Thursday, November 29, 2007

2007 book 172

Michelle Wildgen's You're Not You
When a college student becomes a part-time careworker for a woman with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), her own life begins to transform. There's some dark humor in here, and lots of bittersweetness, plus some college-girl angst. I liked it. A/A-.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

wonder woman

I like This NY Times piece on Gail Simone writing the new Wonder Woman comic book, b/c it avoids their usual "Girls read comics, OMG!" tripe. Has anyone read any of the new WW? Is it worth picking up? (I'm mildly interested in the Jodi Picoult storylines, though of course I HATED what she did with My Sister's Keeper.)

And speaking of comics . . . have you read Scott Pilgrim 4 yet?? If not, why not?? BTdub, its author, Bryan Lee O'Malley (along with his wife Hope Larson, who's a great creator in her own right), will be doing a signing at Chapel Hill Comics on December 1st. Am I heartbroken that I can't be there? More than words can express! No, really.

Monday, November 26, 2007

2007 book 171

Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein's Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited
The bizarre but true story of identical twins who were separated at birth and didn't discover one another until they were 35 hit national prominence thanks to an NPR story--it's a fascinating and amiably written dual memoir, if occasionally cluttered with a few too many mentions of scientific studies about twins. Their quest to uncover the reasons behind their separation make for an extremely compelling story and raise some thought-provoking questions about medical ethics and informed consent. A-.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

2007 books 169 and 170

Cornelia Read's A Field of Darkness
This was a very readable literary fiction type mystery, about a young woman whose family has old New York money (none of which she has), who lives in Syracuse and gets caught up in trying to solve a nearly 20 year old murder case. A-.

Thomas McMullen's The Last Town on Earth
It's 1918, and a small mill town in Washington state has decided to cut itself off from the rest of the world to try and avoid getting the deathly flu. War, politics, and disease all come into play, along with a little romance. A/A-.

Friday, November 23, 2007

more year-end lists

The NY Times list of notable books from 2007 is up. I haven't read most of the fiction contenders, but a good number are on my library hold list so I should get to them eventually.

2007 books 166, 167, and 168

Ellen Raskin's The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel), The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues, and Figgs and Phantoms
Raskin's The Westing Game is one of my all time favorite books, but she has several others that have similar themes and I decided to reread them all Thanksgiving day and night! Leon has word puzzles and the increasingly antic-filled quest to find the titular Leon, Tattooed Potato has similar identity-related plots but with artists, and Figgs deals with an outcast teenage girl, her bizarre family, and their own special heaven called Capri. Westing is still the pinnacle of Raskin's works, but the others are fun too. Leon: B+, Potato: B+, Figgs: B.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

2007 book 165

Faye Kellerman's Straight into Darkness
Whenever I'm home for Thanksgiving, my mom always supplements my library books with her own collection of mysteries and whatnot. In this story, Kellerman departs from her usual murer stories involving Orthodox Jews and goes for a historical tale taking place in Munich in the 1920s, as a detective attempts to find a serial killer while dealing with the turmoil of Hitler's rise to power. It was pretty entertaining, especially since the only other option for entertainment was some random football game on tv! B+.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

2007 book 164

Michael Collins' The Death of a Writer
There's a lot going on in this book--a failed novelist/academic tries to kill himself, but a grad student mostly saves his life and then discovers a hidden masterpiece, which becomes a huge success until police realize there are remarkable similarities between the novel and an unsolved murder, at which point a detective with his own set of personal problems gets involved. The killer is glaringly apparent from very early on, whcih is at times frustrating, and the book is somehow even more grim than I thought it would be. Still, Collins does a good job of ratcheting up the tension and keeping the reader engaged. B.

Monday, November 19, 2007

2007 book 163

Dinaw Mengestu's The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears
Sigh. I'm on vacation and not in the mood to review this! OK, brief summary: Ethiopian immigrant in DC falls for his new white neighbor and her biracial daughter. Neighborhood has tension, etc. Whatever. It was pretty good. B+/B.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

2007 book 162

Anne Enright's The Gathering
I read this a few days ago and my memories are somewhat vague, but I'll give it a whirl. This Booker-prize-winning novel involves an Irish family coming together to mourn their dead brother. The narrator, a sister he was particularly close to, faces an identity crisis and also resurrects a family secret. I don't think I've read any of the other Booker nominees, so I can't definitively say this deserved to win, but it deals with those timeless themes of family and self in a pretty interesting way. A-.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

best books of the year

PW's best books of 2007 list came out last Monday . . . there are some good picks on there for both fiction and graphic novels (awesome that Scott Pilgrim 4 is on a list that came out a week and a half before the book itself!). Anyway, you all know I love these end of the year lists, but of course mine won't be out till the year actually ends, b/c sometimes I read a really great book in late December.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

2007 book 161

I am CRUSHING my previous reading record! Plus Thanksgiving's coming up, which includes several flights and a whole week in Pittsburgh, i.e., lots more reading time!!

Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife
One thing that strikes me about my copies of the series is the different covers. The first two I got from the YA section--they're trade paperback size, with somewhat somber pictures of Lyra, and then Lyra and Will. However, when it came time to read the third one, I was desperate! And the YA section didn't have it! So I asked a dude at whatever book chain I was perusing if they had copies in stock, and sure enough, they did--in the science fiction section! So my copy of this one is a mass market paperback size with an outrageously awful cover (that opens up to an even worse interior cover). Anyway, this one is more of the same, kids with important missions caught in an epic battle, angels on angels, lots of creatures of various types from various worlds, etc. Good times. The creatures with wheels always remind me of something--is it from the Wizard of Oz books?


I recently read the first volumes of two minicomics that I think are arguably linked thematically--the first, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, tells of a young Jewish woman's trip on Birthright Israel, while the second, The Hookah Girl, is a bunch of short stories about a young Palestinian woman's experiences growing up in America. The latter doesn't get very deep (the stories are short, as I mentioned) but won me over with its paper doll versions of Palestinian women's identities and recipe for grape leaves; the former hasn't gotten too far yet, either, but was interesting enough to make me want to read the second volume whenever it comes out.

Anyway, I liked both of these a lot and figured I'd mention them--I'm all about chicks writing comics! Especially when it's stuff I'm interested in.

Monday, November 12, 2007

2007 book 160

Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife
C'mon, you must have known as soon as I finished the first one, I'd be on to the second! I really want to start the third, but I have work in the morning and know I'd just keep reading till it was done.

2007 book 159

Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass
Seeing a trailer for this movie reminded me that it's been ages since I read the books! Plus, as the weather turns chilly it seems like a good time to bust this series out, since so much of the first one takes place in the snow. Anyway, it's the fantasy story of a girl in some weird version of England where people's souls are animals and she has a mysterious destiny, plus there are witches and warrior bears. I love it every time I read it! A.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

2007 book 158

Nicholas Christopher's The Bestiary
I had mixed feelings about this book--I think sometimes the author wasn't sure if it was more of a coming-of-age story or a story about a scholar hunting down a mysterious book--containing details of all the mythological animals ever--missing since the 1300s. Some parts were slow, some parts were predictable, and the end felt abrupt, but it was mildly entertaining. B.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

2007 book 157

Markus Zusak's I am the Messenger
At first I was super bummed that Pushing Daisies wasn't on tonight, but finishing this book was excellent consolation. it's a completely different sort of story than Zusak's The Book Thief, but I was still completely enthralled and moved by it. It's about a sort of young slacker guy who drives a cab and isn't really doing much with his life, when he suddenly receives a playing card in the mail with a mysterious message. As he begins to follow the card's instructions, he finds meaning in his life, etc. Anyway, Zusak is a GREAT writer. I got a little teary several times throughout the novel (usually for nice things, don't worry, it's not nearly as dark as Book Thief) which shows what a great writer he is. I had sort of mixed feelings about the final chapter, but it's a YA book so we'll let it slide. A/A-.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

book recommendations?

The blogs have been abuzz about What Should I Read Next?, which ostensibly is awesome at recommending books based on other books you love. However, I tried it out and was not impressed at all. I mean, some of the recommendations are really weird. Like, I loved The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and its pop culture references, but what does this website recommend for me? Plays by Samuel Beckett and Tom Stoppard, Crime and Punishment, The Divine Comedy.

I think this it perhaps because there aren't enough books in the system to get good comparisons, but most of my recommended lists were full of random classics and non-fiction, which isn't at all what I'm interested in reading (and my favorites list reflects that). I am always desperate for new stuff to read, but this website isn't coming close to finding things I'd like.

I think I'll stick with Amazon's recommendations for now--after all, they have 6+ years of my purchasing history to base their picks. Someone let me know if this new site gets good!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Multimedia message

Multimedia message
Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
That last post was a little cranky, so here's a picture of my cat to lighten things up a little! Though he does have his serious face on, doesn't he?

Oh, and did you notice I beat my previous reading record (155 books in 2005)??? And November just started! Should I start a pool to see what my final tally will be?

2007 book 156

Judith Levine's Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping
I know, this doesn't seem like something I'd choose, and of course I didn't--it's a book club book. When I first started it, I was enjoying it--I was caught up in the start of Levine's project and thinking about how I need to watch my own shopping habit more closely. But as the book went on, her memoir-cum-journalist-essay style grew wearing--I liked the memoir bits enough, but then she'd be like, "So then I consulted such and such expert at such and such academic center" and cite a bunch of statistics. Plus her villains were totally cartoonish--a woman who wants to build a cell-phone tower in Vermont lists Wal-Mart and a prison as ideal residents of the town--and Levine gets snarky about even the people who she seems to think are good-hearted. By her entry on Buy-Nothing Day, I was very angry and her and her preachiness. And I agree with her claims! And yet still, I couldn't wait to be done with this book! I can't imagine the reaction from someone who doesn't agree with her when my own reaction is so negative. C-.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

2007 book 155

Jenny Downham's Before I Die
This heartbreaking novel about a teenage girl dying of cancer who is determined to complete her lists of things to do before she dies manages to stay fairly unsentimental while still capturing a good amount of teen angst. A-.

Friday, November 02, 2007

awesomest book ever?

The Daring Book for Girls came out this week, and it is seriously awesome. I would have LOVED this when I was a kid (and not just b/c it shows you how to make paper fortunetellers, which I only learned how to do a few years ago). I'm glad I'm not too old for it. I mean, maybe now I'll finally learn how to whistle with two fingers! :)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

2007 book 154

Shalom Auslander's Foreskin's Lament
Man, I feel like I was waiting for this book forever! Auslander, author of Beware of God and frequent contributor to This American Life (note to my dad: you heard him do one of his pieces--I think the one about how he wasn't allowed to throw away anything with his name on it, b/c Shalom is one of God's names, or maybe it was the one about how he watched over the dead for a part-time job), has written a caustic and funny memoir about growing up religious, and how all his conflicts came to a head when his son was born and they had to decide whether or not to circumcise him. I'm not sure this story will resonate with non-Jews (or with Jews who didn't have a bunch of frum friends and went through a brief BT period), but I do think his struggles with the concept of God are perhaps universal. If nothing else, it's an entertaining look at teen rebellion in a seriously outlandish environment. A.

reasons to wish i was a millionaire

J.K. Rowling is auctioning off one copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

Yes, I am a Harry Potter fanatic. Did you just start reading this blog?

As a side note, how awesome is it that a book will go for that much money??