Sunday, January 31, 2010

2010 book 32

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
I still think this is one of the best HP books.


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Correction to my previous snow post: the snow is actually level with my SECOND step! (I forgot there were three.)

I decided to pull on my rain boots and check things out--turns out rain boots are not a good substitute for snow boots! It was fun tromping around anyway--sometimes the icy-encrusted snow supported me, and sometimes I'd sink right through. Exciting!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

2010 book 31

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Even when you've read a book a million times, there are still new things to notice and think about. For instance, I really liked that in this one, at the end, Harry and Ron actually try to get adult help--first they try McGonagall and then end up settling for Lockhart, not realizing exactly how hopeless he is. (It always kind of annoys me in these kinds of books when kids won't confide even in trusted adults when things are totally dire.) Anyway, that's not something I'd ever thought much about before, so like I said, there's always a reason to reread!


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
It's a snow day here! We got 5-6 inches, plus sleet! In this photo, you can see my neighbor's poor plant covered in snow, plus that the snow is level with my bottom step.

2010 book 30

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
I have snow days today and tomorrow, which for some reason made me want to reread Harry Potter!

Speaking of which, I cannot wait to go to the theme park! Maybe for my birthday!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

2010 book 29

Gail Godwin's Unfinished Desires
This GREAT book (with a somewhat terrible title) focuses on an elderly nun who served as headmistress of a girls' school in NC for many years and is now working on her memoirs, but is stuck on a terrible event that happened in the 50s. Godwin does a really good job of keeping the tension/interest up by flashing back and forth in time between the 50s and the early 2000s, and by shifting perspectives from the headmistress (who also recounts her own days as a student at the school) to the girls of the 50s and their young nun teacher. I think this would be a good book club book--lots of meaty plot and character and family stuff to discuss--and recommend it to my regular readers highly. Apparently Godwin has written many books but I've never heard of her before, which I'm glad has been rectified. A.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

2010 book 28

Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith
I promise to get back to reading the hot new fiction soon, but sometimes you just have to enjoy a good YA series about a witch in training, the band of drunken warrior fairies who follow her around, and what happens when she accidentally dances with the god of winter. I'm super excited b/c I jsut found out that Pratchett is working on a fourth book in this series--the witch books are my favorites of the Discworld stories and these have been especially entertaining. A.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2010 book 27

Terry Pratchett's A Hat Full of Sky
The second book in the Discworld YA miniseries was way awesomer than the first, as a demon-thing possesses the young witch in training and she and her friends have to get rid of it. It was equally funny--I had to hold in a guffaw when I was waiting for my car to finish being inspected, as guffawing in public over a book is sometimes considered odd. A.

Monday, January 25, 2010

2010 book 26

Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men
I've been enjoying the YA fantasy series kick I've been on, so was pleased to find out that a few of Pratchett's Discworld books were aimed at a YA audience and shared a protagonist (in this case, a young girl whose brother is kidnapped by a fairy queen). This first one was entertaining enough--I liked the characters a lot, and Pratchett is reliably funny, though parts of the story dragged a bit. I'll still read the next one. B.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

partially read

Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves
Kostova's second novel has been getting mostly negative or middling reviews, but I haven't read The Historian in years and don't remember anything about it, so I didn't have super-high expectations or anything like that. And still, I just can't get into it. I gave it a fair shot--made it to page 100--but I find the main narrator (a psychiatrist treating an artist who attacked a painting in a museum but the artist won't speak and the doctor is trying to investigate his life or whatever, only it's on page 100 and hardly anything has even happened yet) fairly insufferable, the writing awkward and/or overly verbose, and the slow drawn-out plot to be somewhat annoying. If this was a 200 or 300 page book, I'd have plugged ahead to see if my guesses as to the ending were right, but it's over 560 pages, so screw it.

on collective reading

Interesting NYT article on collective vs individual reading/possessiveness of certain books. I'm not entirely sure I buy it--I'm certainly bookish, and clearly I also enjoy the social aspects of reading/recommending books (or else why would I even have this blog?).

Friday, January 22, 2010

2010 book 25

Amy Greene's Bloodroot
i've read some awful reviews of this and some great ones (EW looooooved it), and I find it interesting how polarizing it is. I mean, I'm gonna give it a B+--it's a good read, but nothing exceptional, and certainly not exceptionally bad. Anyway, it mostly focuses on a girl growing up in the mountains. The first section is told through the POVs of her grandmother and of the boy next door, and the second is narrated by her children, and I enjoyed all of that quite a bit. The next part is her telling her own story, which is slightly boring after hearing it from everyone else (though does fill in some holes) and which is much grimmer than the earlier sections (which certainly aren't all sunshine and kittens). The last section is a fitting end and made me like things again. I predict this will be a sleeper hit and will be popular with book clubs (and also think my mom would probably like it).

best use of a state alum ever?

I love you, Craig Ferguson.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

2010 book 24

Angie Sage's Physick
Wow, was the third Septimus Heap book bad. I mean, it was TERRIBLE. On every level. Completely boring, entirely predictable, and sloppy continuity (in one scene, a character learns about a letter; two chapters later, she's never heard of it). I don't even know why I bothered to finish it. Even a cute duckling and a magic cat-panther couldn't make this good, and y'all know I love magic and/or cute animals. I definitely won't be reading the rest of this series, even though I did enjoy the first two, b/c this just sucked.

2010 book 23

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's 36 Arguments for the Existence of God
An academic writes a book on the psychology of religion and becomes famous as the "atheist with a soul"--this book flashes back and forth in time to give his life story, more or less--there's some great romance with his former poet wife, his current game theorist girlfriend, and his former anthropologist girlfriend, as well as some academic satire, especially regarding his eccentric graduate advisor, and some touching scenes in a Hasidic enclave, but mostly there's just him, a really great character. This book wasn't perfect--a minor quibble, did people say "douchebag" twenty years ago? And I will admit to skimming the lengthy debate on the existence of God and the appendix on same--I was reading for fun, not intellectual edification. Anyway, really a great story, and deserving of the media attention it's been getting. A.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2010 book 22

Angie Sage and Mark Zug's Flyte
Despite the cringeworthy title, I enjoyed the second Septimus Heap book. I find the wrap-up of the minor characters' lives at the end of the story especially silly and fun.

Monday, January 18, 2010

2010 book 21

Angie Sage and Mark Zug's Magyk (Septimus Heap Book 1)
I love finding out about these great YA/middle grade fantasy series--thanks, Amazon recommendations! This one involves evil wizards and good wizards and assassins and a lost princess and some other good stuff. It's mildly annoying that magic-related terms and spells are bolded every time, and, given the series name, one big twist is extra-obvious (though still satisfying), and I will say much of the story was full of unexpected fun. I'll definitely read the next one. A-.

2010 book 20

Robert Goolrick's A Reliable Wife
I decided to reread this in celebration of it being a runaway bestseller in paperback (and since Algonquin was nice enough to send me a free copy!)--it's a mark of a great story that, even though I knew all the twists and turns, I was totally riveted. Goolrick's characters are great--likable despite their (many) flaws--and I very much enjoyed reading it again.

reading is cool!

Sometimes Disney Channel shows have a healthy sense of humor about themselves:

In other news, I saw Inglourious Basterds today and loved it! Best Jewish wish fulfillment ever. I would have seen it earlier had I known about the Shoshanna subplot, which especially kicked ass.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

2010 book 19

Margaret Mascarenhas' The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos
Elizabeth recommended this book to me like months and months ago, and the library finally got it in, so yay. Despite the title, this isn't really a mystery (though the titular Irene's disappearance is somewhat mysterious to the reader)--it's more about a young woman on the verge of giving birth whose family and friends are telling their life stories while she's on bedrest. There's some great stuff about a Venezuelan goddess/saint called Maria Lionza, and most of the stories are actually pretty thrilling. Eventually things started dragging a bit, though, and I'm still pondering the end--this would make an excellent book discussion book. B.

Friday, January 15, 2010

2010 book 18

Frances Hardinge's The Lost Conspiracy
Fairly good YA fantasy about a girl whose sister is one of the few mystical people in their world, and the only person bringing prosperity to their hated and feared tribe. When investigators come to examine her sister, they get caught up in a bunch of intrigue and whatnot. Some bits are pretty predictable, but I really enjoyed the main character, the lovable band of outlaws, and the volcano imagery. B/B+.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

partially read

Melanie Benjamin's Alice I Have Been
I was waaaaaay too creeped out by this novelization of the life of the girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland to get past page 75.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

2010 book 17

Elizabeth Noble's The Girl Next Door
A novel about the lives of a bunch of residents of an NYC apartment building, this veered a little too close to cheesy/heartwarming for my own particular tastes, but was enjoyable enough. I mean, sometimes it's nice to read a book I can recommend to my mom. B.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2010 book 16

Diana Wynne Jones' The Pinhoe Egg
In this Chrestomanci book, the main Chrestomanci family gets involved w/ two families of rural magic-doers who are sort of feuding. As always, the magical children are likable, and Jones has some really awesome and lovable animals in this one that made it even better. A.

Monday, January 11, 2010

2010 book 15

Pete Nelson's I Thought You Were Dead
I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that this is one of the great man and his dog novels of our time. Of course, it's about more than that--it's about a man writing a book called "Nature for Morons" in 1998, struggling with his divorce, his girlfriend (who has another boyfriend), and his father's stroke. But mostly it's about him and his wonderful, wonderful dog Stella, and their wonderful, wonderful relationship. Really well-done. A.

(An advance copy was provided by the publisher.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

2010 book 14

Diana Wynne Jones' Mixed Magics
A series of short stories set in the Chrestomanci universe--highly entertaining.

2010 book 13

Chris Roberson's Book of Secrets
This book really has a lot going for it--great noir narration, stories within stories, masked vigilantes, etc etc. It's the story of a reporter working on a piece about a rich old mysterious business tycoon and trying to track down an even more mysterious book that was stolen from the tycoon's mansion. Meanwhile, he's inherited some mysterious boxes from his estranged grandfather, including a collection of stories about masked men fighting for justice (which, by the way, are very well-done). Adventures ensue, and though things go in a totally crazy and unexpected direction toward the end, it's a satisfying read.

Note for comics fans: Roberson was apparently in a writing group w/ Bill Willingham (of the amazing series Fables and other things) and they're friends or whatever.

(A free e-copy was provided by the publisher.)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

2010 book 12

Katherine Weber's True Confections
I mostly liked Weber's novel Triangle quite a bit, and when I saw that her new one was about a candy company, I was totally excited to read it. To be more accurate, it's about a woman telling the story of how she came to work at the Jewish-family-owned company after an incident with a fire, marry the son and heir, and how things went kind of haywire after that. She's a classically unreliable narrator, to great effect, and the descriptions of the factory and the candy made me hungry. Great dysfunctional family dynamics, too. A.

Friday, January 08, 2010

2010 book 11

Diana Wynne Jones' Conrad's Fate
The fifth Chrestomanci books shares more adventures of the young Chrestomanci from books 1 and 2, and is generally entertaining, though the end is really silly and unsatisfying. B/B-.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

2010 book 10

Dianna Wynne Jones' The Magicians of Caprona
In the 4th Chrestomanci book, Jones twists the tale of feuding families in Italy by making them families of powerful magicians in a small country on the brink of war. As always, the heroes are several magical children and some awesome cats, though the adventures they have are far from typical. Nice wrap-up on this one, too. A-/B+.

2010 book 9

Dianna Wynne Jones' Witch Week
The third Chrestomanci book involves a group of boarding-school students in a world where witchcraft is illegal and witches are persecuted and killed. There were some nice plot twists, though it did feel a little tangential to the storylines from the first two books. B+.


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Erin drew this. It is awesome.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

2010 book 8

Diana Wynne Jones' The Lives of Christopher Chant
The second book in the Chronicles of Chrestomanci tells of the childhood of the guy who's the powerful wizard in the first one, so it's interesting to have the holes of his story filled it. As always, the characters are great (Jones does magical children, especially girls, very well) and the end is actually pretty exciting. A-.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

2010 book 7

Dianna Wynne Jones' Charmed Life
I'd never read any of Diana Wynne Jones' Chronicles of Chrestomanci series, and having enjoyed the Howl's books so much, it seemed about time. These also deal with magic--in this one, a boy and his sister are taken in by a powerful wizard. The boy is sort of sweet and clueless, and the sister is an ambitious brat, and the paths the story takes did surprise me a little, and on the whole I enjoyed it and will be reading some others in the series. B+.

2010 book 6

Gillian Flynn's Dark Places
Still rereading past favorites while waiting for the library to get new books in. Here are my original comments, and it was still totally dark and creepy and intense and great even though I knew what was going to happen.

Monday, January 04, 2010

2010 book 5

Melina Marchetta's Jellicoe Road
It took me a little while to get into this YA novel, but once I did, I really liked it. It's about a girl with a somewhat mysterious past who goes to a boarding school where the students have annual battles over territory with town kids and with military school kids, and this year she's in charge. The main story is interspersed with excerpts of a novel about five teenagers who survived a terrible accident, and figuring out exactly how the stories come together is definitely satisfying. Yeah, this has all the things that I like in YA novels--past secrets, great characters and friendships, adventure, and a little romance. A/A-.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

2010 book 4

Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Still on my kick of rereading recent favorites while waiting for new books to come to the library. Here are my original comments, which still hold true. Note to my mom: after rereading, I am not sure if you'll like this or not.

2010 book 3

Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game
This book never disappoints. What a fun mystery and what great characters! The edition I have is a new one w/ an introduction by the editor saying that Raskin made it up as she went along--which is crazy, considering how many puzzle pieces she fits together. Anyway, this counts as one of my Shelf Discovery books (which I'd almost forgotten I was doing, and I need to find a few more books for).

Back to the Degrassi marathon!


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Gratuitous kitty pic! I stopped playing fetch w/ him and apparently the appropriate response was to shred a roll of toilet paper (I was watching tv and didn't even notice). Here, he's all tuckered out from his badness!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

2010 book 2

Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones
I hadn't read this since it first came out--since before this book blog even existed!--but the recent movie trailers made me want to reread it, since all I remembered was not liking the ghost sex scene (which still rang false--I just don't think the mechanics of it were explained enough in the context of Sebold's concept of the afterlife), and clearly there was a lot more to the story that I'd forgotten. And it turned out that I really liked all the parts I'd forgotten! Susie watching her family and friends react to her death, watching her sister experience all the things she never would, watching them all fall apart . . . powerful stuff, but profoundly sad stuff as well.

Friday, January 01, 2010

2010 book 1

It's so weird to be back on book 1 . . . and how many times do you think I'll type "2009 book whatever" by mistake?

Lisa Lutz's Revenge of the Spellmans
The mystery and the character relations are both excellent in the 3rd Spellman book--and I can't wait for the fourth to come out!