Tuesday, September 29, 2009

2009 book 209

Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue
This urban fantasy mystery has a terrible title but a pretty solid concept--a half-fairy PI is trying to track down some missing fairies and ends up as a fish for 14 years, and comes back to an entirely different world. When one of her other fairy friends is killed, she's cursed to find the murderer and get all the answers. The usual intrigues and car chases ensue until the more-or-less satisfying ending. This is the first in a series; the next one will be out in March. A-


I am always bitching about the dearth of Hanukkah songs, so thank you, Neil Diamond.

Also awesome: the VCU library has acquired their two millionth comic book and of course it's Obama-Spiderman. I want to go to there . . . .

I also want to go to the Harry Potter theme park--check out these pictures!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

2009 book 208

Roald Dahl's Boy
When you're fasting, it's easier to read things that are kind of mindless and funny (though both this and the Spellman books had way too much about food!). I was talking about Dahl the other night and his hilarious and grisly stories about old-school surgery were on my mind.

2009 books 206 and 207

Lisa Lutz's The Spellman Files and Revenge of the Spellmans
Rereading these light, funny mysteries (the first and third in the series--I don't own the second one) was a pleasant way to spend some of Yom Kippur. Of course I still have some time to kill till break fast--time to peruse the bookshelves.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

yom kippur

It must be Yom Kippur, as hits to this post are climbing!

What am I doing this year on Yom Kippur? Hopefully having an easy fast--my schedule made starting it complicated and annoying--and baking a challah, which probably will make me crazy with hunger. Good times!

I'll also read some library books and watch more Buffy--I'm deep into season 5.

partially read

Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters' Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (can't find the link to my review--Blogger's search function is so finicky)--it was an original and funny idea, and I loved the original and this new take. I was a little leery of this rushed-to-market sequel, which is even less Austen text and more add-ins. But actually, the reason I couldn't get through it was that Sense and Sensibility is not one of my favorite Austen books (the romantic foibles annoy me), and the insertion of sea monsters somehow made it even more boring. I only made it to page 56. Oh well.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

2009 book 205

Shandi Mitchell's Under this Unbroken Sky
It's inevitable that a novel about Ukrainian farmers in Canada in 1938 is going to be bleak, but MAN was this bleak. Lots of great family drama and great characters, but bleak. Also, I am so sick of authors creating lovable animals just to do bad things to those animals and go for more pathos. It's so obvious. Eh, how do you rate a good book that depressed the hell out of you? B+?

Side note: I still think of the ANTM contestant whenever I see the name Shandi.

Friday, September 25, 2009

2009 book 204

Michelle Zink's Prophecy of the Sisters
I kind of hate when books don't tell you they're the first in a trilogy, so you're getting all into the story and then get near the end and realize you're nowhere near any kind of real conclusion and will now have to wait ages and ages to get one. Not that this is some amazing book where I need to know what happens RIGHT NOW, but I certainly would have prefer being forewarned that there would be waiting. Anyway, it's a YA novel about a pair of twin sisters who discover they're part of a prophecy and destined to be enemies, and there are astral plans and spells and mystical things and whatnot. The characters are well done and the story is strong and even a little bit unusual, so I'll definitely read the next one. B+.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

good stuff

This Saturday is Museum Day! That means free admission to cool museums all over the country (including many in NC). I have work and can't take advantage of this awesomeness, but you all should.

Trapper Kindle!

Five reasons to love Castle. (My 6th reason: they wrote a tie-in mystery and sent me a copy! I haven't read it yet though. I love the show without freebies.)

Amos Oz is the bookies' frontrunner for the Nobel. I love a) that people gamble on this, and b) that Oz is the frontrunner! Elsewhere, Perhaps was one of my favorite books for a long time and clearly I should reread it.

Apparently I am not the only one who can't get AT&T reception at home. I'll probably cancel my contract when it's up and hope Verizon gets iPhones soon. Seriously, the sheer frustration I feel whenever I try to make a call (or when my conversation w/ my mom gets interrupted by three dropped calls, as happened last night) is not worth new toys.

Sneak peek at the new Lynda Barry book!

I am bemused at the idea of this automatic pancake maker. I make awesome pancakes but they are never perfectly round. What's the secret???

In other food news: turn a radish into a 1-up mushroom in seconds!

And finally, I cannot wait to roadtrip to the Harry Potter theme park.

Clearly I haven't written one of these link round-ups in a while.

2009 book 203

Lisa Tucker's The Promised World
Tucker's last novel, Once Upon A Day, was one of my favorites of 2007, so I was glad to get her new one from the library. This one also involves a brother and sister and family secrets, though is somewhat darker: after her twin commits "suicide by police" by aiming an unloaded rifle at a school, a literature professor basically loses it, and her husband has to help pull her together to uncover her forgotten past. Parts of this require way too much suspension of disbelief, but the characters are likable and sympathetic and there's lots of great literary references. A-/B+.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

2009 book 202

Dan Chaon's Await Your Reply
Con men and orphans and other people cast adrift populate this novel, which consists of three storylines (in one, a man searches for his disturbed twin brother, in the second, a college student flees his life, and in the third, a high school teacher and one of his students run away together) that come together spectacularly. To say much more would give too much away, but this book is definitely worth a read. A/A-.

2009 book 201

Beth Kephart's Nothing but Ghosts
A teenage girl working as a gardener for the summer after her mother's death decides to try and solve a local mystery with the help of some friends and a fashionable librarian. I wished this book had been longer or more in depth--things sort of happen in a rush and so are mildly unsatisfying. B/B-.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

2009 book 200

Heather Gudenkauf's The Weight of Silence
I'm pretty bummed book 200 was such a piece of drekkerai. Seriously, this book was terrible. I correctly guessed the end less than 1/4 of the way into it and the path to that ending was tortuously long and boring and stupid. D.

2009 book 199

Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs
I have been eagerly awaiting a new novel (or a new anything, really) by Moore for years and years and years. I think this one kind of blew away her earlier ones (though they are hazy in my mind)--it's certainly longer and more ambitious. It's about a college student who takes a job providing child care for a well-to-do couple and their adopted child, but of course things are never that simple. The student seems to float through her life in a dream-like way (or at least that's how it felt to me), and some of the most vivid scenes are discussions she overhears about multiracial families during a weekly group meeting (hilarious liberalism abounds). I did find parts of the story to be mildly unbelievable, but in general it was a good read. A-.

Friday, September 18, 2009

2009 books 196, 197, 198

I'm in Pittsburgh for Rosh Hashanah, but my parents' internet was out yesterday (Verizon failed to fix it, but my brother had things up and running in about three minutes this afternoon) so I had plenty of time for reading.

Chelsea Cain's Evil at Heart
The third book in Cain's series about a detective obsessed with a female serial killer he helped catch felt kind of like it was rushed into publication. The characters are still interesting enough, but things didn't quite line up this go-round. B/B-.

Nellie Hermann's The Cure for Grief
I think I related fairly strongly to this book, since the main character is a Jewish girl born the year before me, and has some typical Jewish girl experiences. Except then tragedy keeps striking her family! I did get a bit teary during parts, but thought the ending could have been a bit stronger. B+.

Anita Diamant's Day After Night
Commenting on Diamant's work in any kind of critical manner (as in, the manner of a critic, not that I'm criticizing) is hard for me, since I know her daughter (who is super nice). Plus I've hardly read any of Diamant's novels, since I was so-so on The Red Tent (loved the first half, thought the second half was weak). But anyway! This was really a good, satisfying novel that looks at a little-known period of Jewish history--when refugees from post-WWII Europe were coming to Palestine in 1945, and the British kept them in internment camps. The story focuses on four women with very different wartime experiences and the characters are all vividly drawn. My only complaint is with some minor anti-Arab sentiments (some espoused by Zionist characters, whcih makes sense, some coming from the 3rd person narrator, whcih glosses over some of the history of Jewish immigration into what is now Israel). Still, really a good story, and my mom's reading it next. A-.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

2009 book 195

Helen Oyeyemi's White is for Witching
I really enjoyed Oyeyemi's first novel, The Icarus Girl, which was creepy and full of Nigerian mythology and good in many ways. This book is her third and has some of the same bits and pieces--twins, hauntings--but the ambiance just isn't there. It's a story about a haunted house, sort of, but the house is one of the narrators, and there's just no internal logic to the story at all. It was a frustrating read, b/c I wanted it to be so much better than it was. C.


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Mac and Laura did a reading from Our Noise at the Regulator tonight and it was awesome! Some great performances (highlight for me: Mac's acoustic version of the Matt Suggs classic "Where's your patience dear") and hilarious readings--not to mention the out of control Q/A session . . . Everyone must buy this book now!

Monday, September 14, 2009

2009 book 194

Jenna Blum's Those Who Save Us
I was more than halfway through this when I put it down to read Catching Fire, and I didn't mind much, since it's a middling and generally implausible story. It's the sort of book Jewish book groups will read, but it wouldn't be one of their better selections. Anyway, it flits back and forth between WWII--when a young German girl gets romantically involved with a Jewish doctor and gets pregnant--and the 1990s, when their daughter, a German historian in America, starts a project to document the German wartime experience. You just spend the whole book waiting for the daughter to find out the truth, and when it finally happens, it's totally anti-climactic. B-.

2009 book 193

Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire
I've been dying to read this book since picking up an advance copy of Hunger Games at ALA, and then it took the library way longer than I wanted to get it to me, and then I was home sick, but it was finally on hold, so of course I went and picked it up and sat down and read it in one sitting! I was a little worried my hopes were up too high, since EW gave it a C, but they have no idea what they're talking about (and on rereading that review, I spot a couple of inaccuracies, indicating the reviewer didn't read the book carefully at all. And for that matter, didn't read the first one carefully at all, if she was expecting something like Twilight). Anyway, it was just as good as the first one, but even more intense, b/c Katniss is not only fighting for her life, she's unwittingly fomented a rebellion and the President is out for blood. Not to mention she's still caught in a love triangle. And there are even more likable characters to root for, and I teared up more than once. Awesome. Now I have to wait how long for the third one? A.

Friday, September 11, 2009

2009 book 192

Erick Setiawan's Of Bees and Mist
This book was good, but weird--even setting aside the mystical bees and mists and things. It has a sort of fairy-tale feel that carries the story along well as a girl grows up in a bizarre household and then finds love, along w/ the rivalry of her new mother-in-law, but things derail a bit toward the end. B.

fruit bats!

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
I got to go see the Fruit Bats last night at Local 506 and they were so awesome live! Their new album is great--go buy it right now.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

2009 book 191

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
This is still one of my favorite HP books. But now it's decision time--I have a stack of library books waiting for me--should I keep reading the HP books or take a break for something new? I mean, they only get more intense from here!

Anyway, back to ANTM: The Shorties and Glee. Oh ANTM, how will you top yourself in craziness this year? The shorties are very entertaining so far--I like the chick who models for Jesus.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

2009 book 190

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
I realize I probably could find something else on my bookshelves to read, but nothing else seems appealing! (I love all of these books, even the ones that are weaker on multiple rereadings like this one.) Oh library, please hurry and get me more new books!

2009 book 189

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
I'm out of library books, and some of my teaching materials mentioned the first line of HP1, so I figured, hey, why not reread it for the umpteenth time? It's still a stellar story all these years later.

Monday, September 07, 2009

2009 book 188

Courtney Summers' Cracked Up To Be
After something mysterious happens at a party, a perfect teenage girl spirals out of control. When we meet her, she's on serious probation at school, manipulating teachers and her ex-boyfriend, and being pursued by the new guy. And that's actually all interesting and compelling, but I hated the end. B/B-.

2009 book 187

Eugenia Kim's The Calligrapher's Daughter
This book is inevitably going to be compared to all of Lisa See's novels, since it has a similar scope, only set in Korea. Young girl coming of age on the eve of modernism, battling with her father's traditional ways, longs for education and a career, all during the Japanese-Korean conflicts of the 1920s and 30s (the novel goes through the end of WWII, but mostly concentrates on the earlier years). The end feels a bit rushed after a lot of build-up, and a few periods are told through letters, as though Kim didn't want to make the book any longer by including extraneous details, but it was still a pretty good read. B+.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

2009 book 186

Linda Castillo's Sworn to Silence
I guess the premise of this is interesting enough--a young woman, who left her Amish lifestyle and became a cop, returns to her hometown and becomes chief of police, and then a body is found indicating a serial killer has returned after 16 years. It starts off strongly enough, though weirdly swaps between 1st and 3rd person narration for some unfathomable reason, but the end was entirely predictable and cliche-ridden. C.

Friday, September 04, 2009

2009 book 185

Wow, I'm gonna crush last year's book record of 205 for sure! This time last year, I was only at like 135.

Michelle Huneven's Blame
I don't get why book jackets give away every little thing that happens in a book. The first thing that happens in this one--which impacts everything that follows--is that an alcoholic history professor is arrested for killing two pedestrians with her car. So then she goes to prison, and gets sober, and has to learn to live with herself. And other stuff happens that the jacket should just not tell you, b/c even when it's being oblique, it's so easy to guess what's going on. My recommendation: read this book, and avoid the jacket. A-.

2009 books 183 and 184

Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City and Kiki Strike: The Empress' Tomb

Dear Ms. Miller,

PLEASE write another Kiki Strike book!


Alicia K.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Lego cookie cutter! I need this. Also, Cupcake Milkshake!

Nick Bertozzi does The Awakening (Arianne commented that she would totally buy this--me too! And so would every women's studies/lit undergrad. Someone needs to get on this).

I'm actually surprised it took so long for a Twilight-branded version of Wuthering Heights.

The day after her father disowned her for her novel, Randa Jarrar won an award! (I really liked her book.)

Fun Alton Brown interview.

Hey, should we knit little blankets for shelter animals? Thinking of those poor little puppies and kittens all lonely and bereft just breaks my heart. There are lots of participating shelters all over, it looks like.

2009 book 182

Julia Child's My Life in France
I've actually been reading this off and on all week--the beginning is really enthralling, with Julia and Paul's early days of marriage, adventures getting to know France, and Julia starting to get into cooking. But things bog down as she spends years and years writing her first cookbook (and she is a tad bitchy about her friends/collaborators!). I guess I wish there had been a heavier hand editing this or something.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

2009 book 181

Rebecca Stead's First Light
Since I enjoyed When You Reach Me so much, I sought out Stead's first novel, which focuses on a young boy and girl in very different worlds. The boy lives in New York and is plagued by weird visions; the girl lives in a world under the ice and dreams of seeing the sun. The two storylines come together in a fully satisfying way, and plus there are lots of awesome dogs. Obviously it's not quite as good as When You Reach Me (but really, what is?), but it's definitely a great read. A.

2009 book 180

Colin McAdam's Fall
Ugh, this book was so cliche-ridden. A weird loner type ends up rooming with the most popular boy at boarding school and is in crazy love with the roommate's girlfriend, and it's told in alternating chapters and the roommate's are just this awful stream-of-consciousness drivel. It's billed as a sort of mystery, as the girlfriend disappears, except that happens right near the end of the book and there's no mystery to it. Why is this getting good reviews? D.


This was on Conan tonight:


2009 books 178 and 179

Scott Westerfeld's Pretties and Specials
The second two books in Westerfeld's Uglies trilogy were unfortunately lame. Unlikable, sketchily drawn characters involved in weird but stupid futuristic societal battles just don't do it for me, I guess.