Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2010 book 218

Helen Grant's The Vanishing of Katharina Linden
This isn't a mystery per se (at least, the library has it classified as fiction), but there's a mystery at its core so I'm labeling it as such. OK, administrative notes done, time for comments! Anyway. The story is about 11-year-old Pia growing up in small-town Germany in the late 1990s; she's locally famous because her grandmother exploded (sort of), but that gets overshadowed when a girl goes missing. With the help of her only friend, whose bizarre nickname (StinkStefan) is never explained, she tries to investigate, becoming convinced that supernatural forces are at work. Meanwhile, the growing fears in town cause tension in her parents' marriage. Things move along at a quick pace till the exciting (but somewhat ridiculous) ending. B+.

Monday, August 30, 2010

2010 book 217

Robin Benway's The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June
When three sisters (the titular April, May, and June) develop special powers (April can see the future, May can turn invisible, June can read minds) on their first day going to a new high school, it affects their friendships, romances, and relationships with each other. The three characters take turns narrating and Benway does a good job developing a singular voice for each. The ending was a bit muddled and silly, though. B+/B.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

2010 books 214, 215, and 216

I read three books while I was out of town, but, shockingly, I left my laptop at home and thus could not update.

Kristen Tranter's The Legacy
This is the story of three Australian college friends in the late 90s involved in a strange love triangle; when one later disappears on 9/11, her besotted cousin sends the third party to New York to investigate. I found the college flashbacks much more appealing than the NY quest, and the end was convoluted and kind of ridiculous. B.

Melina Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi
I've enjoyed several of Marchetta's other YA works and figured I'd give this--I think it's her first book--a shot. It's about a teenager growing up in Australia (I swear I didn't have an Australia theme set for the weekend, though since my brother spent a ton of time there in the past year, it would have been appropriate), caught between the world of her peers and the world of her Italian family. When the father she's never known comes to town, things come to a head. The end of this one was a little ridiculous too, but I liked it anyway. B+.

Patricia Wrede's The Magician's Ward
The sequel to Mairelon the Magician picks up a year later, with another magical mystery, along with Kim being entered into society. This one had a predictable, but not entirely ridiculous ending. A-/B+.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2010 book 213

Kate Milford's The Boneshaker
In this MG novel, a young girl growing up in Missouri in 1913 learns what it means to live near a crossroads, as a story about the Devil starts to feel terrifying real when a mysterious medicine show comes to town. If you take this as a story about stories, it's quite good; as a story itself, it saves way too much information for the big reveals at the end, which was a little bit frustrating. B.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

2010 book 212

Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay
I'll keep my comments brief and spoiler-free, because I know not all of you will have read it yet. :) Let me just say that, like the first two books, it's filled with unexpected moments, both grim and wonderful, and was a fully satisfying end to the series. A. I probably will read it again sometime soon--after I decompress.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

2010 book 211

Julia Stuart's The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise
You'd think a book involving the Beefeaters of the Tower of London, and in particular one Beefeater who is put in charge of the Queen's menagerie of animals (gifts from other countries) because he owns the world's oldest tortoise, and also there's a Reverend who writes erotica under the name Vivienne Ventress, and the Beefeater's wife works for the London Underground's lost articles office, and the two have a strained marriage since the somewhat mysterious death of their son, and there are some other eccentric characters--well, you'd think it'd be right up my alley. After all, the editor compares it to Amelie, Chocolat, and A Fish Called Wanda, and I like all those movies. But--it's really kind of boring. It's too slow and cozy, and even the exotic animals weren't very interesting. It's a perfectly nice book, but really not my thing at all. B-.

(A review copy was provided by the publisher.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

2010 book 210

Diana Peterfreund's Rampant
Teenager Astrid has grown up on her mother's stories of how they're descended from a long line of unicorn hunters--because unicorns are actually vicious and deadly, not the pretty and romantic creatures of legend--but has always half-believed her mother is crazy, until she sees evidence that unicorns are no longer extinct, and is sent to Rome to train to be a hunter, much against her will. In Rome, she of course meets a cute boy, learns to accept her destiny, has adventures, etc. I'm, of course, a sucker for unicorns (I grew up in the 80s--how can I help it?) and enjoyed this immensely. The sequel come out in September and I can't wait!


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Got to go see Wye Oak and Lou Barlow & the Missingmen last night at the Cradle--what a great show. Can't wait for the new Wye Oak album. And Lou played some songs from Emoh (by far my favorite of all of his many albums), some acoustic and some electric--sooo awesome!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

2010 book 209

Laura Lippman's I'd Know You Anywhere
It's to Lippman's credit that, for the first few pages of this story, I forgot I was reading a Laura Lippman book--I was all settled into a domestic drama when it came out that the protagonist, a mother of two, was kidnapped the summer she was fifteen. And then it was like, oh right, this is a Laura Lippman book, and it's a thriller. But again, Lippman does a good job of marrying the domestic with the thrills, as we flash back to that pivotal summer, and as the kidnapper--now on death row--gets back in touch with the protagonist. This book is actually fairly intense, and I had to keep taking breaks from it. And I have mixed feelings about the ending. Still, a solid read. B+.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

2010 book 208

Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire
The second Hunger Games book is so action-packed that I seriously couldn't put it down EVEN THOUGH I HAVE READ IT MULTIPLE TIMES AND KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN. Also, I cried multiple times rereading these books today.

Man, now that Scott Pilgrim's out, and Mockingjay's out in a week, what is there to be super-excited about?

2010 book 207

Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games
Mockingjay comes out in just a week (!!!!) so of course I have to reread the first two Hunger Games books to get ready. I've read this one four or five times now and it never stops being completely awesome. I had a few thoughts on this reread that I won't mention here, knowing a couple of you haven't read them yet (or haven't read the second one yet) that make me even more insanely excited to read the new one.

fall reading group?

So, who's interested in reading A Wrinkle in Time for our next book discussion? Would a deadline sometime in September work? We can also read the sequels and/or When You Reach Me (one of my favorite books of the last couple of years, which is loosely related to A Wrinkle in Time). Again, I can lend locals a copy of the book.

Would a discussion date of September 17th or 24th work? Let me know your preferences!

Monday, August 16, 2010

2010 book 206

Tana French's Faithful Place
Twenty years ago, Francis Mackey was supposed to meet Rosie Daly so they could run away together--only she left without him. Or so he thought, till he gets a call from the family he hasn't seen in decades telling him they've found her suitcase and it seems she never left after all. Now a forty-something cop (with the requisite ex-wife and adorable-yet-sassy daughter), Frank has to go home again and tangle with his family, with the past, and with distrusting neighbors to try and ferret out the truth. It's fairly easy to guess who did it, but the why is a longer time coming, and the whole thing is totally satisfying. I've loved French's previous two books, and this one is just as good. A.

girl with the . . .

football team?

I'm extrapolating just a little bit here, but: LISBETH SALANDER OWNS THE STEELERS!!!!!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

2010 book 205

Kirsten Miller's The Eternal Ones
Miller, author of the beloved Kiki Strike books (well, beloved by me, and you too if you'd read them), sets that world aside for a while to tell a YA story about a girl who has mysterious visions of the past, and wants to find out what they mean with the help of her gay best friend and a local snake-handling girl. So she goes off to the big city and blah blah blah. My problem with this is that the main character is a total ninny. Like, every other page she's changing her mind about whether or not she trusts her love interest (when the answer is clear to the reader, this is especially annoying). It's a little hard to sympathize with her, and the villains are maybe a bit too villainous. Still, it's Miller, so things are entertaining enough. I just wish she'd write another Kiki Strike book already. B.

Friday, August 13, 2010


So tonight I saw the Scott Pilgrim movie--which I have been eagerly anticipating since Edgar Wright signed on to direct back in like 2004 or 2005 or whenever it was. And obviously I love the books. So yes, I was SUPER EXCITED about the movie!! And it lived up to my high expectations. Now, it wasn't perfect--it compresses 6 books' worth of action (almost a year of story, I think) into what seems like a small period of time. But honestly, story isn't really the whole point of this movie--the visual stimulation is just INCREDIBLE. Tons of hilarious jokes and graphics and even pieces from the books. I saw it with a friend who hadn't read the books and only knew about the series from my frantic blogging and twittering and jabbering and all that, and she thought it was a lot of fun (though I'm not sure it made a lot of sense to her). Our theater wasn't very full but the audience reaction was really enthusiastic--lots of laughing.

Actually, the best laugh may have come during the previews. There was a preview for some sort of elevator-themed horror movie that just looked AWFUL, and then on the screen came the words: "A Film by M. Night Shyamalan". The entire audience went "OHHHHHHHH" and then the entire audience laughed at everyone saying "OHHHHHH". Good times.

Anyway, go see Scott Pilgrim. I'm buying the soundtrack tomorrow and seeing the movie again on Sunday! And now you're like, Alicia, what are you going to do with yourself when the Scott Pilgrim hype dies down?

Well, there's still Mockingjay to look forward to. :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

2010 book 204

Carrie Vaughn's Discord's Apple
Evie Walker--the writer of a successful military-themed comic book series--returns to small-town Colorado to be with her dying father. Only America is on the verge of World War Three, and she soon discovers her father is keeper of a storeroom full of the treasures of stories (the golden fleece, the titular apple, etc). As Evie figures out how to proceed in the world where magic and political chaos are colliding, her story is interwoven with the story of the fall of Troy and its aftermath. I enjoyed this quite a bit, but the ending is abrupt enough to make it seem like there'll be a sequel, and I'm pretty sure this is a stand-alone book. So it was a little unsatisfying in that regard. B+.

new mix

I made a new mix cd for my car!

Kathryn Calder- Follow me into the hills
Wavves- King of the beach
Best Coast- Boyfriend
The Love Language- Brittany's Back
Betty and the Werewolves- Good as gold
Pizzicato Five- Baby love child
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings- I'll still be true
Janelle Monae- Cold War
Stars- Fixed
Tracy Thorn- Why does the wind?
St Vincent- Save me from what I want
Caribou- Sun
Mates of State- Laura
Nada Surf- Question
Versus- Invincible hero
Teenage Fanclub- Into the city
Blitzen Trapper- Dragon's song
The National- Bloodbuzz Ohio
Arcade Fire- City with no children

more stuff i've shared

I haven't posted a link round-up in forever, but here are a few noteworthy things I've shared on Google reader:

I love this bad review of Still Missing (scroll down a bit to see my comments).

Suzanne Collins talks about the books she loves. I am SO EXCITED for Mockingjay to come out. Less than two weeks! And Collins has great taste in books.

Here's an interview with Edgar Wright. I am also SO EXCITED for the Scott Pilgrim movie, which I get to see tomorrow! In the meantime, check out the interactive trailer, where factoids pop up when you click on stuff, and here's the trailer recreated with panels from the books!

Did you know that Brian from The Broken West (one of my favorite bands) guested on Mad Men this past week? Now you do.

Speaking of awesome tv shows--check out the trailer for the upcoming season of VENTURE BROS!!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

2010 book 203

Lee Nichols' Deception (Haunting Emma)
After her parents disappear, a teenager is whisked off by her brother's hot friend to a boarding school in Boston, where she starts to have mysterious visions. I really liked the world-building here (there are some lovable ghosts) but the end of this one and the preview of the next didn't make me want to read further in the series. B/B-.

Monday, August 09, 2010

2010 book 202

Chevy Stevens' Still Missing
I'm classifying this as a mystery, though it's really more of a thriller type of story. It's about a woman who's abducted by a stalker and kept trapped in a cabin in the woods for a year. The story is told through her therapy sessions after her return to the real world, a conceit that mostly works (though the narrative voice is occasionally a bit much). I was on the edge of my seat for most of the first two-thirds of the book, and even cried at one point, but the ending was so ridiculously bonkers that I can't recommend this in good faith. B-.

2010 book 201

Patricia Wrede's Mairelon the Magician
Wrede writes really fun historical fantasy books; in this one, teenager Kim (masquerading as a boy) is caught burgling a magician's wagon, and gets caught up in the usual web of magical intrigue. This actually reminds me a little of the Agency books (though it was written first), only with magic added, which of course makes everything better. This and its sequel are now in one volume called "A Matter of Magic" but I'm counting this on its own since it was originally a book on its own. B+.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

2010 book 200

Lisa Lutz's The Spellmans Strike Again
I wanted book 200 to be a thoroughly enjoyable read, so I decided to re-read the final book in the awesome Spellsmans series. I hope Lutz writes a new book soon!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

2010 book 199

Kate Racculia's This Must Be the Place
After Arthur's beloved wife, Amy, dies in a tragic special-effects accident in Los Angeles, he finds a box of her mementos that lead him to her childhood best friend, Mona, who, with her teenage daughter, runs a boarding house and wedding cake business. Teenager Oneida and her cohort deal with the usual high school drama (and some unusual drama) while Arthur and Mona bond. I do wish the dramatic secret had been revealed earlier (it's clear to the reader early on) and found a certain romantic subplot unsettling, but quite enjoyed this (especially the teenagers). Recommended for Sarah Addison Allen fans; it doesn't have any of the magic, but the characters, the small town, and the budding relationships will strike a chord. A-.

My next book is book 200!!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

2010 book 198

Ayelet Waldman's Red Hook Road
I've actually never read any of Waldman's previous books--the subject matter just didn't interest me, I guess, b/c I have enjoyed the few of her pieces I've read online--but this has been getting stellar reviews so I gave it a go. It's about a couple who die in a car accident on their way to their wedding reception, and the aftermath for their devastated families. There's some really interesting class tensions going on here, as well as some excellent parts involving music and a library. I really enjoyed this! A.

Monday, August 02, 2010

2010 book 197

Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden
Reading this for the summer read-along--discussion will be on Friday!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

summer reading group reminder

Don't forget, we'll be discussing The Secret Garden on this blog on Friday August 6th! I have a print copy if anyone local wants to borrow one.

2010 book 196

David Nicholls' One Day
This book has been getting buzz for months and has already been optioned for a movie that I'm sure I'll hate. Actually, I was sure I'd hate this book too--about a guy and a girl who almost get together but end up just as friends, and then the book checks in on them on the same July day for the next twenty years (there are lots of "When Harry Met Sally" comparisons). And I didn't really hate it after all, though found many of the plot twists to be ridiculously contrived, and I didn't much like the ending (my sister apparently disliked the ending too, though I suspect for different reasons--had it ended a few sections earlier I'd have liked it more). The characters are ok but this does at times read like it wants badly to be optioned into a movie. I'll give it a B, which is my default grade for when I have no idea how to grade a book.