Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 book 86

Cornelia Funke's Inkheart
This is one of those books I've been meaning to read for years, but never got around to--and I really don't know why, as the story is the sort that would appeal to me, about a man accidentally releasing villains from a story while sucking his wife into the book, and nine years later it all catches up with him and his daughter. Luckily for me, Karen read it recently and was like, seriously, it's awesome (though of course much more eloquently) so I finally got it from the library. And will be waiting eagerly for the sequels! (Though I'm not sure what they're about, since this reads fine as a stand-alone.) So yeah. A.

Monday, March 29, 2010

2010 book 85

L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Avonlea
I always forget how many books it takes for Anne and Gilbert to finally get together. Still, this one has some cute matchmaking and finds Anne transitioning into adulthood (but not changing much).

I've started a few recent books but just can't seem to get into any of them. Maybe I'll read some silly YA to let my brain rest a little.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

2010 book 84

Jean Hegland's Into the Forest
So some blog somewhere mentioned this 1996 novel about a pair of sisters living on their own after some unexplained national catastrophe, and I like dystopias so figured I'd give it a chance. And it starts out strong, as we find out how the sisters came to be living alone, but I found a lot of the plot points unrealistic or just silly, and the end was completely ridiculous. B-/C.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
He likes to mess w/ the towels.

2010 book 83

L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle
I've been talking about this lately so of course had to reread it. Because it's awesome.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

2010 book 82

Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder's Except the Queen
Serviceable but not particularly interesting fantasy about two sisters who are banished from the fairy world and have to learn to live as humans, only they get caught up in the middle of some magical machinations. B/B-.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

2010 book 81

Seanan McGuire's A Local Habitation
The sequel to Rosemary and Rue isn't as good as its predecessor--there's not much in the way of character development (and no mention of the protagonist's daughter, who I've been wondering about since finishing the first book) and the mystery's resolution wasn't particularly interesting. I do like McGuire's world-building, though, and this is less cheesy than a lot of other urban fantasy books. The third one comes out in September--she's really cranking these out--and I might read it, since I do enjoy the main character, and also b/c a high school friend knows the author. B.

links and the like

Gothamites are stupid.

New Ben and Jerry's flavors for spring! I'm excited to try Boston Cream Pie. (BTW, today is Free Cone Day, if you feel like waiting in a really long line for ice cream.)

There's a new Shel Silverstein book coming out next year. I always hated the Giving Tree--it's depressing as hell--but liked his poems.

If you missed girl scout cookie season like I did, you can make your own!. If you're really ambitious, I mean. I'll stick to snickerdoodles.

Monday, March 22, 2010

2010 book 80

Aharon Appelfeld's Blooms of Darkness
During the Holocaust, a young Ukrainian Jewish boy is hidden in a brothel. There's not much else to say about this story, which I probably would have liked a lot more if the jacket hadn't given the ending away. Still, solid wartime coming of age stuff. B.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

2010 book 79

Carrie Ryan's The Dead-Tossed Waves
The sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth is about the earlier protagonist's daughter, and after a night of rule-breaking, she and some friends have to reverse her mother's journey from the previous book. I wasn't as interested in this character or her love triangle and it felt like a little too much of a rehash of the first one. B/B-.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

2010 book 78

Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall
Every year there's some sad but wonderful YA book that makes me cry and cry, and this is 2010's. In this story, a typically shallow teenage girl dies in an accident--and then relives her final day seven times (evvvery review is gonna say something like "Groundhog Day for the teen set" but the book does acknowledge the movie so I'm fine with the concept). So like I said, it's sad but wonderful and it made me cry, and you all should read it. A.

2010 book 77

L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables
This book never stops being awesome! This time around, I was reading the Project Gutenberg edition on my Kindle (it has some crazy typos). I have the whole Anne series on there, plus a few other Montgomery books. I am annoyed that the silly Kilmeny of the Orchard merits an e-book, but The Blue Castle doesn't. Anyway, Anne! Awesome! I chuckled at Marilla the whole way through.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010 book 76

Susan Beth Pfeffer's This World We Live In
I was really looking forward to this book after loving the first two books in this YA trilogy about what happens after an asteroid crashes into the moon--but it was a terrible conclusion to the series! It never matched its predecessors' scariness or intensity, the romantic plot was completely unrealistic and badly written, and the end was unsatisfying on every level. It's a complete disappointment. C.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

2010 book 75

Lisa Lutz's The Spellmans Strike Again
The fourth and, sadly, final book about the hilarious family of PIs came out today and I rushed right out and got it b/c this is one of my favorite series of all time. Seriously. The books aren't really about the mysteries, which mainly serve to move the plot forward as we get to know the characters, especially protagonist Isabel, the wayward daughter. In this volume, Izzy is finally trying to be a grown-up, but it's hard when doorknobs keep disappearing from the family home, she's trying to bust a rival PI, and she's gotten an out-of-work actor friend to pose as a butler. And it all ends just the way I hoped it would! LOVE this series. A.

2010 book 74

Sarah Addison Allen's The Girl who Chased the Moon
I'm constantly amazed by the number of book titles that start with "The girl who". Anyway, this one is about a girl who, after her mother's death, goes to live with her grandfather in small-town North Carolina. Only the small town has a touch of magic--like a room whose wallpaper always changes, and mysterious lights in the woods. The girl learns about her mother's past and befriends the cake baker next door, a woman who was once a troubled classmate of her mother's. The story occasionally veers over the line into heartwarming/cheesy but I didn't mind. Definitely recommended. A-.

Monday, March 15, 2010

2010 book 73

Catherine Fisher's Incarceron
A young man in a prison that's a whole world (the titular Incarceron) is convinced he was born outside and longs for an escape, even though he's not sure outside even exists. Thanks to a special key, he makes contact with a young girl, the warden's daughter, who is betrothed to the Queen's son and feels a pawn in her own life. This was first published in England in 2007 and just came out here in January--it's kind of Hunger Games-y so I can see there being a market for it. The end is only moderately satisfying, but that's b/c there's a sequel coming out in December (surprisingly, this series doesn't seem to be a trilogy). Anyway, it's an entertaining enough story but I have a cold and am not up to thinking about it in any kind of real way right now. B.


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Gratuitous kitty picture!

Lately he's rediscovered the joys of sleeping on top of the couch cushion, which, as you can see, he has squished completely out of shape!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

jewy movies

As an Oscar party last weekend, Lisa and I were discussing Jewy movies, but had a hard time thinking of more than a few. Luckily Heeb* has stepped in with the 100 greatest Jewish movie moments. It's a pretty awesome list!

*I HATE the name of this magazine/website.

2010 book 72

Katherine McMahon's The Crimson Rooms
It's London in 1924 and the whole world is still in shock from WWI, including Evelyn Gifford, one of the country's first female lawyers. As she struggles to be accepted by society and by her fellow legal types, she has to help a woman reclaim her children, try and clear a former soldier of murdering his new bride, and deal with a Canadian who's arrived in the middle of the night with a child in tow--Evelyn's dead brother's child? Meanwhile, there's a romantic subplot so poorly written that I felt sure the object of her affections would turn out to be the killer (it goes something like "oh, I've only met him twice, but I can't stop thinking about him, I'm in love!" and never gets more natural or realistic from there), which kind of taints the rest of the story. Only the murder part has a satisfying wrap-up of any kind, anyway. B-.

Friday, March 12, 2010

2010 book 71

Cathleen Schine's The Three Weissmanns of Westport
When I first heard about this book--a retelling of Sense and Sensibility with middle-aged and elderly Jews--it didn't appeal to me at all. It sounded like the usual generic chick lit, plus that's one of my least favorite Austen books. But then the New York Times gave it a major, major rave and I thought, hey, maybe it's good!

My first instincts were correct.

This is a perfectly adequate book, but was exactly what I was expecting--a generic, popular, book club kind of book. And Schine even has the audacity--after being ridiculously loyal to the original source material--of rewriting the ending in a moderately ridiculous way. B-.

Mom, you should still read it! I think you'll like it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2010 book 70

Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess
I always forget how different this is than the Shirley Temple movie version, and how its happy ending involves a monkey! I've always liked this book--Sara Crewe could easily be one of those holier-than-thou heroines, but somehow she has just enough temper, imagination, and spunk to be likable.

this is so true

"Never did she find anything so difficult as to keep herself from losing her temper when she was suddenly disturbed while absorbed in a book. People who are fond of books know the feeling of irritation which sweeps over them at such a moment."

--A Little Princess

2010 book 69

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a new magazine/website called the Jewish Review of Books, which seems like it should be right up my alley, nu? But there was this article about Jews not writing fantasy which just seemed weird to me, since so much of my favorite Jewish fiction involves magic and mysticism (authors like Isaac Bashevis Singer, Cynthia Ozick, everything involving golems ever, etc etc etc), which I think certainly qualified as fantastical. Anyway, Michael Chabon responded* to this silliness (bringing up the many, many comic books written and created by Jews, and if that shit isn't fantasy I don't know what is) and mentioned an author I'd never heard of. So:

Lisa Goldstein's The Red Magician
It's Hungary in 1944 and a mysterious redheaded stranger comes to a small Jewish town to warn them that death is coming--but of course no one believes him. He wins the loyalty of a young girl and the enmity of the local rabbi, and various magical battles ensue. This was written in 1982, but doesn't feel dated--I do wish it was lengthier though, since parts of it feel a bit rushed (though I can forgive Goldstein for glossing over the Holocaust a bit).

*Also check that io9 post and its comments for a bunch more Jewish fantasy writers. I had no idea Peter Beagle was Jewish! *hearts The Last Unicorn*

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

2010 book 68

Alan Bradley's The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag
The sequel to the awesome Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie brings us back to Flavis de Luce, child prodigy and poisoner, as she gets involved in a mystery dealing with a dead child, marijuana, and puppets. I will say that the mystery isn't really that interesting or even really a major part of the story, but I enjoyed reading it anyway--the de Luce family is completely entertaining. B+.

Monday, March 08, 2010

2010 book 67

Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why
Another reread--I loves this book when I read it a couple of years ago, and my heart was broken again this time around.

2010 book 66

Eleanor Porter's Pollyanna Grows Up
I'd forgotten how terrible the Pollyanna sequel is--the first half is okay, as Pollyanna goes to Boston to cheer people up/complete their lives there, but then the story skips ahead and it's one romantic foible and miscommunication after another. I hate stories like that.

2010 book 65

Jean Webster's Daddy-Long-Legs
The library has been slow to get books to me recently (well, really, it's just that I'm waiting for a bunch of March books to come out already) so I loaded up my Kindle with classics from Project Gutenberg to entertain me in the interim. I loved this story--about an orphan girl who gets sent to college by an anonymous benefactor, told through her very funny letters to him--and was very happy to reread it, even though the e-book edition doesn't have all the cute little drawings referred to in the letters. It's especially a fun re-read when you know the ending and can look for all the little clues.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

2010 book 64

Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth
I've been enjoying my post-apocalyptic YA lit, so figured I'd finally give this one a chance--it's about a girl growing up generations after a zombie outbreak, living in a village fortified against the zombie hordes who chill outside their fences. She dreams of seeing the ocean but isn't sure it actually exists. There's also a fairly stupid love quadrangle involving the girl, her best friend, and a pair of brothers. Anyway, it moves at a fairly good pace, and I was pretty terrified of the menacing zombies. The next book in this series comes out next week and I'll definitely be reading it. B+.

Friday, March 05, 2010

2010 book 63

Geoffrey Becker's Hot Springs
This terribly unrealistic novel involves a slightly crazy woman who has convinced her new boyfriend to help her kidnap the child she gave up for adoption five years ago, and now they're on the run. Only there's no tension whatsoever, the adoptive parents are ridiculously flat characters (actually, all the characters are), and the ending feels rushed and incomplete. C.

partially read

John Banville's The Infinities
I've hated every Banville book I've read (or tried to read), but this one had Greek gods in it so I figured I'd give it a chance. No, it was as pretentious, impenetrable, and annoying as all of his other books. Even the jacket-writer didn't read it, labeling one woman the stepmother of the children she birthed (and if the jacket writer had made it even 20 pages in, s/he'd have caught that). I skipped ahead to the end and that was awful too. So glad I didn't waste much time on this.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

2010 book 62

N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
The first in a new fantasy trilogy, this story involves nobles, gods, and lots of intrigue. When a young woman is summoned by her grandfather to be one of the possible heirs to their kingdom (or whatever), she finds herself in danger of losing her life, as well as befriended by enslaved gods (one of whom is very Sandman-ish). I didn't always love the narrative voice here (the body of the story is interrupted frequently by the narrator's later inner thoughts, which is more effective at some times than others) but will definitely read the second book when it comes out. B+.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

2010 book 61

Jenn McKinlay's Sprinkle with Murder
I saw this mentioned earlier this week on the cupcake blog, which loved it, and how could I resist a cozy mystery whose protagonist owns a cupcake shop (my mom apparently felt the same way--we both got it for our Kindles!). Anyway, the story is perfectly serviceable, the characters are likable, and though the writing is at time a little stilted (McKinlay tends toward overexplanations of simple things like Googling), this book gets an A b/c it has a bunch of delicious-looking cupcake recipes at the end! I want to make the Tinkerbells. And you can bet I'm looking forward to the sequel, which is apparently called Buttercream Bump Off. Hee.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

2010 book 60

Kenneth Wishnia's The Fifth Servant
It's 1592 in Prague and the new scholar/rabbi in town suddenly finds himself having to solve an accused blood libel case before the Jewish community is demolished, with only the help of the famous rabbi Judah Loew and a Christian butcher's daughter. A subplot involving the protagonist's estranged wife feels completely superfluous, and the end wrapped up fairly messily, but the historical stuff was great. B/B+.