Tuesday, August 28, 2007

2007 books 130, 131, 132, 133

Jane O'Connor's Dangerous Admissions
This light mystery centers on a former copy editor who is now giving tours at her son's elite private school; when the director of college admissions turns up dead, she finds herself snooping into the case. I will note that any book featuring a character who's always noting grammatical errors should be gone over with a fine-tooth comb--I found two typos. Anyway, it's basically exactly as it sounds, right down to the ubiquitous sexy and helpful love interest. B.

Jonis Agee's The River Wife
When a young girl's new husband keeps slipping away to run mysterious errands in Prohibition-era times, she finds a series of his great-grandmother's journals and begins to believe their lives are paralleled. Some other women who were part of his great-grandfather's life also come into the story. The first half of this book is very strong, but when random other women come into it and we lose sight of the new young wife (for several hundred pages), things start to falter. The ending also feels very, very rushed. B-.

Travis Holland's The Archivist's Story
Ah, this was more like it. A man working as an archivist under Stalin's regime in the late 1930s encounters the great Isaac Babel, imprisoned, and his final story. Holland does a good job with the rising sense of terror as Stalin's regime grows more oppressive, and the archivist's own past as a literature teacher makes his choices all too believable. A-.

Kim Edwards' The Memory Keeper's Daughter
I've been meaning to read this for ages and I'm glad I finally got around to it. It's a heart-wrenching story about a doctor in 1964 who delivers his own twin babies. When he realizes that his baby daughter has Downs Syndrome, he asks his nurse to take her to an institution and tells his wife that the baby died. His decision changes all their lives and haunts his wife and himself. It can be frustrating to read a book about someone who you just want to bitch-slap, but Edwards tells a riveting story. A-.

Friday, August 24, 2007

2007 book 129

Kenn Kamoche's A Fragile Hope
Another book I'm for real reviewing . . . it's a book of short stories by some Kenyan expat in Hong Kong who apparently teaches management?!? Actually they're pretty good stories, set all over the world, mainly slice-of-life stuff but a few are more serious. B+/B.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

2007 book 128

Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
This is one of my all-time favorite books--I mean, seriously, it has like every kind of theme and cultural reference that I love, Jews and folklore and comic books and just everything!--so I was pretty happy when one of my many book groups chose this as its first selection. I know most of the other people in the group haven't read it yet, so I'm very intrigued to see what they think.

for the interested

The September 2007 issue of Gourmet has an article on Hispanic eateries in the Triangle . . . it makes me homesick!

Monday, August 20, 2007

two great tastes that taste great together?

Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) is joining the cast of Heroes! (Just for a few episodes, but still!) OMG! *fangirl squee*

yiddish is cool

At least according to this article, though I am inclined to agree. I actually wanted to learn Yiddish a few years back (well, I still do), but have never lived anywhere that offered classes (or at least, not when I lived there--i.e., Pittsburgh has classes now, NC did the year before I moved there, and so on). Apparently there are online versions, but I guess I'm a traditionalist when it comes to learning languages.

j.k. rowling writing again!

I'm actually looking forward to reading her non-Potter work. (Via Booklist)

ETA: Never mind. Apparently Ian Rankin is just a jerk.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

2007 book 127

Laura Moriarty's The Rest of Her Life
A woman's teenage daughter accidentally kills another teenage girl in a car accident, and all their lives fall apart a little. Riveting read, though not much substance, and the end was a little weak. A-/B+.

In other news, I saw Superbad today, and it was superawesome, as expected. I also disagree with the several reviews I've read saying the girl characters were two-dimensional--we thought Becca especially was a realistic teen girl, acting the way teen girls think they're supposed to act. Anyway, the movie was hardly intended to be realistic, as every scene involving the cops shows. One final note: McLovin is a breakout star. Someone get that kid an Oscar!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

2007 book 126

Lisa Tucker's Once Upon a Day
I'm giving this book a "wow!" right off the bat. It's about a young woman who, along with her brother, has been raised in complete isolation by their eccentric father. When her brother leaves home and she goes after him, secrets about their past come to light, but not in the way I expected at first. There's a romantic subplot as well, where the girl meets a damaged man, which is satisfying if you're willing to deal with some serious suspension of disbelief (I was). Anyway, I really enjoyed this and along with me "wow!" give it an A.

2007 book 125

Lloyd Jones' Mister Pip
Though this story starts off a little slow and its description seems on the wishy-washy side, this story of a schoolteacher reading Great Expectations to a classroom of kids on a tropical island near Australia is an unexpectedly powerful and moving one. As civil war comes ever closer to their tiny village, the stories of the teacher and of Dickens are one of the only refuges available. I don't want to give anything away, but trust me that this is not some sweet pastoral tale. A/A-.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

2007 book 124

Dianna Wynne Jones' The Game
This YA fantasy book had a premise I should have liked (a girl meets up with her zany relatives and discovers they all have ties to the realm of the mythosphere, i.e. all the stories ever told, plus they have connections to classical mythology), but it was really insubstantial. It's being marketed as a novella but I found myself wishing Jones had just written a full-on novel. The characters were interesting, but there wasn't much there, and the ending felt really rushed. C+.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

return to sleepaway camp!

Those of you who know me well know that I totally love the horror movie Sleepaway Camp (and its terrible, terrible sequels, starring Bruce Springsteen's untalented sister). Check it out, they're making ANOTHER one! (Not counting the unfinished part 4, which is included in the DVD box set, which of course I own.)

My favorite part of that link is of course the part about the "grizzly murders". Dude, it wasn't a bear doing the killings!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

2007 book 123

Matt Ruff's Bad Monkeys
A woman has been arrested for murder, but tells the police and the psychologist examining her that she actually works for a secret organization dedicated to taking out evil people! Is she telling the truth??? I was pretty amused by this story, and it was a very fact read if nothing else. Great attention to details too. B.

2007 book 122

Ron Suskind's A Hope in the Unseen
This is FSU's freshman reading book (the first one FSU has ever had) and the next book in the library's discussion series. I really struggled to get through it, especially the first part. It's not that the story--a young black boy from inner-city DC fights to get into an Ivy League school--isn't compelling, it's that the narrative style (journalistic omniscience?) was extremely annoying. It kept taking me out of the story--like how does this random white dude writer know what this kid is thinking? It really made me nuts. I hate non-fiction. C.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


I went to go see Stardust tonight--of course you all know I love the book (especially the signed copy procured for me by a gallant college boyfriend) and are expecting me to bitch about the many changes, but actually I thought they really worked. Besides the all-star cast, there were lots of great actors in bit parts--Peter O'Toole, the dude who plays Arthur Weasley, etc. Of course I do like the book's ending better, but I'm never one to frown at a well-done action scene, especially one with zombies. So, I loved the movie--funny action fantasies are pretty rare.

Monday, August 06, 2007

2007 book 121

Jonathan Tropper's How to Talk to a Widower
I'm not really sure how to describe the writing of this book, except to say that it's already been optioned for a movie (I liked it anyway). It's about a 29-year-old widower, his fucked-up teenage stepson, and the rest of his crazy family as he tries to come to terms with his wife's death. The characters are all really likable; I could have done without the protagonist's columns (the character is a magazine writer), which aren't as good as all the other characters say they are. Things do get overly dramatic and exciting at times--which is no doubt why this will be a movie, and reminded of chick lit at times (though maybe I just have chick lit on the brain). Still, when I finished it, I actually said, "I liked this book!" and decided to give it an A/A-.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

2007 book 120

Kiara Brinkman's Up High in the Trees
I'm sure this book is going to garner lots of comparisons to Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, b/c it too is narrated by an autistic boy (actually, they never say he's autistic--some review I read said that--so he may have some other mental handicap). Anyway, his mother has just died, his father is having a breakdown, and his two older siblings are also having trouble coping. It can be hard to write a realistic narrative from the POV of a kid, especially a handicapped one, and I don't think Brinkman quite managed. It's a first novel and it really feels that way. B.

2007 book 119

Lynn Harris' Death by Chick Lit
I looooved Harris' writing when I was in college (back during the Breakup Girl website days--now she does freelance stuff. I sometimes see parenting-related stuff she does for Salon), so when I saw she had written this goofy-looking mystery, I had to check it out. The premise is that a sort-of-unsuccessful writer Lola (who clearly is a little bit autobiographical) gets caught up in a series of murders--but all the victims are very successful chick lit authors! Lola takes up the investigation--but is she famous enough to be on the hit list??? Anyway, this was very funny, although very New York. I'll give it a A-.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

2007 book 118

Michael Chabon's Summerland
Like, ohmigod, can you believe there is a book by Michael Chabon I hadn't read?? Frankly, the idea of a YA book mixing fantasy and baseball sounded like the least appealing idea on the planet. OK, not the least appealing, but still. And unfortunately, Chabon just couldn't pull it together for me. Take all the usual elements of YA fantasy books--a totally non-special kid tapped for a world-saving task, with a motley assortment of friends and mystical creatures--and make them play baseball for like half the book . . . sigh. I'm just not really that into baseball. B/B-.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

2007 books 116 and 117

Back in Tally . . . and with a kitty in dire need of cuddles!

Laurie R. King's Locked Rooms
The latest Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mystery deals with Mary's own past! Dramatic! B+.

Meg Rosoff's Justin Case
A teenager believes he is doomed; stupid interludes by fate confirm this. Or something. D.