Wednesday, June 22, 2011

You may have noticed I have moved on!

Where I am now: My Twitter


Sunday, January 03, 2010

A plea for amnesty & my best of 2009

This year just got away from me. Maybe I needed a break from blogging, maybe I got distracted by shiny new social media tools. Who knows? Anyway. I'd promise to keep up from now on, but I'd hate to make myself a liar. I will promise to try though.

In the meantime, here's my 2009 rundown:

This year my numbers were way down from last year's. I only read 108 books: 53 adult fiction, 38 young adult fiction, 15 non-fiction, and 2 graphic novels.

My favorite 16 of the year in the order I read them:

1. Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway. This one was just so much FUN. I laughed out loud many times and even made a playlist of all the songs mentioned or quoted.

2. The Likeness by Tana French. I enjoyed both of Tana French's books, but this one was an awesome mix of Daphne Du Maurier and Donna Tartt.

3. Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach. This was a hilarious yet respectful look at the history of sex research and its current status.

4. & 5. The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. One of the best YA series out there right now. These were just awesome. I can't wait to find out how it ends!

6. Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books by Aaron Lansky. I was hooked from the opening scene of a small group of people trying to save a dumpster full of Yiddish books before the rain could destroy them.

7. Persuasion by Jane Austen. I can't believe I hadn't read this before now. Loved it completely.

8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I've had this book sitting on my shelf ever since it came out, but didn't get around to reading it until this year. I'm kicking myself for being stupid because it was utterly delightful and engrossing.

9. Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town by Warren St. John. This was a pretty strong year for me and non-fiction. I loved reading about this town full of refugees and the woman who decided these kids needed a soccer team.

10. Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis. Just fun and silly. Mame is one of the greatest characters ever written.

11. & 12. Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. I love Laurie Colwin's breezy tone when writing about food. She's just as eager to share her mishaps as she is her triumphs. Bonus: all the recipes sound amazing.

13. Anathem Neal Stephenson. Another one I've had on my shelf for a while (I've found vacations are excellent for tackling thick paperbacks). It was a little tough to get into at the beginning, but once I got used to the world and the jargon the massive philosophical and mathematical undertaking swept me away.

14. The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge. Warning: this book may make you cry in public. I love the intricacy of the society depicted in this book and how the author works it all in without sacrificing one hell of an adventure story.

15. Born To Run: : A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. A great non-fiction book that taught me about a sport I had no idea existed.

16. His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik. This is the first book of a very entertaining series about the Napoleonic wars. With dragons.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

As promised...

I was excited for a new Vicky Bliss mystery with Elizabeth Peters' The Laughter of Dead Kings but it wasn't until the second half of the book that the action really got going. So while it was nice to revisit the characters (and Schmidt will always be awesome), it wasn't the best entry in the series.

I won't get into why I picked up Linda Howard's Mr. Perfect, but it was okay for what it ended up being - a pleasant enough Saturday afternoon book. The mystery wasn't hard to figure out and the romance aspect seemed rather abrupt and a little unconvincing, but it wasn't bad. I don't know that I'll go out of my way to read anything else of hers, but I wouldn't say no either.

Now Tana French, she's a whole other story. Daisy loved In The Woods and I'm always interested in new mystery authors so I picked it up. I'm happy to say it was indeed very good. I'd even put it up there with Denise Mina's work, although I do have to subtract some points because I suspected the ending from the very beginning.

So of course I had to check out French's next book, The Likeness, which was even better than In The Woods. It was like The Secret History crossed with The Scapegoat. I loved it and it's already on my list of the best books of the year.

I can't remember why I picked up Doug Dorst's Alive In Necropolis but it wasn't nearly as good as I hoped it would be. I thought the parts of the book that concerned the living characters worked much better than the ghost plot lines, most of which I ended up skimming.

I felt like The Book Of Fate by Brad Meltzer was a bit of a bait and switch. I think I was expecting a National Treasure type thriller, which is what the flap seemed to indicate, but got a fairly basic political one instead. It was okay, but nothing special.


Friday, February 13, 2009

I loved Audrey, Wait! by Robin Bremer so much that I made a playlist of all the songs from the chapter headings to listen to while I read it. The plot is fairly basic - Audrey breaks up with her boyfriend Evan, who then writes a song about her that becomes huge, forcing her into the media spotlight. What makes the book special are the well-drawn characters, including Audrey's parents, and the hilarious dialogue, especially between Audrey and her friends. I loved this book.

I finally got to Paper Towns by John Green which, let's be honest, isn't all that different from his previous books. It almost feels like a second go at Looking For Alaska and it works better in many ways than Alaska did by making the object of wonder more of a real person. If it weren't for Hassan in Katherines I'd say this was my favorite book of his.

Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle is three interconnected stories revolving around a small town, a snowstorm, and various teenagers in love. It wasn't fantastic but it was cute enough to keep me reading.

Steve Klugar's My Most Excellent Year: A novel of love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park wasn't life-changing or anything, but I had a smile on my face through pretty much the whole thing.

I re-read my favorite Sarah Dessen, Just Listen, which was perfect for a lazy Saturday afternoon.

I've been wary of reading Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley because it disappointed a lot of people, but I ended up liking more than I expected to. Yeah, the voice was a little annoying but I read it while I had some excellent music on repeat which probably helped to take my mind off it. So maybe the key is to read it while half-distracted by something else?

Drew Ferguson's Screwed Up Life of Charlie The Second has more sex in it than your average YA novel, gay sex to be specific, just to get that out of the way right up front. That aside, the book is told through Charlie's journal entries covering his senior year when he faces life as an out, sort-of social outcast in high school. He falls in love for the first time, has to face the prospect of his parents divorcing, and has a best friend who has started paying more attention to his girlfriend than to Charlie. While the plot twists are predictable, Charlie is an appealing, funny character and I enjoyed reading it.

I picked up Everyone's A Critic by Paul Ruditis despite not being terribly excited about the first book in the series. This one lacked even the slight mystery angle from that one and instead focused on the drama department and their auditions for a prominent stage director. It wasn't especially funny and the characters weren't given much to do. The plot was okay but covered very familiar ground which I think was handled better in Dramarama and Camp.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2009 books (I'm already really far behind. Sigh.)

I finished the Sean McMullen trilogy with The Miocene Arrow which moves the action to the North American continent and Eyes Of The Calculor which, while still interesting, felt less urgent and less complex than the previous two. Plus it had an almost literal deus ex machina character who I liked but the concept and execution of it didn't work that well for me.

Then there was What The Lady Wants by Jennifer Crusie which I already mentioned.

After that I finished Kelly Link's book of short stories Pretty Monsters. These were unsettling, sometimes ambiguous stories with supernatural elements. I didn't love all of them but there weren't any I disliked either. I did love "Magic For Beginners" and "The Faery Handbag" and "Wizards Of Perfil" especially though. This was my first exposure to Kelly Link's writing (and I'll definitely read more) even though I've been a fan of Small Beer Press for a while because they too appreciate Sean Stewart's genius.

I'm not sure how long I've had Wonder When You'll Miss Me on my shelves, but I finally got around to pulling it out. It was great, of course. I loved the circus setting and the characters who were all damaged in their own ways. Plus it had an ending joke so subtle yet perfect that I didn't even spot it coming until it happened. Bravo.


Saturday, January 31, 2009

2008 (belated) end of the year round up.

I read 80 adult fiction books, 10 adult non-fiction, 45 YA, 5 graphic novels, and 6 essay collections for a total of 146 books which I believe is my highest total since I started keeping track.

My 10ish favorites (in vague order of when I read them):

1. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You by Peter Cameron. I ran right out and bought myself a copy as soon as I finished it.

2. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. I'd been saving this one because I knew I'd love it. I love all his books.

3. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Probably the best mystery I read this year.

4. The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much by Leslie Bennetts. Fascinating and thought-provoking.

5. Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley. I love them all.

6. Getting The Girl by Susan Juby. This one made me laugh more than anything else I read this year.

7. The Speed Of Dark by Elizabeth Moon. And this one made me cry more than anything else I read this year.

8. The Thief, The Queen Of Attolia, and The King Of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. The first one is good and the next two are even better.

9. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. Fascinating world and a genuinely scary thriller.

10. PopCo by Scarlett Thomas. What other novel includes a list of prime numbers and a recipe for cake?

Final 2008 push!

Ellen Wittlinger's Blind Faith has been on my to read list for a while and while it was good I think I expected more of it because so many people said they loved it.

Robin McKinley's Chalice, I'm sorry to say, didn't have much of a chance from me even thought I wanted to love it. See, I love The Hero And The Crown and The Blue Sword like whoa, but I don't think she's written anything else as good as those. And when you add in the whole land sense aspect of it that in my mind forever belongs to Patricia McKillip (in an untouchable trilogy I love even more), well, like I said, it didn't really have a chance. That's not to say it wasn't good - it was. Just not as good. Which I'm sure only makes sense in my head.

The Disreputable History Of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart was like a YA version of Prep with a dash of The Skulls. I had a lot of fun reading it.

I did a lot of eye-rolling during Gail Carson Levine's Fairest, a retelling of Snow White. It was okay I suppose, but was no Ella Enchanted. Aza was annoying and because all her focus was on wanting to be pretty I disliked her for pretty much the entire book. Why get so hung up on something you can't change? Move on!

Graceling by Kristin Cashore has gotten a lot of well-deserved attention and I enjoyed it a lot. I liked the whole concept of the graces and the characters were cool and thankfully not stupid - they came to realizations not too long after I did, which I appreciated.

But I loved Susan Juby's Getting The Girl: A Guide To Private Investigation, Surveillance, And Cookery. Total love. I laughed at something on nearly every page. If Brick had been a teen comedy it might have gone something like this. But at the same time I appreciated the genuine sense of menace about what was happening to these girls when they got shunned. It was surprisingly effective and worked to give the book depth. Seriously, LOVE.

Dooley Takes The Fall by Norah McClintock is another teen mystery, but without the laughs. Dooley is a complicated character and I liked how we got to know him with his back story being released gradually. The mystery was nice and twisty and I liked the tone of the book.

While I was visiting my parents over Christmas I dug into my mom's Elizabeth Peters books and read Borrower Of The Night, Street Of The Five Moons, Silhouette In Scarlet, and Night Train To Memphis in preparation for the new Vicky Bliss that came out last year. (We couldn't find her copy of Trojan Gold though or I would have read that one too.) I also read Die For Love which is one of my favorites of hers. You know, reading these again after so many years was funny - I no longer have to wonder where my feminist inclinations come from. I started reading Elizabeth Peters when I was eight or nine and she was pretty much my favorite author after that and her books are full of strong, intelligent women who are very staunchly and outspokenly feminist. Mystery solved!

I read Sean McMullen's Souls In The Great Machine quickly, gulping down the excellent science fiction of a future Australia where a computer made up of human components is constructed to deal with the complex politics and war on the continent. It had really cool world-building and while the characters tended toward the cartoonish at times, it was a fun read.

Last book! The Subject Steve by Sam Lipsyte was a little disappointing. It wasn't nearly as funny as Home Land and the plot and overall message reminded me of American Desert by Percival Everett. It did have its moments though and I liked it well enough.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Don't You Forget About Me by Jancee Dunn was okay, although I hope I was not supposed to like the main character Lillian all that much because she annoyed me for almost the entire book. But then, I'm not someone who views high school as the best time of my life, so maybe I'm not her target audience. I don't think so though because by the end Lillian does realize that she turned a blind eye to a lot of bad situations and that she needs to move on. I did like a lot of the supporting characters though.

David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed In Flames is his latest collection of essays. They were funny, blah, blah. It's David Sedaris - I'm sure you know already if he makes you laugh.

I loved Spaceman Blues by Brian Francis Slattery so I was excited to read Liberation: Being The Adventures Of The Slick Six After The Collapse Of The United States Of America. It was similar in style, with a free-wheeling, musical feel to it. I didn't like it quite as much as his first book, but it was still really good.

Kory loaned me Elizabeth Moon's The Speed Of Dark which I loved. It was amazing. It's set in the near future where Lou, an autistic man, is being pressured by his company to join a drug trial that might possibly cure his condition. The book is told from Lou's perspective and Moon does an unbelievable job at placing the reader inside the autistic experience. I really can't recommend this book highly enough.

I didn't think Chelsea Handler's My Horizontal Life: A Collection Of One Night Stands was as funny as her latest, but it still had many funny moments.

I've had Blackburn by Bradley Denton on my shelves for ages and finally pulled it down to read. Blackburn is a serial killer who reacts to modern annoyances (getting ripped off by mechanics, door-to-door salesmen, etc.) with extreme violence that starts to seem reasonable. It was darkly funny and I enjoyed it.


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