Sunday, May 31, 2009

2009 book 114

Joanna Scott's Follow Me
Man, was this book a piece of drekkerai. I'm not even sure why I kept reading it, except that I thought it was going to get interesting at some point. I mean, it's a woman telling her grandmother's life story from the time she got pregnant as a teenager and ran away from her family and the baby--but all that happens is that she keeps running away from things and getting rescued. There's no tension at all and the characters are really flat and dull. I think the end was supposed to be a big twist but it was just all really dumb. C-. D.. Whatever. Some bad grade.

Friday, May 29, 2009

2009 book 113

Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study
How I heart YA fantasy, especially when it's by a fellow Penn State alum! In this book (the first of a trilogy), a young woman, about to be executed for murder, is instead recruited to serve as the ruler's food tester, and is inevitably thrust into intrigue and whatnot. Also, there's magic and a little romance. The characters are all really likable, and I can't wait to read the next two. A.

partially read

Iain Pear's Stone's Fall
I'm trying really hard to get into this novel--it has a fairly interesting premise, where a widow hires a young reporter to ferret out her husband's secrets (namely a secret child) after his death. But all that's happened in the first 113 pages is the reporter meandering around trying to unravel the mysteries of finance. SO BORING. Also, the title isn't literary or metaphorical at all--the dead guy is named Stone and he fell out a window. Terrible.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

2009 book 112

Colm Toibin's Brooklyn
I hate that the book jacket gave away a bunch of things that happened like 200 pages into the book, so I'll be more vague than they were. Anyway, it's the 1950s and a passive young Irish girl who can't find a job in her hometown is packed off to America by her beloved mother and sister. Reading about her adjustment to a whole new country (and a whole new world of dating) was surprisingly riveting, even though the story had almost a dream-like quality to it (which is certainly not a bad thing, just it's not always as attention-grabbing). I'd never read anything by Toibin before and clearly I've been missing out. A.

2009 book 111

Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn
I will say this for the final Twilight book--Meyer really threw a lot of unexpected stuff into it and I liked most of it on this re-read. I think one of the things that depresses me about the earlier books is Bella always talking about how she's not "worthy" of Edward's (creepy, obsessive) love--it just seems like an unhealthy attitude for lots of pre-teens to read. At least in this book she's kind of a bad-ass, and his equal.

2009 book 111

Stephenie Meyer's Eclipse
Man, is Edward a d-bag in the first chunk of this book. I like this one mainly for the werewolves.

2009 book 110

Stephenie Meyer's New Moon
I like the second Twilight book a lot, mainly b/c Edward is hardly in it at all. I find him more and more annoying every time I read this, so overbearing and patronizing and boring. Team Jacob!

(I have been on a teen vampire kick lately, apparently--still re-watching Buffy! Got through a big chunk of season 3 this afternoon.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

2009 book 109

Stephenie Meyer's Twilight
Today was a mildly annoying day, plus it was too hot and humid to read anything that required real thought, which meant it was time to reread Twilight! Whenever I read these books, I have a hard time balancing my enjoyment of the cheesiness with being vaguely creeped out by the Edward-Bella relationship. This re-read made me disappointed in the movie all over again--it could have been hilarious and cheesy, but it's just terrible in every way instead. Oh well.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

2009 book 108

Michelle Richmond's No One You Know
Twenty years after her sister was murdered and a close friend/teacher turned her sad conversations into a best-selling true crime book, a woman's chance encounter has her investigating the death all over again. Though this isn't a mystery really, more of a novel that has a mystery inside it. I guess tragic and mysterious family dramas are Richmond's specialty; her previous book had similar themes. (There's a weird meta-mention of that novel in this one that I found a little off-putting.) Anyway, this was entertaining enough to read in one sitting, though not particularly spectacular in any way (a little too much math-related dialogue for my taste). B+.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

2009 book 107

John Hart's The Last Child
Hart is a local author, I think--or at least the story is set in rural NC. Anyway, a girl disappears, and a year later, her twin brother is still relentlessly pursuing leads, supported by the kindly head detective on the case. Things heat up when another local girl goes missing. I really liked the boy character but the cop was fairly cliche-ridden. The resolution was mostly really good and the story was interesting enough to keep me reading, but parts of it were more than a bit predictable. I dunno, B?

Friday, May 22, 2009

fun new comics

For someone who works in a comic book store, I really don't post enough stuff about comic books! So here's info on a few new things that are awesome.

The first issue of Unwritten is out (and only a dollar)--it's a strong start to a series I'm definitely looking forward to, with lots of magic and stories-about-stories and literary references (I think Sandman fans will like this a lot--it's also described as "Vertigo does Harry Potter" which I suppose is accurate enough).

Another comic chock full of literary references is League of Extraordinary Gentleman, the new series of which just started. It still stars Mina Murray (from Dracula) but this time adds Virginia Woolf's Orlando into the mix (along with a bunch of British characters who sing rewritten song lyrics to songs I would know if I were British). Anyway, Alan Moore's stuff is always worth reading and LOEG is easily my favorite of his series.

For a bit of a change of pace, there's Incognito, about a supervillain in witness protection. I totally love this series--and I rarely read anything involving superpowers. The narrative is great, though, and I'm really into it.

Finally, I just started reading Pluto, an adaptation of an Astro Boy story. Now, I have a weird aversion to all of Tezuka's stuff (it tends to be grisly, and Apollo's Song turned me off forever), but this is really an entirely different take. The art is great, and you really can't go wrong with a murder mystery involving robots. The third volume just came out and I bet it's awesome!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

2009 book 106

Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
You really can't go wrong with an 11-year-old girl chemist/sleuth trying to solve a murder that happens in her eccentric family's garden. Hilarious characters, revenge schemes between sisters, philatelists, long-suffering policemen, all in 1950s England--it adds up to an extremely entertaining mystery. Bradley is apparently working on a sequel and I hope it comes out soon! A.

fun and exciting things i've shared

Link round-up time!

The NY Times did a profile of Charlaine Harris. I'm hoping she wraps up the Sookie Stackhouse series soon, b/c she was clearly spinning her wheels with the last two books (read: they were terrible).

The Boston Police will warn you when the zombies come.

Interesting legal case: the creators of Emily the Strange are suing the writer and artist the original Emily art is clearly based on (suing to remove any claims they may have on the Emily character). My largely uneducated take: while the author/artist of Rosamond clearly deserve some sort of credit for the original design, the Emily empire has gone far beyond that and has nothing to do with their art. Or something. Still, the Emily people are kind of being jerkwads about it.

I was psyched that the popwatch blog was into Being Erica. I loved this show (not just 'cause it was all so Jewish) and can't wait to see season 2.

2009 book 105

Sara Shepard's The Visibles
How to describe this book to make it sound as awesome as it is? There's a dysfunctional family--a severely depressed father, a mother who's gone, a fairly weird brother, and the protagonist, a teenage girl obsessed with DNA and feeling out of place in school and life. Plus a wacky great-aunt in Western PA. But, you know, awesome! I really enjoyed these characters and their family relationships. The end maybe wrapped up a little quickly but I have no complaints. A. Shepard is apparently the author of a popular YA catty girl series (Pretty Little Liars) and I may try those out, since I really liked her narrative voice.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

partially read

Glen David Gold's Sunnyside
I remembered really liking Gold's first book, which came out about a hundred years ago, so was excited he finally published a second one. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into it. It's a slow starter and definitely there were some characters/plots I found interesting, but I got bogged down in a lengthy section involving Charlie Chaplin and totally lost interest. I have a rule that if I get 100 pages into a book and don't care enough to finish, I can totally give up and move on to another one. And I just couldn't face 400 more pages of this.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

craig ferguson makes life a little more awesome.

Sometimes I stay up late just to see if his opening will include lip-syncing and puppets. Last night it finally did!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

2009 book 104

Lynn Freed's The Servants' Quarters
This book started off strongly, but about halfway through devolved into sheer annoyingness. I'm too annoyed to even attempt a plot synopsis. C.

Friday, May 15, 2009

2009 book 103

Linda Olsson's Sonata for Miriam
This was a dreamy, somewhat philosophical novel about a man who, after his daughter dies, decides to investigate what happened to his parents in Poland during the Holocaust and then to see the mother of his daughter for the first time in years. Pretty much everything happens the way I thought it would, but it was interesting enough. B.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

2009 book 102

Charlaine Harris' Dead and Gone
The ninth Sookie Stackhouse book didn't really impress me--the series has been losing steam for a while now, focusing more on politics b/w various groups of supernaturals and not really on the protagonist. It all feels kind of like fan-fiction--lots of romantic drama, not a lot of actual plot. Plus there are way too many secondary and tertiary characters, and the ancillary mystery wasn't interesting or imbued with any kind of narrative tension. In a word, meh. I'll still watch the tv show though. C.

2009 book 101

Gillian Flynn's Dark Places
Flynn's first novel, Sharp Objects, was one of my favorites of 2006. Her second is in the same mold, centering on a young woman whose family was slaughtered when she was a little kid, and her brother went to prison for the deed. Stuck for money, she gets involved with a group of true crime aficionados who swear her brother is innocent and who pay her to talk to people from her past. The novel switches back and forth between present day and the day of the murders, to great effect, and the end is definitely satisfying. I realize this description must read kind of boring, but the book was really totally awesome and I highly recommend it. A. (I'm categorizing it as a mystery since it pretty much is one, but in the literary/psychological/Kate Atkinson style.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

2009 book 100

Laurie R. King's The Language of Bees
Thanks to Elizabeth for alerting me to the fact that the newest Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mystery was out! This wasn't my favorite in the series--it's a little bit slow-moving, and I think I prefer the ones with more Russell-Holmes team-up action--but it's another fun entry, as Holmes' son (who's a serious retcon even in this kind of series) asks for help in locating his missing wife and child. B.

Monday, May 11, 2009

2009 book 99

Catherine Jinks' The Reformed Vampire Support Group
I should really start a category on this blog for books about teenage vampires, b/c gosh do I read a lot of them. This one skews away from a lot of the typical mythology--the vampires aren't superpowered or anything, they're actually pretty sickly, and there aren't many of them. The main character, Nina, became a vampire in 1973 at the age of 15 and still lives with her mother 35 years later, going to a weekly support group meeting with the other local vampires (who all sprang from the same source). Then one of them is staked and they have to figure out who killed him before the rest get killed too. Anyway, this is a kind of a lighter side of vampires--there are some creepy bits, and some dark bits, but also a good deal of humor and even a touch of romance. A-.


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
I finally got to see Wye Oak live tongiht and it was such a fun show! I love their songs and was totally impressed w/ them live (not least when the drummer played drums and various other instruments--keyboard, melodica--AT THE SAME TIME!). Can't wait to see them again at xxmerge!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

2009 book 98

Tania James' Atlas of Unknowns
This is the story of two sisters growing up in India--one lies her way into a prestigious scholarship in America, then runs away when her lies surface, while the other, injured in a childhood accident, finds success as an artist and then tries to use her success to find her missing sister. Both sisters-and the myriad other characters they encounter--are very well-written, and the story is abundantly satisfying. A.


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Continuing my local wildlife theme, here's a picture I took of a squirrel hiding in a tree.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


robin (336 x 503)
Originally uploaded by drelk3
A robin built its nest over the porchlight at my parents' house. My dad (and his telephoto lens) did not disturb her. Here's hoping for pictures of baby birds soon!

Friday, May 08, 2009

2009 book 97

Ysabeau Wilce's Flora's Dare
The sequel starts off a little eh-ish, and is kind of all over the place, but there are some great twists and unexpected turns and the end is surprisingly satisfying. The internet indicates there will be a third book in the series, so I'm looking forward to that. B+ for both books.

2009 book 96

Ysabeau S. Wilce's Flora Segunds
I tend to like the kind of fantasy books where the heroine isn't some magical chosen one, but a more realistic stubborn, lazy, cake-eating teenager. This isn't a groundbreaking or amazing story, but it was entertaining enough and I'll read the sequel.

some stuff i've shared

Jodi Picoult attacks "poorly written" Da Vinci Code. I LOVE when authors get really mad that other authors outsell them. And frankly, Picoult has no room to talk. The last chapter of My Sister's Keeper is easily the worst thing I've ever read. I still get angry when I think about it. Yes, actually angry.

This Epicurious app for the iPhone/iTouch actually makes me want one! Seriously, that website has so many great recipes--everything from Gourmet and Bon Appetit from the most recent issues to like years back, plus other mags and cookbooks. It'd be so cool to be in the supermarket and have the recipe and the ingredients right in your purse! I mean, you can just write them down like I do, but eh, holding a pen is hard.

And speaking of recipes, here are Sara Foster's favorite cookbooks. Mmmm, Foster's Market.

And yay, Love is a Four-Letter Word is getting raves! It's so exciting to know the editor and a contributor--you guys are gonna be famous!!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

2009 book 95

Jean Hanff Korelitz's Admission
I'm not really sure what to say about this book, which is about a woman who works in the admission office at Princeton (the author, whose husband is a Princeton prof, apparently was a part-time admissions reader for two years). It's not that it's not an ok read, but it has a lot of problems. Like the protagonist has way too many speeches about the admissions process. And the big secret is (I'm sure supposed to be) obvious, but it's officially revealed annoyingly late. And the end is kind of a mess from a story point of view. Eh. B.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

2009 book 94

Elinor Lipman's The Family Man
I love Lipman and was excited to pick up an advance copy of this novel at a conference--then a friend read it and wasn't impressed, so it's been languishing on my bedroom floor for months. And what a waste of months those were, since I really enjoyed it! It was the review in last week's EW that finally convinced me to read it--though I should note that the review isn't really accurate in terms of plot, it does nail the charm of the characters. A-.

Monday, May 04, 2009

2009 book 93

Emily Fox Gordon's It Will Come to Me
Apparently Gordon is an acclaimed memoirist and this is her first novel. It's a quick read with some interesting goings-on; it deals with the chair of a Philosophy department at a small college in Texas and his wife, a former well-known author. The jacket description talks about how things get chaotic when a famous memoirist and her husband join the faculty, but they were really pretty minor characters. Actually most of what happens in this book is pretty minor (though Gordon does nail academic culture). Part of the problem is that the protagonist (the novelist wife) isn't really that likable or interesting, and also conflicts in the story get resolved way too neatly. B/B-.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

2009 book 92

Gayle Forman's If I Stay
If you thought about a YA novel that centered on a talented teenage cellist (w/ a rock star boyfriend, of course) who gets into an accident and spends 24 hours watching events unfold and deciding whether to live or die, this would be exactly the book you expected. I mean, it's not bad--I got a little teary at times, and the central family is well-written--but nothing unexpected or even especially interesting happens, ever. I imagine this will be a best-seller anyway--it's getting lots of buzz since it was optioned for a movie before it was even published, to be directed by Catherine Hardwicke. I don't know what grade to give this--it was a perfectly serviceable story but didn't rock my world in any way. B/B+?

Friday, May 01, 2009

i heart western pa

Check this out, it's part of a new webseries that a friend from college directs/works on. They totally nail those Western PA accents, plus there's a Snuggie.

2009 book 91

Christian Moerk's Darling Jim
Oh my GOSH was this book good! It's about what happens when two sisters and their aunt are found dead, and then a young postal worker finds the diary of one of the sisters in the dead letter box and decides to investigate their lives and their relationships with the mysterious titular Jim. Only it's all dark and creepy and wonderful. It's really a well-crafted novel with amazing characters and probably will be on my best of the year list. A.