Title: The Undomestic Goddess
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Number of pages: 432
Genre: humor, romance
Book Number/Goal: 49/52
My Rating: 4/5

Samantha, a young talented workaholic lawyer, makes a grave mistake which means the end of her career. She panics, runs away, and accidentally accepts a job of housekeeper, even though she was raised to be a businesswoman and has zero practical skills in housework.

Samantha is a sympathetic character for her optimism and ingenuity. Apart from her initial blunder, she never gives up even when the failure is imminent, and is rewarded by lucky coincidences that get her out of sticky situations. There's a bit of romance but it's largely going on the background and does not become the main focus of the story. Funny, easy, relaxing reading.
Title: Keys to the Coven: A Hellfire Universe Contemporary Urban Fantasy
Author: Vicky Loebel
Number of pages: 360
Genre: fantasy, romance
Book Number/Goal: 30/52
My Rating: 3/5

A demon's life is hard, even though he is already dead. A witch forces Max to accept a problematic promise. Now he is stuck with a task he's obliged to accomplish, but eventually he realizes that it comes into conflict not only with his code of honor, but also with his feelings.

The book's universe is detailed and amusing, with well-developed rules for magic, karma, demons and angels and witches, and other supernatural creatures. However, the core of the story is romance, including explicit erotic scenes of mostly traditional, consensual sex. Maybe it's a perfect story for a romance lover, but I had to skip pages and pages of pointless drag. There's a lot of enjoyable scenes, in particular, the bureaucracy of Hell, but not enough to counter-balance the overload of fluff.
Title: Soulless
Author: Gail Carriger
Number of Pages: 384 pages
Book Number/Goal: 8/10 for 2012
My Rating: 2/5

Amazon Summary: Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire -- and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

Review: I saw these books talked up so much on my friends list that it got me curious, but I think had I read the reviews a little more closely, I would have realised that they were Not For Me. All I really knew was supernatural! steampunk! female protagonist! And for some reason I didn't make the connection that it was a paranormal romance... A lot of people on my flist love paranormal romance, but everything I have seen about the genre has just been utterly unappealing, and this book did nothing to change my mind in that regard. All the tropes of "ooh powerful alpha male beast man" just...gag. Not for me, thanks.

And speaking of tropes that are not for me, I really am picky about vampires and werewolves, and this book was just chock full of all the things I don't like in such stories, from the terminology to the "pack" and "hive" dynamics of werewolves and vampires, respectively. I found Alexia's soullessness to be vaguely interesting, but not enough to make up for the annoyingness of other tropes.

Also, the writing itself was just really not my thing. Exposition and epithets abound, as well as constant switching between people's names (for example, Alexia goes from being referred to as Alexia to Miss Tarabotti from sentence to sentence, and the same with other characters). And so much telling. I did not need to read paragraph after paragraph where Alexia and Lord Maccon think "why do I feel this way, I hate him/her!" and stuff like that.

It was very slow-moving for most of the book, though it did finally catch my interest towards the end (last 100 or so pages of the ebook, so maybe last 50ish in print) when all the excitement was happening and the pace picked up (which is my only reason for bumping it up to two stars; I had been planning on giving it one up until then). But this is really a romance with light trappings of mystery when I would have preferred the latter.

Oh, and this is just a small thing, but I just couldn't get behind the use of preternatural as an antonym of supernatural. They mean the exact same thing!
Title: Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1)
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Number of pages: 544
Genre: romance, fantasy
Book Number/Goal: 24/50
My Rating: 1.5/5

Review: I admit that romance is not my cup of tea, so I may be biased. I had picked this book to see what's all the hype is about, and I found the experience unfulfilling. The setting is boring, the action is slow, there are no adventures, catastrophes or torture - nothing happens besides the school stuff and relationships. Bella Swan is the most unsympathetic protagonist ever, plain and shallow and self-absorbed, she's either moping, whining or admiring her "perfect" boyfriend. Edward Cullen, being a control freak and borderline creepy, is somewhat more likeable, but he's neither violent nor suffering enough to be truly interesting.

The basic premises sound artificially constructed and implausible (Bella's irresistible attractiveness to vampires, weird ethics of Cullen family, and the incomprehensible refusal to solve all the problems by turning Bella into a vampire, seeing that there are no apparent downsides of being one). There's no sense of tension and drama because I didn't care what happens to the characters, and it's a chore to get through all the high school gossip. The only redeeming scenes are the ones with the vampire-hunter at the end, that guy comes off as genuinely dangerous and brutal - unfortunately, they're spoiled by knowing that everyone who matters will survive for the sequels.

For some reason, this book is extremely popular, so maybe it's great in its own way - but it's not for me.

To be fair, Midnight Sun: Edward's Version of Twilight is much better, at least the beginning, before the family stuff starts. An insight into a mind of a killer contemplating the best way to kill his prey is much closer to my idea of entertainment!
Title: Secret History; or, The Horrors of St. Domingo" and "Laura"
Author: Leonora Sansay
Number of pages: 320
Genre: history, romance
Book Number/Goal: 21/50
My Rating: 3/5, 1/5

This book contains 2 unrelated stories. The first is an epistolary novel which takes place during the Haitian Revolution. The protagonist (a white French woman) describes the mayhem and atrocities she had witnessed or heard of during her travels, periodically focusing on the issues of her sister who belongs to society's elite but is unhappy in marriage and suffers from her abusive husband. She also recalls various episodes from the "peaceful" period of St. Domingue's colonial past.

The book was written in the beginning of 19th century (it's partly autobiographical) so the writing style is old-fashioned and somewhat hard to follow. As a work of fiction, it's rather unexciting, and the characters are neither interesting nor memorable. But the informal way of describing events and details helps to imagine the time period more vividly.

The second story is a simple, boring romance, practically unreadable and good only as a sample of literary fiction of that period. I browsed it anyway because it was bundled together with the 1st story, and rated it separately because it was so inferior.
Title: Slave Jade: Formerly Kidnapped
Author: Claire Thompson
Number of pages: 162
Genre: romance
Book Number/Goal: 20/50
My Rating: 3.5/5

A lonely nerd who enjoys roleplaying a "master" on an Internet BDSM site gets obsessed with one of his online girlfriends, figures out her RL identity and kidnaps her in order to bring his freaky fantasies into reality. The story is similar to "Obsession" by the same author, which also describes kidnapping and training a non-consenting slave using torture/abuse and brainwashing techniques, but "Slave Jade" is considerably less romantic and more realistic. Unfortunately, realism doesn't make the action more exciting (rather, opposite) because the male protagonist is a delusional loser and hardly inspires any sympathy. Still, the book provides quick and easy weekend reading and has its highlights. The moral of the story seems to be "do not trust people you meet on the Internet, and never share personal information" ;)
Title: Obsession - Girl Abducted
Author: Claire Thompson
Number of pages: 178
Genre: romance
Book Number/Goal: 6/50
My Rating: 4.5/5

This book is about a stalker who abducts a movie star he has a crush on, and makes her his sex slave. The tone of the story is perfect: I love the non-con BDSM (consensual stuff doesn't turn me on) and the main character's need to control his slave completely. The process of breaking and brainwashing the captive sounds very convincing, as well as the abuse being the expression of the torturer's genuine love for his victim, to which I can relate 100%. The scenes are nicely descriptive and without excessive fluff.

Unfortunately, there's practically no plot to speak of and no mystery/intrigue (unless one counts "will he succeed to make her totally submissive?" and this is completely predictable). The book is rather repetitive, both with action scenes, even despite a new torture introduced in every chapter, and with thoughts/feelings; for example, all the "progress reports" sound basically the same - the captor ruminates on the slave getting more compliant but still not good enough. I understand that repetition is probably a constraint of the genre, but I believe it *is* possible to combine porn with action/adventure/mystery.

In any case it was a light, relaxing and enjoyable reading. Also, was much amused by this Amazon review - such kind of bashing is the best recommendation. Will keep an eye for similar novels!
My list/goal can be found here.

Title: Fatal Shadows.
Author: Josh Lanyon.
Number of Pages: 232.
Genre: Mystery, LGBT, romance.
Book Number/Goal: 15 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: A Dangerous Thing.
Author: Josh Lanyon.
Number of Pages: 248.
Genre: Mystery, LGBT, romance.
Book Number/Goal: 16 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: The Hell You Say.
Author: Josh Lanyon.
Number of Pages: 230.
Genre: Mystery, LGBT, romance.
Book Number/Goal: 17 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: Death of a Pirate King.
Author: Josh Lanyon.
Number of Pages: 248.
Genre: Mystery, LGBT, romance.
Book Number/Goal: 18 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.

Title: The Dark Tide.
Author: Josh Lanyon.
Number of Pages: 304.
Genre: Mystery, LGBT, romance.
Book Number/Goal: 19 of 75 (minimum).
Review: Here.
Title: Honey & Honey [WIP, 19 chapters, read in English translation]
Author: Takeuchi Sachiko
Genre: yuri, autobiography
Book Number/Goal: 91/150

An autobiographical narrative purported to explain the finer points of the lesbian lifestyle (TM) to unsuspecting straight readers. I don't get the point though - I mean, what's there to explain? The whole story ranged from boring to embarassing, like listening to a couple discussing their relationship loudly in public transport.

Title: Pumpkin & Mayonnaise [WIP, 5 chapters, read in English translation]
Author: Kiriko Nananan
Genre: drama
Book Number/Goal: 92/150

A story of a girl supporting her unemployed striving musician boyfriend. Refreshingly realistic for manga, which often leans to more outlandish plots. Will make sure to read on as the new chapters get scanlated.

Title: I Spy Something Bloody
Author: Josh Lanyon
Genre: m/m romance
Book Number/Goal: 93/150

One of the more forgettable works, with no plot to speak of.

Title: Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison [read in Ukrainian translation]
Author: Michel Foucault
Genre: cultural history
Book Number/Goal: 94/150

Part of my attempt to read up on cultural history classics.

Title: Романи Куліша
Author: Віктор Домонтович
Genre: biography/drama
Book Number/Goal: 95/150

The title plays on the double meaning of the word "Романи", which in Ukrainian can denote either "novels" or "romantic relationships", thus providing both an intimate & a critical look on Kulish, one of the classical Ukrainian realist writers. This book jumps from close reading of Kulish's novels to fictionalized accounts of his personal life with startling nonchalance; makes me sorry that there are so few such biographies in Ukrainian literature :(

Title: Comrade Loves of the Samurai [read in English translation]
Author: Ihara Saikaku
Genre: drama
Book Number/Goal: 96/150

Several Saikaku's m/m-centered short stories which I had not, to the best of my knowledge, read before. Makes me wonder whether he was familiar with the Decameron?

Title: Reading Lolita in Tehran
Author: Azar Nafisi
Genre: autobiography
Book Number/Goal: 97/150

A sort of autobiography, or the biography of an era, as told through reading experiences - which is all sorts of awesome. Azar Nafisi tells a story of a reading club she had organized for her students in the wake of the Iranian revolution, recounting the girls' experiences and her country's history through the way her acquaintances read books. "Lolita" pops up in the title because she draws parallels between the way Humbert robs Lolita of her personal narrative (as we only see her through his 1st-person POV) and the way Iranian women get shaped by the image the rulers have of them as Moslem women. An interesting, if terrifying read.

Title: An Artist of the Flowating World
Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Genre: drama, historical
Book Number/Goal: 98/150

This follows the life of a once-succesful Japanese painter in the aftermath of the WW II. Liked the rambling, roaming style, and the way some events, like the bruning of paintings, crop up again & again, shaping the narrative.

Title: Cards on the Table
Author: Josh Lanyon
Genre: m/m romance, murder mystery
Book Number/Goal: 99/150

Forgettable to the point I had to open the file to know what it was about - not even a week after I've read it!

Title: Dangerous Ground
Author: Josh Lanyon
Genre: m/m romance
Book Number/Goal: 100/150

Lanyon has once stated that soldiers & FBI agents are hot in the genre, and this novella is his attempt at exploiting this trend. If this is your thing, this might be an enjoyable read, but there's little besides the trend there.

Title: Snowball in Hell
Author: Josh Lanyon
Genre: m/m romance, murder mystery
Book Number/Goal: 101/150

A piece set in LA during WW II, dealing with the theme of homophobia (both internalized & coming from the world at large) first and foremost. One of the better Lanyon's works, if depressing.

Title: The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks
Author: Josh Lanyon
Genre: m/m romance, murder mystery
Book Number/Goal: 102/150

A cool murder mystery with a healthy dollop of Gothic sensibility - my cup of tea exactly!

Title: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
Author: Erving Goffman
Genre: cultural history
Book Number/Goal: 103/150

An enlightening read; also, surprising how fine a line between fiction and non-fiction is for classical works of sociology/cultural history XD

Title: Kant's Aesthetics [read in Russian]
Author: Afasizhev M.
Genre: philosophy
Book Number/Goal: 104/150

I usually have hard times getting into philosophy treatises, as they seem too abstract to me; tracing the impact some ideas had on cultural axioms up to our times is fun though :) For example, I'm pretty sure that the idea that true art (TM) should be a selfless act not to be paid for (to the extent that said selflesness becomes one of its defining characteristics) was to a large extent made popular by Kant.

Title: Death Trick [1st volume of Donald Strachey murder mysteries]
Author: Richard Stevenson
Genre: murder mystery
Book Number/Goal: 105/150

Read it after Lanyon, so couldn't help comparing the two. Stevenson wins for portraying the gay scene (his characters do not just float in space! they interact with other people, some of whom are gay too!) & avoiding the much-dread "true love heals all" trope, but his plots seem less tight than those of the better Lanyon novels.
heravuo: (Default)
([personal profile] heravuo Aug. 8th, 2009 08:00 pm)
Title: Other People's Weddings
Author: Noah Hawley
Number of Pages: 278
Genre: romance
Book Number/Goal: 1 of 30 to be read in a year

Short review here
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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.
Title: The Lollipop Shoes.
Author: Joanne Harris.
Number of Pages: 496.
Genre: Speculative fiction, romance.
Book Number/Goal: 20/50 from my list.

Review: Here.
Title: Tipping the Velvet.
Author: Sarah Waters.
Number of Pages: 472.
Genre: Historical fiction, LGBT romance.
Book Number/Goal: 19/50 from my list.

Review: Here.
Title: The Vintner's Luck.
Author: Elizabeth Knox.
Number of Pages: 241.
Genre: Speculative fiction, LGBT romance.
Book Number/Goal: 18/50 from my list.

Review: Here.
Title: Northanger Abbey
Author: Jane Austen
Genre: romance-gothic mixture?
Book Number/Goal: 56/150

insta-reaction )

Title: The Best American Poetry 2005
Author: ed. by Paul Muldoon & David Lehman
Book Number/Goal: 57/150

insta-reaction )

58/150 - four Gothic-themed stories that I'm counting as one book.

The Canterville Ghost, by Oscar Wilde; Sarrasine, by Honore de Balzac; The Legend of the Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving; The Camp of the Dog, by Algernon Blackwood )

Title: Maus [2 volumes]
Author: Art Spiegelman
Genre: biography
Book Number/Goal: 59/150

insta-reaction )

Title: The Wisdom of Father Brown
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Genre: mystery
Book Number/Goal: 60/150

insta-reaction )


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