Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 book 205

Geraldine Brooks' People of the Book
I've been rereading this since the move, in spare resting moments b/w unpacking, and I'm glad I finished it today--not just b/c it's as good as I remembered (and worth a spot on the year-end list), but b/c it's nice to end the year on a big round number like 205.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

best books of 2008

I read a lot of really good books in 2008--according to Goodreads, I gave five stars to 26 of them--but somehow only a few seemed awesome enough to be BEST OF THE YEAR! So here are my nine favorites, in no particular order:

--Stephanie Kallos' Sing Them Home
--Selden Edwards' Little Book
--Kate Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News
--Hannah Tinti's Good Thief
--Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games
--Ron Rash's Serena
--David Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
--Lauren Groff's Monsters of Templeton
--Geraldine Brooks' People of the Book (this may have technically come out in late December 2007)

Other titles I enjoyed: Telex from Cuba, I See you Everywhere, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, Nation, A Map of Home, What was Lost, Thirteen Reasons Why, Obedience, House on Fortune Street, The Age of Dreaming, Three Girls and their Brother, The Curse of the Spellman, The Girl who Stopped Swimming, Gonzalez and Daughter Trucking co.

Happy new year! Here's to a whole new year of books (and me hoping to break my record again, though 204 will be a toughie).

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JB is settling into the new place nicely and approves of Lizard Ridge.

Sorry for the lack of posts--like I said, I don't have internet yet, though have been enjoying free wifi at various local establishments.

Best books of 2008 coming shortly!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2008 book 204

Shulamit Lapid's Valley of Strength
I'm reviewing this translation of a classic 1982 Israeli novel for LJ. I think a lot of it was the translator's fault, but it wasn't a fun read at all. Parts of the story were really compelling, but I was kind of meh on most of it.

Anyway, I'm spending tomorrow driving up to NC--beats the usual bored Christmas! Internet use will be sporadic--so happy holidays, everyone!

stuff and stuff

I have a book review due soon and am not enjoying the book much, so don't expect book-related posts anytime soon. To keep you busy till then, here are some links!

Popwatch on the lame new American Girl doll. They replaced Samantha for this?? Lame!! (Back in the day when I was a kid, there were only three dolls--Molly, Samantha, and Kirsten. How can they do away with one of the originals?? She had cool clothes and stuff. [My sister had her--I had Molly, b/c she had glasses and a dog and a WWII-era story.])

Spoonfudge! This idea is GENIUS. Finally someone catches on to the fact that people like to eat frosting out of the jar. But with fudge!

And these cupcakes are amazing. That is some hardcore decorating.

Happy Hanukkah! Have a droidel.

Monday, December 22, 2008

best comics of 2008 as chosen by the artists

If you're wondering what comics you should be reading, this list is a great starting point. Clearly I need to pick up Jin and Jam.

2008 book 203

Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle
Now that the movers have taken all my stuff away, my book choices are limited to whatever was in odd nooks and crannies in my apartment. Luckily this book was one of those. I'm pretty sure I already reread it this year, but it's such a fun story that I was happy to read it again. I should really give the Miyazaki movie another chance, even with the weird war-related plot he shoehorned in.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008 book 202

Emma Darwin's The Mathematics of Love
This has been in my to-read pile for over a year, and I've taken it on my last three trips, but somehow it never seemed appealing until today. And guess what, it's really good! It's two stories in one: half takes place in 1819, centering on a man who lost his leg in the Napoleonic wars, and his friendship with a woman, and the other half takes place in his estate in 1976, when a teenage girl is sent to live with her uncle. Both stories and both protagonists are compelling and likable. I did have one major beef, and this is not the author's fault (she's Darwin's great-granddaughter btw)--but the description on the back describes the teenager as "promiscuous" which is both sexist and wildly inaccurate. Screw you, Harper Perennial blurb-writer! A-.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008 book 201

With the packing pretty much done, I actually had time to read a book!


Kirsten Mener-Anderson's Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain
I've been off of short stories for a few years now, but make an exception for ones that are related, whcih was the case here. It's a really interesting hsitory of New York/history of medicine, following the lives of a family of doctors through many generations. B+.

Friday, December 19, 2008

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Sorry for the slow posting. I've been busy packing--Jimmy is helping empty drawers, as you can see. Things should pick back up early next week, when I'll be hanging out furniture-less and will be looking for internet-related distractions. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

top songs of 2008; cuteness

I didn't do a top albums list for 2007 (it would have just been like the Rosebuds, the Shout-out-Louds, and Rogue Wave) and I'm not doing one now; I've been a little disconnected from the music scene and have only bought a couple of albums this year.

That being the case--here are my favorite sing-along songs of 2008! (They're in no particular order.)

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks--Gardenia
The Broken West--Auctioneer
Hotel Lights--Amelia Bright
All Girl Summer Fun Band--Trajectory
She & Him--Black Hole
Los Campesinos!--Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks
TV on the Radio--Family Tree
Vivian Girls--Where do you run to?
Club 8--Leaving the North
The Rosebuds--Another Way In

Good times, eh?

Oh, and here's a site I love-- Cute Things Falling Asleep. Perfect.

More cute things: I just rediscovered the name of a favorite childhood toy--Sylvanian Familes. I liked them b/c they were sylvanians (like Pennsylvanians like me) and b/c they were supercute and slightly fuzzy animals. I imagine I still have a couple of these stashed in my childhood bedroom. Of course I liked the bunnies best (I collected the Wildwood and Babblebrook families) but I think I had a couple of bears, too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008 book 200

Ignore my last post--it's not like I was really going to be packing at 10 pm!

Peter Manseau's Songs for the Butcher's Daughter
I'm really not sure what to think about this book. I loves some parts, hated others, found some to be heartbreaking . . . It starts off with a young man working for an organization that saves Yiddish books, translating the life story of an elderly man while narrating his own life story. Or whatever. The bulk of the novel is the elder's life story--born during a pogrom in Russia (which is brutal reading), he goes to cheder and works in a goose down factory (more brutal reading) and he's in love with a girl he's never met, and then various things happen. The problem is, he's kind of an asshole through the whole thing. I really need to discuss this with a book group to get my head straight--I mean, protagonists should have some flaws, but this guy is really a dipshit in many ways. I was really into the story, don't get me wrong, but didn't like the end much, and found the whole thing to be a little too in the vein of Nicole Krauss or someone like that (and I like her writing--but it all just seems derivative after a while).

blah blah

Who has time for reading (or blogging about reading) when movers are coming in less than a week???

Here's a few things to whet your appetites.

Ron Rash's Serena, which I loved, is getting good press and was one of Janet Maslin's top ten books of 2008 (I like all of her fiction picks, actually). No idea if it'll make my top whatever--but it for sure is a strong contender.

Pitt brought dogs to campus to help ease the tension of finals week. Puppies make everything better. Speaking of animals, JB is biting my feet--HARD--in an effort to get my attention, so I gotta run. OW.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

2008 book 199

Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking
Christina's been reading autobiographies of classy Hollywood ladies like Katherine Hepburn, but Carrie Fisher's book version of her one-woman show--touching on her mental illness, celebrity parents, failed romances, and Star Wars--was way more my speed. It's a quick read (perfect for a break from boxing up books), frank and funny.

Friday, December 12, 2008

2008 book 198

Stephanie Kallos' Sing Them Home
I loved Kallos' first novel, so was really excited when her new one came into the library--and it didn't disappoint (clearly I stayed up past my bedtime to read it). It's the story of a family in a small town in Nebraska, and what happens to them after their mother disappears during a tornado. Really excellent--believably flawed characters that you hope will get happy endings. My only beef was that it really needed another round of proofreading. I found tons of typos, and one character's name kept changing from Chris to Kris. That's just sloppy. It's a mark of how good a story this is that I'm giving it an A anyway.

Ooh, and the Venture Bros is on!

Oh, and just saw via a friend on Twitter--Pitchfork is covering Cytunes! That makes me a little teary. Wish I could be there for the launch party, but instead I'll go download some tunes (the store officially opened at midnight--so get to it!). Mad props to Rossi et al for getting this together.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

another hanukkah commercial

Best Week Ever points out another Hanukkah commercial, but I'm not sorry to have missed this one. I definitely would rather have an ipod than a prostate exam. (I mean, hypothetically. My vague memories of high school bio assure me that I don't have a prostate gland.)

In other holiday news, here's a recipe to make melted snowman cupcakes. So cute! Feel free to make these for kids, but don't try selling any other handmade products to those under 12, b/c apparently it's illegal now.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

more best books of '08

Salon asked a bunch of authors what their favorite books of 2008 were. This is mainly only notable b/c Kelly Link loves Scott Pilgrim! I knew I liked that chick.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

2008 book 197

Roberto Bolano's 2666
Man, I feel like I've been reading this book for a year. It's almost 900 pages long--of course, they're mostly 900 very good pages, but it's kind of slow going. The story is divided into five parts, and halfway through the first part--about a bunch of academics who all study a reclusive German writer--I was sure this was going to be on my best of the year list. This impression lasted through parts two and three, and then I got to "The Part About the Crimes" (that's what it's called). Much of the story alludes to a border town in Mexico where women are being murdered, and the part about the crimes is pretty much just that. Sure, there's plot and characters, but for THREE HUNDRED PAGES, there are many, many descriptions of the discoveries of the bodies of women who have been raped and murdered. For three hundred pages! I tore through the first three parts and then it took me like four days to get through those pages. Horrifying. Because the novel was published posthumously, I assume it didn't get much editing, and that section could really have used some--I mean, I almost didn't keep reading. But I'm glad I did, because part five, the story of the reclusive German writer, was pretty great, and really brought it all home. A/A-.

PS: Hanukkah content! I saw a Best Buy commercial today that was Hanukkah themed (a dad buys a daughter an ipod accessory for the first 7 nights of Hanukkah and on the 8th she gets the ipod). Anyway, hooray for big box stores caring about Jews (even if it is just to shill ipod accessories. I mean, honestly, why would you need 7??? I have, like, the headphones mine came with, some speakers, and a little case I knitted). I don't think I've ever seen a Hanukkah commercial before, so it was pretty awesome.

stuff

I'm still plowing my way through 2666, so in the meantime, here's some random stuff to entertain you and keep the blog hits up:

Bookslut has an interview with Cynthia Ozick, one of my favorites.

Speaking of favorites, one of my favorite comic book series, Fables, might become a tv show. I mean, it does have everything a good tv show needs: magic, romance, violence, shapeshifting, war, and wolfbabies.

Oh, and here's a really sweet blog post about how Francoise Mouly got involved with Art Spiegelman. It's holiday-oriented!

And finally: Time Magazine's top everything of 2008. They have like 50 lists of top tens. One is animal stories (puppycam made the cut!). That is my kind of list.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

2008 book 196

Emily Franklin, ed. How to Spell Hannukkah
Thank you, Alonquin Books, for publishing a book of essays by funny and touching writers about their experiences with Hanukkah (which is how I spell it). As I mentioned in my last post, being Jewish this time of year is really weird. I think I'm getting more militantly anti-Christmas as I get older, or maybe it's just that it's easier to feel a part of things when you're surrounded by lots of Jewish friends (many of the essays in this book bear that out). Anyway, it's a great collection, and just what I needed. A.

Friday, December 05, 2008

holidays

Sorry for the lack of posting (I guess it's only been a couple of days but it feels longer)--i'm finally reading 2666 (which is awesome so far, in the literal sense) and it's like 800 pages long, plus thought-provoking, so it'll take me a few days to finish it. Plus I have to start packing for my exciting move this weekend.

Anyway, the usual Christmas season annoyance is upon me--I HATE being bombarded by a holiday I don't celebrate, and it's everywhere! The radio, tv movies, in stores, even in my office suite. I cannot escape. So I'm going to post lots of Hanukkah content in a paltry effort to combat the pervasive Christmas Spirit.

On that note, check out these awesome electric menorahs! Mine is clunky and ugly (unsurprisingly, the Menorah selection in north Florida is pretty poor--I got mine at Target a couple years ago as cats and fire seem like a bad combination) but these are gorgeous!

Also, the latest Bon Appetit has some great-sounding latke recipes, like these made with butternut squash and these cauliflower ones that make me almost want to break out my superannoying food processor.

And speaking of food--check out these pretty pretty Hanukkah cupcakes. I was so excited to see some Hanukkah content in my Google reader today!

Anyway--happy holidays! Especially, happy Hanukkah (it starts December 21st).

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

2008 book 195

Bernadine Evaristo's Blonde Roots
I'm reviewing this for Library Journal--it comes out sometime next month. It's excellent--kind of speculative historical fiction, based on the premise that Africans enslaved Europeans, instead of vice versa. A.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

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Check it out--lizard ridge is done! As promised, my mom finished sewing all the squares together before Thanksgiving and I brought it home with me. It's huge--like almost big enough to be a bedspread--and I have no idea what to do with it! It seems too nice to just cuddle up under and watch tv.

Now back to knitting a baby blanket for friends (almost done!) and then I get to play with all the pretty new yarn I got in Pittsburgh. I just have to decide what project to try first . . .

Saturday, November 29, 2008

2008 books 193 and 194

Back from Pittsburgh and I have actually read some in the past couple of days!

Sarah Vowell's Wordy Shipmates
I'm sure nothing in this book is new to American religion historians, but it's a fairly entertaining and pop culture-infused look at Puritan New England. It's even more entertaining if you imagine Vowell reading it out loud--does it come as an audiobook? B+.

Rachel Kushner's Telex from Cuba
The lives of several people intersect on the eve of the Cuban revolution in an American-owned community. A.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

2008 book 192

Charlaine Harris' A Bone to Pick
After enjoying the Sookie Stackhouse books, I decided to try one of Harris' other series. This one is about a librarian in small town Georgia who loves mystery books. You'd think this would be right up my alley, escept it's super boring! The librarian is just a dull character, and the mystery had no tension whatever. Part of the fun of msteries is trying to figure out, you know, whodunnit. Here, they present some missing ppl who could be victims, and then the protagonist starts dating a minister, and a cat has kittens, and then there's a reveal out of nowhere. So lame. LAME! F.

BTW, I'm in Pittsburgh and it's snowing.

Monday, November 24, 2008

stuff i've shared

Some awesome stuff has come into my reader lately . . . like this montage of indie rockers on Pete and Pete! Why won't season 3 come out on dvd????

Play Black Friday Bingo.

Kyle Baker has an awesome-looking book on cartooning coming out.

The 10 best cookbooks of 2008.

rilla of ingleside discussion

Sorry for the delay--I totally spaced on Friday (blame the mouth pain)!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

2008 book 191

Toni Morrison's A Mercy
I'm sure this will get all sorts of positive reviews, just b/c it's Toni Morrison, but I didn't like it that much. It started off strong, with the four different women (slaves and mistress) of a household in 1690 narrating their experiences, but the end was pretty stupid and random. The final part was also really predictable. B-.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

2008 book 190

Nancy Huston's Fault Lines
Blerg. This book started off on a terrible note, being narrated by a precocious asshole of a six-year-old (writers trying to create inner oices for precocious children never succeed and just piss me off). Then the story is narrated in turn by six-year-old versions of his father, grandmother, and great-grandmother (who are all at least more likable). Family secrets emerge, blah blah, this book wasn't good at all. I don't care what prizes it won. C.

twilight: the movie

So a couple of friends and I went to see the Twilight movie tonight--one had never read the books and only knew what wikipedia had to say about them, the other had read and enjoyed the first one. We were expecting teen melodrama, angst, etc, and I will say that we got that in spades. The audience was responsive--they applauded whe Robert Pattinson first appeared, and laughed at his hammy facial expressions during the biology class scene (the director did not intend for those scenes to be funny, for the record). I actually enjoyed the first half of the movie--Catherine Hardiwicke totally gets teenagers--but god did it drag on. I thought for sure it was over three hours and was shocked to look at my watch afterward and see that it was barely two. The consensus in our little group was that it really was a terrible movie. And I'm still on Team Jacob.

Friday, November 21, 2008

more vampires!

TWoP compares the True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse world to Twilight.

Though I will say, the last couple of Sookie Stackhouse books were way too chaste. She needs a new love interest, stat.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

kindle?

I've been lusting after a Kindle for a while, but more in theory than in anything else. Especially when I'm getting ready to head home for Thanksgiving with a huge stack of books in tow, the Kindle is really appealing--all those books and more in one lightweight device! Of course, the cost is prohibitive (not just the initial $350 smackeroos, but new books cost $9.99--still cheaper than a bookstore, but I get my books for free from the library. Of course I could just stock up on the complete works of Jane Austen and Mark Twain, as classics are fifty cents a pop).

Then I wondered--does the Kindle even have the books I want?

Let's see, using all the books on my library hold list!

-Toni Morrison's A Mercy--Yup! And Morrison's other works range from $2.50 to $7.95.

-Marilynne Robinson's Home--Yup!

-Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates--Yup!

-Stephanie Kallos' Sing Them Home--Nope.

-Brad Meltzer's The Book of Lies--Yup. (No surprise there--my fricking supermarket sells this book. Which makes me not want to read it, but that's another blog entry.)

-Carmen Laforet's Nada--Nope.

-Josh Bazell's Beat the Reaper--Nope.

-Charlie Huston's The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death--No, but they have a bunch of other books by him.

-Roberto Bolano's 2666--No, which is surprising, since this book is getting lots of buzz.

-Jeffery Deaver's The Bodies Left Behind--Yup.

-Bridget Asher's My Husband's Sweethearts--Yup. (And they even have a couple of books written under Asher's real name, Julianna Baggott.)

-Rachel Kushner's Telex from Cuba--Yup.

-Kirsten Menger-Anderson's Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain--Nope.

-A.B. Yehoshua's Friendly Fire--Nope.

-Jonathan Carroll's The Ghost in Love--Yup.

-Peter Manseau's Songs for the Butcher's Daughter--Yup.

-Tamar Yellin's Tales of the Ten Lost Tribes--Nope.

-Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking--No, but it's not being published till December 2nd.

They also have every Charlaine Harris book, like, ever, which is cool b/c I've been thinking of reading one of her other mystery series.

I think that's 9/18 . . . so based on this small sample size, there's a 50% chance any given book I want to read is available on the Kindle. Of course, the nice thing about getting books from a library is that if they suck, I haven't paid for them, and ten bucks a pop would add up. But on the other hand, it'd be sweet to have all the books I want to read in one small place, instead of in random piles around my apartment. Oh Kindle, why hasn't your price gone down for the holidays??

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

2008 book 189

Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge
I really enjoyed this--it's a series of connected short stories set in a small town in Maine, many centering on the canankerous and elderly titulat schoolteacher. A/A-.

Monday, November 17, 2008

partially read

Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin's Three Cups of Tea
Ughhhh. I'm sure you all can guess that I didn't choose this title for library book group--I'm SO not into inspiring non-fiction. And this was soooo annoying. I made it to page 175 but seriously can't take any more of the cheesy, patronizing, self-congratulatory writing. (It's sooo overblown, like check this out from page 85, "his face changed as quickly as a mountain crag fired by a shaft of sun."--Are you freaking kidding me?!) I'm not sure what there's even to discuss about this. "Yeah, this guy did great things, raising money to start schools in the poor regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan!" "I totally agree!" " . . . " "OK, now what do we talk about for an hour?" I also felt that the writing was a little racist/paternalistic on some level--the author(s) really wanted to make these poverty-stricken Muslims into characters--they never feel like real people, at all. In fact, Mortenson himself is something of a caricature. Terrible, terrible book. Now the real question is, how much of this will I say at book group on Wednesday, when I know that the coworker who suggested it loves it?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

2008 book 188

Laila Lalami's Secret Son
Here's something that's great about Twitter--Algonquin has an account and sometimes gives away free advance copies, and I was lucky enough to snap this one up. I loved Lalami's previous book and have been waiting for this one ever since. Anyway, it focuses on a young Moroccan man who discovers that his father, whom he believed was dead, is not only alive, but is super rich. Of course's he's seduced by his father's wealth, but things take a downturn and what happens next has an air of inevitability. It's pretty depressing at times, but in a good way. Attn librarians: I think this would be a really good book group choice--lots of great things to discuss in terms of family, identity, culture clashes, etc. I hope some of you read it when it comes out so I'll have someone to discuss it with! A/A-.

howdy

Sorry for the lack of updates. I had some oral surgery on Friday and have mostly been sleeping, eating milkshakes, and whining since then. I just haven't had the attention span to sit and read, though I did start playing Animal Crossing on my DS and love it. I'm also catching up on this season of ANTM thanks to a marathon on MTV. I have tomorrow off work too (which is good ince my mouth is super painful and a little swollen still) so may actually finish a book then. Also, tomorrow afternoon I get to move beyond ingesting only cold liquids to anything mushy (mashed potatoes, here I come!), so that will be super exciting.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

2008 books 186 and 187

C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair and The Horse and his Boy
These really do kind of decrease in quality a little after the third one--Eustace and Jill and Shasta just aren't as interesting as the original four children. Also, Horse instoduces the Calormenes, who recur in the last volume (which is very, very racist, as the Calormenes are some sort of evil dark-skinned Muslim/Hindu hybrid).

Hey--I've beat last year's book record already! I may hit 200 this year.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2008 books 184 and 185

C.S. Lewis' Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The problem with series books is that once you start, you can't stop! What's been interesting to me on this umpteenth rereading is that, as much as everyone talks about the Christological aspects of Aslan in the first and last books, it's also really evident in this third one, though in a much subtler way. (Of course, as a nice Jewish girl-child reading these, I never noticed any of it--Lewis does a great job of weaving it into the story while still making all the kids and princes and animals totally riveting.)

2008 book 183

C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
I keep reading articles saying that you shouldn't watch tv or look at computers or whatever before you fall asleep b/c it messes with your eyes or brains or something. Anyway, I decided to try and read before bed and picked up this classic--but even though I've read it a million times, it's such a good story that I couldn't put it down till I was done. Apparently I need to find more boring books for bedtime.

Speaking of felines, I want this dvd all about kittens desperately. Animal Planet needs a cute/baby animal channel offshoot, for real.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2008 book 182

Selden Edwards' The Little Book
It's pretty hard to go wrong with a book that has rock stars, heroes, time travel, history, romance, music, and family. Even when I correctly guessed plot point, I was happy ("Yes! I called it!!!") and not annoyed, b/c this book was anything but predictable. A.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

partially read

Martha Powers' Conspiracy of Silence
I made it to page 52 before I had to stop--the dialogue was just painfully bad. TERRIBLE. I flipped ahead to the end to see how the mystery ended and I totally had correctly guessed the killer based on my 52 pages. It was all just awful, boring, and lame. I can't figure out where I read a good review of this--b/c I definitely won't trust its judgment again.

2008 book 181

Stewart O'Nan's Songs for the Missing
A teenage girl goes missing and of course it affects her family, friends, etc. It was pretty well-written and moving, but the end felt a little rushed, and I'm not sure it'll really stay with me now that I'm done. B+/B.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

2008 book 180

Louise Erdrich's The Plague of Doves
Erdrich is a reliably good writer, and this novel is no exception--a few different people tell the story of a small North Dakota town, and the aftermath of a brutal murder that happened there. Great characters, as always. A-.

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Yay, my monthly comics shipment came! (There are even a few more issues on the left that didn't fit into the photo.) I'm looking forward to a fun day of comics-reading.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

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YES WE CAN!!!

I took this pic at ALA in 2005--didn't he look presidential???

Good job, America!

Seeing Jon Stewart call it may have been my favorite part. :)


Also--Barack Obama in 1240 cupcakes. Delicious AND inspiring.

best books

It seems a little early to be listing the best books of the year, but PW did it anyway. I've only read a few of the fiction books (though I've had the Erdrich sitting on my bedroom floor since ALA and keep meaning to read it) but it looks like a pretty good selection, and I'll be adding a few to my library hold list. The graphic novel list is great too, btw!

Oh, and here's Amazon's list of their top 100. It's not nicely divided into categories like the PW one and there's a lot of title overlap, but I guess it's worth a look.

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Go vote, if you haven't yet!

Monday, November 03, 2008

2008 book 179

Roxana Robinson's Cost
It's late, so: an excellent novel about a slightly dysfunctional family dealing with a member's heroin addiction. A.

animal intelligence

I'm dying to read Alex & Me, even though I normally eschew non-fiction--but I'm interested in people talking about animal cognition--I think most pet owners would agree that animals can be quite intelligent, especially when they want their breakfasts--and actually, the book I'm currently reading mentioned this as well, which seems a sign. Check out the great feature on Bookslut. I'm hoping my library gets it in soon!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

vampires and more!

I know all my loyal readers are desperate to know--have I really not read a book all week?? The answer is yes! And it's not an issue of a dearth of new reading material--I have a stack of a few appealing titles. It's just that I've been knitting a baby blanket for friends C+C, and there's a deadline on that kind of knitting project. First I was knitting and watching Dr. Who (I still haven't adjusted to David Tennant, but I'm early in season 2) and as of yesterday I've been knitting and watching True Blood (thanks Mike!). Gotta get my Sookie Stackhouse fix! It's surprisingly loyal to the first book, though they've made Tara and Lafayette more important to the story, and Jason is somehow even skeevier.

Speaking of vampire stories--here's an NY Times piece on making the Twilight movie.

Anyway, my reading may be light this week as well, since I'm working a few nights this week and thus am missing my usual evening reading time. Sad, I know.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

all i want for hanukkah's my two front teeth

But since I won't be getting those till January or so . . . here are some awesome gifts you can give me (or people who have similar tastes):

Check it out! Lush has a Hanukkah-themed gift box! (Lush gift cards or presents will be appreciated by any lovely lady.)

This baby-blue digital camera is both adorable and pretty hooked up. It also comes in pink and white!

Tokidoki bags are finally available again, perfect for the girl of any age who loves cuteness. (I personally want the Graziosa bag in Eco Mondo, hint hint, mom!)

Speaking of things that are adorable, Animal Crossing for the DS probably can't be beat.

For girls who are a little tougher, there's always the collected Middleman comics (the tv show would be appreciated too, but it's not on DVD yet. Of course, your giftee can buy it with an itunes gift card).

There are also lots of gifts for the cooks in your life. Try the Kitchen-Aid Stand Mixer Ice Cream Maker attachment. There are also lots of cool-looking cookbooks on my cookbook wishlist. Foodies may also appreciate these cupcake salt and pepper shakers or, if you're a big spender, this cupcake charm from Tiffany (the blue lollipop is also cute).

The holiday season is fast approaching! Start thinking of what you want to buy me now!

(Just kidding!!!)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

2008 book 178

Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind
This is apparently the first book in a series which I'm expecting to get a lot more buzz. It's a really promising start to what will be a crazy epic fantasy story, as a man who's now an innkeeper tells the story of his past--when he was a legendary hero. This covers his childhood in a theatre troupe and his teen years at a university learning magical fantasy things. There's romance, friendship, demons, magic, music, and jerkwads--what more does any story need? A/A-.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

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Hey, just so y'all know, I have much shorter and weirder hair! I love it.

2008 books 176 and 177

Charlaine Harris' All Together Dead
This was a pretty good outing in the Sookie Stackhouse series--a convention of vampire higher-ups is targeted, but by who?? Lots of excitement and intrigue.

Charlaine Harris' From Dead to Worse
I was bummed to reach the last book in the series, knowing I'd have to wait months and months for the new one--and then I read it. It's by far the weakest, maybe b/c there's no overarching mystery to add narrative tension. Instead, it's all wereworlf political drama, and vampire political drama, and even the addition of some long-lost relatives for Sookie didn't make things any better. I'll still read the next one when it comes out, though.

In other news, I early voted today! The line was 45 minutes long. I was glad I'd had a book with me.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

2008 book 175

Julia Glass' I See You Everywhere
I love Glass' books (she wrote the acclaimed Three Junes as well as the generally ignored The Whole World Over) and this was no exception. It's the story of two sisters, who alternate their stories, over twenty-five years, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. A.

I think I'm well on track to beat last year's record of 186 books--I have over two months left, after all, and probably more than 11 books in my to-read pile. Good times.

2008 books 173 and 174

Charlaine Harris' Club Dead
I started reading the 6th book in the series and it kept referring back to previous events, so I figured I'd go buy the one I skipped and get caught up. Unfortunately, none of those events were in this book, just the events I'd already picked up from the 4th, but it was still a fairly enjoyable read.

Charlaine Harris' Definitely Dead
Which brings us to the 6th one. This reads like I missed a book in the series--referring to events that never happened in the books, which is really frustrating. I actually checked to make sure I had the whole series and I did. So this one is very weirdly written--I'd rather have seen the events that led to Sookie discovering her cousin was a vampire and then solving the mystery of her death, as opposed to just reading dialogue discussing it. Do any of you read these books? Did I miss one somewhere?

Anyway, after that I think I'm taking a break from vampires for a little while, and then I'll read the last two in the series.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

2008 book 172

Charlaine Harris' Dead as a Doornail
I think I'm going to be bummed when I run out of books in this series--luckily I have three more, plus the one I skipped. Anyway, in this one a sniper is shooting various shifters (Harris' terms for people who turn into animals) and Sookie has to figure out who it is! The mysteries are really secondary to other plots in these books--I counted five or six love interests in this one alone. It's all hilarious and very entertaining.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

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Jimmy likes yarn.

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I knitted another clapotis--this one is more scarf than shawl, and in a nice warm merino. I think I'll wear it tomorrow morning!

Also, check out my tan line!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

2008 book 171

Tim Bowler's Frozen Fire
This book was really, really weird. I don't even have anything else to say about it.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

2008 book 170

Charlaine Harris' Dead to the World
This is actually the 4th Sookie Stackhouse book--I picked it up at a used bookstore in Hilton Head that didn't have the third one. Luckily this is one of those series that tends to repeat itself somewhat (I even flagged a descriptive sentence in this one that's been used, word-for-word, before) so I figured out what had happened in that one pretty easily. Anyway, this one involves more vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, witches, etc, as Sookie's brother goes missing. Most of those characters are hot guys that Sookie lusts after in graphic terms (she's a butt girl), which is entertaining. I'm not sure why I like this series so much, except that they're like candy--totally unfilling, not healthy or good for me in any way, but so so yummy and addictive.

Friday, October 17, 2008

2008 books 168 and 169

Barbara Hall's The Music Teacher
Library Journal sent this to me to review--I liked it!

Charlaine Harris' Living Dead in Dallas
This was just as silly as the first one (and not just b/c the murder mystery goes forgotten for a huge chunk of the book). But I bought a couple more of the series at a used bookstore and plan to keep reading, b/c they're pretty entertaining.

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Here is a pretty beach photo, courtesy of my dad!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

2008 books 165, 166, 167

Trenton Lee Stewart's The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey
I had to reread the first one to fully appreciate the second, which features the same band of gifted children on a quest to save their benefactor. I really enjoy these characters, but if this series keeps on there's a real danger it'll get more and more outlandish. The sequel was just outlandish enough.

Charlaine Harris' Dead After Dark
I really can't believe HBO is doing a tv series based on this book and its sequels. It's kind of poorly written (the heroine is always saying things "tartly", sometimes on multiple pages in a row), for one thing, and for another, it's just really silly in a lot of ways. On the other hand, it's a great beach read--a psychic waitress starts dating a handsome and chivalrous vampire and they're trying to find a killer who may be after her. As always, I prefer the third corner of the requisite love triangle over the too-wonderful-to-be-believed vampire love, but at least this isn't nearly as chaste as the Twilight books. I'll read the sequel and see how it goes. (My mom brought both books for me as vacation reads.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

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My dad fed this gull some fishie crackers yesterday and now he's totally hanging around our family when we're at the beach, cawing at rival gulls to scare them away from our riches of pretzels.

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I laid out Lizard Ridge for my mom and our friend Charlene to see the other night . . . Mom has promised to have it all sewn together by Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 13, 2008

2008 book 164

Kathleen Kent's The Heretic's Daughter
This is one of those books where the backstory is almost more interesting than the novel--it's based on the true story of one of Kent's ancestors, who was tried as a witch during the Salem shenanigans. The book was pretty good--a fine beach read, though it's not particularly fluffy. B.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

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I'm on vacation! Jimmy wanted to come too, but no cats allowed.

Friday, October 10, 2008

2008 book 163

Lois Lowry's The Willoughbys
Let me say first that I LOVE Lowry's books and have read everything from the Anastasia books to the Giver and its companions to Autumn Street (which gave me nightmares but I kept re-reading it anyway). But this book was kind of a disappointment. It's a parody of old-fashioned books (a la Lemony Snicket), but it's not really very humorous and most of the characters are lifeless, boring, and unlikable. Lowry did the little sketches at the start of each chapter, which are cute, but otherwise I didn't like this much.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

anne's house of dreams discussion thread

Post comments here!

2008 books 161 and 162

M.E. Rabb's Missing Persons Series 3 and 4
The only problem with reading these on Yom Kippur is that the characters eat in like every scene! And the 4th one involves a cooking show. Sheesh!

2008 books 158, 159, 160

My cable went down last night, which meant no tv and no internet, which meant I was really at a loss for what the hell to do with myself! So, I read some books. However, I'm a little cranky at being woken up by the comcast guy before 9 am (though grateful to have cable and internet back) and also thirsty, so not really in the mood for book blogging.

Scarlett Thomas' The End of Mr Y
Reread this, it's still pretty good.

M.E. Rabb's Missing Persons Series 1 and 2
I reread the first two and probably will read the 3rd and 4th today. It's a fun series.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

things to do on yom kippur to distract yourself from hunger

Or, what I'll be doing for the next 25ish hours!

1. Knit and watch Doctor Who.

2. Read. (The new Art Spiegelman book totally has Jewish content, even!)

3. Play DS. Luckily Harvest Moon crops don't really look appetizing. Will my brain age go down the hungrier I get?

4. Think holy thoughts and atone for stuff.

5. Try not to obsess over the pumpkin bread intended for the break-fast.

Hope everyone has an easy fast!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

2008 book 157

Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time
Sometimes I read something somewhere that inspires me to put a book on my library hold list, but by the time it comes in, I can't remember why I wanted to read it! That was the case with this book, which was still a mildly enjoyable short novel about a bed-ridden man who decides to investigate the life of Richard the Third and whatever happened to his nephews in the tower.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

2008 book 156

Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Yay, I finally managed to get this from the library and I read it all in one sitting. It's getting tons of buzz--huge international bestseller, finally translated into English, etc. It's so much more than a mystery though--it really delves into all the characters, especially the leads (a journalist embroiled in scandal and the titutal tattooed computer hacker). Things do get pretty grisly (and bad things happen to a cute animal, of course, as that's the trend in books I read these days) but the story and its wrap-up are really satisfying. A.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

2008 book 155

Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn
This is probably my all-time favorite movie--I still have a worn VHS copy from when my dad taped it off of TMC for me in approximately 1986. He got me the DVD a couple of years ago and I watched it last night--and it was totally edited! (The "Damn you!" was edited out.) Anyway, it made me want to reread the book, which I actually never knew existed until I was in like college. The movie is actually really close to the book, since Beagle wrote the screenplay, but I can't read the dialogue without hearing Mia Farrow's anguished tones (that's b/c I know the movie almost by heart). Anyway, great book.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2008 book 154

L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle
This is my all-time favorite Montgomery book--the one that's moved with me from dorm room to apartment to other apartments--b/c I think I related to Valancy more than any other heroine. And I still love the end that wraps up everything in a perfect little bow!

Monday, September 29, 2008

political debates


You have to have a sense of humor in these turbulent times. Later this week, the College Democrats and College Republicans are holding a debate in the library. Luckily, our web guy has a pretty great sense of humor.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

2008 book 153

Tatiana De Rosnay's Sarah's Key
A journalist in Paris is writing a piece on the 60th anniversary of the Vel' D'Hiv roundup, when French police carted off thousands of Jews, mostly women and children. She soon discovers her husband's family has a secret that connects them to the event. Also central to the story is a little girl who hid her brother, thinking she'd be home for him soon. Some bits of this, especially the end, are a little overwrought, but it's a nice examination of the aftermath of such a tragedy, for Jews and non-Jews alike. B+.

2008 book 152

Miriam Toews' The Flying Troutmans
Toews is a reliably good author, especially with her endearing and eccentric characters, and this novel is no different. After her sister is sent to a psych ward, a young woman takes her niece and nephew on a crazy road trip to track down their father. A-.

2008 book 151

Kate Atkinson's When Will There e Good News?
I love love love Atkinson's Jackson Brodie mysteries--she writes such great characters that I always end up really caring about, and she's great at weaving all sorts of seemingly disparate narrative threads into a cohesive story. A.

Friday, September 26, 2008

2008 book 150

Philip Pullman's The Tin Princess
This is the most outlandish in the series--but actually very readable.

anne of windy poplars discussion

Discuss here!

great kids' books

This essay (via Metafilter) made me think about the books I loved growing up, and the books I'd love to pass on to hypothetical future children. What books make up the ideal bookshelf for a kid or pre-teen? There are some great ones mentioned in the essay--The Little House books, Charlotte's Web, Bridge to Terebithia, the Chronicles of Narnia, Little Prince . . . so what other books should I put on my ideal bookshelf?

Obviously the Harry Potter and Anne of Green Gables books (along with pretty much everything by Montgomery). The book about the immortal family and the little girl they befriend (I'm blanking on the title--it's a classic, and it always made me cry. Serious, you must know which book I mean--what is it called? The girl's name is Winnie, I think. Oh, never mind, I just remembered that Rory Gilmore starred in a terrible movie version and looked it up on imdb--Tuck Everlasting). More contemporary series, like Lemony Snicket and Kiki Strike. Contemporary fantasy books like Un Lun Dun, The Hunger Games, the Golden Compass and its sequels, Howl's Moving Castle, and Nation. Stargirl. Love that Dog. Guilty pleasure series like Twilight and the Traveling Pants books (maybe?). Definitely the Westing Game and other books by Ellen Raskin. I Am the Messenger and Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. Variuos Lois Lowry books (Anastasia books, The Giver, etc). Judy Blume.

So what am I missing?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

2008 book 149

Philip Pullman's The Tiger in the Well
This is my least favorite of the Sally Lockhart books--the main plot is really annoying and frustrating, as evil dudes plot to ruin Sally's live and business thanks to archaic sexist laws (yes, Pullman, we KNOW you're a feminist!). The book is slightly redeemed by the addition of a bunch of Jewish socialist characters to save the day.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

more books women should read

Jezebel has completed their list of 75 books every woman should read (the original post was linked below).

I've read only 44 of them . . . clearly I have some work to do!

2008 book 148

Philip Pullman's The Shadow in the North
Sally Lockhart is back in this sequel, as headstrong and independent as ever. Of course she and her friends get caught up in another complicated mystery involving business fraud and murder. What was interesting to me on this re-read is how prominent Pullman's--I hesitate to say agenda--politics are. This book is all about feminism and democracy, and is really down on capitalism and government. Kind of the opposite of Ayn Rand (plus his characters are a lot more likable and funny than her strident sticks-in-the-mud).

links, books, etc

OK, this is awesome--Books for Barack (via Bookslut). I don't have $250, but if you have cash to spare, this is a great way to spend it.

It looks like L.M. Montgomery committed suicide.

What books should every woman read?

Monday, September 22, 2008

2008 book 147

Philip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke
I was excited to see that Masterpiece would be showing versions of this and its sequel, since I remember really liking the books--but last night's episode was really disappointing! For one thing, there was a little too much plot to cram into 90 minutes, and for another, they made Sally into a total wuss. I reread the book just to verify my memories that she was basically a bad-ass, and though in this first one she's just a kid caught up in a crazy mystery, she's still smart, capable, and self-assured. The move version is totally wishy-washy, wandering around waiting to be rescued. Ugh. At least she looked slightly more bad-ass in the previews for next week. I think I'll reread the whole trilogy and its companion while I wait!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

2008 book 146

Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher
The problem is that I just think non-fiction books are super boring!--even when they're talking about a sensational murder case and the birth of detective fiction.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

2008 book 145

Jennifer Haigh's The Condition
This excellent novel deals with a New England family and their various travails--most strikingly, the diagnosis of their daughter with Turner's Syndrome. One of the blurb-ers (Tom Perrotta, actually), notes that "the ailment at the center of this remarkable novel is the human condition itself" and I think that's pretty apt. Also, part of the story takes place in Pittsburgh and the Steelers are mentioned in passing several times, so I was even more inclined to like it. A.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

2008 book 144

Donna Milner's After River
I was eager to read this--it's the book I lost at the airport on my way home from Midwinter--and my library finally got it. Anyway, it's the story of what happens to a Canadian farm family when a Vietnam War resister comes to stay with them. There's a little too much overdramatic foreshadowing, and it's fairly predictable, but most of the characters are great and it's a perfectly serviceable story. B.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

2008 book 143

Nicole Krauss' The History of Love
I finished this in the nick of time--the library book group is discussing it tomorrow. It was really a pleasure to reread. Here's what I thought of it last time I read it. (Humorous side note on reading that old entry--I was SURE I owned a copy of this, and couldn't find it when I was looking the other day, so figured I'd given it away in the Great Book Purge of '07, but didn't know why I'd give away a book I liked so much . . . and it turns out I never owned it. Heh.)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

2008 book 142

E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
This was a pretty funny book about a teen girl at a boarding school who secretly infiltrates her boyfriend's all-male secret society in a bid to prove her greater intelligence. I loved the character and hope there will be a sequel. A/A-.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

2008 book 141

Louis Bayard's The Black Tower
In this historical mystery, a prominent Parisian detective enlists a young medical student to help solve a murder; soon, the two are embroiled in a larger mystery--what did happen to the son of Louis XI and Marie-Antoinette? Is it possible that he escaped the tower and didn't die at age ten? Definitely an entertaining read. A-/B+.

2008 book 140

Hannah Tinti's The Good Thief
Yay, my library finally got this and I read it all in one sitting. It's just as good as I hoped! It's the story of a young one-handed boy in an orphanage; soon, a man comes to take him, claiming to be his long-lost brother, but the boy soon discovers he's a thief and a con man. Comparisons to Dickens are apt, in terms of the story and the memorable and lovable scoundrels of characters. A.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

2008 book 139

Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes
I was home sick today and, between naps, watched the 2007 movie of Ballet Shoes, starring Emma Watson from Harry Potter (and some other familiar faces), which is based on one of my favorite books from childhood. Unfortunately it was a really awful version, with lots of stupid subplots shoehorned in for the adults, and much elss focus on the children--and I always think the children and their relationships are the point of the book. So of course I had to reread it! I loved Streatfeild's books when I was younger (and still do) and think it's a shame so many are out of print. Luckily I still have my old copies (though this one is actually falling apart) and can keep enjoying them. For those who haven't read it, it's the story of three adopted girls in 1930s London who get involved in the theater, partially for love of it, and partially to earn money for their family, since their paleontologist breadwinner has been gone for years. Totally a classic.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

2008 book 138

Andrew Sean Greer's Story of a Marriage
As the title notes, this is the story of a marriage, particularly one in the early 1950s. There were several surprises--Greer crafted his story well--so I'm glad I didn't read the jacket or blurbs too closely. A-.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

2008 book 137

Chelsea Cain's Sweetheart
EW didn't like this much, but I thought it was a pretty good follow-up to Heartsick. Scrappy blue-haired reporter Susan Ward is back, trying to break a story about a Senator who slept with his kids' babysitter, when she gets caught up once again with detective Archie Sheridan and the serial killer he caught, who has escaped from prison. Cain fills in some of the holes from the last book, and I thought the ending was fitting. B/B+.

2008 book 136

Emily Perkins' Novel About My Wife
A man and his pregnant wife seem to have the perfect lie, except that he's struggling with job issues and she's convinced there's a man stalking her. I did like the end, but wish some questions had been answered more explicitly. B.

Friday, September 05, 2008

2008 book 135

Steve Toltz's A Fraction of the Whole
An imprisoned man narrates his family history, starting with his outlaw uncle and paranoid father. A surprisingly engrossing story. B+.

fall book preview! (aka "what books i have on hold at the library")

So fall book season is upon us once again, and I for one could not be more excited. I've already read several awesome books that are due out soon (thanks to ALA advance copies) that I can highly recommend, but there are also several coming that I'm eagerly awaiting. And for your book-list pleasure, here they are!

The five I've read that I totally loved (some may already be out, even!):

--Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games totally blew my mind. It's a future dystopian thing where teens battle to the death on must-watch reality tv. The heroine is totally compelling and there's even some unexpected friendship and romance. I'm already dying for the sequel to come out.

--On a slightly similar note is Terry Prachett's Nation, which I also enjoyed, and which involves a couple of teenagers trying to rebuild civilization on a destroyed island (not related to the Discworld series).

--Randa Jarrar's A Map of Home about a Muslim girl trying to find her place in the world was also a great read.

--Things go awry for a pair of headstrong newlyweds in 1920s North Carolina in Ron Rash's Serena, which was a pretty intense but great story.

--Goldengrove by Francine Prose is getting lots of deserved buzz.

And finally--the many books I'm psyched for! Lots of notable authors, mysteries, and other fun books are coming down the pike.

Marilynne Robinson and Toni Morrison both have new works coming out, both long-awaited. Julia Glass, author of Three Junes and the totally underrated 9/11 novel The Whole World Over also has a new one due.

Hannah Tinti's The Good Thief is getting TONS of buzz (I even considered actually buying it), as is The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer, a novel which conflates the Cain and Abel story with Superman's creator. Novel about my Wife technically came out in August, but I haven't read it yet and it looks promising.

There's a couple of cool-looking mysteries coming out too--Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a bestseller in Europe, is coming out in translation, and Chelsea Cain has written a sequel to Heartsick (which I liked), called Sweetheart.

For more fall books (including non-fiction, which I rarely read and know little about), check out USA Today's fall books calendar. (They also have a list of ten fall books that are sure to be topics of discussion.)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

um . . .


I don't usually post about politics (despite my generally strident views), but this screen grab of the cnn.com homepage needed to go up. I mean, does that look like a freaking Nazi salute, or what? Totally disturbing.

And speaking of Palin, I shared this link via Google a few days ago, and it's been making the librarian rounds, but for non-librarians who might be interested: when she was mayor of her tiny Alaska town, Sarah Palin tried to ban books and then tried to fire the librarian who refused to allow it.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

animals

OK, enough already with media bombarding me with images of cruelty and neglect toward animals! And I'm not even talking about those Animal Cops shows on Animal Planet. I was already feeling sad enough about animals after reading Rilla of Ingleside today, in which a beloved kitten is drowned and a wonderful dog spends the entirety of WWI waiting at the train station for his master to come home*. It's a trend I've seen in some more recent literature as well. Mad Men tonight was really the last straw. I demand recommendations for books and tv shows and movies where dogs and cats are petted and loved and nothing bad happens to them.


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*Just like the episode of Futurama about Fry's dog. I saw it once and cried for about ten minutes afterward. Whenever that episode is on, I quickly change the channel.

the middleman

OK, so the season finale (and I'm hoping not the series finale) of The Middleman airs tomorrow (Monday, Labor Day) on ABC Family at 10. And I'm encouraging you all to watch it--I always mean to mention it more, but I haven't talked about it at all since it first aired, mainly b/c I'm lazy and forgetful. But--it really is a GREAT show and I think anyone I'm friends with would love it! As I said last time I talked about it, it's like a cross between Buffy and Get Smart, with hilarious pop culture references and really great characters. It makes me crazy that it doesn't get more media attention or promotion (I'm watching Sound of Music on ABS Fam right now, and every commercial break has featured an ad for their really terrible show about the pregnant teen--no really, I watched it twice, and it's terrible--and not ONE for the Middleman! And I think there would be some audience overlap b/w ppl like me who enjoy watching a family of singers trick and flee from the Nazis and those like me who enjoy watching snarky characters save the world from other various forms of evil). The point is, the show is really good, so please watch it while you can, or watch it on the show's website, or download it from itunes, b/c it really needs some love to get a renewal and I really want it to get renewed.

Thank you for your time.

2008 books 130, 131, 132, 133, and 134

L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne's House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley, and Rilla of Ingleside
Yes, I have read the rest of the series over the past couple of days--perfect for a holiday weekend and I can't wait to discuss!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

2008 book 129

L.M. Montgomery's Anne of the Island
I've been trying to hold off on reading these so I won't get too far ahead of the discussions, but it's not working! And I can't WAIT to talk about this one! It's two weeks away, though, so for now let's keep talking about Anne of Avonlea (below). :)

Anne of Avonlea discussion!

Post your thoughts on Anne of Avonlea here!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

recently shared links

Great piece about how Quail Ridge bookstore created a phenomenon. (Though I personally didn't love the book.)

Cutest camera EVERRRRRR. I want it in baby blue. I've been thinking about replacing my digital camera (which still works great at 4 years old, but which I accidentally close almost every time I try to take a picture, which makes me crazy) and this one, besides being highly attractive, has some great features.

In other tech-I-lust-for news, it looks like a new version of the Kindle is heading down the pipeline--and it's (slightly) more affordable! Hanukkah present maybe? ;)

And finally--how excited am I for the Merge Records 20th anniversary box set? (Um, VERY!) No worries, Triangle denizens, I will most definitely be in town for the 20th anniversary festivities.

Ooh, wait, tangentially related--long piece on Scharpling and Wurster in the AV Club. That's for all the Friends of Tom out there. (Or for their wives, who actually read this blog.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

2008 book 128

Danit Brown's Ask for a Convertible
A series of interconnected stories centering on an Israeli girl who moves with her family to Michigan, this book is surprisingly powerful and even funny. It deals with ome of the usual themes of stories dealing with immigration to America, but protagonist Osnat continually feels in search of a home. Interestingly, the two stories told in first person aren't Osnat's--one narrator is an Israeli man in Michigan, and the other is Osnat's mother. It's great how all of these characters and their stories are intertwined--A. On an unrelated note, the book has blurbs from Julianna Baggott (who I generally love) and Hannah Tinti (whose new novel I am dying to read, but the public library hasn't ordered it!! WTF! It got a huge review in Entertainment Wekly).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

2008 book 127

Poppy Adams' Sister
This is a little Whatever happened to Baby Jane? as a recluse welcomes home her sister after nearly fifty years. Their backstory starts to emerge (and is easy to figure out despite the unreliable narrator), but things take a turn for the totally ridiculous at the end. C.

2008 books 125 and 126

Hey, I'm totally stranded in Charlotte right now, thanks to Tropical Storm Fay, so I might as well blog the two books I've read this weekend.

Jincy Willett's The Writing Class
I love this trend of more literary mysteries--here, a has-been novelist is teaching a writing class and one student is terrorizing the others anonymously and to an increasingly creepy extent. Willett is a funny writer and this book has some great moments. A.

Linn Ullmann's A Blessed Child
Random House sent me an advance copy of this (they think it will be a hit with book groups, and I can see why), and it seemed interesting enough to make it onto my book pile, and generally did not disappoint. Basically, it's about three half-sisters who decide to visit their elderly father at his home on an island, as they flash back to their childhood summers and the one summer where things went awry. Here's the NY Times review--I hadn't realized that Ullman was Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman's daughter, but that does mean there's some added interest in this tale of the relationship between fathers and daughters. B+.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

some library-related links

Lego Batgirl! (Batgirl is a librarian.)

A library has banned a children's knitting group. Seriously, WTF. (Via Ravelry and Unshelved)

This new book collecting Stan and Jan Berenstain's cartoons is notable for the one that takes place in a library (see the link). I love how horrified the librarian is that someone would ask for comic books.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

2008 book 124

L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Avonlea
I love these books--it's going to take all my willpower not to read them all at once! Don't forget that we're still discussing the first Anne book below. :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

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Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
OMG awesome! I won a contest on Evan Dorkin's blog and he drew me this pencil sketch of the devil puppet and sent me all his books, signed. (I owned a couple of his books already, since I am a fangirl, but now I have lots more!) I am SO getting this framed!

In other comics news, check out this new comic by Bryan Lee O'Malley and Hope Larson. It's adorable AND hilarious.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Anne of Green Gables discussion!!

I meant to post this last night but didn't get the chance--the Anne of Green Gables book discussion thread is now open! Post any and all comments on the first book here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

2008 book 123

Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go
I was glad to reread this, since it's been a few ears and the details were hazy. It's the freshman reading book this year, a big departure from last year's, but I'm looking forward to discussing it at the first library book discussion meeting.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

2008 book 122

Karin Fossum's Black Seconds
This Norwegian mystery centers on a little girl who disappears and the police detective trying to solve the case. I figured out (mostly) what had happened before the end, but still liked the way it wrapped up. B+.

2008 book 121

Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop's December
A slightly troubled little girl hasn't spoken in nine months, and as her parents grow increasingly frazzled, her school threatens to kick her out. I wasn't really that moved by the story or the characters--B/B-.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

2008 book 120

Haven Kimmel's Iodine
I loved Kimmel's early novels, but was a little disappointed with her last one, and was hoping this would make up for it. But, no, it's just totally weird and depressing, told alternating in third person and ramblig stream-of-consciousness first person, about a girl who's a star college student under a fake name b/c she had a traumatic childhood, but she's just totally off her rocker. Not fun to read, at all. Plus there's sad stuff where she neglects her dog. The end attempts to explain these things but it just made it all more annoying. D.

2008 book 119

L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables
I always forget how truly great this book is and I'm looking forward to discussing it on Friday! (I'll probably put an entry up on Thursday night so it'll be ready for the 15th.)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

hp7 discussion/2008 book 118

I did reread book 7 while home sick today, just in time for the discussion! Post comments about the final HP books (and any other HP-related comments) here.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

2008 book 117

Eileen Favorite's The Heroines
Considering that this book had a fascinating premise--the heroines of literature, frm Ophelia to Emma Bovary to Franny Glass, come and stay at a bed and breakfast owned by a woman and her thirteen year old daughter--this story turned out to be kind of lame. Really poor execution. B-.

Monday, August 04, 2008

puppies!!

For those who, like myself, would rather watch puppies frolic than watch televised sporting events, Animal Planet is following up on the amazing Puppy Bowl with the Puppy Games!! I am SO watching this on Friday. The Olympics are super boring and I love puppies.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

2008 book 117

Stephenie Meyers' Breaking Dawn
I went into this prepared to think it would be cheesy and satisfying. The first part was all Bella and Edward, and they're both a little annoying, so I was like, meh. And the second part was the werewolves, which I liked quite a bit--their group dynamics are fascinating. And then there was the third part--and I was so ready to write a scathing review of how ridiculous so many things were (one minor thing made me crazy! I'll hint at it in the comments)--except that I did, actually, find the end satisfying. And cheesy. B/B-.


PS to Christina--be sure to read the acknowledgements!

THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THE COMMENTS. DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED FOR SERIOUS SPOILERS.

2008 book 116

Terry Pratchett's Nation
I can't believe how many really, really good books I managed to pick up at ALA. This was another one--it's about the aftermath of I believe a tsunami that wipes out entire villages on several small islands. A young man, the only survivor of his village, encounters a young British girl who is the only survivor of a shipwreck. For a minute I was worried that things were going to go all Blue Lagoon (I don't know why--Pratchett is a reliably good author), but instead various strangers make their way to the island and they all try to rebuild civilization together. It's not as flat-out funny as most of Prachett's novels, but there are some nice tongue-in-cheek moments. Either way, it's a really compelling story. Things do take a slightly unreal turn toward the end, but I liked it. The back of the book claims that Pratchett is coming to seven cities (including Raleigh, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh) but I don't know if that's still the case due to his Alzheimer's diagnosis. Anyway, A.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

twilight

Breaking Dawn is being released right now all over the east coast, but this review makes me second-guess my enjoyment of the series. Maybe the last volume redeems things?

Anywya, I'm in Athens at the moment for Team Clermont summer camp (I made a lanyard!) so I won't be reading it for a few days. I'll let you know my thoguhts now that I'm reading it for more than the vampire vs werewolf drama.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

even more awesome

J.K. Rowling is publishing an edition of Tales of Beedle the Bard that commoners like myself can purchase! No seriously, that's awesome. I've read the summaries on Amazon but of course it'll be nice to actually own it. I am an HP completist, more or less. I'm not going to, like, buy the $100 leather-bound version. Leatherbound books are creepy anyway, especially as they get older.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

omg awesome

Check out this Metafilter post. It's all about libraries that check out CAKE PANS! That is awesome, in the literal sense of the word.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

2008 book 115

Ellen Litman's The Last Chicken in America
I knew I was going to like this nove in stories about Russian Jews who have immigrated to Pittsburgh b/c on the first page it described a trip to the exact supermarket my parents go to! Yup, the whole thing takes place in my neighborhood, Squirrel Hill, and it's full of lots of great late-90s Pittsburgh details. I assume some of this is autobigraphical--the author emigrated from Russia to America as a teenager. Anyway, it made me all nostalgic for home, so it gets an A-.

2008 book 114

Tana French's The Likeness
This is a sequel to In the Wood, which I generally liked. It didn't have nearly the same amount of intensity, though the story sounds pretty promising--the young detective from the previous book is called in to go undercover as a murder victim who looks just like her and was using a name from the detective's years undercover. She inflitrates the murder victim's insular group of friends and housemates to attempt to fid a suspect. Anyway, it moved a little slowly and there was one decision she made that made absolutely no sense, and though I was interested enough in the outcome to keep reading, it didn't really grab me. B.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

2008 book 113

Wesley Stace's By George
Stace, aka John Wesley Harding is the author of Misfortune, which I read and enjoyed a couple of years ago. Now he's back with a novel that's slightly more modern but no less full of twists and turns. It's narrated alternately by a boy about to enter boarding school in the 1970s and by his grandfather's ventriloquist's dummy, who was built in the 1930s. The story of their amazing family emerges as the two narratives begin to collide, and the end (though somewhat predictable) was quite satisfying. A-.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

hp6 discussion

Post comments about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince here!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

2008 book 112

Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games
This is another book I picked up at ALA--a YA dystopian sort of thing that I picked up tonight on a whim. But, oh my GOD, it was really, really good! I'm not going to try and explain the whole world's backstory but basically there's an annual event--the titular hunger games--where twelve boys and twelve girls from across their nation have to battle to the death. The protaganist is a surprisingly adept teen girl and I was rooting for her from the get-go. Seriously, this was riveting. I actually was so into it that I forgot to watch Project Runway. The only bummer is that it's the first book in a trilogy and I'm dying to know what happens next. A.

on bookish girls

Rereading the Twilight books last night, I found myself wondering if part of their appeal isn't just the romantic vampires and adorable werewolves, but Bella's characterization as a clumsy, inexperienced, well, word nerd. Especially in the first book, she clearly loves books and wants to go to the big city just to find a bookstore. Even when this is lessened in the second two books, each draws themes paralleled to great romantic works--Romeo and Juliet pops up often in the second, Wuthering Heights in the third (though I personally have always thought both Romeo and Heathcliff are shmoes, they do have appeal for a certain type of teenage girl, embodied in Bella). Anyway, the point is that I wonder if part of Bella's appeal isn't just her romantic foibles or her dangerous adventures, but the fact that other shy, bookish girls can really relate to her. Don't all shy, bookish girls hope that some romantic hero will inexplicably fall in love with them (based on the smell of their blood? Or whatever).

It does seem to be a trope in literature aimed at girls--think of all the classic books about girls who like books, like Anne of Green Gables and her romantic poetry, or even Roald Dahl's Matilda, whose initial goal in the book is just to be able to read library books. (Matilda came out when I was in elementary school and I fell in love with her for that.) Anne even grows up to be a writer, as do many, many other girl characters--like Laura Ingalls or Betsy (of Betsy-Tacy)--who never seemed to show any great inclination toward reading. I'm sure there are others I'm just not thinking of at the moment.

Is this just b/c the authors of these books were themselves bookish girls (or boys)? Is there some authorial assumption that girls who like to read like to read books about girls who like to read? I know I do, but is it very common?

Oddly, I can't think of any books about boys who like to read, other than the kids in Edward Eager's Seven Day Magic (a co-ed group). Is this strictly something aimed at girls? Or is the bookish girl just another literary archetype?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2008 book 111

Stephenie Meyer's Eclipse
These books are really pretty silly and even a little moralistic if you think about them too much, which is why I don't! Team Jacob!

2008 book 110

Stephenie Meyer's New Moon
Yes, I AM reading the entire series in one sitting! As noted before, I am strongly on Team Jacob--his character has way more personality than Edward, who is basically just really pretty. I mean, think of it this way--Buffy fans, would you rather date Oz or Angel? Oz is way more cute and fun than Angel, who's always going on about souls and things.

2008 book 109

Stephenie Meyer's Twilight
Yes, I did just read this series, but the last book* comes out in a couple weeks and I needed to catch up! Plus, this was the perfect read for my post-second-root-canal, numbed mouth afternoon.

___
*In which the infamous Team Edwrd vs. Team Jacob debate will finally come to an end! (Obviously Edward will win, but I still am a strong believer in Team Jacob.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

2008 book 108

Ron Rash's Serena
All weekend long I was bored with my books--everything from the library seemed dull and unappealing. Feeling nostalgic for NC, I decided to try this advance copy from ALA, about a young married couple running a huge timber company in western NC in 1929 (note for NC denizens--one of the bookseller blurbs in the front is from someone at Quail Ridge). Things quickly take a turn for the darker side, but this novel is entirely compelling. A.

Friday, July 18, 2008

2008 book 107

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Yeah, my willpower really didn't last. It's ok, we're not discussing it till August 8th--I'll maybe even read it again before then. :)

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Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
I had a few inches cut off my hair today! I love it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

2008 book 106

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
I've been trying to wait till closer to the 25th (when we discuss it) to reread it, but I couldn't! I started it last night and finished it today as a present for surviving my root canal this afternoon (my mouth is still hilariously numb and swollen). It's going to take all my willpower to resist reading the 7th right now . . . but I have very little willpower when it comes to Harry Potter.

Now . . . finally watching Act I and II of Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog! I love you, Neil Patrick Harris!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

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Multimedia message
Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
New JB video! He kept meowing but I don't know what the matter was.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

2008 book 105

Randa Jarrar's A Map of Home
This book, due out in September, has already been getting some buzz so I was psyched to pick up an advance copy at ALA. It's a classic coming-of-age novel about a girl who's the product of a Palestinian father and an Egyptian-Greek mother. She's born in America and raised in Kuwait--at least until Iraq invades. I think it's got to be slightly autobiographical based on the brief author bio on the back cover, which lends the story great strength and great details. Seriously, this was really good. A.

Monday, July 14, 2008

2008 book 104

Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike: The Empress's Tomb
Seriously, WHY is Kiki Strike not a household name?? I love these books.

Speaking of YA books . . . I was totally looking forward to getting the current issue of EW (with Twilight on the cover) but it never arrived! Now how will I get my teen vampire fix??

Sunday, July 13, 2008

2008 book 103

Lisa Unger's Black Out
A young wife and mother in Florida is haunted by her traumatic past when she thinks someone from that past is coming for her. I don't want to give too much of the story away--I'll just say it's pretty creepy and has lots of exciting twists and turns. A more solid effort than the other books by Unger I've read--A-/B+.

2008 book 102

Sebastian Barry's A Secret Scripture
This story of a dr trying to figure out the life story of an institutionalized woman (who is penning her own memoirs as well) would have been awesome if the jacket hadn't given the end away. SO LAME!!!!!

PS My internet has been going down a LOT this weekend, so forgive slow responses etc.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

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Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
I always forget to blog about what comics I've been reading--so here's a photo of the shipment from Chapel Hill Comics that arrived on my doorstep today. Yay comics!

Friday, July 11, 2008

2008 book 101

Peter Abrahams' Down the Rabbit Hole
This YA mystery involves an eighth-grade girl who gets caught up in solving a murder. Unfortunately, I really couldn't suspend my disbelief and think a pre-teen would act the way she does, and the end was completely predictable. C-.

summer reading

Here's a few book-related links I've shared on Google recently:

The AV Club gave Edgar Sawtelle a rave that I totally agreed with. And here's an NY Times piece on the author.

Lost book club?

The chick who does the Fine Lines feature at Jezebel got a book deal, which rocks. (Jezebel has lots of good book coverage, like this story about Jane Austen-themed weekends, and this piece about the new Curtis Sittenfeld book based on Laura Bush. I still can't get past that. For more on that book, check out this wrap-up of some coverage and this post.)

And of course, don't forget the Anne of Green Gables book group, sure to be a summer sensation!