with his words, how effectively he uses assonances & alliterations & stuff), but he doesn't always know when to stop, so many descriptive passages get repetitive & redundant. The plot, a volume-long flashback created for infodumpy purposes, felt like too much of a digression, and could have been much shorter (and, I feel, more powerful for it).

Title: Magic or Madness
Author: Justine Larbalestier
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Book Number/Goal: 77/150
Title: Magic Lessons
Author: Justine Larbalestier
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Book Number/Goal: 78/150
Title: Magic's Child
Author: Justine Larbalestier
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Book Number/Goal: 79/150

Liked the premise of this trilogy: magic users die when they run out of magic, but if they don't use it at all, they go mad. One hell of a choice that is - but the finale felt like an easy way out. The plot never quite grabbed me, and some plot points (like teenage pregnancy - yuck) just plain-out squicked me.

Title: Somebody Killed His Editor
Author: Josh Lanyon
Genre: mystery, romance
Book Number/Goal: 80/150

For an author writing romace for a mostly female audience, Lanyon sure disses both his genre, target audience AND fellow writers a lot. The protagonist of the novel is a middle-aged writer stuck at the writers' retreat, spouting insults at his co-attendants & investigating some murders. This constant stream of insults might be perceived as an attempt at creating a flawed narrator, but this made him too unlikeable for me to really care about.

Title: Palimpsest
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Genre: urban fantasy
Book Number/Goal: 81/150

Loved it to the point of imposing the book on several friends. Beautifully written, and with a great premise - it's an urban fantasy in a sense that a city is the protagonist, a sexually-tansmitted dream-city. I don't get what purpose the non-linear narration was serving though.

Title: The Book of Dreams
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Genre: fantasy
Book Number/Goal: 82/150

The tale of shifting identity, much like Palimpsest; beautifully written too. It's a tale of a woman from mediaeval Japan living through a number of myths in her dreams (Osiris&Isis, Oedipus Rex as told by the Sphinx, etc.). The only downside is, I'm not big on the essentialist idea of womanhood pushed forward in this novella, as some points (predestination, all-women-are-one, etc.) make me uncomfortable.

Title: Lawrence of Arabia
Author: Alistair MacLean
Genre: biography
Book Number/Goal: 83/150

I had high hopes for this one, as I adore both MacLean's prose and T.E. Lawrence, but it turned out to be a huge let-down. It's a simple retelling of Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but without the gorgeous descriptive passages and sharp observations that made the latter book such a rewarding read.

Title: Микола Лукаш. Від Бокаччо до Аполлінера [re-read, read in Ukrainian - the anthology of translations by Mykola Lukash from Boccaccio to Apollinaire]
Author: various
Genre: poetry
Book Number/Goal: 84/150

The ouevre of this legendary Ukrainian translator is interesting on so many points - the way some things, which would have got censored in original writing, could be smuggled into print via translations, etc. What grabbed me the most on this re-read though is how, while rendering most European meters masterfully, he fails with Japanese poetry. His failure is spectacular in its own way, as he is the only Ukrainian translator (that I know of) who tried recreating the wordplays, but such wordplays become just puns & good clean fun in translations, which misses the point of most poems.

Title: Sakura Gari [2 volumes, English translation]
Author: Watase Yuu
Genre: yaoi, historical, manga
Book Number/Goal: 85/150

Gave it a try because the art is pretty, and the Taishou Era (which this story is set in) is not often used in manga, but the plot is nothing to write home about. It features some of the most unlikeable characters I have ever encountered, as well as the good old "rape is how love is spelled in Japanese" trope.


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