Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 book 275 (!!!!!!)

Lisa Lutz's The Curse of the Spellmans
The second Spellman book has the least-awesome mystery to reread, but some of the best character moments in the series.

Yay, I read 275 books this year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 book 274

Yeah, I'm gonna hit 275, no problem.

Lisa Lutz's The Spellman Files
I've read this book at least once this year already, but I've been out of library books for a month and sometimes you just need a comfort read. This mystery, about a family of hilarious PIs, never disappoints. The fourth one comes out this spring--I've heard it's the last one, which kind of sucks since I love this series, but gives me hope that a certain romantic pairing will finally come to pass!

2009 book 273

Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
One of my favorite books of 2009, his mystery--about an 11-year-old girl chemist who tries to solve a murder that took place in her garden--didn't disappoint on rereading.

I'm trying to hit 275 by the end of the year--so, back to reading!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009 book 272

Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects
This was one of my favorite books of 2006--it totally blew my mind, in part b/c I was expecting something frothy from Flynn, formerly a tv reviewer at EW, and it was so completely dark and unexpected, about a very troubled woman who returns to her hometown to try and write an article about a serial killer attacking young girls. Anyway, it definitely holds up to rereading, though was even darker and crazier than I remembered.

2009 book 271

E. Nesbit's The House of Arden
The nice thing about Nesbit's books is that they always feel like a modern book written to be old-fashioned, whcih I guess speaks to a certain timelessness to her stories. In this one, a brother and sister inherit a castle and hunt for treasure to try and maintain it, with the help of a magical mole-thing and some poetry. Nesbit's humor prevails and the children are very likable, though I did think there were some unanswered questions--I wonder if there's a sequel?

Friday, December 25, 2009

2009 books 269 and 270

Rick Riordan's The Battle of the Labyrinth and The Last Olympian
The last two Percy Jackson books have lots of exciting battles and adventures as the children of various Greek gods try to save Olympus from evil forces. The series in general is a little derivative of Harry Potter--or maybe of all books featuring magical children fighting the forces of evil--but is definitely enjoyable. I mean, I read all five in a day and a half, so clearly I liked them. :)

2009 book 268

Rick Riordan's The Titan's Curse
Ooh yay, the third Percy Jackson book heavily featured Artemis, my favorite goddess! These books rock.

2009 book 267

Rick Riordan's The Sea of Monsters
This series really is a lot of fun! Likable characters going on adventures, an upcoming epic battle between good and evil, lots of twists and turns . . . I even busted out my D'aulaire's (one of my all-time favorite books--a gift from my mom when I was recovering from pneumonia in 5th grade) a couple times to look up character backstories. I wish these books had been around when I was a kid who was totally into Greek mythology, but I'm totally enjoying them now.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

2009 book 266

Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief
I've been hearing good things about the Percy Jackson series for a while, and don't know why I waited so long to check it out--I mean, you'd think the story of a boy who discovers his father is one of the Greek Gods and has to go to special god-kid summer camp and questing and whatnot would be immediately appealing. And the story was really satisfying--very Harry Potter-esque. It was a little frustrating that some of the major plot points were so easy to guess in advance, but on the whole this book was very enjoyable and I'm definitely going to read the next one in the series. This is perfect bored-on-Christmas-and-needing-some-good-fun reading!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009 book 265

Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
This was a SERIOUSLY AWESOME end to Larsson's trilogy--way more action-packed than the first two, in a good way! I don't want to say too much about it since it doesn't come out till late May in the US, though I will say it was TOTALLY worth ordering from! A.

I had actually planned on reading this over Christmas Eve/Christmas, but I couldn't wait to start it and then couldn't wait to find out what happened . . . now I'm at a bit of a loss for entertainment on those days. Worth it though!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

2009 book 264

Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played with Fire
Larsson is truly the master of the slow build, as the murders of two writers working on an expose of Sweden's sex trade leads to the involvement of all of the titular girl's friends and enemies, as well as the police, and it all comes to a crazy and scary head. And having read this one right after the first one, and seeing all the hints that lead to the craziness in this one, it felt like a much stronger story than last time I read it. I can't wait to read the third one! Which luckily is sitting on my couch right now. Still don't know why they released it months ago in England and not here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009 book 263

Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
It's a mark of what a good writer Larsson is that, even though I remembered how this mystery turns out, I was still really engaged and anxious while reading (though I did forget that bad things happen to a cute animal, which is odd since it's basically the only thing I wrote about when I first read it).

Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 book 262

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women
Reading this article the other day made me want to reread Little Women, whcih actually was one of the first books I got for my Kindle and was all ready to go. Now, I hadn't read it in years, and most of what I remembered came from the movie (the June Allyson/Janet Leigh/Elizabeth Taylor version, which is far superior to the Katherine Hepburn version), so it was nice to go back and find all the little details I'd forgotten. But then it went on and on and I was convinced I'd somehow started in on Little Men without realizing--no, it's just way longer than I remembered (I have the three books in one Kindle thing--and Little Women is 47 percent of it). I do think it's interesting what a non-entity Mr March is even after he comes back from war, especially considering the other great male characters Alcott wrote--I wonder if she didn't feel up to fictionalizing her father?

links, links, and more links

It's been a while since I did a link round-up:

Gift ideas for cupcake lovers! I'll take any and all of these. ;)

I found this Guardian article on Harry Potter's nude scenes in the final movie to be weird--b/c both of those scenes are in the book! (Though at King's Cross, clothes appear for him to put on.) (Oh, and I just saw that the article was updated to say what I just said, so never mind.)

Speaking of Harry Potter, I sooo want to hear the audiobooks as narrated by Stephen Fry.

Lisa Loeb is launching an eyewear line!

And finally, here's an interview with the little girl who sings in Love Actually (and who is also the voice of one of my favorite cartoon characters. Yes, I watch cartoons. So?).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

favorite books of 2009

I've never put up a best of the year list this early--I always feel like it cheats the books I may read right up till the end of the year. But this month I've mainly been rereading old favorites and my library hold list is really light, so the chances that I'll read something new and completely amazing in the next two weeks is fairly slim (and if so, I'll just have to remember to add it to 2010's list). With that said, 2009 was a pretty great year (for books, and in general: my brother got married, I got new teeth, xxmerge was incredible, and I crushed my goal of 250 books and still have time to crush it more), and since I read so many books, I have a top 20 and not a top 10. In alphabetical order by author:

Emily Arsenault's The Broken Teaglass
Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire
Gillian Flynn's Dark Places
James Fuerst's Huge
Joshua Gaylord's Hummingbirds
Lauren Grodstein's A Friend of the Family
Lisa Lutz's Revenge of the Spellmans
Dara Horn's All Other Nights
Marjorie Kernan's The Ballad of West Tenth Street
Sarah Hall's How to Paint a Dead Man
Kent Meyer's Twisted Tree
Christian Moerk's Darling Jim
Kate Morton's The House at Riverton
Yoko Ogawa's The Housekeeper and the Professor
Sara Shepard's The Visibles
Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me
Colm Toibin's Brooklyn
Jonathan Tropper's This is Where I Leave You

Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 book 261

Francisco X. Stork's Marcelo in the Real World
When a boy on the autism spectrum is forced by his father to work in a law firm mailroom as a summer job so he can learn about "the real world", the boy must learn to come out of his shell and to deal with issues of moral complexity after finding a picture of an injured girl involved with a lawsuit. This book was a fairly good read, but the villain was way too cartoonish and most of the plot was overly predictable. B.

2009 book 260

Alexander McCall Smith's The Full Cupboard of Life
These are pleasant reads, but sometimes I want to read something where, you know, something happens! (And actually, something does happen in this one, it just takes a while.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Happy Hanukkah!

2009 books 258 and 259

Diana Wynne Jones' House of Many Ways
The third Howl's Moving Castle book is funnier than the first two, full of likable characters and crazy magic.

Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire
Seriously, why isn't this book on Kindle when Hunger Games is? LAME. Anyway, the third one comes out August 24th, and I can't wait! I loved this book, but it actually felt stronger on this reread, and less middle-chapter-of-a-trilogy-ish.

Friday, December 11, 2009

2009 book 257

Diana Wynne Jones' Castle in the Sky
The companion/sequel to Howl's Moving Castle is a takeoff of Arabian Nights-type tales; it's something of a slow starter but gets pretty entertaining halfway through.

2009 book 256

Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle
Cold, cold days are for curling up under an afghan and rereading a favorite funny take on fairy tales where a girl gets to (mostly) save the day (though of course things go awry). I still wish the movie had been more accurate to the plot.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

2009 book 255

Alexander McCall Smith's Kalahari Typing School for Men
Another pleasant read in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. (Sorry, there really isn't anything else to say about it!)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
My friend Kate got me some pretty flowers b/c she knows I love blue things. They smell so nice!

2009 book 254

Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games
Briefly, b/c the Top Chef finale is on: it was interesting to reread this in light of Catching fire--lots of hints are there if you know to look!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

2009 book 253

Penelope Lively's Family Album
I've actually never read any of Lively's many earlier novels, despite general acclaim and awards, but I may have to check them out, since this was such an enjoyable read. Six adult siblings flash back on their childhood with their eccentric family and its big secret (which is fairly easy to guess, but--spoiler alert!--maybe only b/c I read that recent AS Byatt novel). A-/B+.

Monday, December 07, 2009

2009 book 252

Trenton Lee Stewart's The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma
The third book in this series about a band of gifted children and their kindly leader finds them once again battling their leader's evil twin brother. I enjoyed it quite a bit, though was disconcerted to find a vaguely final ending--is this the last book in the series? I'd be disappointed if that was the case--I really like these characters and the sly writing.

2009 book 251

Jeannette Walls' Half Broke Horses
Walls' followup to her memoir Glass Castle, a novel about her grandmother's life, has made a bunch of best-of-the-year lists, and I'm not entirely sure why. It's readable enough, but not particularly interesting. (Of course, I didn't like Glass Castle much either, since it was sooooo depressing.)

Friday, December 04, 2009

2009 book 250

Penelope Farmer's Charlotte Sometimes
Although I couldn't find the books I was looking for when I was home for Thanksgiving, I did grab this one, which I loved when I was younger and hadn't read in years. It's an interesting look at identity, about a girl who starts boarding school only to find herself swapping places with another girl from 1918 in the nights. She gets stuck in the past, playing the part of the other girl, due to WWI, and she and her counterpart's sister have to find a way to switch them back. (I think I like books about inadvertent time travelers mistaken for people from the past--cf The Devil's Arithmetic--are there others?) I was looking up Farmer online--this is apparently one of three books about this character, but I've never read the others and they're not in print--and discovered that this is the revised edition from the 80s and is missing a chunk of the ending. Man, the 80s were so lame! I really want to read the real version now. Also, though I've never talked to anyone else who read this, apparently it inspired a song by the Cure and the name of some other band.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

2009 books 248 and 249

I said I was going to read these two together, and I did:

Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time
This officially counts as my first Shelf Discovery Challenge book--ok, it wasn't on my initial list, but you have to make do when you can't find classics like A Stranger with my Face. And this book is always an entertaining read--what bespectabled bookworm doesn't dream of the day that a Calvin will notice she has dreamboat eyes? Plus all the magical space travel, and fighting of evil, and sweet sibling relationships, and Aunt Beast. I never much liked the sequel (don't they, like, go into cells and repair mitochondrions or something? Is that where George Lucas came up with his crappy definition of the Force for the prequels?) but do remember enjoying the one where a unicorn helps Charles Wallace go back in time to discover Calvin's ancestry and save the world. Ah, YA lit.

Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me
There's always a worry that, when you reread a book you remember loving, it won't hold up (which frankly sort of happened to me with A Wrinkle in Time). But this book is really the best book I read in 2009. I was crying in advance of events this time, and really all throughout. Such an amazing story, about a girl who loves Wrinkle, and losing and gaining friendships, and game shows, and two-dollar bills, and first romance, and the possibility of time travel. Plus a nice dentist.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

2009 book 247

I feel like we should start a pool to guess how many books I'll end up reading in 2009, with the winner getting cupcakes.

Kent Meyer's Twisted Tree
This book is a prime example of why I wait till the year actually ends to compile my best-of-the-year lists, since it's really good and could well be on my list. Anywya, it's about a small town in South Dakota, and the lives of the people in it, and how they were touched by the murder of one of their own by a serial killer, told in short stories. It paints a really interesting portrait of small-town life, before and after a tragedy. A.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

links and stuff

People love Kindles!! I love mine a LOT.

I found this article on falling out of love with Murakami to be pretty interesting. A few months ago, I took Hardboiled Wonderland on a trip and read half on the plane--but I never bothered finishing my reread. And that's my favorite Murakami! It's been sitting on my coffee table since September.

Here's an interview with an amazing book designer.

I really miss Ecto Cooler. I had this in my lunchbox every day as a kid.

How to use an apostrophe.

2009 graphic novel roundup

You know, 2009 was really a good year for graphic novels, and I read a ton of them! Of course, the one getting the most attention right now is Stitches, but that book is nowhere near the best of the year. (I actually didn't like it much and have no idea why it was nominated for a YA National Book Award.)

Anyway, here were some books I really did enjoy reading this year:

--Scott Pilgrim 5! Need I say more?

--Everything by Naoki Urasawa that came out this year. The first 6 volumes of Pluto are out--it's a retelling of an Astro Boy story and it's totally incredible. I never thought I'd be so into a story about some malevolent plan to destroy the world's most advanced robots, but I totally am. His 20th Century Boys is also completely amazing--every volume has had me totally riveted.

--Locas II. I already own all the material in this book, but if you don't, it's a good way to catch up with Maggie, Hopey, and Ray--it's a great package and great material. This is the stuff that started to convert me from a Beto fan to a Jaime one.

--Robert Kirkman's Invincible. Kirkman also writes Walking Dead, but I prefer his superhero story. I love the character--this is one of the only superhero books I read (Greg Rucka's Detective Comics is the other, but it hasn't been collected yet). There are 11 trade paperbacks in this series so far and they're all stellar.

--X-Men Misfits. OK, I guess I did read some other superhero stuff this year, but how can you resist Kitty Pryde all manga-style? And Beast looks like a Totoro!!

--Locke and Key is another story that blew me away this year--Erin kept telling me I'd like it, but I was all meh, I don't wanna read a comic by Stephen King's son. How wrong I was! The first two miniseries have been collected and the third just started--sooooo good!

--Asterios Polyp has deservedly been on a bunch of best-of-the-year lists--it combines architecture, philosophy, hilarious puns, and a little romance with an actually amazing visual style.

--Amulet volume 2 came out this year--I really like this all-ages series--great art.

--I've enjoyed Richard Sala for years, but Cat Burglar Black may be my favorite book--his art is cuter than ever and meshes well with his slightly sinister story. I really hope there'll be a sequel.

--Masterpiece Comics is just hilarious. Perfect for the literature and comics lover in your life!

--R. Crumb's Genesis was actually pretty great--not at all weird or creepy like I was expecting.

--Yotsuba 6 finally came out this year--if you're not reading this adorable manga, you are missing out.

--Ed Brubaker just started writing a new Criminal story, so now's the time to catch up with the earlier volumes. Really great gritty noir stuff.

--Continuing series I enjoyed this year in trade or single-issue format: Fables, Yakitate Japan, Fruits Basket, Runaways, Echo, Madame Xanadu, Unwritten, Umbrella Academy, Buffy Season 8, Beasts of Burden, and probably some others I'm forgetting.