Monday, November 29, 2010

2010 book 277

Jessica Anya Blau's Drinking Closer to Home
After their mother has a severe heart attack, three adult siblings fly home to California while she's in the hospital. And family secrets come out, as they are wont to do. Blau flashes back to their childhood chronologically, which made everything flow really well, and made the contrasts between the rebellious teenagers and their adult selves much stronger. I thoroughly enjoyed all of these characters--energetic former cop Anna, passive middle daughter Portia, and gay animator Emery were all vividly drawn and I couldn't possibly pick a favorite--and their story. Things may have wrapped up a bit neatly but sometimes that's preferable to a messy ending. I will note that there were, weirdly, three minor characters named Lucy and two named Roy, but this was an uncorrected proof and that may be taken care of by the time it comes out in January. Even if it isn't, I highly recommend this--I love teasing, funny, slightly dysfunctional family stories. A.

(An e-galley was provided by the publisher.)

Scruples book discussion!

Leave your comments in the comments!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

2010 book 276

J.K Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I have often said that this is my least favorite of the HP books, but I have really found a lot to enjoy--especially regarding Neville, Hermione, and the two awesome new characters, Luna and Tonks--on my past few re-readings.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

2010 book 275

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I inevitably forget something when I travel, and this time I forgot the charger for my Kindle. In effort to preserve the battery for the next few days, I borrowed my mom's copy of GOF and continued my Harry Potter kick. I know I have read--and blogged about--these books a thousand times, so this time I will jsut say that I get really annoyed when I read articles proclaiming that Hermione isn't a major (and awesome) character in the series. In this book especially, Hermione shines. She's smart, passionate, kind, competent--really, Harry wouldn't get anywhere without her help. Obviously I'm biased in favor of the daughter of dentists, but I have always especially enjoyed her character. In conclusion, suck it, haters!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

2010 book 274

Charles Elton's Mr. Toppit
If you're a fan of the comic book Unwritten (like I am), the basic premise of this story will feel a bit familiar: a young man whose father wrote a best-selling series of kids' books with him as the main character struggles to deal with his fame. Only Unwritten, of course, takes a turn for the magical, whereas this story is very much grounded in reality. Our protagonist is Luke Hayman, known to fans of his father as Luke Hayseed, and he's coming of age in weird times. His father died tragically before the books become famous, and all of that is tied in with a bizarre American radio personality who happened to encounter Luke's father just before he died. Meanwhile, Luke's older sister has been left out of the stories entirely, and is currently in yet another rehab facility. The story of how these books became famous, and how the children deal with everything, is surprisingly moving (though I was less interested in the parts about the crass American) and I highly recommend this. A/A-.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

2010 book 273

Adam Gidwitz's A Tale Dark and Grimm
In this retelling of some of the Grimm stories, Hansel and Gretel become our protagonists and all the other stories are woven into their own. Meanwhile, an unnamed narrator keeps warning the readers away from the stories if they don't think they can handle it (these interjections waver between funny and a little too much, but it's aimed at middle-graders and I think would work well for that age group). Anyway, Gidwitz does a good job of reworking these stories in an entertaining way, and Hansel and Gretel (mostly the latter) are likable and interesting characters. To sum up: a fun read. A-.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2010 book 272

Mary Glickman's Home in the Morning
Glickman's novel focuses on a young Jewish boy growing up in Mississippi in the 60s, and his friendships with a young African-American boy and girl, and later his relationship with his wife and her relationships with his childhood friends. Things go back and forth in time to try to add a little tension, but the dramatic events aren't that dramatic really. But the focus here is really sort of on the Southern Jewish experience during civil rights and a little bit about the black experience. The characters are all interesting but the ending was a little flat (or maybe I was just hoping for some justice, dangit). B+.

2010 book 271

Judith Krantz's Scruples
Don't forget, we're discussing this here on Monday!!

Monday, November 22, 2010


Sorry for the lack of posting. I've been trying to make my way through Scruples as well as the Walking Dead books and haven't managed to finish a book in days! So here, have some links:

A new, Joss Whedon-less Buffy movie? Huh.

I can't wait for the Community Christmas episode!

How to dress like a Mad Man.

You can give Kindle books as gifts now! Hint hint!

The NYT graphic novel gift guide has some really good books (Scott Pilgrim, the Outfit) and some terrible ones (The Night Bookmobile, Superman: Earth One).

Are we running out of chocolate???? NOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2010 book 270

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
I think after this one I'll take a short break from Harry Potter--I promised my friends I wouldn't reread Deathly Hallows before seeing the movie. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2010 book 269

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Look, there are not a lot of books being published this time of year, so don't you judge me for relishing the awesomeness of Harry Potter.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

2010 book 268

Cynthia Ozick's Foreign Bodies
I don't even know what to say about this book. I tend to like Ozick--her last couple of novels were especially good--but this book was just excruciating to read. It's apparently a reworking of a Henry James novel (I tried to read that one but god was it dull) and manages to be as stilted and slow as a James novel, even though it's mostly set in Paris in the 1950s and is way shorter than the source material. The writing was just not working for me at all--the long letters, the ridiculousness of the characters' actions, the complete lack of any kind of character development or story. Ugh. I really, really hated everything about this book, and that makes me sad.

2010 book 267

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Because the first part of the Deathly Hallows movie opens this weekend, there have been tons of articles about the Harry Potter universe, so of course they made me want to reread the series again! One of the things that struck me this time around was the opening scene--showing that there was this incredible, strange, magical world living alongside our own mundane one, full of desks and drills and bills. Right from the start, we're sucked into the story.

Now back to watching the HP movies on ABC Family. :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

scruples book discussion date

OK, so the discussion for Scruples will start here on the Monday after Thanksgiving (November 29th)--stock up on your copies now! Or steal them from your moms over the holiday. :)

2010 book 266

Daisy Whitney's The Mockingbirds
When a teenage girl at a boarding school is date-raped, she appeals to a society of students--the Mockingbirds--who dispense justice to the student body. This novel manages to straddle the line between overly preachy/educational about the issue and being just a solid story. The main character is particularly well done (an author's note at the end reveals that Whitney was date-raped, so of course she nails the emotions), as are her friends and the boarding school environment in general. I was really wrapped up in finding out the outcome of the case, so even if things seems to wrap up too neatly, I'm not going to complain about it. A-.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2010 book 265

Kate Morton's The Distant Hours
I absolutely loved Morton's two previous novels--she does these great things with uncovering old secrets of the past--and have been eagerly awaiting her latest. The action starts when Edie's mother receives a letter lost since 1941 and breaks down in tears. This leads Edie to an old castle with three elderly sisters--the younger one wrote the letter 50 years ago--as we try and piece together what happened on a fateful night during WWII. Unfortunately, this novel moves at a snail's pace. Things pick up slightly during the second half--I especially liked the explorations of how one's dreams can fall beside the wayside--but the mysteries and their resolutions didn't match Morton's earlier works, and the protagonist is alarmingly and annoyingly stupid at times. B/B-.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

magic kids!

Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Tonight Christina and I went to see Magic Kids, b/c seriously, that album is so in my top ten this year! It was a super-fun, though poorly attended, show. We also hit up Carrburrito's and Bowbarr beforehand with K and F (I highly recommend the Pom Collins, which tastes like a pomegranate limeade, and is thus my ideal drink). Hooray for awesome nights!

Ps. Sorry for the crappy picture--I forgot to unplug the battery for my camera from the charger. :(

Monday, November 08, 2010

2010 book 264

Daphne Uviller's Super in the City
Zephyr Zuckerman (come on, that has to be one of the best fictional names EVER) is 27 and feeling a bit aimless about her life's path--her hilarious four best friends are all very accomplished--when the super of the building her family owns is arrested and her parents insist she take the job. Things start to seem a little more than she can handle, plus this cute exterminator keeps hanging around. I found this book while trying to find things that were even a little similar to Lisa Lutz's Spellmans series, and though this isn't really a mystery (I couldn't actually tell whether or not it was supposed to be, but that isn't really important), it totally nails the light humor, excitement, and relationships the way Lutz does. Recommended especially to Christina and my mom. :) A/A-.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

2010 book 263

Polly Shulman's The Grimm Legacy
Fun, mostly light story about a girl who gets an after-school job at the New York Circulating Material Repository, a library that circulates objects instead of books--and which has several very special collections, including some of the magical objects from the Grimm brothers' stories. Being a girl with two not-great stepsisters and a good heart, she of course has adventures, finds friends, and maybe even has a little romance. I genuinely liked all the characters and didn't find it too hard to suspend my feelings of "just get help from a grownup already!" and the interactions with fairy tale items were very entertaining indeed. A.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

2010 book 262

Hannah Tinti's The Good Thief
This was one of my favorites of 2008, but I didn't remember the end at all and figured I'd reread it. It started off more slowly and grimly than I remembered, but the subsequent twists made me remember why I loved it the first time around.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

2010 book 261

N.K. Jemisin's The Broken Kingdoms
Often the second book in a trilogy suffers badly from middle chapter syndrome--not much actually happens, as the author puts the pieces into place for the grand finale. Jemisin, however, takes a more world-building approach: instead of picking up exactly where she left off with the first book, this story takes place ten years later and has an entirely new protagonist. Of course we encounter the characters from the previous book and those situations are alluded to, but the heart of this book is a brand new story. So we have the blind magically gifted artist Oree, who encounters an angry old god trapped in mortal form. Meanwhile, someone or something is killing the minor gods, and she--along with her former lover--gets sucked into various dangers trying to stop it. I think I actually liked this more than the first one--the stakes are a little lower, so the characters are more relatable (Oree is especially likable and interesting), and I liked the explorations of magic and history. Jemisin is a super new talent in fantasy and if you like gods and romance and adventure and danger, you should check her books out. A.

aunt alicia

So hey, by the way, I am totally an aunt now (as of 3:53 am)! Look at this adorable little munchkin!! Congrats to Phil and Trish, and I can't wait to meet this little peanut! Now bask in his cuteness.

best books of 2010?

The best books lists have started rolling in--which is unfair, b/c there are a lot of cool-looking books coming out in the next two months, which are still 2010 by the way, and that's why I post my list in very late December--and here's Amazon's top 100 of 2010. I've read like a quarter of these--they have a lot of non-fiction picks, and some really weird fiction ones (like the latest Sookie Stackhouse book--is that really a literary tour de force? Those books are terrible--not to say that I don't enjoy them, because I did like the first 6 or 7). I was pleased to see two of my favorite comic book-related books of the year make the cut--Batwoman: Elegy and The Art of Jaime Hernandez. Those will be on my best of the year list: comic book division for sure.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

2010 book 260

Gregory Hughes' Unhooking the Moon
This book recently won something called the Booktrust Teenage Prize, which I guess is for like really awesome YA in the UK. Anyway, it's about two kids--twelve year old Bob, who has a crush on his student teacher, and his ten year old sister the Rat, who is amazingly charming and eccentric. When their father dies, they're left as orphans, and they run away from Winnipeg to New York to find their uncle, but all they know is his name and that he's a drug dealer. Events that should be completely unbelievable somehow aren't, because the children are so likable and sweet. Things do take a dark turn toward the end, but on the whole I found this story to be really engaging. A/A-.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

2010 book 259

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale
I've seen this book referenced in a few election-related articles, which made me realize I hadn't read it in years and only vaguely remembered it the central conceit of women being forced to serve as "handmaids" a la the Torah and bear children. I'd forgotten all the rest though--that women had no rights of any kind, older women were basically useless to society, all the other weird religious rules, Jews being dumped in the ocean, etc. This was maybe not a great choice of a read on this depressing election night.

Monday, November 01, 2010

2010 book 258

Thaisa Frank's Heidegger's Glasses
Lovers--and secret members of the Resistance--Elie and Gerhardt supervise a group of Jews living in a weird underground compound and, on bizarre Nazi orders, answering letters from dead people. It's a relatively safe haven from the Holocaust until they receive orders from Goebbels to answer a letter writing by Martin Heidegger to his philosopher/optometrist friend, who has been sent to Auschwitz. This task sets a chain of events into motion that may lead to danger for all of them.

OK, so this is kind of a weird concept if you think about it, but I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen to all the characters. A-.