Monday, May 31, 2010

2010 book 141

Saundra Mitchell's Shadowed Summer
A fourteen-year-old girl is haunted by the ghost of a boy who disappeared twenty years ago after she and her newly boy-crazy best friend have a ritual in a graveyard. Along with her friends's new maybe-boyfriend, they try to investigate his disappearance, but things like that aren't easy in a small town. This has just the right amount of creepiness and small-town secrets. A-.

2010 book 140

Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Prince of Mist
I've been meaning to read Shadow of the Wind by this same author for ages (it's been recommended to me many times), but hadn't gotten around to it, so when a translation of his YA novel came out recently I figured I'd give it a go as it was getting great reviews. Anyway, it's about a family that moves to the country to try and get out of the path of WWII, and when son Max and teen daughter Alicia befriend a local boy, they get caught up in something very creepy. I do wish things has been fleshed out a bit more but got totally caught up in the story, whcih had a few great surprises. B+.

best movie ever?

I think it might be.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

2010 book 139

Nancy Springer's The Case of the Missing Marquess
Laurie R. King for the kiddie set? The first in a middle-grade series about Sherlock Holmes' little sister, this story involves a missing mother and a kidnapped heir. Recommended for junior mystery lovers, but there wasn't much to hold my adult interest. B.

2010 book 138

Sarah Addison Allen's The Sugar Queen
I really enjoyed Allen's latest book so figured I'd check out her previous one. I liked it just as much--it nicely straddles the line between being too heartwarming and being just heartwarming enough. This one involves a woman who lives with her bossy mother and has no life of her own (though she does harbor a secret crush) and what happens to her when a woman on the run comes to live in her closet, and when she befriends a woman who has the power to attract books (I wish I had that power!). A/A-.

2010 book 137

Julie Orringer's The Invisible Bridge
First, I just want to say I was very grateful to read this on the Kindle, since it's apparently over 600 pages of epic epicness, and that's no fun for poolside reading. Though if you don't have a Kindle you should still read it!

Anyway, as I said, it's an epic sort of novel about a young Hungarian Jew who gets a scholarship to architecture school in Paris, finds a job in a theatre, and falls in love with an older woman--only it's the 1930s and things are obviously not going to go that well for a young Hungarian Jew. This book isn't perfect--it drags a bit at some parts set in a labor camp, and the end feels a little abrupt--but it's really, really a great story. It's getting a ton of great reviews, including in this weekend's NY Times Book Review--and it deserves every rave. A.

Friday, May 28, 2010

2010 book 136

Nancy Martin's How to Murder a Millionaire
My mom recommended this mystery series to me, about a woman from an old Philadelphia family who takes a job at a newspaper, and her two sisters, all of whom are apparently cursed as their husbands always die. Anyway, in this first Blackbird sisters mystery, protagonist Nora is at a party when she finds the millionaire host--and owner of the newspaper she works for--murdered. There's the obligatory cute cop as well as a cute but slightly sketchy macho guy. Hm, why do cozy mysteries always have a cute macho guy to boss around and/or protect the protagonist? Anyway, this was entertaining enough and I may read the second and third in the series, since they're sitting next to me on the couch. B.

2010 books 134 and 135

Rick Riordan's The Battle of the Labyrinth and The Last Olympian
You can't read the first three books in a series and not read the last two! But what to read next . . . ?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

2010 book 133

Rick Riordan's The Titan's Curse
I love the third Percy Jackson book--it introduces some great female characters.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

2010 books 131 and 132

Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief and The Sea of Monsters
I got tired of reading crappy Percy Jackson ripoffs and decided to just go for the real thing! This series holds up well on rereading--highly recommended summer reading.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

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Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
He's sleeping on top of a big stack of towels--just like the princess and the pea!

2010 book 130

Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams' Athena the Brain
Yet another middle-grade book trying to be Percy Jackson for girls, this focuses on Athena finding out she's a goddess and going to a special god/dess school on Mount Olympus (where very few mythological things are accurate at all). Not much happens--there's a bully and Athena worries about schoolwork, but there's no real tension there. She immediately makes friends with the three cool goddess girls in school--Aphrodite, Persephone, and Artemis, all of whom are cheerleaders (that is serious character assassination on the latter two). This is the first of a series of four (one each about the four goddess girls) but I won't be reading the rest--they don't seem very interesting (but I'm an adult, not a ten year old girl, so I'm not really the target audience anyway). B/B-.

Maybe I should stop reading series trying to be the next Percy Jackson and just reread Percy Jackson.

Monday, May 24, 2010

2010 book 129

Christian Moerk's Darling Jim
Sometimes on a dreary day you just need to reread a dark and creepy novel. This story of a young postal worker/artist who finds the diary of a girl who died in lurid circumstances and goes to investigate was one of my favorites of 2009.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

2010 book 128

Chelsea Campbell's The Rise of Renegade X
Oh man, was this a fun read. It's about a teenage boy growing up in a town full of superheroes and villains, each of whom are marked with an H or a V. So when his 16th birthday approaches, he's excited to get his V and be on track to be a villain like his mad scientist mother. Only instead of a V, an X appears--he's the product of a rare relationship between a villain and a hero! Dismayed, he ends up forced to spend time with his father learning what a hero actually does. Plus there's some romance and adventure along the way. GREAT coming-of-age villain identity stuff, plus the main character is hilarious. A.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

2010 book 127

Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies
The three Discworld witches might be in for more than they can handle when it starts to look like fairies might come back into the world. There are some nice Shakespeare/Midsummer Night's Dream references, plus the usual Pratchett humor. B+.


Originally uploaded by drelk3
Here's an awesome sunset pic my dad took--I love stuff silhouetted against other stuff!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

2010 book 126

Polly Horvath's My One Hundred Adventures
A twelve-year-old girl living on the beach of Massachusetts with her mother and younger siblings prays to have one hundred adventures--and her prayers do come true, in the sense that she has a pretty eventful summer. This middle-grade story has a hazy, summery feel to it, and made me want some fresh berry jam.

Monday, May 17, 2010

2010 book 125

Jean Kwok's Girl in Translation
This book has been getting stellar reviews for a reason--it's just a really satisfying story of a young girl who, with her mother, immigrates from Hong Kong to America, where she's determined to achieve the American dream and get them out of their lives of poverty. She finds friendship and romance, but never feels free to truly open up to anyone about her life. I love these sorts of immigrant/outsider stories and this one was done very well--definitely recommended. A.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2010 book 124

Brady Udall's The Lonely Polygamist
This has been getting rave reviews calling it a great family epic of our time and whatnot, and even though I wasn't particularly interested in the subject matter and it's a hefty read, I figured I'd give it a go. Now it's definitely worth reading, but it suffers from a lot of the problems Big Love has, namely that the husband is the least interesting and weakest (in every way) of the characters. Seriously, wouldn't that show be way better if Bill died, and we got to watch the women struggle to maintain their family without him? Anyway, same deal here--patriarch Golden is weak and feels empty and gets tangled up in some non-holy messes; meanwhile, one of his sons is desperate for attention, as is one of his wives. But it's hard to really love a book with such a schmoe of a protagonist, even if the family dynamics are fascinating. B.

Friday, May 14, 2010

2010 book 123

Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job
After a man's wife dies and he's left to raise their infant daughter with the help of his sister and some eccentric widows that live in their building, he finds out he's been appointed as a Death Merchant--a person who collects souls to try and stave off the forces of darkness. Kind of like that show Dead Like Me, only he's not dead. It takes place in the same world as his vampire books and has several of those characters (most notably, the San Francisco cops who have to deal with a lot of weird crap), which is entertaining. Moore is kind of like a Californian Terry Pratchett with his world-building, though not quite as awesome. B+.

2010 book 122

Patricia Wrede's Thirteenth Child
Wrede, the co-author of that historical fantasy series I liked, is back with more historical fantasy, only this book (the first of a planned trilogy) is set in an alternate America where magic exists and where Lewis and Clark never returned from their expedition due to the great many dangers of the West. Our protagonist is the 13th child in her family and is greatly believed to be unlucky; her twin is the seventh son of a seventh son and is supposed to have tons of magical ability. When their father takes a magical teaching position at a school out west, they encounter all sorts of magic and danger and whatnot. Anyway, I liked the family relationships here a lot--the parents are particularly awesome--and found the protagonist to be particularly compelling, especially her interest in animals and nature. Looking forward to the next one. A-.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

2010 book 121

Frederick Reiken's Day for Night
This novel manages to tie together some Holocaust survivors, some marine biologists, the members of a band, workers on an animal refuge in Israel, a boy in a coma, and a fugitive and the FBI agents pursuing her into a story about uncovering the mysteries of the past and maybe about love. I do wish the ending had explicated things a little bit more, but I found this book to be fascinating. A-.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

2010 book 120

Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire
This was a surprisingly awesome and action-packed follow-up to Hunger Games and, seriously, I cannot wait to read the third one.

2010 book 119

Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games
Sure, I have a huge stack of library books waiting for me, but sometimes on a grey day you just have to reread a book you know you'll love. And this book never stops being awesome. Now I'm gonna reread the sequel and pretend I don't have to wait three more months for the last one to come out!

Monday, May 10, 2010

2010 book 118

Maggie O'Farrell's The Hand that First Held Mine
This book has been getting a ton of great reviews, and I must say, it lives up to the hype. It's the tale of two women, told in alternating chapters--one, trying to be an independent career woman in the 1950s, the other dealing with her newborn and her boyfriend in current-ish times. From the get-go, 1950s Lexie's story is totally enthralling; modern Elina's is a bit slower to get going, but as the two start to come together, I couldn't put the book down. Highly recommended. A.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

2010 book 117

Nancy Pickard's The Scent of Rain and Lightning
Twenty-three years ago, a man was murdered and his wife vanished, leaving just a bloody dress behind. Now their daughter (along with the rest of their close-knit family) is trying to cope with their presumed murderer getting out of jail and coming back to their small town in Kansas. The story flashes back to the day of the murder, building up tension nicely. I really enjoyed these characters and found the mystery's resolution to be satisfying, but thought the very end was a bit improbable. B+.

Friday, May 07, 2010


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Today I learned a valuable lesson about frosting cupcakes in very hot weather in a very hot kitchen. At least they taste good . . .

Thursday, May 06, 2010

2010 book 116

Melina Marchetta's Finnikin of the Rock
I really enjoyed an earlier YA novel by Marchetta and immediately picked this one up when all the YA bloggers started buzzing about it. It's a great fantasy story that is a little hard to describe--it takes place ten years after a kindgdom was overthrown and the royal family assassinated, as the son of the head of the king's guard travels with the former king's advisor trying to keep track of their people in exile. When they encounter a young woman with the mysterious power to walk people's dreams, suddenly the hope arises that their kingdom may be restored. Which maybe doesn't SOUND awesome, but it's really a good read, and definitely buzz-worthy. A.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

2010 book 115

Rick Riordan's The Red Pyramid
The Percy Jackson author is back w/ a whole new series about EGYPTIAN gods! Totally different! But not really. So a brother and sister have been separated since their mother's mysterious death six years earlier, and now their dad has caused a mysterious accident that has let loose a bad God , and they have to use their newfound powers to save everyone and stuff. The narrative device here is that they're taking turns speaking into a tape recorder (and, annoyingly, interrupting each other). There were some good characters but pretty much everything was formulaic. Entertaining, but not nearly as good as the Percy books. B.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

2010 book 114

Kyra Davis' Passion, Betrayal and Killer Highlights
Davis' second Sophie Katz book is just as entertaining as her first, as Sophie's sister finds out her husband is cheating on her--and then becomes the number one suspect in her murder. Sophie and her love/hate interest must work to clear her name before Sophie is stuck as primary caretaker of her obnoxious toddler nephew. Again, this book was a lot of fun--this series is PERFECT beach reading, y'all--and there's a hilarious sex scene involving an espresso maker. I'm going to try and wait to read the third one till my upcoming vacation--but probably won't make it. :) A.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

2010 book 113

David Cristofano's The Girl She Used to Be
Wow, this may have been the stupidest book I've ever read. It starts off implausibly but interestingly as a woman who's been in witness protection since she and her parents witnessed a murder when she was 6 is tracked down by one of the members of the murderer's family and goes with him willingly. But from implausible it quickly degenerates into ridiculous and then plain dumb. I almost stopped reading three times but then kept thinking maybe it would turn around in the end. No, the end was completely absurd too. D.

2010 book 112

Fernanda Eberstadt's Rat
Kind of a coming-of-age novel about a girl growing up in France with her single mother; later, after her mother's boyfriend tries to molest her adopted brother, she decides to take him on the run to find her father in London. The first 2/3rds were strong but I think things trailed off a bit toward the end. Still, Rat and her brother are great characters--likable, self-sufficient, and bold. B+.