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Title: Gap Creek, audio version
Author: Robert Morgan
Rating: 8.2

Another one of these random audio books from the library—an “Oprah Book” so you know it’s going to be depressing right off the bat. This guy wrote the book as sort of a loose biography of his grandma. It’s the tale of Julie and Hank in their first year of marriage in the Blue Ridge mountains at the turn of the century. All sorts of tragic things happen—fires, floods, miscarriages—and a lot of the book is descriptions of all the work Julie has to do to maintain their little farm.

A bit depressing but beautifully written; Robert Morgan has a wonderful way with words. Not necessarily a book I would have wanted to pick up and read but a good book to listen to on the way to work.

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Title: Shaman
Author: Noah Gordon
Completed: August 25, 2005
Rating: 9.4

Yay! I love this book. I read it once before about five years ago when we first moved to Boston. It takes place in the years leading up to the Civil War and tells the tale of two men. Rob J is a Scottish doctor who flees his homeland due to political persecution and comes to the States in the early 1800’s to seek his fortune. He is a gifted doctor who’s work is enhanced with the ‘gift’ passed down through his family, the ability to tell whether a person will die or not. He goes out west into Injun country where he meets the love of his life, Sarah, as well as the mysterious Sauk woman Makwa, who becomes his medical companion. They teach each other their various healing lore.

The book is told through the eyes of young Shaman, aka Rob J. Jr. Makwa gave him the name ‘little Shaman’ because he was so interested in healing at an early age. Shaman is striken deaf in a childhood illness and his dreams to become a doctor are made ever more difficult because of his infirmity.

Most of the book is the story of Rob J senior as Shaman sees it through reading his father’s journals. It takes us through the struggles of the Indians as the white man fucks them over time and again, and into the Civil War.

Just a damn fine book. Go read it.
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Title: The Borgia Bride
Author: Jeanne Kalogridis
Completed: Oh hell, um....August 7?
Rating: 9.3

Incest, Poison, Betrayal...Oh come on, with that on the front cover, could you really not be interested?

The Borgia Bride follows the first person account of Sancha of Aragorn as she's married to Jofre Borgia, youngest illegitmate son of Pope Alexander VI, one of the most famous Popes in Italian history for debauchery, adultery and...you guessed it, incest. As she's taken from her home city of Naples to reside in Rome, Sanchan becomes embroiled in the politics of the Borgia family. Falling in love with and having an affair with Cesare Borgia, she begins to uncover the truthfully dramatic and sordid details of this family. She befriends Lucrezia, Jofre's older sister who also conducts affairs not only with her brother Cesare, but with her father as well and earns the eventual enmity of Cesare in his bid to take over all of Italy under Rome's rule and keep Sancha at his side as his wife.

Halfway through this story, I began to get curious and finally did a search on Wikipedia for Pope Alexander VI and found much to my surprise that this story hadn't been dramatized too terribly much by the author. The characters described throughout the story really did exist and the stories of seduction, poison and incest were also equally true. The author merely took the story and told it from a little known player in the drama, Sancha and told it from her perspective in fairly good detail. I gave it a fairly high rating because her writing, although not as compelling as some I'd read, was still greatly detailed and well researched and I felt like I got a slice of history in with the well told story. It did take me a while to get through and wasn't necessary a "I can't put it down" book, but it definitely rated as a "I have to find out what depraved acts happen next" book.

If you're up to it, definitely have a go at it.
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Title: The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon
Author: Stephen King
Finished: August 17, 2005
Rating: 8.5

Wooh, what a good book! I’d read this once before, a few years ago. It’s a short book, and not exactly your typical Stephen King, though what is typical for King, really? The premise is that young Trisha is lost in the woods up in Maine and New Hampshire, and the story follows her trek across the miles for a week while she gets sicker and sicker and is followed by a scary, evil beast. Her saving grace is her walkman, which allows her to listen to her favorite team, the Red Sox. Her favorite player, Tom Gordon, because her constant companion in more ways than one.

Any resident of New England will recognize the jingle she hears and sings throughout the book. “Who do you call when your windshield’s busted? 1-800-54-GIANT”. It is a jingle that plays all the time and never fails to get stuck in my head when I hear it.

Good book. Highly recommended to all.
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Title: Shadow of the Giant, audio version. Part of the Ender series
Author: Orson Scott Card
Finished August 4, 2005
Rating: 6.8

Good readers, on this one—an interesting book to listen to. There were about five or six different actors reading the different character plots. I vastly prefer the older books in this series, the ones that deal with Ender’s life after he leaves Earth. These more recent books—Ender’s Shadow, Shadow of the Hedgemon, and this one, tell the story of Bean and how the Earth is pulled together by Peter Wiggin. This book had some very interesting moments—mostly the character development of Bean, Petra, and Peter. The more dull moments were some of the geopolitical movements—it tended to get a bit dry, and in the beginning I was confused because it’d been so long since I read Shadow of the Hedgemon that I forgot who was who and who was doing what. Sometimes too the dialogue was just too much. Orson Scott Card tends to do a lot of development through dialogue, but page after page—it could have been pared down. Nothing like Richard in the later books of Goodkind’s series though, don’t get me wrong. The dialogue is *good*, it’s just lengthy.

The ending was great—took you back to an event and character sequence that took place in the very first book, Ender’s game. Even if you skip the rest of the series, I highly recommend Ender’s Game to anyone. Go read it. It’s good.
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Title: Adrian Mole, the Cappuccino Years
Author: Sue Townshend
Finished: August 3rd, 2005 give or take a day
Rating: 7.2

The last book in the series, at least that I could find. Funny, but in a differerent sort of way. In this volume, Adrian continues to seek a publisher for Lo, the Flat Hills of My Homeland. The closest he gets is when a publisher plays an April Fool’s joke on him. He continues to long for his old love, Pandora, who is now dabbling in politics with her treacle-colored hair and her Chanel suits. Adrian is a father of two now, which was entertaining.

Overall, an entertaining book, but after three Adrian Mole volumes I was glad to move onto something totally different.

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Title: Murder on Washington Square
Author: Victoria Jackson
Rating: 9.5
Finished: July 28

I tore through this book as Ms. Jackson continues on with the story of Sarah and Frank and how their lives continue to mix together through their professions. The plot summary is that Sarah is asked by her next door neighbor's son to come examine a woman who believes she's pregnant and that this man thinks he's the father if she is. After enduring a melodrama where Sarah realizes that this woman isn't who she seems, she finds out that the girl is murdered two days later an her neighbor's son is implicated. Going to Frank to help with clearing his name, they begin to investigate who this girl really was and why she was murdered. I'll give noithing away regarding this book but it received a high rating because I didn't guess the ending and what I've been waiting to happen happened and I literally cheered in my chair out of joy. As it seems, these books continue to delight and get better as each one comes out. I will most definitely be getting the next book and the next book and the next...well you get the point.

Title: The Paid Companion
Author: Amanda Quick
Rating: 9.3
Finished: August 1

I should have known better than to start up a book a couple hours before I was to pick my sister up at the airport, but I did it anyway, unable to resist. The Paid Companion is her second to latest novel out right now and it's about a young woman who, through her step-father's misfortunes, has had her home and fortune stripped from her by loan sharks. Making her way in the wold as a paid companion to women of money or rank, she's hired on to pose as the fiancee to the powerful Earl of St. Merryn as he attempts to discover who killed his uncle. In the way of all romance novels, they're fighitng attraction to one another while still trying to do what they do. I really enjoyed these characters and it was refreshing to get away from Lavinia and Tobias finally, as much as I liked their rapport as well. The story was once more very well written and I enjoyed reading the entire thing.

Title: Lie by Moonlight
Author: Amanda Quick
Rating: 8.7
Finished: August 1

Yes, you saw this right, I finished it the same day I finished Paid Companion, but the other I only had about 30 pages left, sooo...This was Quick's latest novel and I bought the hard back of course when I saw it. =) It's about a young woman, Concordia, who is teaching four girls who are orphans in a remote castle and begins to suspect that they're being groomed to be well bred courtesans by London's leading crime lord who intends to sell them to the highest bidder. Her escape is helped by Arthur Wells who is there on an investigation of his own and from their all six of them are stuck together throughout the story while Concordia and Arthur try to find who's really behind it and what's really happening. This one got a lower rating from me because, although the story was good, I felt like she rushed the intimacy and rapport between Concordia and Arthur, like she was trying to get it in there to get the rest of the story moving. But I am an avid fan and I'll still give it good marks because I tore through it in about 4 hours because I didn't want to put it down.


My next endeavor is still not sci-fi or fantasy, nor even mystery or romance. It's called The Borgia Bride and it's one of those intrigue novels that takes place in 16th century Italy. I'm excited to start up on it and see what it's about. =)
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Titles: Wizard's First Rule, Stone of Tears, Blood of the Fold, Temple of the Winds, Soul of the Fire, Faith of the Fallen, Pillars of Creation, Naked Empire and Chainfire (and possibly Debt of Bones tacked on the end!)
Author: Terry Goodkind
Rating: Overall = 9, Certain books (1, 4 and 6 to be specific) = 10

This series follows the events of Richard Cypher's life, from a simple woodsguide to the ruler of half the world (more or less anyway). Goodkind has a superb balance between action, description and brilliant characters. He plays with his readers' emotions, and Temple of the Winds was one of the few books which can still make me cry upon each and every reading. Goodkind manages to combine romance and fantasy in a masterful way, which satisifies my need for both genres quite well. The only thing that takes this series down to a 9 rating is the latest book, Chainfire. I bought it and avidly read it the week it was released in the UK, and it was the only one of his books that I've disliked in the slightest... this one I detested. It has precious little action, almost none of the previous play on emotions and it was a cliffhanger, a shameless ploy to try and make people read the next book. If people have got as far as Chainfire, they're not liable to give up the series and Goodkind was pretty stupid to put in something so awful at the end of it. Still, I'll read the next book since apart from Chainfire, the series is unbelievably good.

Titles: The Mirror of her Dreams and A Man Rides Through
Author: Stephen Donaldson
Rating: 8

This series tells the story of Terisa, a normal woman leading a boring life, whose world is changed forever when an apprentice Imager (magician), Geraden, falls out of a mirror in her apartment. She then travels with him to his medieval world, where politics and Imagery (magic using mirrors) struggle for power. The story centres around the theme of reality, but also mixes in power, action, romance, fantasy, an unusual brand of magic and suitably wicked villains. I came across these books as an accident when rooting around in books that had been stored in our loft for a few years, and I've read them so many times that neither of them have a cover anymore! I tried Donaldsons other books and found them rather tedious; these, however, are light hearted, but brilliant novels that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone.
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Title: The Lost Years of Adrian Mole
Author: Sue Townshend
Finished: Saturday, June 23, 2005
Donna’s Rating: 7.2

And here we have the next volume in the diaries of Adrian Mole. This book catalogues Adrian’s years from stormy adolescence to wandering young adult, in which he moves out from home, searches for women to rival the ever-present Pandora (at one point he moves into her home shared with her gay husband and her boyfriend), and continues to struggle in his life as an intellectual, misunderstood poet and novelist. He begins his first novel: Lo, the Flat Hills of my Homeland, which is hideous and pretentious. His attempts to publish with the BBC are scorned—at one point he tries to fax 172 pages and then asks the publisher to send him a photocopy since he doesn’t have any money.

Hilarious. Not quite as hilarious as the first one. But a good book to read on the train.

~*~

Title: Back when we were Grownups—audio version
Author: Anne Tyler
Finished: Tuesday, June 25, 2005
Donna’s Rating: 6.5

Didn’t like this one as much as the other Anne Tyler books, so the “Anne Tyler book on CD” phase in my life seems to have ended. This is the story of a woman named Rebecca Davage who wakes up one day to realize she had turned into the wrong woman. She is a grandmother with a massive quantity of step-daughters and step sons-in-laws, with a dead husband named Joe and a business where she throws parties in an old house called “The Open Arms.” Where once she was a studious, level headed young woman, she somehow turned into this empty-headed social butterfly, known for giving toasts in rhyme. She tries to retrace her old self and see what went wrong, so we get lots of flashbacks to her youth. She goes as far to rekindle the relationship with doddering old Will Allemby, the fiancé she dumped for Joe, who she married after knowing only two weeks.

It took a while to get going, which might have been just from trying to sort everyone out. There’s a shitload of characters, which does make the book more interesting as it develops, with all the relationships—Zeb and Nono and Biddy and Min-fou and little Peter and the various husbands who’s names I’ve forgotten. The best character was Wil Alembry: methodical, stodgy, and slow. A defining characteristic is that he makes a batch of chili every Sunday, divides it up into seven pieces, and has chili every night. He is thrown off when he starts dating Rebecca again, because when they go out he ends up with too much chili. That was probably the most interesting parts of the book—the flashbacks to when she left him, and the rekindling of their relationship. Sort of. Rebecca realizes at the end that she really had turned into the right person, and that she would have been a horribly boring person had she never left Will in the first place.

The ending was cute. My other favorite character was Poppy, the ancient uncle of Rebecca’s late husband Joe. The book ended with his birthday party, and that whole scene was really nicely written.

I probably wouldn’t have liked reading it as much as I did listening to it, since it tended to be slow, but overall not a bad book. It was improved vastly by the reader, a woman who was really good at doing accents and pacing and expression—good voice. Damn, now wouldn’t that a fun job, reading books on tape? I need to find out how to do that.
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Yay, first post!

First, Donna, let me applaud you for making this community. I am absolutely horrible about remembering what happens in books, let alone if I've read them or not. For example, the series that I'm writing about today has several references to two other series by the same author. I read both of them within the last year or so, and I can't for the life of me connect the dots between the references. It's absolutely infuriating.

Anyway.

Title: The Liveship Traders (Ship of Magic, Mad Ship, and Ship of Destiny)
Author: Robin Hobb
Rating: 8

I thoroughly enjoyed this series (though I'm sure I would've enjoyed it more if I'd remembered the references). The characters, for one, were absolutely wonderful. They were almost to the status of Martin's characters, and he has the best characterization of any author I've ever read. The plots were interesting and complex, but they weren't so complex that they were convoluted and confusing. All of them were intricate and connected, and their solutions didn't prove to be so simple they were anticlimactic, but they were still somewhat surprising.

One thing I dislike about Hobb's writing is that she spends too much time on introspection. Her characters spend pages contemplating relationships and the like. It's the type of thing that's interesting to a point, as the audience knows better than the character does, but it gets tiring to continue reading all of that when we're just waiting for some developments.

I also didn't like all the play on destiny and the like, but that's a personal opinion, not an objective criticism. I can only take so much of fantasy where everything that happens is the manifestation of destiny and how it's too perfect to be coincidental and... whatnot.

But the plots were original and obviously very well thought out. Her world is rich with creativity, stemming dragons, human / dragon halflings, and - you guessed it - living ships. Her characters were all wonderful, each complex, unique, and completely believable. Not to mention the fact that the books were a very entertaining read, of course. I can't tell you how many hours I used those books to occupy me at work. *shakes head*
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