Belenen (belenen) wrote,

self-educating: 1-32

Self-education update: I got way behind on posting my list, but I've spent the last couple of days catching up on my brief ratings and reviews so I could share with you.

For the newbies and the short of memory: I call this self-education, because I read to expand my mind (and enjoy myself). Some are fiction, some aren't -- but every book is a collection of thoughts from someone else, and by comparing/contrasting my way of thinking with the ways presented in the book, I can broaden my views. My brain also runs differently when reading -- I can't explain it but it makes my ways of thinking more organized somehow. It's like mental stretching, I suppose -- it makes me more mentally limber.

✰ -- DREADFUL. Don't read even if your only other option is is staring at the wall.
✰ ✰ -- not really worth the time it takes to read it, but if you're superbored...
✰ ✰ ✰ -- pretty good, nothing outstanding, but decent entertainment. Worth 1 read.
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ -- very good, has some outstanding features. If it has flaws, the benefits overwhelm them. Worth reading twice or maybe once every few years.
✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ -- AMAZING!!! memorable, captivating, with no glaring flaws. Worth reading over and over (maybe once a year), because you'll get more from each reading.

1. The Merlin Effect by T. A. Barron (YA sci-fi) ✰ ✰
256 pages
Young Adult book, I decided to read it because several of the previous novels by this author were so imaginative and had some jewel-like truths hidden in them. But this one was a disappointment. I dislike arthurian legend to begin with, and so it didn't give me much to be interested in.

2. The Girls Next Door: Into the Heart of Lesbian America by Lindsy Van Gelder & Pamela Robin Brandt (non-fiction) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
320 pages
This was, hands down, one of the top 10 best books I've ever read and definitely the best non-fiction. It opened my eyes in so many ways -- especially to the horror of mainstream culture. When compared to a culture that celebrates values that are usually defined as 'feminine', mainstream culture's true disconnectedness and disrespect of self and others is thrown into sharp relief. I'm so glad I randomly decided to buy this book when I saw it at the used bookstore -- I've learned so much. And it's a good thing that I bought it rather than borrowing, because otherwise I would have been frustrated at not being able to dog-ear the pages that had something that struck me as especially profound. I just skimmed through my dog-eared pages to pick a quote, but it covers so many topics that there is no one 'bit' that would be an accurate representation. It's full of personal stories and quotes from various people, which I love because it gives such a real glimpse. I'd recommend that every person read this book: to see the flaws in mainstream culture and be galvanized to change them, unlearn commonly-believed myths, and be inspired by the strength and power of the stories. READ IT.

3. The Magic and the Healing by Nick O'Donohoe (YA fantasy) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
4. Under the Healing Sign by Nick O'Donohoe (YA fantasy) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
5. The Healing of Crossroads by Nick O'Donohoe (YA fantasy) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
336 pages, 337 pages, 321 pages
YA series, but so imaginative and vivid! about a woman who is going to vet school and gets an unusual assignment -- to go to another world and heal legendary creatures, unicorns, griffins, etc. Some very unique creatures and great plot twists -- I especially liked the werewolves.

6. Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw (historical fiction) ✰ ✰
288 pages
This was good in some ways; I liked the characters and thought the plot was interesting, but the characters were a liiiittle stereotyped and the historical accuracy was utter shit. Several times I put it down and yelled with frustration at how the author used modern culture instead of doing her research *grrrr* BUT it reminded me strongly of a daydream I used to have, being an escaped slave girl in Egypt, so I enjoyed it anyway. ;-)

7. Ramses: The Son of Light by Christian Jacq (historical fiction) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
384 pages
Ahh, like a warm dry fluffy cozy bed after standing naked in a freezing rain, this was SO wonderful to read after Mara. It's written by an Egyptologist so it's VERY historically accurate, and beautifully captures the feel of the day, particularly in the roles of women. The concept of Ma'at and vital religious beliefs and rituals are woven in inextricably, to the point where these ideas which are alien to our culture become expected within the world of the novel. And of course, the story is fascinating. Characterization is not as important -- you get the feel that you are watching like a fly on the wall, rather than becoming each character by turn. Normally this would make my interest much less, but in this case it works.

8. Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters (YA fiction) ✰ ✰ ✰
272 pages
My lil sis' favorite book -- she lent it to me ;-) It's the story of two teens who fall in love -- it's by turns sweet, wrenching, and thought-provoking. It's very well-written, but the plot seems a little melodramatic sometimes: some things happen that I have a hard time believing in. Still, definitely worth the read.

9. Just Another Kid by Torey Hayden (non-fiction) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
432 pages
Torey never ceases to inspire... this lady seriously needs to write a complete autobiography. This was just incredible... I can't give a very good description because 1) her books say too much to sum up, and 2) it's been months since I read it. it was incredible! I'll probably re-read it next year.

10. Beautiful Child by Torey Hayden (non-fiction) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
485 pages
stunning book.

11. Twilight Children by Torey Hayden (non-fiction) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
384 pages
didn't love it as insanely as most of her books, because it wasn't in a classroom setting, where I think she works best, but it was still amazing.

12. Closer To The Light by Melvin Morse, M.D. (non-fiction) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
256 pages
A science-minded book on near-death experiences (NDEs), by a doctor who did a lot of studies on the subject, which he includes in the book along with studies by others. These experiences have been proven NOT to be hallucinations. They also do not happen to those who are seriously ill (therefore are not some kind of nightmare induced by a fear of death), only to those who are right at the point of death, or who die and are resuscitated by modern medicine. They are very very similar no matter what personal beliefs the NDEer holds -- Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, all experience very similar things. Anyway, the book was very informative, and even though the cynical attitude of the author annoyed me, I also appreciated it because it gave an objective view of the information. He also made some great observations about the attitude of the medical community toward death. An absolute must-read if you're interested in the connection between spirit and science.

13. Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn (fantasy) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
432 pages
Sharon Shinn, DAMN this woman has a killer imagination! I gobble up her books like salsa and tortilla chips (I would say candy but I don't really gobble that). In the realm of this world, there is a forgotten pantheistic religion, in which only one goddess is still remembered and worshipped. The god/dess stuff is in the background, but she develops it bit by bit in each novel of the series, and keeps you hungry for more! There are various gifts or supernatural powers given by the forgotten god/desses, and the series follows various 'mystics' -- this novel follows fire-wielding Senneth.

14. The Canopy by Angela Hunt (christian fiction) ✰ ✰
320 pages
UGH. getting through this book was like walking through ankle-deep mud, except not as exciting. Only my stubborn curiosity kept me going -- I have a very hard time not finishing a book after starting it. I usually like stuff by this author, I don't know what happened with this novel. Maybe it was that she got too preachy and pedantic.

15. The Glass Harmonica by Louise Marley (sci-fi/historical fic) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
384 pages
fascinating! a mixture of past and future (so it is both sci-fi and historical fiction, two of my favorite genres), it focuses on the glass harmonica, my favorite musical instrument. ((some of you know of my love affair with glass -- I fell in love with the instrument the moment I heard it played (via recording) at a glass exhibit in some museum in D.C. (I was 13, dunno what museum it was))) It's inventor Ben Franklin appears, as well as Mozart. The premise for the book is based on the rumors that using the instrument caused both musicians and their listeners to go insane. soooo fascinating.

16. Cat Talk by Carole Wilbourn (non-fiction) ✰ ✰ ✰
168 pages
Very interesting and informative: explains a lot about cat psychology. Seems a little dated, but it all lined up with my personal cat-relationship experiences, so it's good enough for me! and I definitely plan on using her method of introducing new cats when I get a kitten companion for 'Nika.

17. The O'Connors: Roses and Rain & Shadows in the Mist by Karen Young (contemp. romance) ✰ ✰
520 pages
Nice little romances, for the most part. Decent character development, some unexpected elements (dream premonitions, for one). I'd have given this 3 stars if it weren't for the sex scenes, which were SO TEPID. Who the hell wants a woman who goes 'pliant' when you try to have sex with her, or a man who is always aggressive? I don't want limp noodle or ramming rod lovers, so I found that both disturbing and boring to the extreme.

18. Between Lovers by Eric Jerome Dickey (contemp. romance) ✰
xxx pages
this was so unbearably bad I skimmed through half, hoping for it to get better, and then gave up. The man is dreadfully sexist and the women are boring; it was both offensive and dull. I had liked his book "Milk In My Coffee" so I gave it a good try, but it just wasn't worth it.

19. Acorna's Quest by Anne McCaffery & Margaret Ball (sci-fi) ✰ ✰ ✰
416 pages
Love the mythology/culture of the Acorna 'verse, but the writing was quite dull. Dunno if McCaffrey and Ball didn't click or what, but it just didn't flow.

20. Acorna's People by Anne McCaffery & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (sci-fi) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
399 pages
McCaffery's imagination & Scarborough's humor and lively characters = GOLD. I need to get the rest of their co-authored books!!!

21. The Godmother by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (sci-fi/fantasy) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
341 pages
Lively characters, fast-paced plot, fantastic remix of classic fairy tales. Enough darkness and struggling to make it real, enough magic and ingenuity to make it uplifting. Fantastic, I definitely intend to get the rest of the series.

22. Song of Sorcery by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (fantasy) ✰ ✰ ✰
216 pages
fun, but not a literary masterpiece. a little too typical for me.

23. The Harem of Aman Akbar by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (fantasy) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
272 pages
Really interesting! When I saw the title online I was like "that's one I'll skip" but then I saw it in the used book store right after consuming three of her books in quick succession, so I snapped it up. I was expecting a silly romance, but instead it's about a journey of self-discovery and unexpected friendship. love it!

24. Lord of the Two Lands by Judith Tarr (historical fiction) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
317 pages
W. O. W. I'm a sucker for anything set in Ancient Egypt, so I had to get it, but I didn't expect to be so awed! I get the impression that a looooooot of research went into this, and even though it was set at the end of true Egypt, I loved reading it. And for a fiction novel, it took a long time for me to get through -- a compliment because the more a book makes me think, the longer it takes me to finish. Learning + inspiration + entertainment = LOVE.

25. The Search for Fierra by Stephen Lawhead (sci-fi) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
480 pages
I loved this the first time I read it, a looooong time ago. Now I realize that there is a hell of a lot wrong with the 'utopia' of Lawhead's creation. Only tall slim blonde white people? wtf? But there is a sequel, and I can't remember clearly but I think there is a revolution of that 'utopia,' so maybe the flaws are revealed.

26. A Woman Like That : Lesbian and Bisexual Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories by Joan Larkin (non-fiction) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
352 pages
This book changed my life. If I go more into it I'll end up with a whole post, so I'll save it for a post I'm making soon... it's amazing, read it!

27. The Thirteenth House by Sharon Shinn (fantasy) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
496 pages
Shinn never disappoints! This novel deals not only with impending revolution, religious oppression, hunting of 'different' people, magic, & intricate characters, but includes a very gritty and wrenching portrayal of 'forbidden' love/lust. I hate lying especially when it comes to sex, but I could understand and even sympathize, it was so perfectly written.

28. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling (fantasy) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
784 pages
I think she was running out of momentum on this series, but I still was very wrapped up in the story and really enjoyed it. Definitely worth a read or two.

29. I Have Chosen to Stay And Fight by Margaret Cho (non-fiction) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
272 pages
I just discovered Margaret Cho by finding a book of hers on clearance, and I am thrilled! It's so rare to find an activist who really believes in love -- most pick a side and hate the other, you know? but she really believes in love, and even though I don't agree with everything she says, I can definitely respect it all. She's officially one of my heroines. As for the book itself, it was funny, well-organized, and incredibly thought-provoking. I plan to re-read it many times and think I will learn something new each time.

30. The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey (fantasy) ✰ ✰ ✰
496 pages
Very imaginative and interesting -- I loved the mythology of it. It would have been a four star if it weren't for the ridiculous sexism (in the author's tone, not the setting of the book) that occasionally stuck out and removed me entirely from the story. But that only happened maybe five or six times, so I was able to enjoy it anyway. If you want light, fast-paced entertainment, and don't mind the occasional overtly sexist paragraph, this is a great read.

31. The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan (historical fiction) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
544 pages
Wrenching novel. It touches on many themes, but I think the most powerful one is the struggle of women for survival in a society that teaches them to endure suffering without attempting to change their 'luck' or fate. It was horrible to read, knowing that this particular story may be fiction, but many, many women have lived similar lives. Still, I found it enlightening, and I loved the character of the narrator. She was so real and so honest. Most definitely worth a read; I liked Amy Tan from reading The Joy Luck Club but I love her for this book.

32. The Infinity Concerto by Greg Bear (fantasy) ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰
341 pages (first half of "Songs of Earth And Power" omnibus)
a strange combination of fascinating and dull. I am captivated by the mythology and setting, but none of the characters really put a mark on my heart. Still, the plot, settings, and concepts/creatures make it more than worthwhile.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
11,621 / 13,000
Never having kept track of my books-read before, I started out with the goal of 132 books in a year. HA! then cut it to 88 books, but since the year is 3/4 over and I'm not even half there, I've decided to change it again -- to a page count. I'm going for 13,000 pages this year, and so far I have 11,621. ;-)

Currently reading:
The Serpent Mage by Greg Bear (fantasy)
Bi any other name: Bisexual people speak out by Loraine Hutchins and Lani Kaahumanu (non-fiction)
Tags: books, egypt, queerness, self-educating, soul, spirit

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