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Books And Games 2009

31 Dec

Books

According to my spreadsheet, I read 86 books this years. I probably missed one or two but all the same, it would still be less than year. Considering my “slump” the last few months, it’s not surprising though.

Favorite novel 2009

Looking at the grades and leaving aside the re-reads, there are two novels I graded 5/5:

  • Anne Stuart – Black Ice (2005)
  • Meredith Duran – Bound By Your Touch (2009)

Like last year, a novel by Meredith Duran is in the running for my favorite novel of the year. Like last year, her novel was published that year whereas the other novel was not. And like last year, I’m going to name the other novel as my favorite novel of the year. Reason: I still remember reading it so vividly.

So my favorite novel 2009:

Black Ice by Anne Stuart

(Here’s what I wrote back then.)

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Reading Challenges

TBR Challenge hosted by Keishon

I missed two out of twelve dates for this challenge. Which means, I managed to read ten out of twelve possible books. Overall, I read some good books in this challenge. I read some books who are favorite with many readers but didn’t really work for me, like Connie Brockway’s All Through the Night for example. I read some books I thought well written and saw the appeal but which still didn’t end up on my favorite list, like Suzanne Brockmann’s The Unsung Hero for example. I read some books by authors I’ve already read. I read some books whose authors where new to me and are now on my list of authors to read. And yes, I read some books that didn’t work for me at all.

Overall and although I missed it two times, I had a lot of fun with this challenge and I thought the monthly themes added a nice twist to the whole challenge. I found interesting new authors and I enjoyed myself.

Thanks to Keishon for coming up with the idea and organizing this challenge!

Re-Read Challenge hosted by nath

My sign-up for this challenge was the first time I ever posted on nath’s blog and I think it was a good idea. I had lots of fun with this challenge and I only missed one out of twelve dates for this challenge. I’m also happy to say that most of my favorite novels stood the test of time for me although I wasn’t brave enough to tackle the novel I think of as my favorite romance novel and which I only read one time for fear of finding it lacking the second time: Black Silk by Judith Ivory.

Maybe some day.

When I look at the novels I read for this challenge, I think for a re-read, I prefer a fun and humorous story to a more somber novel although I’m usually more interested in the latter when I think about buying a novel. Go figure.

Overall, a fun and interesting challenge, one I enjoyed very much.

Thanks to nath for coming up with the idea and organizing this challenge!

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Games

I can’t say I have a favorite game this year. I played less than usual and I finished less games than usual.

2009 was the year I made real steps in my online gaming.

  • There’s the browser game I started in 2008 and still play: I joined a guild in February this year. My character is still doing good. She went from #1000 the last time I mentioned her to #163 in the ranking (status this afternoon).

  • And there’s Runes of Magic, a MMORPG. I started to play that several months ago and I still have fun although some of my worries about what could bother me have been confirmed. Anyway, I have three characters, a mage/priest (level 51/49), a priest/knight (41/39) and a scout/priest (level 20-30), and I joined a guild with my mage/priest character two months back.

    (No pics here due to the problems with our video card/computer – I can’t play at the moment).

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HAPPY NEW YEAR 2010!

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TBR Challenge: “A Reason To Live” By Maureen McKade

16 Dec

tbr-challenge-2009

Info: TBR Challenge 2009

Theme for the month: not sure if there is one
In my TBR pile since: May 2007

Genre: western romance
Published: Berkley Sensation, 2006

Availability: oop

Monthly theme?: ?

Why I bought this novel: lots of other readers like this novel

How could I refuse the wish of a dying man?

May 30, 1865: During the War, I watched over too many young boys in the hospital, comforting them as they cried out for those they loved, as they whispered their final thoughts to me. Keepng a record of their names, families, and last words seemed a small tribute to their sacrifice — until the war ended, and I found a new mission in life.

I would visit the loved ones of those poor soldiers and deliver their messages so that some comfort could be found even in grief…

But Laurel Covey never expected to find a man like Creede Forrester — an ex-gunslinger who rode all the way from Texas to Virginia in the hope of finding his son and ended up saving her from a band of ruffians. It pains her deeply to tell him of his boy’s death, and she believes that in his heart, Creede blames himself for driving his son away. But there is something more to this rugged, weary man. Something that draws Laurel closer to him … something she cannot resist…

[word in bold were in italic in original]

A Reason to Live is my first novel by Maureen McKade so I don’t know if it’s typical for her. What I know is that it’s not a typical fluffy romance. A Reason to Live is aptly named. It tells the story of two people who are both not sure for what, how or why they should continue to live.

Laurel Covey is a widow and was a nurse in the Civil war. Now that the war is over, the only thing that keeps her going is her promise to deliver the last messages of soldiers to their loved ones. She’s estranged from her family because of her marriage, her husband is dead, and her sanity is slowly giving way.

Creede Forrester is an ex-gunslinger who reformed when he met his wife. But his wife is now dead for some years and his son, who signed up as a soldier in the war, seems to have died. The only thing Creede has left is his farm and he now no longer cares. He leaves to find out what happened to his son. That’s how he meets Laurel.

Laurel is an intensely caring woman. As a nurse, she was given the task to decide which wounded soldiers had the best chances to live and therefore were the first the doctors would look at. This and all the other things she saw during the war is haunting her more and more now and she fears she’s slowly but surely losing her mind. She wants to keep her promise to the dead soldiers and then she doesn’t care (and knows) what will happen. There isn’t room for something or someone else.

This is why she isn’t happy about Creede’s insistence to accompany her on her journey. But accompany her he does and slowly he falls in love with her. And Laurel, despite her best intentions to keep others out and her fear of her growing insanity, starts to care for Creede, too.

I liked the slow development of the love story. Both Laurel and Creede are people deeply scarred by their experiences. They are both different now from what they were like when they were twenty. But it’s this difference that gives them a chance to fall in love with each other.

Although handsome, Creede was someone she wouldn’t have looked at twice five years ago, but after everything she’d gone through, she’d learned to see beyond a man’s appearance. And she’d come to respect and appreciate Creede’s kindness and integrity. (168)

By the way, isn’t it nice that the heroine isn’t so blown away by her attraction to the hero’s appearance that she can’t think straight? Equally nice I thought the fact that they could sleep beside each other without giving in to their attraction all the time.

So yes, I liked the love story and thought it convincing. But I also thought it suffered a bit under the frame of the story. The frame of a journey was fitting for Laurel’s (and Creede’s) character development but it also made the different stops of the journey appear more episodic in that each stop showed a different facet of how the war had ravaged the land and its people. Laurel and Creede meet ex-slaves, ex-soldiers, women who lost their husbands and had to fight for themselves, and so on. Each encounter added something new to Laurel and Creede’s character development but still, it also seemed slightly too episodic and educational in a “let’s mention/show/check off this” kind of way to me.

But as much as I thought the portrayal of a war’s impact on the population too educational in that way, it were these parts that touched me the most. In these parts, A Reason to Live isn’t easy to read. War is horrible. But it also shows that amidst all these horrors it’s possible to find love and a reason to live.

As did both Laurel and Creede in the end.

Verdict: A very strong 4/5.

TBR Challenge: “The Interpretation Of Murder” By Jed Rubenfeld

21 Oct

tbr-challenge-2009

Info: TBR Challenge 2009

Theme for the month: horror
In my TBR pile since: January 2007

Rubenfeld, Jed - Interpretation of Murder

Genre: thriller
Published: Headline Review, 2007 (2006)

Availability: still available

Monthly theme?: No, except if you want to count how bad a lot of the characters in this novel are…

Why I bought this novel: I thought the blurb and the play with history it promised interesting.

Manhattan, 1909.

On the morning after Sigmund Freud arrives in New York on his first – and only – visit to the United States, a stunning debutante is found bound and strangled in her penthouse apartment, high above Broadway. The following night, another beautiful heiress, Nora Acton, is discovered tied to a chandelier in her parents’ home, viciously wounded and unable to speak or to recall her ordeal. Soon Freud and his American disciple, Stratham Younger, are enlisted to help Miss Acton recover her memory, and to piece together the killer’s identity. It is a riddle that will test their skills to the limit, and lead them on a thrilling journey – into the darkest places of the city, and of the human mind.

I’m not much into mysteries/crime novels/thrillers. I think it’s because I’m more drawn to internal conflict than external conflict and – rightly or wrongly – I see mysteries as being mostly about external conflict. But now and then I read a blurb and think “this might work for me.” That’s how I ended up with The Interpretation of Murder. I also liked the fact that it plays with history, that some of the story’s characters are based on people who really lived.

The Interpretation of Murder is narrated by two narrators. First, there is the first person narrator Stratham Younger. He’s a physician and a Freudian although he has his problems with the Oedipus complex. He teaches at Clark university and meets Freud as a representative of Clark university. Younger is rather young, in awe of Freud, had (still has) problems with his recently deceased father, and is looking for the solution to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in particular Hamlet’s soliloquy that begins “To be or not to be…”. The second narrator is an omniscient narrator. This narrator lets the reader be part of the murder investigation, led by coroner Hugel and Detective Littlemore, and all kinds of other sub-plots.

In the beginning, I thought the many characters offered a kaleidoscopic view on the events. It was like a big puzzle and with each character you would get a new piece of it. There were twist and turns and they certainly made the novel seem fast-paced.

But soon, this started to get too much. There were more and more characters, the plots multiplied, and the twists and turns turned more fanciful. There was the main plot, trying to solve the murder. This was linked to Younger who tried to recover Nora’s memory. Then there was the plot to discredit Freud and his theory, Jung, who accompanied Freud, acted strange and stranger, and red herrings appeared left and right. All this was served with Younger’s thoughts on Freud’s Oedipus complex and Hamlet’s “To be” soliloquy and passages about New York’s buildings and society. What started as a story that tried to find a murderer with different means, police investigation and psychoanalysis, very soon turned into a story that relied mostly on action (I actually could picture some of its scene in a movie).

Freud’s psychoanalytic theories were more a gimmick than a real means to solve the murder. Psychoanalysis helped explain what motivated the murderer but that was nearly all the role it played. What’s more, Freud was a mere gimmick. His involvement in the case was practically nil, he as good as disappeared for long passages in the later part of the novel (when the action starts) and if this story wanted to give an answer to why Freud so strongly disliked America, I’m not really sure what it is.

In general, the characters were rather one-dimensional and the constant shift of focus, and focusing on some characters only late in the story, didn’t help to make me care or draw me in. Sadly, the mystery couldn’t make up for my lack of investment. The longer the story progressed, the more convoluted it all became, leading up to a resolution that, after all was said and done and characters were arrested, took two characters talking about it at length to convey what really had happened.

I liked the passages about New York. The research done there clearly shows. And although they sometimes sounded a bit textbook-like, I actually liked the psychoanalytical passages, Younger’s take on the Oedipus complex, and Younger’s thoughts about Hamlet. The novel is somewhat a page turner with all that is happening but overall, I think this story tried to do too much at the same time.

The things I liked should be the extra bonus in a story. In The Interpretation of Murder, they actually were the only things I thought (at least somewhat) interesting. The foundation, the story’s elements, were not developed enough to come together. Too many sub-plots, too many characters, too many shifts of focus, they all made the mystery even more convoluted than it already was on its own. Nobody and nothing is what he/she/it seems at first in this story (if you’re wondering, here’s the connection to Younger’s thoughts about Hamlet) just as Freud is not really part of this story, despite what the blurb leads one to believe.

Verdict: The longer I think about this novel, the worse my opinion gets. 3/5 for now, going for 2,5/5.

TBR Challenge: Fail!

16 Sep

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TBR Challenge 2009

I didn’t make it this month. I really wanted to, but I’m just not in the mood for reading. So far, I’ve only finished one novel this month (Peter V. Brett’s The Painted Man). I don’t know why, I just look at books and think “meh.”

I hope I’ll do better next month.