Saturday, July 31, 2010

2010 book 195

Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now
Rosoff is one of those YA writers everyone seems to love, but I hated the only book of hers I've read (Justin Case) and have mostly avoided her. However, I read en excerpt of this online, and although the narrative voice rubbed me the wrong way (all run-on sentences and Capital Letters to make things seem important), the story was intriguing. It's about an American girl who, in the near future, is shipped off to live with her British cousins. But the world is on the brink of war, and just as she's finding love, the family is split apart. Her wartime journey is fairly compelling, and though I found the ending to be less awesome than I hoped, this is still a solid B+.

Friday, July 30, 2010

2010 book 194

Allegra Goodman's The Cookbook Collector
I've loved pretty much all of Goodman's previous books, but for some reason this one just didn't do it for me. I liked the two main characters, sisters (who, of course, are total opposites, with one being practical and one flighty, as fictional sisters always are), and I liked the explorations of Hasidism, and all the cookbooks, but I found most of their romantic foibles to be annoying, wasn't very interested in the late-90s dot-com-boom setting, and thought the end was a little predictable. It's getting great reviews, though, and certainly Goodman writes very well, so don't take my word for it. Weirdly, I have seen a few reviews call it "a modern Sense and Sensibility"--maybe because of the two sisters?--but didn't see many overt parallels. I don't know how to grade this. It just made me tired. B?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

2010 book 193

Maureen Johnson's Suite Scarlett
Christina mentioned this book to me--apparently the Fug Girls recommended it--and it was a nice fluffy read. Scarlett is growing up in a family that owns a small hotel in NYC, and on her fifteenth birthday, she's given responsibility for a suite in the building--and its new, very eccentric occupant. Meanwhile, she's got a crush on a guy in her brother's play, and the whole family is trying to deal with financial difficulties. I especially liked the sibling relationships here, and the New York theater stuff was fun, but the romantic subplot didn't really work for me. Still, totally a cute book and one I'll recommend to my sister.

Monday, July 26, 2010

2010 book 192

Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution
I read and enjoyed Donnelly's previous historical YA novel, A Northern Light, a few years ago, so was pleased to see her new one at ALA. In this one, a young musical New York girl, Andi, traumatized by her younger brother's death and the breakup of her parents' marriage, is dragged to Paris by her father, where she finds an old diary in a guitar case. The diary is written by a revolution-era actress who had a fateful encounter with the doomed prince of France, sending her life on an unexpected path. As Andi is haunted by both the diary and her own past, her own life begins to change. On the whole, this was an excellent--and at times, heartbreaking--novel, though Donnelly was a bit heavy-handed in trying to compare the girls' experiences in a couple of scenes. A-.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

2010 book 191

Johanna Spyri's Heidi
I caught the Shirley Temple movie version of this on TCM the other night and was pissed off at what a bad adaptation it was, so decided to reread the original. It was exactly as I remembered (though I had conveniently forgotten all the grandmothers' God-talk). I remember when I was a kid I had the non-Spyri-written sequels where, I believe, Heidi marries Peter, and he's such a brat in this book it made me a little bit sad that that's the semi-official future out there for her in the world.

2010 book 190

E. Nesbit's The Railway Children
I've been rereading some classic kid's lit while waiting for some library holds to come in; I didn't actually remember previously reading this until I got to the part with the red flannel petticoats (I think I preferred Nesbit's more magic-related stories). Anyway, this story deals with a family whose father goes away (the children don't find out the details till much later in the book, but the reader figures it out fairly early on) and they move to a small house in the country where they befriend local railwaymen and other assorted folk, have some adventures, etc.

Friday, July 23, 2010

2010 book 189

Maryrose Wood's The Poison Diaries
Wood--author of The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, which I adored--starts a new trilogy (based on an idea by a Duchess, for real) for teens focusing on a young girl growing up in isolation with her botanist father, who studies the medicinal uses of plants and has a locked garden full of poisonous things. When they are brought a boy who has mysterious plant-related powers, the two of course strike up an attraction. Things kind of go off the rail towards the end, and I'm not sure I really liked the way things wrapped up, even if there are two sequels in the works. B/B-.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

2010 book 188

Susan Henderson's Up from the Blue
I added this to my Amazon wishlist last week after reading some prepub review or another, and then today I found it in my box of books from ALA! Serendipity. Anyway, this is the story of a woman who goes into labor 6 weeks early, and while in the hospital, flashes back to the year she was 8, when her family moved to DC and her mother disappeared. Things do take an unexpected turn, but the characters are more important than the mysteriousness of it all--8-year-old Tillie is imaginative, rebellious, and determined, and is definitely great to read about. A-/B+.

2010 book 187

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's Beautiful Darkness
I more-or-less enjoyed Garcia and Stohl's first book in this series, Beautiful Creatures, so when I saw a stack of the sequels at ALA I picked one up. This is apparently the 2nd book in a planned series of four, and it does a pretty good job of advancing the story forward. After the crazy finale of book one, Ethan and Lena's relationship is starting to fall apart. Trying to regain her love leads to all sorts of crazy adventures going deeper into the magical worlds, as well as leading to information about Ethan's dead mother. There's also more stuff with the magical library as well as with a mysterious cat. Things were fairly action-packed but I wasn't particularly engrossed; I'll still probably read the third one when it comes out, though. B.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2010 book 186

Sienna Mercer's My Sister the Vampire 1: Switched
This is the first book in a cute middle grade series about a girl, Olivia, who moves to a new school and meets Ivy--eventually they realize they're identical twins . . . except Ivy is a vampire. They pull some entertaining switcharoos as Ivy deals with her crush and with keeping her vampire secret from Olivia, and as Olivia tries out for cheerleading. I'm definitely reading the next one--this book was fun. B+.

2010 book 185

Lois Lowry's Anastasia Krupnik
This book shoots me right back to my childhood. It's amazing all the things I remembered--the club of girls with nicknames ending in I, the Wordsworth poem (I am pretty sure this book is the reason I did a paper on Wordsworth one semester in high school), and of course, Anastasia's hilarious lists.

Monday, July 19, 2010

2010 book 184

Lily King's Father of the Rain
This story is told in three parts--the first, during the protagonist's childhood, where she's torn between her alcoholic father and activist mother during an acrimonious divorce, the second, when, as an adult, she tries to help her father sober up, and the third, many years after that, during the Obama election. I loved the first and last sections; the second was harder to read b/c you just wanted to give her a big ol' shake sometimes (but I guess that speaks to the effectiveness of the characters and story). Definitely recommended. A/A-.


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Happy Scott Pilgrim Day!!

In honor of volume 6 being released at midnight (and you can bet I'll be at the release party at Chapel Hill Comics), I'm rereading the first five books today. This picture is from my autographed copy of book 3.


summer reading group

It has been pointed out to me that I dropped the ball on our online summer reading group. Everyone still in for The Secret Garden? Is August 6th or 13th a reasonable discussion date? (Please let me know your preference.)

We could also read the Little Women books, or even some non-classics, after we do Secret Garden.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

2010 book 183

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Christina and I went to see the Sorcerer's Apprentice today (which was surprisingly entertaining) and there was a trailer for the movie version of this--I know I'm always disappointed by the movies, but it looks like they're including all the important stuff this time (for a change). Anyway--yay Harry Potter!

2010 book 182

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
I still am angry about how badly they mucked up the ending of the movie version of this one.

Friday, July 16, 2010

2010 book 181

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Once you reach this point in the series, you just HAVE to keep going and see how it turns out (even if you already know). I know I've often said this is my least favorite of the books, but I really enjoyed it this time. I love all the anti-Umbridge subversion.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Gratuitous cute kitty picture! Why yes, he IS sleeping in a shoebox.

2010 book 180

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I have 20 books on my library hold list, but none have come in yet, so I'm continuing on my latest HP reread. This is still one of the best books in the series, I think.

Monday, July 12, 2010

2010 book 179

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
There was another HP movie marathon on tv this weekend, so of course I had to pick the books back up where I last left off. I may be running out of things to say about Harry Potter, but that doesn't lessen the enjoyment of re-reading.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

2010 book 178

Daphne Kalotay's Russian Winter
I feel fairly certain that this book is going to be a sleeper bestseller--I'm not sure if it's the whole Russian ballerina thing or what, but people are going to love this. So yes, it's about an elderly woman who was once a famous Russian ballerina (who defected in 1952), and is now donating her jewelry collection for an auction to raise money for the Boston Ballet. The story flashes back and forth between her painful present and her youthful past. Also critical to the plot is a professor of Russian who hopes to talk to the ballerina about his own past, as well as a young woman working on the catalog for the auction house, who begin to work together to puzzle together the mysteries behind a certain amber necklace. The end is part heartbreaking and part sweet (though perhaps a bit unbelievable), but I thoroughly enjoyed this. A/A-.

2010 book 177

Ginger Rue's Jump
Well, this book was just terrible. It's about a popular rich bitchy girl who wakes up one morning as one of her Goth classmates and learns Very Valuable Lessons about being nice or whatever. It's kind of like Before I Fall, if that book was a big huge cliche and wasn't very good. I think part of the problem is that we don't see enough of the girl's life before she has a change of heart, and also her changes of heart aren't really believable in any way. C-.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

2010 book 176

Wendelin Van Draanen's Flipped
8th grader Juli has been in love with Bryce since he moved across the street when they were seven, but he's always seen her as something of a pest. When he suddenly starts to see that she's passionate and interesting, she starts to realize he may not be as wonderful as she always thought. The story alternates between the two POVs and both manage to be realistic and likable characters. Really excellent lighter reading. A.

Friday, July 09, 2010

2010 book 175

Louis Sachar's The Cardturner
Only Louis Sachar could make something like bridge seem cool. In this book, teenager Alton is enlisted to assist his blind, rich, dying great-uncle by serving as his cardturner at bridge (ie, telling him what cards he has and whatnot). Of course, nothing in a Sachar story is ever that simple, and of course there are family secrets, and a maybe-crazy but cute girl, and an awesome little sister. And lots and lots of bridge talk (which Sachar makes easy to skip--I read the first bunch of sections and then was like, ok, enough already, and just read the handy summaries). The end is a little too tidy, perhaps, but the parts along the way are pretty great, bridge talk notwithstanding. A-.

2010 book 174

Scarlett Thomas' Our Tragic Universe
Thomas is one of my favorite authors, and I've been eagerly awaiting this new novel, which doesn't disappoint. It centers on Meg, a thirtysomething woman trying to write a "real" novel, but mostly deleting it, while ghostwriting genre fiction and dealing with an unhappy relationship. Being a Thomas novel, story sometimes gives way to philosophizing about life, the afterlife, and immortality; magic; relationships of all kinds; and, perhaps most importantly, storytelling itself. There is also a very excellent dog. I found this to be a very satisfying read but recognize that Thomas isn't for everyone--still, if you enjoyed her previous works and/or are interested in thinking about narrative, definitely check this out. It comes out in September. A.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

2010 book 173

Wendy Mass' The Candymakers
EXCELLENT middle-grade book about four twelve-year-olds involved in a candy-making contest, one of whom is the candy factory owner's son. Each child is the focus of one section, filling in all sorts of great backstories. The characters are great, the way the story unfolds is great, and all the stuff about candy is GREAT. It comes out in October (just in time for Halloween candy season?) so be sure and check it out if you're in the mood for a really fun read. A.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

2010 book 172

Mary McDonagh Murphy, ed. Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird
I'm not sure where to start with this one. It's a book of essays (well, not really essays, which becomes clear partway through: some read as essays--the ones by writers--the rest like the answers to interviews with the questions cut out) about To Kill a Mockingbird, mostly by writers, but also from locals, Harper Lee's sister, Tom Brokaw, and Oprah. There's an introductory essay that reads at times like a college term paper, quoting the essays/interviews in the rest of the book (and taking their best parts). I guess I'd recommend this with the caveat that you should skip the intro stuff and just read the essays by the people that interest you. In light of essays like this*, which kind of denounces the book, I hoped this would mount a stronger defense of its virtues. And some parts did, but on the whole, it's not very readable. B-.

What interested me was that--like when I wrote about the book recently--almost everyone talked about how old they were and where they were the first time they read it. I guess it's one of those books that just sticks in your brain that way.

*Look, I agree that Atticus' offhand comment about Sam Levy and the KKK is not at all historically accurate--but Scout is what, 6 or 7 in that scene? What kind of dad would tell the horrible truth about the KKK to a little kid? And anyway, I do think Lee conveys the menace of that kind of mob in the jailhouse scene, so she's not really whitewashing things. Of course, I clearly think the book is a capital-C Classic.

2010 book 171

Monique Truong's Bitter in the Mouth
A young girl growing up in Boiling Springs, NC, tastes every word she hears or says, complicating an already complicated life. The first half of this book, which flits back and forth through her adolescence and through NC history, is a little slow (despite great characters like best friend Kelly, with whom she exchanges letters, and her great-uncle "Baby" Harper), but things really pick up in the second half, which was excellent. This comes out in August and there'll definitely be some local publicity. A-.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

2010 book 170

Alyson Noel's Evermore: The Immortals
At my sister's urging, I decided to give this one a chance after all (see below), and it did get a little bit better, but was mostly predictable and I was not into the romance at all (the guy had even less character development than Edward in Twilight: his main traits are that he's a) hot, and b) mysterious). Sorry, Jamie, just not my thing. B-.

partially read

Today I have two books to talk about that I can't seem to finish:

David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
I've loooooved all of Mitchell's books and preordered this for my Kindle, which means I know that I've completely stalled out at just 33 percent of the way in. Seriously, this is the slowest-moving book ever, it feels like I've already read 1000 pages and nothing has happened. This Dave Eggers-penned in the NY Times claims patient readers will be rewarded, but how patient am I supposed to be? Have any of you read this yet? Is it worth plugging away?

Alyson Noel's Evermore: The Immortals
I picked up a copy of the 4th book in this series at ALA and was like, hmm, guess I should check this series out. And then a couple days later my sister texted me all "have you read this immortals series?? I love it!" (She got a free copy at a showing of Eclipse--apparently they were giving away a few different teen fantasy series--anyone else see this somewhere?) So of course I had to check it out. And there's interesting stuff here--after an accident, teen Ever has psychic powers and is visited by her dead sister. Only then a new mysterious boy comes to school and blah blah blah. I found their weird romance really boring and was way more interested in the psychic stuff, but the author is clearly pandering to the teen romance crowd (and my sister). Oh, my sister just texted that it gets better, maybe I'll read it a little more and just try and ignore the slightly creepy and not at all realistic romance.

Friday, July 02, 2010

2010 book 169

Nina LaCour's Hold Still
Another book I picked up at ALA, but this one was somewhat serendipitous, since it was on hold for me at the library but the hold was going to expire before I got home. And instead I got a copy signed by the author! So this is a book about Caitlin, whose best friend just killed herself, and how Caitlin copes through the following year. It's also about art, life, love, and treehouses. I cried at least three times while reading it; I think if you liked Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall, you should try this one too. It's a good balance of melancholy and hope, which is just what I like in a book. A.

2010 book 168

Y.S. Lee's The Agency: The Body in the Tower
I loved the first book in the Agency series, about a young girl working for an all-female detective agency in Victorian times, so was thrilled to pick up the sequel at ALA. The mystery in this one is kind of weak and not super interesting, but the characters are as vivid and engaging as ever. B/B+.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

latest mix cd

In lieu of a book post (I'm just not in a reading mood at the moment), here's the tracklist for my latest mix cd. It's been playing in my car for a few weeks now and it's pretty enjoyable. How many covers can you spot?

Electrocution Nada Surf
Heart to Tell The Love Language (this album comes out really soon and I can't wait!!)
Crumbs Wembley
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks The National
Feel Better Schooner
17 Pink Sugar Elephants Mates of State
Rill Rill Sleigh Bells (I know they're hyped like crazy but this song is seriously my jam)
Hey Elevator The Apples In Stereo (the beginning of this song sounds like the Flash Gordon theme!)
Chase Scene Broken Social Scene
The Video Dept. The Radio Dept.
Hormones Tracey Thorn (this song is catchy as hell considering the subject matter and I love singing along. Does Thorn have a teenage daughter?)
Girls FM Happy Birthday
Private Eyes The Bird and the Bee
Caroline's Radio Bubblegum Lemonade (how could I not love a band with this name)
Vaporize Broken Bells
Fear Itself Rogue Wave
Dark Clouds Teenage Fanclub (love, love, LOVE this album)
Crash Years The New Pornographers
Better Things Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
The Last Prom On Earth Gayngs
Gentle On My Mind Crooked Fingers