The Rise of Endymion - Dan Simmons

It's my final review of 2009! Fittingly, it is the last book of a series that I just finished reading on New Year's Eve! The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons closes out the Hyperion Cantos has a very satisfying end. I have to admit that this book was much harder to get through than the first three books of the series because it was much more descriptive and verbose than the previous three books. Simmons does write in intricate detail what things looked like and Raul's experiences while 'casting. It got a little bit tedious to read and I ended up putting the book down for about a month because I was tired of reading about Raul's adventures in the sky. Little did I know that if I had just pressed on for about another 20 pages, the book picked up the pace.

For all you fans of the first three books, you will understand the Void Which Binds, Aenea's purpose, farcasting/freecasting, the Technocore, and any other questions that may be lingering. I really felt that if you only wanted to read Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion that it was sufficient to just read those two. After reading The Rise of Endymion I feel like I have a better understanding of the inner workings of the Core and The Void Which Binds. It was a beautifully written book with characters that I cared a great deal about. In the limited time I have read science fiction, it is my favorite series. It was masterfully written despite the sometimes overly descriptive writing. I do feel like Simmons could have shortened the book by 100-200 pages and it would have been fantastic, but I am still quite satisfied with the book overall. I also liked that the end of the book was a true ending without any questions left over. I highly recommend it for any fans of science fiction or even those that like space opera films like Star Wars or Star Trek.

I am so excited to continue reviewing books and start my 2010 challenges! It has been so much fun to become a member of the book blogging community. I hope everyone has a great last night of 2009 and Happy New Year to you all!

City of Shadows - Ariana Franklin

Time has really gotten away from this last week. With Christmas and the New Year coming up, I got busy and didn't have time to write my last reviews of the year! So, here I am on New Year's Eve writing the last two reviews of 2009. How exciting!

I picked up City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin on a whim at the library a few weeks ago. I was sucked in by the look of the spine on the shelves and when I saw what it was about, I decided to check it out. The story is set in post-WWI Germany where Hitler has begun to gain popularity. Many Russians have fled the Bolsheviks in their country and have taken up residence in Berlin. The main character, Esther, is a Russian Jew and has fled the country after a pogrom. She is beautiful except for a large scar that she has on her face. She also is multilingual and uses her skills to work as a translator for a shady businessman. While she is at work one night, an intruder comes in and tries to attack her and a young woman that Esther's boss thinks is the missing Princess Anastasia. The man gets away, but a string of murders continues in Berlin and threatens Esther, the troubled young woman that might be the princess, and others that Esther knows and cares for.

The first few pages of the book were really interesting and sucked me into the story. However, there was a lull for a good 50-70 pages that made it a little difficult to sit and read for an extended period of time. Once the story got going though, I didn't want to stop reading. It had everything I like...mystery, thrills, and a little historical information on the Romanovs. I did enjoy the book and found it fairly engrossing. If you do read this, keep in mind that she wrote the book when Anastasia was still technically missing. I did a bit of reading on Wikipedia and it said that the missing bodies of the Romanov children were found and identities confirmed in 2007. Ariana Franklin wrote this book in 2006 so some of the information may be somewhat amiss because of it. It was still a fun read and the Romanovs are still as interesting as they ever were.

New Poll Posted

70% of the people (seven of you--hehe) answered that you preferred Fiction over Non-Fiction so I decided to post a new poll to break that down into genres. I won't leave the poll up as long this time so be sure to vote!

If you answer "Other," please post a comment here telling me what your favorite genre is! Please also post any books you recommend and ways I can improve my blog!

It looks like some of you are choosing "Other" for your favorite genre of fiction. Be sure to post a comment and tell me what is your favorite genre of fiction!

My Best Books of 2009

For the first time ever, I was able to read at least 50 books in a year. It was a huge accomplishment for me! A few things I learned about myself in 2009:

  • I read a lot of books I consider "grocery store reads" and really enjoyed some of them.
  • I liked some of the books people recommended to me that I would not have otherwise read (namely The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan and Bitten by Kelley Armstrong).
  • I realized that I was a book snob before and opening myself up to new things helped me have great conversations in groups on Shelfari and also helped me find forums that I felt comfortable posting in. I did not have any fun in a forum that discussed a different classic book every month--they were too book snobby for me!
  • Joining Shelfari was great! I met a lot of people in the Anne McCaffrey and All of Her Worlds group that I share a lot in common with bookwise!
My Favorite Books of 2009
  1. Atonement - Ian McEwan
  2. Hyperion - Dan Simmons
  3. The Fall of Hyperion - Dan Simmons
  4. The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
  5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
  6. A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K. LeGuin
  7. Heaven's Net is Wide - Lian Hearn
  8. The Zookeeper's Wife - Diane Ackerman
  9. The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton
  10. Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion and the Road to Recovery - Janet F. Kitz
  11. In the Woods - Tana French
I am definitely looking forward to reading in 2010. I plan on continuing to read more things that people recommend, and I'm really excited about the reading challenges I've added. I am definitely a goal oriented person so I hope having the little meter under the challenges will really motivate me.

What are your goals (reading or otherwise) for 2010? What were your favorite books of 2009?

Where to Find Reading Challenges

A few people have asked me where to find the reading challenges I've posted about. Here are a few places that I've found with good challenges:

I am contemplating the Filling in the Gaps Challenge that was posted by Kristi from Passion for the Page and I am definitely looking for a Fantasy/Science Fiction Challenge that fits my needs. I may try the one from Royal Reviews, but I'm not sure. I read a lot of Fantasy and some Science Fiction so it'd be nice to add one.

If you have a challenge on your blog that you'd like to add to my list, please post a comment and I'll put it on my list!

In the Woods - Tana French

In small town Knocknaree, Ireland, a young girl has been found dead in the woods. She has carefully been placed on an old, stone altar. Detectives Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox get assigned to investigate the case. Some years before, two young children disappeared from these same woods. Are the cases related? 

Tana French's debut novel is brilliant. The book took me in so many different directions that I was never sure who was the murderer. Detective Rob Ryan has a link to the older disappearances--he was the third child that was in the woods that day and was found standing in blood soaked shoes. The mystery deepens because he cannot remember what happened in the woods that day. His past haunts him as he struggles to remember. 

I have read a few thrillers this year and this was definitely one of the better ones. There were so many suspects and the crime scene was only half found so I never knew what was going to happen next in the book. I found myself reading at night with my Mighty Bright light in bed and I'd look up and see the clock beaming 4:00 am. While I don't like the insomnia that it's caused, I love books that engage me so much I am unaware of time passing. 

I never like to give away too much when I read thrillers or mysteries because I don't want to ruin the story. I will say that this book kept me guessing and was really well written. If you are looking for a book with a complicated plot that isn't scary, you should give this book a try. I will definitely be picking up the followup, The Likeness for my Thriller and Suspense Challenge in 2010. 

Challenges 2010 - Thriller and Suspense Reading Challenge 2010

I am adding one more reading challenge for this upcoming year. It is hosted by Book Chick City. I haven't chosen my books yet, but I really enjoyed reading in the Thriller genre this last year so I am looking forward to this challenge! I will post a link to my ongoing list when I start my first book!

Timeline: 01 Jan 2010 - 31 Dec 2010
Rules: To read TWELVE (12) thrillers in 2010


• You don't have to select your books ahead of time, you can just add them as you go. Also if you do list them upfront then you can change them, nothing is set in stone! The books you choose can crossover into other challenges you have on the go.

• If you decide to participate in this challenge please use the links I have set up below with the buttons to post on your sidebar, this way others can find their way back to this post and join in the fun.

• If you decide to join this challenge be sure to create a post telling others, please make sure you add a link back to this post so others can join in.

• You can join anytime between now and the later part of next year.

• There will be a place for you to link your reviews, but this is optional.

Raved About Reads Challenge

I know that I've already posted about the RYOB Challenge, but I found another challenge on MizB's blog. It's call the Raved About Reads Challenge and is a perpetual challenge for books that have been recommended to you, but you haven't gotten around to reading yet. 

Here are the rules:

Create – and read! – a list of books that you’ve always heard others rave about, and thought you should read yourself… but always put off reading “until later”.
* You can choose books that you’ve recently heard of IF a bunch of people are raving about how good they are and how everyone should read them.
* Your list has to have at least 3 books on it. Of course, you can make it much longer than just 3 books. But, you could also just read 3. That’s up to you.
* Yes, your list of books can overlap with other challenges.
* There are no limitations on genre… books can be fiction, nonfiction, religious, secular, etc.
* Audiobooks and E-books are allowed.
* This is a PERPETUAL challenge, meaning it is ongoing ~ there is no time limit.

Here is my list so far:

  • Against a Dark Background - Iain M. Banks
  • All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
  • Dust to Dust - Tami Hoag
  • Kill the Messenger - Tami Hoag
  • Prior Bad Acts - Tami Hoag
  • Enchantment - Orson Scott Card
  • Magic Street - Orson Scott Card
  • Pastwatch - Orson Scott Card
  • The Memory of Earth - Orson Scott Card
  • Evermore - Alison Noel
  • First They Killed My Father - Loung Ung
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Behrendt
  • The Final Empire (Mistborn: Book 1) - Brandon Sanderson
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers
  • Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood
  • The Year of the Flood - Margaret Atwood
  • Wizard's First Rule (Sword of Truth: Book 1) - Terry Goodkind
  • Stolen - Kelley Armstrong
  • Same Kind of Different as Me - Ron Hall and Denver Moore w/ Lynn Vincent

Challenges 2010 - Read Your Own Books

I've been looking at a few other book blogs and found that some people are very active in reading challenges. They look like so much fun that I'm going to try at least one this year. This one is hosted by MizB and her blog can be found at It's the Read Your Own Books Challenge and goes from January 1, 2010-December 31, 2010.

Here is the info:

The rules are simple:
  • Pick a number of books you’d like to read in one year
  • Choose those books from your OWN collection
  • Read them between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010
And, that’s it!
Some other guidelines for this challenge:
  • Re-Reads are NOT allowed (the challenge is to get more of your own books read that have been sitting there waiting!)
  • Audiobooks & e-books ARE allowed
  • You do NOT need a blog to participate — you can leave comments on this post with your progress
She is going to post a Mr. Linky to sign up for the challenge on January 1, 2010. If you are interested, please visit her blog and sign up! It looks like a lot of fun!

I will post another blog entry with my list of books toward the end of the year which is coming up soon! Be sure to check back to see my list. If you are entering the challenge as well, make sure you post a comment with a link to your blog so that I can look at your list too!

Anne McCaffrey BotM - Dragonflight

I joined Shelfari a few months ago and got an invite to join an Anne McCaffrey group soon after I signed up. It is my FAVORITE group on Shelfari. We have great conversations about Ms. McCaffrey's books and about lots of off-topic subjects too! Last month, we started reading a Book of the Month and the book was the first Dragonriders of Pern novel - Dragonflight. It had been over 15 years since I last read the book which I remember enjoying a lot as a kid. It was published in 1967 or 1968 and was Anne McCaffrey's first novel about Pern if I am remembering correctly.

A few observations that I definitely did not pick up on as a child:

  • The Masterweaver in the novel is named Zurg so the whole time I was reading it I was thinking of the Evil Emperor Zurg from Toy Story (which most definitely did not exist when I was a kid)
  • The Weyrleader F'lar shook Weyrwoman Lessa a lot which we all agreed in the group would probably not happen if she wrote the book in more contemporary times.
  • I found Lessa to be more petulant as an adult than I did as a child. I still love her though!
It was such a treat to be able to pick up the book again after so many years. While time may have changed and some of the behavior in the book is a little archaic (like F'lar's behavior toward Lessa), I still enjoyed the book just as much as I did when I was younger. I loved how reacquainting myself with the Lessa's story--how she grew up as a drudge in Ruatha after Fax came and invaded the Hold, and her move to Benden Weyr where she Impresses a gold dragon named Ramoth that is about as strong willed as she is. It has also been many years since Thread has fallen and F'lar is trying to get the few dragons that remain ready to fight it.

When I was in Powell's books a few years ago, one of the employees said that, "No one does dragons better than Anne McCaffrey." It's true. I love her description of them and the special bond they have with their riders. I love the way she makes them such an integral part of the story and how they have such individual personalities. Rereading this book reminds me why I dreamed of living on Pern as a kid and even today I still feel that if I could live on a fictional planet, Pern would be my choice. I am so connected with all the characters since they each have their own stories in different books that in a strange way they are family to me. Dragonflight was just as special to read the second time around. I loved it and the Pern books will always be on my favorite list!

Marked - P.C. Cast

You know the term, "Never judge a book by its cover?" Well, Marked by P.C. Cast was one of these books. I saw this book online and in the bookstore and thought it looked good because it had a nice cover and was about vampires (which for some odd reason I have come to really enjoy in the last year). I was wrong. I actually struggled to get through this book.

I have never read a book that was written in teenspeak before so I was shocked at how horrible the writing was.  The story is told from the perspective of Zoey, a teenage girl who has been marked to become a vampyre. Not only does the reader have to read all about her teen angst relating to her clothes, hair, and friends/family, we have to read it in a like totally awesome way. Yes, that's right. She writes like a valley girl from the 80s at times, has special teen names for her adversaries, and of course has the obligatory drunk football playing ex-boyfriend.

Zoey also has problems with her fundamentalist Christian step-father who is constantly starting prayer trees and controls her mother to the point where she has become a shell of a mother. Then there's the rituals at her new school, House of Night. I felt like the description of them lasted far longer than they should have. It really detracted from the story for me and ended up feeling like there wasn't a whole lot of story until the last 30 pages or so. I think for me, the religious (including the rituals worshiping the goddess Nix) portion of the book overshadowed the plot, and I got tired of reading about it.

The writing was by far the worst part of the book. Just because it is a YA book doesn't mean the author has to dumb down the language so that a teenager can understand (see J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter series). I also got tired of the bad language in the book. I know teens swear, but I don't need to read it in a book. To me, it shows a lack of imagination with language. It also had numerous references to oral sex which I think is inappropriate subject matter for a young teenager (I never read about that as a teen and I had a fairly liberal upbringing with what I was allowed to listen, watch, and read). I am not a particularly conservative person, but if I had children under the age of 16, this is the first book that I think I'd have issues with them reading.

Overall, I'd give the writing 1/2 star and the story 1 1/2 stars for a total of 2 stars. The story itself ended ok, but there wasn't enough of it for me to be satisfied.

Adventures in Blogging

Last night I got the bright idea to try to update the look of my blog and get a template that was not designed by Blogger. Even they admit it, their "classic" looks are pretty boring. I thought that adding a nice little Christmas theme to my blog would spice it up a bit. The only spice I got for the last 24 hours was the stress it caused!

If you have looked at the blog before, I had some gadgets on the side that are now missing. Yup, those accidentally got deleted! After I finally got my blog set up again and typed in all the books I've read and rated this year (in a post rather than in the sidebar), someone from Shelfari generously told me that my comments weren't working (thank you Passionforthepage). my husband and I spent a few hours trying to figure out how to fix it. Not only did the comments not work on the new template, when I reverted to the old template that Blogger designed the comments still didn't work! He eventually found a site with some HTML code that I was able to insert and *poof*, it magically works now!

So, please enjoy my Christmas theme and make sure you visit Passionforthepage's blog at I really appreciated her input and absolutely LOVE her book blog! It's the most original I've seen!

2009 Books I've Read List

1.   New Moon - Stephanie Meyer                                        3.5 out of 5 stars
2.   Eclipse - Stephanie Meyer                                               4.0 out of 5 stars
3.   Breaking Dawn - Stephanie Meyer                                  3.0 out of 5 stars
4.   Complications - Atul Gawande                                        3.5 out of 5 stars
5.   Tales of Beedle the Bard - J.K. Rowling                          4.0 out of 5 stars
6.   Dragon's Fire - Anne and Todd McCaffrey                      3.0 out of 5 stars

7.   Heaven's Net is Wide - Lian Hearn                                  4.0 out of 5 stars 
8.   A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K. LeGuin                        4.0 out of 5 stars
9.   Eragon - Christopher Paolini                                            2.0 out of 5 stars
10. The Zookeeper's Wife - Diane Ackerman                        4.5 out of 5 stars

11. Emma - Jane Austen                                                       3.0 out of 5 stars
12. Wicked - Gregory Maguire                                             4.0 out of 5 stars

13. Heartsick - Chelsea Cain                                                 4.5 out of 5 stars
14. Web of Debt - Ellen Hodgson Brown                              1.5 out of 5 stars
15. Empress Orchid - Anchee Min                                         4.0 out of 5 stars

16. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold                                      3.5 out of 5 stars
17. Dragon Harper - Anne and Todd Mccaffrey                      3.5 out of 5 stars
18. Atonement - Ian McEwan                                                 5.0 out of 5 stars
19. The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield                               3.0 out of 5 stars
20. Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton                                      4.5 out of 5 stars

21. Cannery Row - John Steinbeck                                         4.0 out of 5 stars
22. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden                                4.0 out of 5 stars

23. Body of Lies - Iris Johansen                                              3.0 out of 5 stars
24. Hyperion - Dan Simmons                                                  5.0 out of 5 stars
25. The Dark Wind - Tony Hillerman                                      3.0 out of 5 stars
26. High Druid of Shanarra #1: Jarka Ruus - Terry Brooks      4.0 out of 5 stars

27. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert                                  3.0 out of 5 stars
28. Life of Pi - Yann Martel (reread)                                       5.0 out of 5 stars
29. Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris                                    2.5 out of 5 stars
30. The Gunslinger - Stephen King                                          3.0 out of 5 stars
31. Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion and the Road to Recovery - Janet F. Kitz   5.0 out of 5 stars
32. Living Dead in Dallas - Charlaine Harris                             3.0 out of 5 stars
33. Drawing of the Three - Stephen King                                 4.0 out of 5 stars

34. Club Dead - Charlaine Harris                                              3.5 out of 5 stars
35. The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan                       4.0 out of 5 stars
36. Bitten - Kelley Armstrong                                                   4.0 out of 5 stars
37. High Druid of Shanarra #2: Tanequil - Terry Brooks        3.5 out of 5 stars
38. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson              5.0 out of 5 stars
39. High Druid of Shanarra #3: Straken - Terry Brooks         4.0 out of 5 stars

40. The Fall of Hyperion - Dan Simmons                                    5.0 out of 5 stars
41. Prince Caspian - C.S. Lewis                                                3.0 out of 5 stars
42. Bloodsucking Fiends - Christopher Moore                      3.0 out of 5 stars
43. Endymion - Dan Simmons                                                    4.5 out of 5 stars
44. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hossein                                       5.0 out of 5 stars
45. Deja Dead - Kathy Reichs                                                   3.0 out of 5 stars

46. Dead to the World - Charlaine Harris                               3.0 out of 5 stars
47. The Rise of Endymion - Dan Simmons                            4.0 out of 5 stars
48. Night Sins - Tami Hoag                                                         4.0 out of 5 stars
49. One for the Money - Janet Evanovich                              3.0 out of 5 stars

50. Marked - P.C. Cast                                                              2.0 out of 5 stars
51. Dragonflight - Anne McCaffrey                                      5.0 out of 5 stars
52. In the Woods - Tana French                                          5.0 out of 5 stars
53. City of Shadows - Ariana Franklin                                 5.0 out of 5 stars

    One for the Money - Janet Evanovich

    My first meeting with the Thrill Me Book Club was a lot fun, and I mistakenly thought that the next book meeting was going to be early this month so I picked up the next book which is One for the Money by Janet Evanovich. The story is about unemployed Stephanie Plum  who becomes a bounty hunter for a family member who is a bail bondsman. She is desperately in need of money so she takes the case worth the most money which is also the most dangerous.

    Stephanie Plum sets out to find a bail jumper that is accused of murdering an unarmed man. The man is a childhood acquaintance with whom she has a colored past. Her pursuit of him is humorous as well as harrowing as she tries to learn the business of bounty hunting. Plum finds out that the straightforward murder case is really more complicated than she once thought. Is the man she hunts really innocent?

    The leader of the book club said she likes books that are fun and light reads. One for the Money is definitely just that. I would recommend it as a beach or quick weekend read. It is fun, easy, and Stephanie Plum is an extremely likeable character. If you like thrills with laughs, One for the Money is the book for you.

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