Monday, August 31, 2009

2009 books 176 and 177

Sorry for the radio silence--I've been out of town celebrating my brother's wedding! (And mostly staying w/ my sister, who doesn't have internet.)

Michael Taeckens, ed. Love is a Four-Letter Word
I'm not just saying this b/c I know the editor and one of the contributors, but this anthology is really good! With most anthologies, there are some definite high points and low points, but I genuinely enjoyed all the essays/comics/whatevers in here. Some great writers are represented: Junot Diaz, Linda Barry (though I have her piece in another book, it's nice to see here), Kate Christensen, etc etc. I highly recommend this one. A.

Val McDermid's A Darker Domain
This mystery starts off strong (even though the heroine is soooo formulaic) as a police inspector in Scotland investigates two cold cases from the 80s--one involving a man who disappeared during the miner's strike, the other involving the kidnapping of an heiress. The cases are interesting enough, and the narrative style--lots of flashbacks--works well, but the end is fairly ridiculous. B/B-.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

2009 book 175

Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me
Just when I was getting disillusioned with all my crappy recent reading, the library got this book for me. And it was AMAZING. It's about a twelve-year-old girl in the late 70s who's obsessed w/ A Wrinkle in Time (and rightly so), and then her best friend stops hanging out with her, and she starts getting mysterious and somewhat disturbing notes, and makes some new friends, and things happen in a great way. I did guess part of the end but that didn't stop me from crying and crying and crying about it. This book is so good--go read it right now. A+.

2009 book 174

Elizabeth Garner's The Ingenious Edgar Jones
This started off strong--a talented and ambitious boy is born during a meteor shower in Victorian England--but quickly devolved into depressing and just plain weird. B-/C+.

Monday, August 24, 2009

2009 book 173

Juan Gabriel Garcia's The Informers
I've always considered myself someone w/ a generally intellectual/literary taste in books (barring the guilty pleasure reads we all enjoy), but this one defeated me. It started strong--a young man in Colombia writes a book about a family friend who fled the Nazis in the 1930s, and his father writes a scathing review. So there's Jewish stuff, and great dysfunctional family stuff. And the dad dies, and secrets will be revealed! Only the family friend just talks and talks and tells totally boring and seemingly unrelated stories and by the time the secrets are revealed I didn't even care and was barely reading. Is this a bad translation? Or am I just not the intellectual type anymore?

In other news, I agree w/ Jezebel that Betsy-Tacy is the best series ever. My mom loved them too!

Friday, August 21, 2009

link roundup

Scott Pilgrim . . . at the library!

Comics 101 takes on one of my all-time favorite comics, Love and Rockets. I totally agree with that dude's assessment of where to start reading the series.

Venture Bros. Season 4 preview!!!!!!!!!!

Everyone loves Ugly Dolls. Even my mom!

Heartwarming artificial elephant leg story.

What do we think of this list of must-read classic children's books? I personally think it's a pretty good list.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

partially read

Brian DeLeeuw's In This Way I Was Saved
For all I know, this book is a literary masterpiece, but something very bad happens to a puppy on page 65 and I didn't want to read anymore after that.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

2009 book 172

Scott Westerfeld's Uglies
I love me some YA dystopias, and since I'm still waiting for Catching Fire to come out, I figured I'd start a new series with a similar take on things. In this book, when people turn 16, they undergo an operation to make them "pretties" (though it's a little more sinister than just making them hotter). Our teen girl protagonist longs for the day when she'll stop being an ugly, but then makes a friend who has other plans--to run away and join a secret civilization of people who haven't had the operation. Our protagonist isn't interested, until the powers that be blackmail her into finding the secret city before they'll turn her pretty. Things progress pretty much as you'd expect, but it's a good read nonetheless, and I'll be reading the two sequels for sure. A-.

2009 book 171

Jonathan Tropper's This is Where I Leave You
A man whose marriage has recently ended b/c his wife was sleeping with his boss returns home after his father's death and spends a week sitting shiva with his entertainingly dysfunctional family. Tropper does a great job making these characters--and their many interpersonal problems--come alive. Something I think is interesting about the marketing is that the word shiva isn't mentioned--just that it's their father's dying wish that they spend a week together as a family. I find that odd, since the book has a took of Judaism references and clearly doesn't shy away from that. Anyway. I loved this book. A.

Monday, August 17, 2009

2009 book 170

Edward Eager's Seven-Day Magic
I think this is my favorite Edward Eager book, besides the classic Half Magic (ok, I love ALL his books, except Magic by the Lake, whcih I didn't discover till high school and which isn't really very good). It's about a group of book-loving children who find a magic library book and have adventures! No wonder I loved this book when I was little.

2009 book 169

Harry Dolan's Bad Things Happen
Dolan (who got a master's at UNC) has written a very satisfying mystery involving a man with a mysterious past who gets enlisted as an editor at a crime fiction magazine, helps his boss bury a body, and then becomes a suspect when his boss is murdered. Much of the story centers on a police detective working the case, a nicely written single mom. Anyway, I enjoyed the ending and didn't guess all of it, whcih makes it a winner in my book! A-/B+.


Some friends and I went to go see Ponyo tonight, and it was SO CUTE!!!!! Seriously. So cute. It was definitely on the very light side of Miyazaki (despite some heavy-handed environmentalism and a kind of weird ending) and we giggled throughout. Also, there were some great previews--I cried AGAIN at the Where the Wild Things Are trailer (even though it was an extended version and not the bleaker one I'd seen before) and we all laughed hysterically at the Fantastic Mr. Fox trailer (that's my favorite Dahl book and I think I'm gonna go reread it right now).

For now, here's the Japanese version of the Ponyo end theme--the American version is surprisingly similar, and I urge you to stay in the theater until the terrible remix version kicks in. We also laughed hysterically all through that.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

2009 book 168

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir's Last rituals : an Icelandic novel of secret symbols, medieval witchcraft, and modern murder
A fairly boring and anti-climatic mystery involving a grad student in Iceland studying witchcraft who gets brutally murdered. The protagonist is a lawyer who gets involved somehow. The story was ok, but wasn't fleshed out enough and there was no tension whatsoever, plus there was a very silly romantic subplot shoehorned in. Still, the lawyer's family life was interesting enough that I may read the second book in this series. B/B-.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Man, I know some of you guys read io9, so why didn't you TELL me about their post on the cast of the Middleman doing a reading of the unfilmed season finale???? I'm off to watch all 7 parts on Youtube!

Also, the DVD set would make an excellent present for all the partially unemployed Middleman fans in your life.

Friday, August 14, 2009

2009 books 166 and 167

Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty
Set in the Victorian Era, this YA fantasy deals with a young girl who discovers a world of magic and power, and then gets sent to boarding school, where she and her friends go to magical realms and get in trouble and stuff. It was extremely predictable. B-.

Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife
Ok, I know I read this, like, a week ago, but it was still sitting on my nightstand, and the other night I wanted to look this one part up and ended up rereading a good chunk of it from the beginning, then last ngiht I finished my other book (see above) and wanted to read something else, but the cat was so cutely asleep across my legs that my choices were pretty limited to whatever was within reach. Namely, this. And I still stayed up way too late rereading it, proving once again my lack of reading-related self-control. I mean, seriously, I jsut read this, like, a week ago! I knew exactly what was going to happen next! And yet I was still compelled to finish it. And I still cried at various ending scenes.

I'm still not sure if I'm going to see the movie. I did have hopes it would be ok, but it's getting dreadful reviews.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

links 'n' stuff

Here's a great NY Times piece on a new bio of Clarice Lispector. I read her stuff in some Jewish lit class--she's pretty incredible.

Rebranded matzah for the whole year!--no thanks.

Some good links following a blog post on the (admittedly subjective) best 100 comic book covers of all time.

2009 book 165

Lev Grossman's The Magicians
I've been really excited to read this book, even though I remembered hated Grossman's last novel, but it's a great premise and is getting stellar reviews. It's about a teenage boy in Brooklyn, obsessed with a series of fantasy books (very similar to the Chronicles of Narnia), who gets recruited to take the entrance exam for an exclusive college of magic (a la Harry Potter). I think the main problem I had with this book was that most of the characters were really, really underdeveloped. Plus they were all the kind of assholes that New York literary men tend to write about. Still, the bits in the school of magic are pretty cool, and their post-graduation adventure was interesting enough, but again, was a bit underdeveloped. Basically, I wanted to love this book, and based on the description I should have, but it really needed more depth and a stronger ending. Still worth a read though. B+.

2009 book 164

Thomas Cook's The Fate of Katherine Carr
A reporter, still broken from his young son's murder, and a dying little girl try to solve a twenty-year-old missing persons case by deciphering a story the missing woman left behind. I'm still not sure what to think about this, though was intrigued by the varying levels of narrative unreliability. B.

Monday, August 10, 2009

2009 book 163

Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver
This book is clearly trying to do for werewolves what Twilight has done for vampires. Actually, Twilight did it for werewolves too, and better than this book. Anyway, a girl and a wolf-boy fall in love and there's all sorts of werewolf drama. B/B-.

There was a really good scene in a candy store, though, that made me wonder why the candy companies don't commandeer some summer holiday. Like candy season starts at Halloween, then goes right into Christmas-Valentine's Day-Easter, but then there's like a six-month gap that's begging to be filled with some sort of seasonal candy. I could totally see flag-shaped peeps for the 4th of July. Though come to think of it, August is kind of bereft of holidays. We should think of some really obscure one to commercialize like Valentine's Day was so long ago. Mainly b/c I like candy.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

2009 books 161 and 162

Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass
Yeah, these just don't hold up well to multiple readings. Luckily I have a stack of library books waiting to be picked up tomorrow!

Friday, August 07, 2009

2009 book 160

Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass
I read most of this last night and figured I'd finish it today, even though my computer has been restored to me (praise God and Apple). I planned on re-reading all three books and then writing some big blog post (though really, actual intellectuals have covered them pretty in-depth) but I'm halfway through the second and just don't have the interest or energy. I mean, the first is still stellar, but the second feels really heavy-handed this go-round, and I remember the third being even more so and am not sure I'll bother reading it again this time. Anyway. Good times.

2009 books 156, 157, 158, 159

Here are some books I read while longing for my laptop back!

Kim Harrison's Dead Witch Walking
Blah blah urban fantasy where a witch and a vampire team up to be bounty hunters or something, only mostly the witch is avoiding a hit her old boss put out on her. There were a few exciting moments but mostly this was boring and I won't be reading the sequels.

Alison Bechdel's Fun Home
This was slightly less awesome than I remembered.

Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies
This also seemed less awesome than on previous rereads. Maybe it was just the cranky, computerless mood I was in.

Neil Gaiman's Brief Lives
This is my favorite Sandman volume, I think. Can't go wrong w/ a good road trip story.

I do apparently have some good library books waiting for me, but ran out and am rereading stuff till I can get back over there.

Also, twitter is being super annoying and not posting my updates. Still, it's really, really nice to have my laptop back. Please do let me know about any important internet things I may have missed from the last few days, since I'm mostly marking the 700ish items in Google Reader as read.


Originally uploaded by drelk3
Sorry for the lack of posting--my poor baby computer died Tuesday night and I only just got it back from the amazing Apple geniuses. Book updates are coming as soon as I remember everything I read--in the meantime, here is a shot my dad took at Steelers' training camp!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

partially read

Margot Berwin's Hothouse Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire
I made it all the way to page 162 before deciding this book wasn't going to get any less ridiculous. I thought the beginning parts--where a woman working in advertising in NYC meets a mysterious man with a greenhouse in a laundromat, but then tells some other dude she's trying to bone about the laundromat's man secret stash of valuable plants and of course that guy steals them, so then she has to help replace them--were all just a convoluted way of getting the protagonist to go on a journey of self-discovery to Mexico. But things didn't get any better, narrative-wise, once she got there--the usual magical mystical natives were helping her on her quest, and she's mostly annoying and horny, and it's just not any fun.

Monday, August 03, 2009


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Gratuitous kitty pic.

2009 book 155

Stieg Larsson's The Girl who Played with Fire
The sequel to Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has kind of a slow start as Larsson puts a lot of characters and situations into play--two people writing about sex trafficking get involved w/ the journalists from the first book, and jerkwads plot against the titular girl. But then things get pretty interesting and intense in ways I wasn't expecting. A pretty good follow-up to the first book, and I can't wait to see how it plays out in the third, but does suffer a bit from middle chapter syndrome (you know, how it's hard to judge the second work in a trilogy since it's setting things up for the finale but has to be interesting on its own too . . . or whatever). B+.