Monday, February 28, 2011

Napoleon's Pyramids

Napoleon's Pyramids (Ethan Gage, #1)Napoleon's Pyramids – William Dietrich
Evan’s ESS = 7.4 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = R (Adult Content, Violence, Language, Sexual Content, Impeccable Heroines, Unwelcomed Gambling Spoils)

Why: Because every now and then you need to satisfy a mindless Action / Adventure craving and reading Clive Cussler for the 23rd time just isn’t going to cut it. 

Napoleon’s Pyramids is historical adventure at its best, although admittedly, we’ve dabbled very little in this genre.  Apprenticed by Benjamin Franklin himself, the hero of this novel bursts onto the scene in style.  While trying to satisfying a minor gambling fix, Ethan Gage secures a magnificent Egyptian treasure that invites a whole host of trouble and more than a few attempts at his life.  What would any reasonable adult do when faced with similar hardships?  That’s right; join the French army under the capable command of Napoleon Bonaparte...            

Wait!  Now before you start pushing past old women and children to reserve this book, there are a few things you should know.  Napoleon’s Pyramids was created from the same vain as many every other Action / Adventure novels.  Rest assured there are plenty of eleventh hour escapes, horribly nasty bad guys, hilariously witty good-guy comebacks, and just in the nick of time cleverness.  We’ll let you decide whether these are good or bad attributes.  What makes this novel a bit unique is the whole 1777 French invasion of Egypt thing you might remember from history class.  And for all of you Napoleon enthusiasts (we know you’re out there), the same storied French commander from War and Peace makes several personal appearances.   

Okay, you’re now released to track down a copy of Napoleon’s Pyramids by any means necessary.  2 points for old ladies and 1 for small children...   

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Swallows and Amazons

Swallows and AmazonsSwallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
Evan’s ESS = 9 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = G (High Seas Adventure, Presupposing, Pretend Epic Sea Battles, Eavesdropping)

“Better drowned than duffers, if not duffers won’t drown.”

Why: If there was a single emotion we felt upon completing this book it was probably jealousy... and a pinch of bitterness.  Fine, we’ll just say it – We want to be the Walker children!  Seriously, how cool would it be to sail to an uninhabited island and set camp for an extended period of time?  Actually, our utter lack of seaworthiness would have prevented us from reaching any sort of island.  Still, we make a habit of living vicariously through books.  

Swallows and Amazons is a story about 4 children who win approval from their parents to camp on an island near their summer lake home.  Roger, the most experienced sailor takes the helm of Swallow and sets sail with his siblings for Wild Cat Island.  The adventures that follow are as vast as their imaginations and when the Walker’s bump into a pair of sisters who sail Amazon, the stakes are raised even higher.  And then, when a theft occurs on a nearby house boat, the stakes are raised even higher.  And then... sorry, we’ll be done.

What we loved about this novel is how well Arthur Ransome captured the adventurous spirit within all children.  Throughout, the Swallows and the Amazons strive to stay in character, forcing the reader to take their camping experiences seriously.  Anyone not on the island is a native, lemonade is rum, and the menacing owner of a nearby houseboat is the dreaded pirate from Treasure Island (not Long John Silver).  The characters felt real.  The relationships felt real.  Even the staged sea battles felt real.  Our only advice to US readers: brush up on your British nautical terms.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ulysses: Read-along - Part 2

Ulysses – James Joyce (Read-along)
Evan’s ESS = TBD out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG – 13 (Adult Content, Very Mild Language, Morbid Reflections, Wandering Contemplations)

Well, time for another check in, and truthfully, the name of this second post should be called: What in the world did we sign up for...  We definitely needed considerable “help” to navigate through the first half of Part 2 and we owe a debt of gratitude to the many online resources available.  Unfortunately, there’s no online guide to describe our thoughts on this next section.  Soooo, in sticking with the theme of the novel, we’ve decided to utilize more of a random thought model... 

Summary of what we think we read:  Part 2 opened with Leopold Bloom carrying on a conversation with his cat and reflecting on the nature of his pet. Maybe not the most exciting way to start a historic day, but at least we were finally introduced to the main character.  From there, we encountered a post office, a morbid funeral service, and multiple restaurants.  A whole lot of other stuff happened; unfortunately we don't really know what they were.  Oh, and there’s an uneventful chance encounter between Mr. Bloom and Stephen Dedalus.

Random thought: While the narrative jumps are quite disorienting, it’s that much more rewarding when you actually comprehend a string of paragraphs.  You want to smile, as if to say “Ha! I’m wicked smart too!”  Then you realize the people nearby are wondering why you have a weird grin on your face and you feel stupid all over again.

Interesting way to describe suicide:  “Death by misadventure.”

Condemning thought on main character:  We felt some mild disappointment in the main character, highlighted by the following example.  If one is going to go through all the trouble to create a secret alias, they’ve got to do better than Henry Flower.  No offense, to anyone named Henry Flower, but if the entire alias naming world is at your disposal, surely you can do better.  We’re thinking something like... okay, maybe this is harder than we thought.  Still, our disappointment remains.

Another random thought: As you read Ulysses, the novel does have a sort of style and elegance.  Like it’s just a little too brilliant to fully grasp.  Like Joyce was way too smart and wanted to play a joke on “normal people” like us... 

Stream of Consciousness at its very best:  Right in the middle of a funeral service and without any warning or precedence, Mr. Bloom makes the following observation: 

“My kneecap is hurting me.  Ow.  That’s better.” 

We actually thought this little gem was pretty funny. 

Abbreviated wrap up: Okay, we’re dangerously close to going over our arbitrary word count limit, so until next time... chin up!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Follow Friday - February 18

Follow Friday – If you are a fan of Science Fiction what is your favorite book? If you haven't read Science Fiction before...any inkling to? Anything catch your eye?

It’s safe to say that one of us Bibliomaniacs is mildly into science fiction while the other one is most certainly not into science fiction.  We’ll let the reader judge each of us accordingly.  For the Bibliomaniac that is into science fiction, below is a quick list of his favorite books within this lovely genre. 

1.       The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
2.       Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
3.       Starship Troopers – Robert A. Heinlein
4.       The War of the Worlds – H.G. Wells
5.       Dune – Frank Herbert

There you have it.  As you can tell we’ve only broke the surface, so we are very anxious to hear some of your favorite titles!

As always, thanks to Parajunkee’s View for hosting this fun event.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Very good, Jeeves

Very Good, JeevesVery good, Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse
Evan’s ESS = 8.75 out of 10
Erin’s ESS =  out of 10
Content = PG (Adult Content, Ignorance, Poorly Thought out Schemes)

Why: Our response to this novel is very simple – Very good, P.G. Wodehouse.

Very good, Jeeves is wildly funny as it explores the many misadventures of an inept English gentleman, Bertie Wooster.  Through his first person account, the reader is introduced to eleven different, yet equally awkward situations, only to be outdone by the main character’s woefully inadequate escape plans.  Even better, Bertie is as blind to his incompetence as Heathcliff is to his selfishness (sorry we had to go there).  Fortunately for Bertie, his capable butler is always one step ahead.

Very good, Jeeves is a light read with many laughable moments.  In his arrogance, Bertie Wooster is a wonderful character and is the perfect balance against the genius of his butler.  The dialogue is wonderfully witty and delightfully complex.  We cringed every time Bertie proudly announced that he had once again solved the dilemma with a brilliantly devised, failsafe plan.  Fortunately, Jeeves was always nearby considering the best option out of the forthcoming disaster.  Together, the pair is comic gold on par with __________ (insert preferable comedian). 

Step aside Batman & Robin, Luke & Han, and Frodo & Sam, there’re two new sheriffs in town... Only, as soon as we figure out who they are, we’ll let you know... 

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to The 200lb Man for the recommendation!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Michael Palmer Giveaway Winner!!!

A Heartbeat AwayCongratulations Carol N Wong!!!

Carol is the winner of our Michael Palmer Giveaway.  She has been contacted via email and will receive a signed copy of A Heartbeat Away!!!

Thanks to everyone who participated in our first ever Giveaway!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Top 10 Favorite Love Stories

Question: Top 10 favorite love stories in books

Answer: What a wonderfully perfect topic for the day after Valentine’s Day.  Before we get to the list, however, we need to take care of one teeny, tiny bit of housekeeping.  Our list of favorite love stories list will in no way contain any person or persons with the name of Heathcliff.  We understand that this could result in a whole lot of hostility directed towards our blog, but with two of us, at least some of the anger will be deflected.  We won’t elaborate further, otherwise our blood pressure levels will become quite unmanageable.  On to the list.      

  1. Elizabeth & Fitzwilliam (Pride and Prejudice) – Classic.  And in this case, love comes with wicked awesome sideburns and an impressive array of books.
  2.  George & Lucy (A Room with a View) – We’ve said it before, but this couple enjoyed one of the most underappreciated romances in all of literature.
  3. Cassandra & Simon (I Capture the Castle) – So close, yet so far away.  Love can be hard and even painful, but a constant reminder that you should never settle for anything but the real thing.
  4. Ron & Hermione (Harry Potter Series) – One of the central themes of these novels is love.  It’s impossible to ignore the many relationships that put a smile on our face.  We should also add Harry and Ginny and Bill & Fleur to the list.
  5. Jane & Edward (Jane Eyre) – Such a fulfilling end to years of misunderstanding.  A constant reminder that honesty is always the best policy.
  6. Clare & Henry (The Time Traveler’s Wife) – When he was actually around their relationship was magical, although when he left, that whole disappearing thing was kind of magical as well.
  7. Tristran & Yvaine (Stardust) – A classic case of love being right under your nose.
  8.  David & Agnes (David Copperfield) – An even classic-er case of love being right under your nose.  Sometimes the best love stories are the ones that span a lifetime.
  9. Precious Ramotswe & J.L.B Matekoni (The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency) – There’s not a ton of hype surrounding these two love birds, but you have to respect Matekoni’s persistence and in the end there’re plenty of awwwwe moments.
  10. Rhett & Scarlett (Gone with the Wind) – While this was one of the most selfish and unhealthy relationships in literature (with the exception of a certain couple that will remain nameless) the passion was at least noteworthy.  In truth however, Mellie is probably a better example of how love should look

Have a great week and head on over to The Broke and the Bookish to join the fun!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

I would like to dedicate this entire post to reminding my favorite bibliomaniac of just how blessed I am to have her in my life.  Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)
The Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
Evan’s ESS = 6 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG-13
(Violence, Bullying, Name Calling, Temperamental Greek gods)

 "He was slumped over, blood trickling from the side of his mouth.  I shook his furry hip, thinking, No!  Even if you are half barnyard animal, you're my best friend and I don't want you to die!"

Why: The concept alone for The Lightning Thief should be reason enough to give this one a try – the offspring of Greek gods battling it out here on earth over a certain stolen bolt of lightning. Ever since we (Evan) saw the previews for this movie we’ve been on a mission to read this book.  Finally, almost a year later we took the plunge (sorry, but our TBR pile’s a little out of hand).

Alas, we’re unable to include the glowing review we had originally hoped to pen. For us the main character just didn’t do it for us. And we hate to say this, but the primary reason The Lightning Thief was suspenseful was because Percy Jackson isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. Seriously, how is the son of P… (sorry, we almost gave something away, although the main character’s attraction to all things water might also prematurely reveal the twist), so slow and unbelieving when all kinds of hard core freaky stuff is happening right before his very eyes. Seriously, if one of our math teachers turned into a winged beast from the underworld we’d probably consider reassessing some things. Plus, does an individual on a desperate quest to save all of humanity really have time to take in the sights in St. Louis? The reader is helplessly left to find new nuggets of information at the pace in which Percy’s skepticism lessens… This isn’t very fast.

Okay, maybe we were a little harsh. In fact, maybe we were a lot harsh. Is it our fault, so many other great YA fiction novels have set the bar so high? The Lightning Thief is actually a decent read, with tons of action and interesting Greek mythology. It just has some flaws. While we’ll be continuing on with the series hesitantly, we’ll be continuing on nonetheless. Finally, the last… oh, actually, we need to go – the movie is about to start. We’ll let you know if it’s any better than the book.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ulysses - Readalong

Ulysses – James Joyce (Readalong)
Evan’s ESS = TBD out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = PG (Adult Content, Very Mild Language, Rambling Walks by the Shoreline)

Never before have we been intimidated by a book.  Sure, we’ve been plenty intimidated by literary characters, but never a book itself.  Ulysses actually had our stomach in knots as we continued to delay the commencement of this readalong.  Needless to say, we had some pretty strong preconceptions of what James Joyce was going to bring to the table... still do.  It is with a strong dosage of optimism and bravery that we must forge ahead (hopefully the nightmares will improve over time)!

Okay, so far, Ulysses isn’t as bad as we thought, except for Episode 3, but we’ll get there in a minute.  In Episode 1 we are introduced to Stephen Dedalus and two of his annoying roommates.  The trio indulge in a lively conversation over breakfast regarding some offensive remarks made about Stephen’s mother (God rest her soul).  In Episode 2 we glimpse Stephen at work (he’s a teacher) and overhear another lively conversation between him and his boss.  There’s a whole lot of philosophizing and some other stuff that we were just barely able to grasp.   

As we mentioned, the read was going pretty well for us until Episode 3.  At this point the wheels came off, as we were confronted by the dreadful stream of consciousness technique.  Instantly, we experienced a horrible flashback to The Sound and the Fury.  Why is this style acceptable?  How can one possibly sort through random thoughts and flashbacks (there may have even been a flash forward somewhere) presented without dialogue or any other structure.  A reader of our mental capacity has no hope.  Hold on a second while we wipe the blood streaming from our eyes...

The good news – and there is some reason to rejoice – the plot has not totally escaped us.  Yea!  In fact, we’re actually looking forward to tackling Part II! 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Top 10 Characters we'd name our children after

The Question: Top ten characters we’d name our children after. 

The Answer: Every now and then a topic is presented for Top 10 Tuesday that can cause (how can we put this delicately), slight differences in opinions.  We’re not saying the topic for this week falls into this category; however we will admit that voices were raised...   As you can imagine, the below 10 answers may vary greatly depending on which Bibliomaniac you ask.

  1. Scout – (To Kill a Mockingbird) – There’s no debate on this one, our favorite child name from all of literature (Probably).
  2. Rhett – (Gone with the Wind) – Frankly, we don’t give a darn – we’re choosing this name.
  3. Georgia – (Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging) – Maybe not the attitude or the drama, but as for her name, she passes our test.
  4. Adéle – (Jane Eyre) – Doesn’t it just roll off the tongue.  Plus, we’ll take the French accent as well.
  5. Tristan – (Stardust) – Okay, his name from the book is actually Tristran, but in the movie it’s Tristan so that should still count, right?
  6. Pippin – (Lord of the Rings) – Easily our favorite name from all of middle earth.
  7. Yvaine – (Stardust) – High points on the uniqueness yet practical scale.  It might take some getting used to but we could see a little Yvaine running around the house.
  8. Gale – (The Hunger Games) – If we had to pick a team in the series we were probably team Peeta, although for a child’s name, we’re team Gale all the way.
  9. Lisbeth – (The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo) – So far we have mixed feelings on this review and by mixed we mean that one of the Two Bibliomaniacs didn’t like it.  As soon as the second Bibliomaniac finishes we’ll post our official position.  Still, we liked the name.
  10. Dickon – (The Secret Garden) – While we probably wouldn’t pick this name for our child, we do want our next boy to be just like him.

Have a great week and head on over to The Broke and the Bookish to join the fun!

Monday, February 7, 2011

All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western FrontAll Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
Evan’s ESS = 7 out of 10
Erin’s ESS = out of 10
Content = R (Violence, Adult Content, Violence, Not-so-Quiet Western Front)

“We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces.  The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts.  We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress.  We believe in such things no longer, we believe in the war.”

Why: Wow. As it turns out, the title is a little misleading as the western front is anything but quiet.  In truth, it’s hard to even know where to begin. 

All Quiet on the Western Front is an account of WWI through the lens of a 19 year old German boy.  Paul Bäumer and his friends join the army and are quickly knee-deep in the most violent fighting imaginable.  What follows is both unapologetic and intense as Paul struggles mentally and physically to reconcile the horrors of war.  At its release the book was banned in Nazi Germany, while at the same time selling 2.5 million copies in over 25 languages.  Funny how that works...   

For us, All Quiet on the Western Front was jaw dropping.  We knew very little about this novel before the reading and were unprepared for the morbidly serious tone.  It was well worth our time however, as it presented a fantastic glimpse into WWI.  The novel was both psychologically and physically stimulating as we watched the main character struggle to adapt back into civilian life.  We certainly don’t claim to be war novel aficionados, but every now and then we like to dip our proverbial big toe in the water.  In the case of Remarque’s novel, the water is nice and warm, if not a little hot… and quite full of waves, like a big literary boat just passed through. Whatever that means...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Hop, Follow Friday, and Read My Review - February 4

We’ve officially decided the best way to beat the winter blues is to add a 3rd meme to our Friday lineup! Thanks to A Trillian Books, Crazy-For-Books and Parajunkee’s View for hosting these fun events. On to the questions!

Read My Review
Read My Review – This week’s theme is Adventure / Travel, so with that in mind we’re left with no choice but to highlight master adventurer, classic car collector, scuba enthusiast, and all around good guy:  Dirk Pitt.    

Book Hop
What are you currently reading and why?
Through circumstances beyond our control (most of them having to do with library due dates) we are currently juggling 3 books, all of which will move us closer to completing our 2011 challenges.  Atlas Shrugged is helping us during our daily commute, while The Gunslinger and The Unbearable Lightness of Being are providing us with plenty of evening entertainment.  Ulysses is helping us fall asleep...  The other Bibliomaniac is reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

Follow FridayWhat book are you currently “pushing”?
We’ve been very outspoken about the fact that book bullying in any form is wrong.  Pushing, tearing, marking, or neglecting should be punishable by... well, something not pleasant.  Join us in the fight against book pushing!  Is there any possible way this week’s question could have been referring to something completely different?  Nah.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for our Michael Palmer book giveaway – that’s right, a signed copy of his upcoming release – A Heartbeat Away!!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Secret History

The Secret HistoryThe Secret History – Donna Tartt
Evan’s ESS = 8 out of 10
Erin’s ESS =  out of 10
Content = (Adult Content, Violence, Language, Collegian Scheming)

Why: PSSSST.  We’ve got a secret... The Secret History is a pretty good book.

Fine, we’ll admit the intro was a little sophomoric, but trust us when we say that nothing about The Secret History is jejune (Yep, we think that’s a pretty cool word too).  The novel accounts the events surrounding narrator, Richard Papen, and his experience trying to fit into a small society of college elites (sorry, no super secret handshakes).  The group is plenty intellectual and hand selected by an acclaimed, yet unconventional professor of Classics.  Richard is intrigued and soon finds himself longing to be part of the group.  Hesitantly, his membership is approved and almost at once yucky stuff hits the fan (figuratively, of course).  What follows is a heavy helping of treachery, lying, arrogance, paranoia and... (commence foreboding music) murder.

We found The Secret History to be very suspenseful and psychologically fulfilling.  Probably our only gripe was that we didn’t quite get the ado surrounding professor Julian Marrow.   The man is literally worshiped by his students, yet the one lecture glimpsed in the novel wasn’t all that profound.  Frankly, we wouldn’t have signed up for his class.  Okay, maybe we would have taken one of his classes, but rearrange our entire major and course offering as required by his prospective students?... ludicrous. 

Still, give this one a try – you probably won’t be disappointed!  In the rare case you do experience prolonged feelings of dissatisfaction lasting longer than six hours, consult your local bookstore.  Works by Dahl, Tolkien, Mitchell, Rowling, or Rennison should improve symptoms immediately.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

2011 Reading Challenge Update - January

January is officially in the books and despite our recent Netflix subscription; things are looking relatively bright on the literary challenge front.  We’ll admit, we stumbled a bit on Vanity Fair and were blindsided by a horrific plot turn in Jude the Obscure.  Still, Shutter Island was flippin awesome and The Hunger Games reminded us that a good YA novel can inspire a weekend of complete laziness!  A summary of our (Evan’s) progress is listed below.  All the gruesome details can be found by clicking the 2011 Challenges page.

Gothic Reading Challenge – 1 of 8

Back to the Classics – 1 of 8

2nds Challenge – 2 of 20

100+ Reading Challenge – 10 of 100

We’re certainly looking forward to February, although Atlas Shrugged, standing in at 1,300 plus pages, has us plenty intimidated. *Gulp* Chin up – bring on the challenge!

How’s everyone else doing on their reading challenges?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Giveaway: Signed Michael Palmer Book – A Heartbeat Away!

A Heartbeat AwayFor the first time ever at Two Bibliomaniacs we’re going to dive into the world of book giveaways.  To kick things off we’re offering a signed copy of Michael Palmers newest novel – A Heartbeat Away!!!  Hopefully 3 exclamation points were enough.

Because this is our first giveaway and because our Google Doc skills are woefully inadequate, we’re going to make this real simple.  To enter all you need to do is comment on this post with your name and e-mail address (Testing the functionality of our Follow button would be appreciated but not necessary).

Special thanks to Michael Palmer for generously offering a copy of his book.  Sorry, but this giveaway is only open to US mailing addresses.  The contest ends on February 15th which just so happens to be the release date of A Heartbeat Away.  We know, eerie coincidence...

Top 10 Debut Novels

The question: Top 10 Best Debut Books.

The list: At first glance we were quite intimidated by this week’s topic, mainly due to our lack of knowledge in this arena.  Fortunately, the wonderful website of Goodreads, helped transition us from a naïve pair of bloggers into a formidable debut novel knowledge center.  In the end, it was nearly impossible to narrow our choices down to only 10.

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – Maybe you’ve heard of this one, but it’s kind of a big deal in the world of literature.
  2. Gone with the Wind – Our only wish is that this novel had as many sequels as our previous selection.
  3. I Capture the Castle – Quite possibly our favorite novel of all time let alone a fantastic debut novel.
  4. The Hobbit – The perfect blend of trolls, dwarves, wizards, dragons, gigantic eagles, and short creatures with really hairy feet.
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Our wish for this novel is eerily similar to choice number 2.  Actually, we’d have taken a 2nd novel of any topic written by Ms. Lee.
  6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Wouldn’t it be amazing to get inside the head of someone who can create this type of work?  On second thought, maybe it’s safer to stick with his books.
  7. The Eyre Affair – As stated on the back cover, we are very grateful that Mr. Fforde, “recently traded a varied career in the film industry for staring vacantly out the window and arranging words on a page.”
  8. The Thirteenth Tale – Please, please, please Ms. Setterfield, write 13 more tales. 
  9. Jane Eyre – In our not so humble opinion, this is the greatest of all the Bronte works.  Plus, if it wasn’t for this novel we’d have been forced to find a replacement for choice 7.
  10. Sense and Sensibility – While there’s hardly an end, Ms. Austen greatness had to start somewhere.   

We added links to each choice in case further encouragement is needed.  Doesn’t this get you excited to discover the next great debut novel! 

Have a great week and head on over to The Broke and the Bookish to join the fun!