Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2009 book 138

Sarah Dessen's Along for the Ride
It's a measure of what a reliably good writer Dessen is that I was totally into this book, even though it has a lot of bikes in it (I have a longstanding antipathy toward bikes). Anyway, one of her very likable protagonists spends the summer before college with her dad, stepmom, and new baby sister and learns lessons about family and friendship and of course meets a troubled but sweet love interest. Only it's all really good and steers away from cliches, b/c it's Dessen. A.

Monday, June 29, 2009

2009 book 137

J. Courtney Sullivan's Commencement
The jacket copy doesn't do this book justice--four totally different girls, one a sweet Southerner, one a radical feminist, one a lapsed Catholic, one recovering from her mother's recent death all meet at Smith and become totally awesome friends, and now they're all getting together four years later for one's wedding! I mean, it sounds like some cheesy Julia Roberts movie. Luckily, that's just the bare bones of the story, and there's so much more to these characters and their lives in college and afterward. I did have slightly mixed feelings about the ending, but this was a really, really great read. And I would not be at all surprised to see this made into a movie--ooh, guys, read this book and we can have imaginary casting sessions in the comments!--but I hope it would do right by the novel and not be a totally cheesefest. Anyway. A/A-.

2009 book 136

Peter Abrahams' Reality Check
A perfectly serviceable YA mystery involving a boy whose girlfriend goes off to boarding school in Vermont and then disappears. B.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

2009 book 135

Ian Sansom's The Book Stops Here
I enjoyed the first Mobile Library Mystery, a totally light book about a Jewish librarian in the middle of nowhere, Ireland. This is the third book in the series (somehow I missed the second), but it's nowhere near as fun as the first. For one thing, the mystery barely exists--the library van is stolen and the librarian and his friend have to track it down, which is just not interesting at all--and for another, the main character is really whiny. There's a cute subplot where his friend and his mom kind of like each other, but otherwise this book wasn't worth reading at all. C-.

I'm picking up some library books tomorrow, and hoping fervently that one will be a good read!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

2009 book 134

Jennifer Steinhauer and Jessica Hendra's Beverly Hills Adjacent
What, another book about an LA academic with a husband in showbiz? I was hoping it would be fluffier and more fun than the last one I read. I guess it was fluffier, but this story of a UCLA professor and her struggling academic husband was really unlikable. All of the characters were total jerks! It really annoyed me. I'm not sure why I kept reading, except to see what these assholes would do next. And of course they got a totally ridiculous ending to boot. C-.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

2009 book 133

Margaret Leroy's Yes, My Darling Daughter
This was one of the books from Oprah's summer reading lists--it's really only a mystery in the most tenuous sense. It centers on a young single mother with a troubled little daughter; eventually, the mother comes to think her child is somebody's reincarnation and turns to an unusual psychology professor for help. From there it becomes much more predictable, but is still a fairly satisfying story. B+.


The new Miyazaki movie comes out in August!! It looks SO CUTE.

I know I was disappointed in his last movie (Howl's Moving Castle), but only b/c I didn't think it did justice to the book--I still think Miyazaki's cartoons are totally great. This one is apparently geared toward a younger audience, which is fine with me!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

2009 book 132

Nina Kiriki Hoffman's Fall of Light
Oh my god, was this book terrible. It starts off with an interesting concept--a makeup artist with magical powers is in love with the actor she works on, only he gets possessed by some local magical thing--but it just got worse and worse as it went on, until the totally ridiculous and anti-climactic ending. D.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
I finally finished knitting this blanket, which has been the bane of my existence for two months. I think it came out pretty well, but the purling sections made me nuts. Now I just have to weave in the ends, and find a baby to give it to!


Edith Wharton rules!

Conversely, Holden Caulfield is lame. (I've never liked him.)

I'm sure you all have seen Buffy vs Edward Cullen, but it's hilarious and awesome.

I'm totally into this Tooth Fairy kit.

Seriously, why are they remaking Red Dawn? That movie is terrible. I mean, sure, it's fun to yell "WOLVERINES!!!!!!" but really, is that enough to base a movie on?

Art Spiegelman has a comic in the Washington Post about the St Louis, a famous ship full of Jewish refugees that the US refused to let enter the country and sent back to Europe just in time for the Holocaust. Nice one, America!

2009 book 131

Sandra Dallas' Prayers for Sale
I've read and enjoyed a couple of Dallas' earlier novels (Tallgrass and Buster Midnight's Cafe) and was glad to see she had a new one out. Unfortunately, it veers way too much into heartwarming/women's fiction territory for my taste, as an elderly woman in 1930s Colorado tells her life story to the new young housewife in town. The ending was supposed to be surprising but I mostly thought it was completely unbelievable. B-.

Friday, June 19, 2009

2009 book 130

Alice Hoffman's The Story Sisters
This may be Hoffman's best novel to date. Of course, I've absolutely hated every other Hoffman book I've read, so that's not saying much! I did mostly like it--it's about three sisters and their secret language and secret made-up land and how they grow up and are damaged and whatnot. I do kind of hate that Hoffman made the characters have the last name Story, so the title is literal instead of metaphorical--it's just cheesy. Otherwise a pretty good read. B+.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

2009 book 129

Martin Walker's Bruno, Chief of Police
This was a fairly light read, considering it involves a murder of an elderly man in a small town in France and brings up all sorts of racial tensions for the locals. I loved the protagonist, the titular Bruno, and his interactions with his fellow townspeople. Also, all their food sounded delicious! And there was even a little romance and historical research. The murder's wrap-up was really satisfying, to boot. A.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
I'm too tired to read a book or write a real entry! Instead, here is a picture of a squirrel. (When you grow up in Squirrel Hill, you grow fond of the fluffy l'il tree rats.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

2009 book 128

Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger
Oh my gosh, this book CREEPED ME OUT. I'm so glad I read it while it was still light out, or I'd be too scared to sleep! The story takes place in England in the 1940s in a big fancy old house that's falling apart at the seams, centering on a doctor in town and his increasing involvement with the house's residents and their troubles, which may or may not include being haunted. Waters has quite a way with the atmosphere and the characters--like I said, I was seriously creeped out. A.

Monday, June 15, 2009

2009 book 128

China Mieville's The City and the City
I've been hanging out in an airport most of the day, alternately reading this book and enjoying free wifi. Good times. Anyway, as far as I know (please correct me if I'm wron), Mieville is one of the few authors to marry fantasy with mystery (unless alternate worlds like Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Union count). As in, this is a murder mystery set in the world of fantasy. I actually think the world is Europe, since there are references to real-word places, but the titular cities are definitely the stuff of fantasy--two cities, with distinct identities and cultures, in the same exact places, overlapping. It's a really cool concept. The mystery is unfortunately not quite as compelling, but it was still an entertaining and thought-provoking read, and made being stuck in an airport not bad at all. A-/B+.

summer reading

Oprah has a pretty extensive summer reading list going on, with lots of sub-lists (like "unputdownable mysteries"). I've enjoyed the ones I've read on her lists, so there you go. (I'm not one to dis Oprah's taste in literature.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

2009 book 127

Chandler Burr's You or Someone Like You
My problem with this book stems from totally misinterpreting what it was about. It was described as being about the wife of a Hollywood producer who gets talked into starting a book group, and all of the showbiz elites start to join. So, of course I thought it would be literary, but in a fluffy way. That's not at all what Burr--who is the NY Times' scent critic, whatever that means--is doing with this story, though. It's a very stream-of-consciousness look at the producer's wife and her relationship with her husband, which is shaken badly after their teenage son has a weird experience in Israel (which apparently did happen to Burr). Then everyone has breakdowns. There's hardly any actual book discussion in here, whcih was a bit disappointing to me, considering that at least half the story does take place at book group. Also (and this is a minor peeve), everyone's dialogue is in quotation marks except for the protagonist's, so it's sometimes confusing to know what she's saying and what she's just thinking. I'm sure there's some high literary reason for this, but that's just not the book I was looking to read. B/B+.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

2009 book 126

Katherine Howe's The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Howe, a grad student in early American history who is the descendant of two of the accused witches of Salem, has written a novel about a grad student in early American history who is the descendant of one of the other Salem witches (I think it's ok to say that, though the protagonist doesn't figure it out till the very end, since it's super-obvious to the reader), who actually did do magic. Anyway, I think I would have really enjoyed this story (despite its very weird and lame villain and its too-good-to-be-true love interest), b/c you know I like stories involving historical research, except that there was all of this weird anti-librarian sentiment that distracted me. Like almost every librarian/archivist is rude, grumpy, and unhelpful. And the protagonist is able to browse the stacks of Harvard's special collections, and even TAKE 300-YEAR-OLD BOOKS HOME. WTF! Is Howe really a grad student? If so, she doesn't use the library much. I can't believe Harvard lets people just casually peruse delicate books like that. If so, they're a pretty crappy institution.

So you can see why I had trouble with this book. I think otherwise it was en entertaining beach read type of story. B.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

2009 book 125

Lisa See's Shanghai Girls
Does anyone know why Lisa See writes so many novels about China? It just seems odd, since she's super white. Does she have some sory of degree or background related to China? Or is she just an Orientalist? Not that it matters, b/c this was still a pretty great novel, about two sisters in pre-war China who, after their father loses all their money gambling, arranges to marry them off to two men in America. Harrowing adventures and immigrant adjustments ensue in a generally moving manner. I really liked all the characters (though the protagonist was totally oblivious to things that were obvious to the reader), but did think things ended a bit abruptly. A-/B+.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

2009 book 124

Sara Shepard's Unbelievable
The 4th Pretty Little Liars book did clear up most of the plots/mysteries in a fairly entertaining way--lots of red herrings, a little predictability, and more or less satisfying wrap-ups. But my curiosity has been sated and I won't be reading the other books in the series.

links links and more links

This clip is almost ten minutes long but so worth watching--Mark-Paul Gosselaar in character as Zack Morris on Jimmy Fallon. Man, did that bring me back.

The Muppet Show comic book is pretty awesome. There are three issues out so far, plus a special Robin Hood issue.

I'm excited that a panel of teens gave Blonde Roots an alternative Orange prize. I reviewed it for LJ and really enjoyed it.

Apparently Nextbook is now Tablet Magazine. I just noticed I haven't gotten any Nextbook content through Google Reader since September--sad that I never realized, or indicative of their lack of good content before the change? Or do I just assume everything I'm interested in will come via RSS?

Monday, June 08, 2009

2009 book 123

Sara Shepard's Perfect
God, sometimes I jut want to give these characters a shake b/c they're so annoying and stupid! But the cliffhanger ending was pretty dramatic and a blurb at the back of this book claims all will be revealed in book 4, so I guess I'll read that one too. (Though aren't there like six books in this series? I really can't take much more of this.)

2009 book 122

Sara Shepard's Flawless
I thought most of the plots from the first book would be resolved in the second, but I guess you have to drag these mysteries out when you're writing a trashy YA series. I have the third one checked out so figure I'll read it, but this one had me losing a lot of interest.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

2009 book 121

Kathleen George's Afterimage
EW reviewed another book by George recently and mentioned that she sets her mysteries in Pittsburgh, so of course I had to check them out! George is actually a theater professor at Pitt, but she has a good story sense for mysteries. Apparently this is the third in a series, but it didn't feel like I was missing anything and there wasn't much referring to pat events. In this one, a rookie cop is vaguely acquainted with two murder victims and gets a hunch for who the killer might be. I found the end a little disappointing, and was annoyed that characters would announce that the rookie cop had a crush on her boss when we'd seen no evidence that was the case until then, but it was a serviceable story and I'll read her new one if the library gets it. B.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

2009 book 120

Alison Croggon's The Singing
A really nice wrap-up to Croggon's series about magical musicians, this book does a nice job of balancing the endless journeying with exciting battles as the magical siblings try to find each other and save the world. I also thought Croggon did a good job of reminding readers what happened in the earlier books (whcih I appreciated, since I read them a while ago) without hammering us over the head with it. A-.

Friday, June 05, 2009

2009 book 119

Kate Morton's The House at Riverton
Man, did I enjoy this book! It's one of those great flashback to an English manor house in the 1920s sort of stories, when a very old woman who served as a maid in the house is contacted by a filmmaker who wants to make a movie about a tragic death that happened there. Of course really it's about the maid and the family and all their wonderful dramas. But, you know, literary. A.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

best craig ferguson opener ever?

I can't believe I forgot to post this this morning!

2009 book 118

Mria V. Snyder's Fire Study
This was kind of a weak sauce ending to Snyder's trilogy--way too predictable.

2009 book 117

Joan London's The Good Parents
I guess this was an okay book. A young woman's parents go to visit her, only she's left with her older married boyfriend/boss and they become frantic with worry. Maybe "frantic" is too strong a word, since this book keeps things on an even keel--no drama at all really. There are lots of flashbacks to the parents' youth and how they got together, only sometimes the passages were really clumsily inserted and it took me a page or two to realize it was a flashback and not something else entirely. I will say that some of the minor characters are great, particularly the son, but the rest were fairly boring. B/B-.

Monday, June 01, 2009

stuff 'n' stuff

The Hater on why vampire boyfriends are lame made me giggle. Also, Twilight is Brad Meltzer's guilty pleasure read. (I've never read anything by Meltzer--the plot of Book of Lies seemed interesting, but then I saw it on sale in the supermarket and book snobbery prevailed.

Martha Stewart's cupcake book comes out tomorrow! Her cookie one is one of my all-time favorites.

And I meant to post about this last week--I certainly spent enough time being excited about it on the phone w/ my mom--but it's never too late for awesome news like the newest American Girl doll being Jewish. Nine year old me is thrilled!! And thirty year old me still kind of wants one, haha.

2009 book 116

Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars
Teenage girls, secrets, mysteries, lies, missing people, sex, eating disorders . . . This book has it all! I really enjoyed Shepard's first adult book, The Visibles, so decided to give her slightly trashy YA series a try. The first one has an awesome cliffhanger ending and I'm totally reading the next one.

2009 book 115

Maria V. Snyder's Magic Study
This was a generally satisfying follow-up to Poison Study, as protagonist Yelena starts learning to use her magic, meets her long-lost relatives, and gets into more crazy adventures. B+.