Saturday, October 30, 2010

2010 book 257

A.S. King's Please Ignore Vera Dietz
Vera Dietz's best friend Charlie--who she secretly loved--died a few months ago, but she had lost him to the Detentionheads long before that. Still, she's haunted by what she knows about the night he died, all while dealing with the usual teen crap--her Dad, her crappy job, the cute guy at her crappy job, and school. The story flashes back and forth in time, tracing her and Charlie's relationship as well as her dealing with his death. I found the end a bit lackluster but enjoyed the story and characters quite a bit. B+.

Friday, October 29, 2010

trashy book readalong!

As you may have seen on Twitter (it was even retweeted by the Fug Girls!), Christina and I are planning a read-along of THE trashy 80s books--the Scruples series--over the holidays. She loves them, and I have (embarrassingly) never read them, so now is the time! We'd love you any or all of you to join us in this quest!

We're gonna read Scruples for Thanksgiving week and the other two in December--let me know your preferred dates and I'll announce them here ASAP. In the past, I've posted an entry for discussion and we've chatted in the comments, and unless that doesn't work for anyone, we'll plan to do it the same way again.

Hooray trashy books!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

2010 book 256

Joyce Maynard's The Good Daughters
So two little girls are born on the same day in 1949, and the story is told in their alternating POVs. One is a serious little girl who wants to be a farmer growing up in a family of dreamy artists, while the other is a dreamy artist growing up in a family of serious farmers. Gee, I wonder what the big twist will be. It is a little bit annoying that it's all so obvious to the reader, but takes forever for the two daughters to figure out. Luckily, their stories are interesting enough to keep momentum going, even if the end feels a little bit unrealistic. B+/B.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

2010 book 255

Erin Bow's Plain Kate
A little orphan girl, known as Plain Kate, is suspected by some of the other villagers as being a witch due to her impressive wood-carving skills. With little choice in the matter, she strikes a deal with a creepy male witch, who trades her shadow for a way out. Gypsies get involved, and of course the witch's plans are more nefarious than Plain Kate could have imagined. Her story involves magic, journeying, and one amazing cat. Seriously, one of the great cats of literature. I was so invested in these characters that I spent the last couple of chapters straight up bawling. A.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2010 book 254

Emily Wing Smith's The Way He Lived
After the tragic death of a teenage boy, six other teens who knew him--including his best friend and his two sisters--take turns narrating a story about him, and about their own grief. All the characters are Mormon, but this is narratively not a huge deal, and it's interesting to read about these characters who are typical teenagers dealing with love and school and loss. Some sections worked better than others, and I thought the end was a bit abrupt (I hoped to revisit some of the characters more), but still a solid read. B+.

2010 book 253

Michelle Zink's Guardian of the Gate
I barely remembered anything about the first book in this series, except that there were twin sisters on opposite sides of a prophecy, but things had gotten messed up, so the bad twin had the traditionally good role, and vice versa. In this sequel--which suffers terribly from middle chapter syndrome--we learn a little more about the mythology of this world, and pieces are moved into place for the finale (and a lot's going to have to happen in that finale), and the main character gets a new love interest, but otherwise it's just a lot of road-tripping. Only on horses, b/c it's the 1900s, which I keep forgetting. B.

Monday, October 25, 2010

2010 book 252

Tony DiTerlizzi's The Search for WondLa
It's sometime in the future, and a little human girl being raised by a robot longs to meet other humans. When an intruder forces her to flee her underground sanctuary, she sets off on a quest accompanied by a couple of bizarre alien types (one is a giant waterbear!), trying to evade capture while figuring out where the people are. At nearly 500 pages, things do drag a little (even with the enchanting illustrations), but I liked the ending reveal quite a bit and look forward to the sequel. Oh, and apparently if you hold certain illustrations up to a webcam, interesting things happen, but I didn't care enough to try it. A-.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Gratuitous kitty picture! Now you see why my couch cushions are all misshapen.

2010 book 251

David Handler's The Cold Blue Blood
My mom is currently reading--and totally into--Handler's mystery series, so I figured I'd read the first one. A recently widow(er)ed New York film critic decides to spend some time on a small, exclusive Connecticut island, where he of course gets involved in a local murder and helps the local detective--a sassy black woman who rescues feral cats with the help of her equally sassy Jewish neighbor--find out whodunnit. The writing is a little bit not-great (especially detective Desiree's dialogue/dialect) but I really did want to find out what happened, and the ending surprised me. B.

Friday, October 22, 2010

2010 book 250

Julia Franck's The Blindness of the Heart
Translated from the German, this novel starts with a young boy being abandoned by his mother at a train station just as WWII has come to an end. Then things flash back to the end of WWI and to two half-Jewish sisters with an abnormally close relationship (it's fairly easy to guess that one of these will end up being the boy's mother). Their story starts off interestingly enough, but then starts to drag a bit. Things get predictable and boring, even when the events of the plot are actually exciting. It just all felt dull. I'd have given it up a couple days ago but wanted to know what happened to the little boy, and that wasn't satisfying either. B-/C+.


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
The Love Language is back in town after some massive cross-country touring, and their welcome home show at New King's pretty much rocked my proverbial socks off. The audience was practically genuflecting to their awesomeness, and I am not even making that up or exaggerating. Also, there were lots of kids with glow sticks. C and K and I danced the night away; I especially enjoyed the string section (I actually had to move a little to avoid being whacked in the face by one of the cello player's bows) and their contribution to an especially earnest Smashing Pumpkins cover.

Still, it's the original numbers that rocked the hardest. Oh, Love Language, I love you!

ETA: Video of the aforementioned cover, via the Merge Blog.

Monday, October 18, 2010

2010 book 249

Sara Shepard's The Lying Game
I read an article recently about novels not really getting technology right--no one texts, or checks Facebook compulsively, or is always on an iPhone. And that kind of currency/modern ethos is something Shepard has always done really well. Shepard--author of the Pretty Little Liars series, which is now one of my favorite guilty pleasure tv shows, as well as the excellent adult novel The Visibles--here starts a new YA series much in the vein of PLLs--ie, lots of rich bitchy girls, drama, and mysteries unfolding. With plenty of iPhone and Youtube references. Our story is narrated by a ghost who isn't sure how she died, but suddenly she's with a girl who looks just like her. Of course they're twins separated at birth, and the living twin of course ends up taking the dead one's place and must figure out what happened to her sister. Everyone is a suspect! Anyway, things are fairly exciting and the twins are interesting enough, but it does feel a bit like a retread of Pretty Little Liars. Still, if you're missing the fun of those books, this is one to check out.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Tonight some friends and I went to the State Fair and it was awesome! Here are the things I ate: roasted corn, onion blossom, deep fried oreos, cheese fries, apple fries, and a fried pickle. And samples of fudge (I brought home Cheerwine flavor!).

Things my (non-vegetarian) friends ate: all of the above, plus fried Frito pie (apparently delicious), some sort of steak and cheese sandwich, and of course, the Krispy Kreme bacon cheeseburger (also apparently delicious).

We also saw the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who I'd never really paid attention to before, but who were AMAZING live, full of energy and old-timey awesomeness, playing guitars and banjos and fiddles and kazoos and bones and harmonicas and jugs and probably some other things I'm forgetting.

My camera died as I was taking pictures of cute prize-winning animals (I almost cried when a stately and massive prize-winning steer--one of the meat ones--started lowing) so no piles of piglets or ducklings to show off, unfortunately. Or one of the goat eating the sign announcing which meat company had purchased it.

Anyway, it was totally a great night, and we even caught the massive fireworks show at the end--fun to see families out in the streets nearby watching them too.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

2010 book 248

Lauren Oliver's Delirium
Oliver--author of the beautiful Before I Fall--has written part one of what is presumably another YA dystopian trilogy. But of course, it's Oliver, and it's wonderful. This one has a somewhat Uglies-esque premise (but with a much more sympathetic protagonist), where when kids turn 18, they undergo a procedure known as the cure. See, in this near future, love is seen as a disease, and scientists have discovered a cure. Lena starts out just wanting to be normal--which is hard for her, as the cure never worked for her mother and she ended up committing suicide, leaving Lena and her sister in the care of an aunt--but soon encounters the power of love (I imagine the power of love is even more powerful and heady if you're a teenager who's been sheltered from it) and wonders if the cure maybe isn't the greatest idea after all. Lena's dawning awareness is believable and she and her best friend are especially likable characters; her love interest is a bit more mysterious but that works in the context of the book. I was riveted to this book up till the unexpected and very exciting ending, and can't wait for the sequel. It comes out in January, so definitely check it out, and read Before I Fall if you haven't already. A/A-.

(An e-review copy was provided by the publisher.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

2010 book 247

Nicole Krauss' Great House
Krauss' History of Love is one of those amazing books that's hard to follow up, which maybe is why it took like five years for this one to come out. But this one manages to build on that a bit. It's the story of a desk, or really the stories of the people who are connected by a desk. Things start with a writer in New York who was given the desk by a Chilean poet who was later tortured and killed; twenty-some years later, his daughter comes to reclaim it. And then the other stories start to come in, bouncing from New York to England to Israel. I think I was most affected by the elderly man whose author wife (a different author than the first one) has just died, leaving behind a secret. I was less enamored of the Israeli man narrating his emotional distress to his estranged son after his own wife's death (some of these narrators were a bit too rambly for me, and this was the worst of those). And there are others as well, all tying together the themes of love and loss and memory. I'm not sure I loved this book as much as History of Love, but it's a big achievement from a literary perspective, and justifiably nominated for the National Book Award. A/A-.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

2010 book 246

Rick Riordan's The Lost Hero
I've been somewhat embarrassingly eagerly awaiting the first in the Percy Jackson companion series, about a new group of heroes at camp a few years after the events of the PJ books. And this didn't disappoint--the new characters are interesting (Jason, a son of Zeus who's had his memories stolen, Piper, a badass daughter of Aphrodite, and Leo, a fire-powered son of Hephaestus) and we see the action from all three points of view, which makes things more quickly. I do think it's funny that pretty much every fantasy series has a main male character, a capable female who's usually a love interest, and a usually funny secondary male character--it is a bit of a rehashing of the original books. But the new villains are pretty compelling and I like where the series is going, mythology-wise. These books are actually fairly educational, but ssshh, don't tell the kids who like them. :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

2010 book 245

Katherine Langrish's The Shadow Hunt
Diverting enough story wherein a boy running away from becoming a monk encounters a mysterious girl, catches her for a local lord, befriends the lord's daughter, and helps the daughter to tame the girl and, oh yeah, try to avoid her upcoming nuptials. And there are some elves, too. B+/B.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

2010 book 244

Mark Mustian's The Gendarme
This book was an IndieBound pick so I checked it out from the library, but just didn't care enough to read it. I mean, it's by some lawyer from Tallahassee. Then it got a fairly good review in the NYT and I picked it back out of my library stack.

But, dudes? This book is terrible. I agree with the NYT that the writing is stiff, but it's not the writing that's the problem, it's the completely ridiculous and unbelievable story. We start with a 92-year-old man who grew up in Turkey but lost all his memories after an injury in WWI, and married an American nurse and moved here and blah. Now he has a brain tumor and is having crazy dreams--which, conveniently enough for the reader, appear sequentially and are full of detail--where he was one of the Turkish guards during the Armenian genocide.

Now here's a big problem I have with this book--for a story that is ostensibly about the Armenian genocide, it barely covers the actual genocide. There's a couple brief chapters covering the deportations/marches of the Armenians to Syria, but then it's all about the guard being obsessed with this girl, trying and failing to rape her (because he can't get it up, not because he feels bad), shooting guys in front of her, going to work in a Syrian brothel while courting her--and we're supposed to believe that she would reciprocate his (completely ridiculous and unbelievable) feelings? Not to mention that the end of the story kind of negates the whole Armenian genocide thing. If I was an Armenian, I'd be really pissed about this book.

Much of the story takes place in an institution where the old guy is committed after having a bunch of seizures; these passages are boring too, and present a bunch of entirely irrelevant characters to spout pithy and/or profound sentiments. His relatives are also stock characters who don't add any depth to the story. Basically I hated everything about this book and found it offensive on several levels, and have no idea why people are so excited about it. F.

Friday, October 08, 2010

2010 book 243

Tom Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
A literary sort-of-mystery set in Mississippi, this book manages to tie together friendships, romances, small-town drama, race relations and murders. Back in their youth, local constable Silas Jones (who's black) was friends with "Scary" Larry Ott (who's white), but all that ended when Larry when on a date with a local girl who never made it home. It's decades later and another girl has disappeared, and Larry is the prime suspect. The reader knows early on what actually happened, and the fun is in watching the revelations unfold for the characters. A-.


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
I have a very handsome cat.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

2010 book 242

Morris Gleitzman's Once
Once is the first of a YA trilogy about the Holocaust (all three books are out in Australia and the UK--this one is the only one out here so far), centering on a boy named Felix. It's Poland 1942, and three years ago his parents brought him to a Catholic orphanage to try and bring him to safety. Only, Felix is ridiculously naive (well, he is only nine) and doesn't understand what's happening to the Jews--he thinks the Nazis are after books and booksellers--and runs away to find his parents. Things don't really go well for him, as you might expect, though his imagination and storytelling help sustain him. So far this story isn't at the emotional level of, say, Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, but it is only volume one, and I think it's aimed at a slightly younger audience.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

2010 book 241

Tricia Springstubb's What Happened on Fox Street
HarperCollins was pimping this fairly heavily at ALA, but unfortunately it's one of those MG books that isn't meaty enough to sustain adult interest. It's not bad--it's a story about a girl coping with all sorts of changes in her world over one summer--but it just wasn't for grown-up me.

Monday, October 04, 2010

2010 book 240

Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn
Sometimes your plans to go see an awesome concert fall through and so you decide to reread a book that you know will entertain you. And this one always does.

Did you know there's a comic book version coming out right now? There is, and it's pretty good.

ladies comic project

This is a very cool idea and maybe one I want to emulate! And I too loved the cover of I Zombie #5--seriously, ask anyone who bought it the week it came out, or my boss, because I talked about it to everyone. Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading parts 2 and 3 of this series.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

2010 book 239

David Grossman's To the End of the Land
It's taken me a while to get through this book, both because of the length and because it's not easy reading. Grossman--who is one of my favorite Israeli authors (ok, one of my favorite authors, period)--started working on this book when his older son was in the army, and was still working on it when his younger son was killed two weeks before his discharge. Which makes the whole thing completely heartbreaking. At its heart is a love triangle, between Ora and Avram and Ilan, who meet as teenagers in a hospital in 1967--and then we shoot to 2000, when Ora as an adult is recently separated from Ilan, and her second son--Avram's son--has just extended his stay in the military. She forces the troubled and damaged Avram on a bizarre hiking trip, where she tells him the story of her family in an effort to protect their son. Part of this are slow--I really could have done without an extended sequence involving the dangers of bus rides toward the end--but in general, it's an excellent portrait of a family dealing with war, and an especially thought-provoking glimpse into Israeli society. It's a good enough novel to have merited the front page review in the NYT Book Review two weeks ago, so I'm not the only one affected by this. And knowing Grossman's son didn't survive, and he felt all these things waiting, adds an overlay of emotion to a story that didn't really need any assistance. A.