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.


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


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.