Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 book 312

Siobhan Vivian's Not That Kind of Girl
This is about what happens when a total type-A high school senior--the student council president type--wants to raise the consciousness of freshman girls who are deliberately dressing like sluts, and also a boy maybe likes her, and her best friend maybe wants to start having a little fun. Occasionally I wanted to give the protagonist a shake and scream "relax a little!!!!" I don't think any of the girls I knew in high school were THAT uptight. Fun read anyway. B/B+.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 book 311

Melina Marchetta's Saving Francesca
Marchetta is one of my favorite discoveries of this year--all of her books are just completely satisfying reads. In this one, teenager Francesca is dealing with starting at a new school that has only just gone co-ed, and meanwhile, her mother has stopped getting out of bed. Making new friends, crushing on a boy, and trying to save her mother make for a stressful school year and for a great read. A.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 book 310

Matt Haig's The Radleys
The Radleys are your typical small-town-England family--father a doctor, mother an artist, two angsty teenage children. Only they're not a typical family at all--they're secretly vampires who abstain from drinking blood, and the kids don't know. Things come to a head when daughter Clara is attacked after a party, and overcome by bloodlust, kills her assailant. Dad Peter calls in his brother, a practicing vampire, for help dealing with the mess, which raises a whole new set of problems. Even the minor characters are interesting here, and I liked this more lighthearted take on a vampire story. Very fun read. A.

2010 book 309

E. Lockhart's Real Live Boyfriends
The fourth (and I believe final) Ruby Oliver book is just as enjoyable as the first three, and though some drama felt a little manufactured at first, it all came together in the end. Not much else to say about it--A-.

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 book 308

Scott Spencer's Man in the Woods
Michael T. dropped this off for me tonight, and I was curious about it, since it's made a bunch of best-of-the-year lists. But then I remembered why I hadn't read it yet--part of the plot hinges on a dog being beaten, and you all know I can't stand stories where bad things happen to animals. For the most part, the characters and story made reading this worthwhile--it's about a fancy carpenter named Paul and his girlfriend Kate, who's written a bestseller about getting sober and finding God, and her somewhat troubled daughter Ruby, and their family and friends and neighbors. And it's about what happens after Paul attacks a man who's beating his dog. I felt almost nervous while reading this book--Spencer does a good job building Paul's tension and fear--but in the end I did think the murder subplot wrapped up in a fairly unbelievable manner and some other plot points weren't really resolved. The atmosphere is pretty stellar though. I guess that works out to a B.

2010 book 307

Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall
This was one of my favorites of 2010 (see the entry below if you don't believe me) and totally holds up to rereading. Oliver is currently writing a YA dystopian trilogy, and I can't fault her for that (and I liked the first one), but I wish she'd write another one like this. The story of a bitchy, popular high school girl reliving the day of her death could just be a teeny-bopper Groundhog's Day, but Oliver makes it much more powerful and special. Yet another book that makes me weep, but sometimes that's what you want in a book.

best books of 2010!

I read a lot of really awesome books this year, in a variety of genres. Well, I read a lot of books in general, but many were awesome. This list reflects a wide variety of books--literary fiction, YA (fantasy and otherwise), mysteries, even a choose-your-own-adventure. Because I read so many books, narrowing it down to ten was impossible. I narrowed it down to a top 25.

And now, without further ado, my favorite books of 2010!

Sarah Addison Allen's The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Chelsea Campbell's The Rise of Renegade X
Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay*
Emma Donaghue's Room
Heidi Durrow's The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
Louise Erdrich's Shadow Tag
Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad
Julia Glass' Widower's Tale
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's 36 Arguments for the Existence of God
Gail Godwin's Unfinished Desires
David Grossman's To the End of the Land
N.K. Jemesin's The Broken Kingdoms
Nina LaCour's Hold Still
Lisa Lutz's The Spellmans Strike Again
Melina Marchetta's Finnikin of the Rock
Wendy Mass' The Candymakers
Heather McElhatton's Million Little Mistakes
Paul Murray's Skippy Dies
Pete Nelson's I Thought You Were Dead
Maggie O'Farrell's The Hand that First Held Mine
Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall
Julie Orringer's The Invisible Bridge
Scarlett Thomas' Our Tragic Universe
Ayelet Waldman's Red Hook Road
MaryRose Wood's The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling

*I know a lot of people weren't into the third Hunger Games book, but I really liked it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 book 306

Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me
I think this was my third or fourth time reading this book, and I still spent the last third of it crying, b/c it's just that good. Here are my initial comments on it.

2010 book 305

Stephanie Perkins' Anna and the French Kiss
In this cute and fluffy YA book, a teenage girl's bestseller author father decides to send her to boarding school in France, where she miraculously makes friends easily and of course falls for the cutest boy in class--who has a girlfriend, but seems to like her too. Which is pretty much all that happens, and I found the end to be a bit silly, but I'm sure I'd have eaten it up when I was a teenager. Interestingly, this is one of those books where the protagonist is never described in detail--except that she has a bleached streak in her hair--which according to common wisdom is so every girl reader can feel like she's the character, or something. And I actually have had bleach streaks in my hair at several points in the past, but this character wasn't one I particularly related to. Anyway, yeah, cute and fluffy. B/B+.

2010 book 304

Lisa Lutz's The Spellmans Strike Again
Now that I know Lutz is working on a fifth Spellman book, I do wonder how she'll match the awesomeness of this one. This is easily my favorite of the series--but of course, it couldn't be as great as it is without the buildup of the previous three. Ms Lutz, thank you for inventing such fun characters for our enjoyment.


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Snow day! Here is a view of the famous traffic circle, whose festive winter decoration is completely obscured by snow. There are several inches out there and I enjoyed tromping around in it. Thanks again to Mom and Dad for buying me winter boots!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

2010 book 303

Lisa Lutz's Revenge of the Spellmans
Yeah, I'm rereading this whole series. I love these books.

2010 book 302

Lisa Lutz's Curse of the Spellmans
Holiday time is light reading time! I've said before that the mystery in this one annoys me a bit, but the Henry/Rae/Isabel interactions--and all the discussions of Doctor Who--still make it worth a reread.

Friday, December 24, 2010

2010 book 301

E. Lockhart's The Treasure Map of Boys
The third Ruby Oliver book is just as sweetly satisfying as the other two, with more friend and boy drama. Sadly, I have to wait to read the fourth, since it doesn't come out till Tuesday. A.

2010 book 300!!!!!!!

E. Lockhart's The Boy Book
Ruby Oliver's junior year is just as entertaining as her sophomore year--though the excerpts from a notebook Ruby and her former best friend kept (the titular Boy Book) didn't really entertain me. Of course, I'm a grownup, not a fourteen year old girl, so I'm not really the target audience here anyway. B.

300 books!! And more to come! Who wants to guess what the final number will be?

2010 book 299

E. Lockhart's The Boyfriend List
Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks was one of my favorites of 2008, so I figured I'd give her other YA series a try. These books focus on Ruby Oliver, a high school sophomore dealing with all sorts of teen drama after her first real boyfriend breaks up with her. Very likable character and I'm off to read the sequel now.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 book 298

Mira Grant's Feed
I've been putting off reading this for a while, even though Grant is an author I like (she writes the Rosemary and Rue books under her real name, Seanan McGuire) because it's a zombie book and I'm not really into horror. But the thing I'm discovering about zombie books (including The Walking Dead comics) is that really they're postapocalyptic dystopias that happen to feature zombies occasionally, and I do like my postapocalyptic dystopias. Anyway, in this one, it's 2039 and the zombie outbreak happened like 25 years ago; our protagonists are a brother-sister team of blogger/journalists who get tapped to cover a presidential campaign. Only the zombies aren't the only menace out there . . . DUN DUN DUN! Great characters and a riveting story, though some of it is a bit far-fetched (I mean, as far-fetched as anything can be in a zombie book) and the tech is really not different from what we have today, which is a minor weakness in such a tech-heavy story. Also, who calls smartphones PDAS anymore? Will we really be calling them that in 30 years? OK, that's just quibbling. I liked it! Two books to go!! B+.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 book 297

Jenny Han's It's Not Summer Without You
This one picks up a year after the other one, and it's the first summer ever Belly isn't at the summer house. She's dealing with multiple kinds of heartbreak when she gets called to help save the day. I liked that part of the narrative duties were taken over by the younger brother, and I liked the ending (except for the very brief and mysterious epilogue that presumably implies a sequel). B+.

2010 book 296

Jenny Han's The Summer I Turned Pretty
The title of this book was a turn-off, but I was in the mood for some realistic YA and this has gotten good reviews. It's about almost-16-year-old Belly (Isabel), who spends every summer with her mom, older brother and their mom's best friend and her two sons. The book flashes back and forth in time, chronicling Belly's crush on the older of the two boys, and the climactic summer when she turns 16. Han pretty well nails the dynamics of both sibling relationships and crushes, and I'm going to read the sequel next. A-.

Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 book 295

Isobelle Carmody's The Winter Door
It's a few months after the events of The Night Gate, and Rage Winnoway is dealing with the aftermath of her adventures. Meanwhile, her mother is still in the hospital, there are some jerks at school, and winter seems like it will never end. That's when she starts traveling to the magical world of Valley in her dreams, to try and help solve a new crisis there. And it's just as satisfying as the first one. Rage and Billy Thunder are totally lovable characters. The only problem with liking these books so much is that they're the first two of a trilogy, and the third one hasn't come out, even though this one came out in 2003. Sigh. A.

best comics of 2010

OK, here it is--my long-awaited best comics/graphic novels list!

In no particular order:

Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams--this collection of the Batwoman run on Detective Comics (mentioned on last year's list) totally blew my mind. You know I don't read a huge amount of superhero stuff, but the art was so great that I checked it out--and the story completely sucked me in. Batwoman's own book starts for real in February and I can't wait.

Beasts of Burden--Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson are both great, but somehow this is like the best thing EVER. C'mon, cute doggies and a cat fighting the paranormal?? You have to love it. It won a bunch of awards for the art, which is incredible. The book contains all the short stories from various Dark Horse books and the miniseries that ran last year--and in a very affordable package, too.

Hereville by Barry Deutsch--a little Orthodox Jewish girl wants to find a sword so she can fight trolls? Yeah, count me in! I thought the ending was going to go one way, but what it did instead made me go "YES!"

Castle Waiting vol 2 by Linda Medley--OK, this doesn't really have an ending (I gather there is conflict b/w Medley and Fantagraphics) but Castle Waiting is a great look at . . . I don't know, the lighter side of fairy tales? It's very character based and I really hope Medley continues it in some form, since I've been dying to know Jain's backstory for like 10 years now.

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden--I still have no idea why Vertigo published this, but I'm glad they did. Glidden's memoir of her Birthright Israel trip and her own growing understanding of Middle East politics make for a riveting read, and her watercolored art is just great too.

Scott Pilgrim vol 6 by Bryan Lee O'Malley--of course this is on my list!!!

Love and Rockets vol 3--Jaime Hernandez's stories in this are his best work ever, and since he's one of my top-two all-time-favorite comics dudes, that is saying a lot. Also check out The Art of Jaime Hernandez, which is part bio, part comics retrospective, and ALL awesome.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier--This gave me serious flashbacks to my own dental dramas.

Hopeless Savages Greatest Hits--this big book collects the whole awesome series--where I first got into Bryan Lee O'Malley's art--and some short pieces that I'd never seen.

Plus there were so many good ongoing things that I'm in love with--Unwritten (first two volumes are out!), iZombie, Locke and Key (first three volumes are out!), 20th Century Boys, Fables, Criminal/Incognito, and Chi's Sweet Home (cutest cat-related manga ever, and one of my favorite discoveries of 2010).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2010 book 294

Isabelle Carmody's The Night Gate
I enjoyed Alyzon Whitestarr so much that I decided to try another book by Carmody--this is apparently the first of a trilogy, and involves a young girl whose mother is in a coma, and she hasn't been allowed to visit. So she runs off with her four dogs and a goat tagging along, but on her way to the hospital, she find a mysterious gateway where a voice tells her she can wake her mother if she goes through. This leads her to a strange, dying land, where she and her companions--who have become mostly-human--go on a quest to find the wizard who created the land, who can perhaps save her mother. There are some nice twists and turns along the way, and I loved her doggy-human hybrid friends. A-.

Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 book 293

Caroline Leavitt's Pictures of You
I'm pretty sure the release date for this isn't till January, but for some reason it's for sale on Amazon right now, so of course I grabbed a copy for my Kindle. :) The awesome folks at Algonquin have been pretty excited about this one and I was eager to read it. It's sort of about the aftermath of a bad car accident and how that impacts three people--if I explained the plot more thoroughly you'd be like, what?, but Leavitt somehow makes everything work while breaking your heart a little. I especially liked the character of Isabelle Stein, a photographer leaving her husband, who later gets one of the best pets of literature ever. An excellent read. A/A-.

2010 book 292

Isobelle Carmody's Alyzon Whitestarr
Aside from having to get past a heroine with a somewhat silly-sounding name, this book was fantastic. Seriously, there is some good YA coming out of Australia right now. Anyway, after Alyzon is in an accident, her senses are suddenly hyper-activated, and she can especially smell people's essences and emotions. Her musician father smells of coffee and caramel--but ammonia when he's worried about money. And the boy she had a crush on smells horribly rotten--what can it mean? The aftermath of her injury leads Alyzon to uncover some pretty disturbing things, but also brings new friends and hope--can the latter combat the former? I classify this as fantasy because of the somewhat fantastic elements, but it's grounded in a dark and compelling reality. A.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

2010 book 291

Lisa Lutz's The Spellman Files
I'll stop rereading the Spellman books all the time when someone else writes such a fun, character-based mystery series. Till then, I can look forward to a new Lutz book in April and a new Spellman book in 2012!

Anyway, it was a snow day, and you HAVE to reread your favorite fun books on snow days.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2010 book 290

10 books to go!!

Robert Paul Weston's Dust City
Very fun book set in a more modern fairy tale world where fairies have disappeared. Our protagonist, Henry Whelp, the son of the Big Bad Wolf (who's in jail for killing Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother) is in a juvenile detention center where his best friend is Jack. When they break out, Henry starts to uncover the dark secrets behind what happened to the fairies, as well as perhaps finding romance with another cute young wolf. I really liked this a lot. A/A-.

Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 book 289

Charles de Lint's The Painted Boy
De Lint is one of those writers I've always meant to read but never got around to, but he had a book come out this year that got some positive attention so I figured now was the time. Anyway, this is a fantasy set in the modern world, where there are people who are animal/spirit kinds of things. Chinese-American teenager Jay comes from a line of dragons and is marked with a dragon, and somehow ends up in the Arizona desert, making friends and figuring out his place in the world. Though things are slightly more action-packed than I'm making it sound. I will say, at first I felt weird reading a book by a white Canadian dude with predominantly Mexican characters set in "the barrio" and using all sorts of Mexican/gang-related slang, but eventually I got caught up in the story enough to get past that. Now I'm thinking I'll check out more of de Lint's stuff. B+.

2010 book 288

Linda Schlossberg's Life in Miniature
As their mother slowly gets crazier, life gets much more complicated for middle-schooler Adie and her teenage sister Miriam. Plus it's 1982 and feathering your hair is hard. But mostly their problems are because of their mother. I found the characters interesting enough, but the ending didn't work all that well for me. B/B+.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2010 book 287

Sarah Beth Durst's Ice
Durst writes magical stories set in the modern world (another new one of hers, Enchanted Ivy, set at Princeton, is getting a fair amount of buzz. She also wrote Into the Wild, which I mostly liked). This one involved a fairy tale I'm not familiar with called "East of the Sun, West of the Moon"--something about a polar bear king and trolls and whatnot, with shades of Beauty and the Beast. Anyway, 18-year-old Cassie has grown up in the Arctic with her scientist father, and with her grandmother telling the story of the daughter of the North Wind, who has a whole fairy tale story that ends with her trapped by the troll queen. But then Cassie finds out the story is true, and she's betrothed to the polar bear king. The plotting and dialogue are well done here, but Durst does a bit too much of telling, not showing, especially regarding Cassie's growing fondness for the bear. Still, Cassie's quest is entertaining, and this was a nice light read after The Raising. B+.

2010 book 286

Laura Kasischke's The Raising
A year ago, beautiful angelic college sophomore Nicole Werner died in a car accident, and this story focuses on a few people affected by that accident--her boyfriend, Craig, who was driving; his roommate and her childhood friend Perry; Shelly, the woman who was first on the scene of the accident, and who knows the accounts of what happened are totally inaccurate; and Mira, a professor with a troubled marriage who teaches a seminar on Death mythology that Perry decides to take. Of course, things are never that simple, and what seems like a fairly standard take on college life and grieving quickly takes a very creepy turn (comparisons to Donna Tartt are somewhat apt). The truth is not too hard to figure out, and I will admit that the conclusion is far-fetched, but that doesn't make things any less creepy or disturbing. Very enjoyable read, especially on a dark, cold winter night. A-.

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

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

best music of 2010!

I don't think I'm going to be buying any more new CDs this year, so here are my top ten releases of 2010 in alphabetical order!

Janelle Monae--The ArchAndroid
Love Language--Libraries
Magic Kids--Memphis
Mates of State--Crushes
Rabbit--Connect the Dots
Scott Pilgrim Soundtrack!
Sleigh Bells--Treats
Superchunk--Digging for Something
Teenage Fanclub--Shadows

I also enjoyed songs this year by Tennis, Best Coast, Wavves, Broken Bells, Bird and the Bee doing Hall and Oates, Radio Dept., The Salteens, Lissie, and a whole bunch of others. It was a fun year for music and I can't wait for 2011!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

200 book 285

Michele Jaffe's Rosebush
After a teenage girl is hit by a car and left for dead, she tries to piece together what happened to her that night. She begins to receive death threats, but are they real or is the medication making her hallucinate? Some of the relationships and events here are unrealistic, but I totally was on the edge of my seat waiting for all the reveals. A-/B+.

2010 books 283 and 284

Megan Whalen Turner's The King of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings
The third and fourth books in this series were weaker than the first two; the third watches the new king cement his role through the eyes of a soldier, and the fourth revisits a character from the first book through some mildly boring political stuff, leading to a fairly unsatisfactory conclusion. King: B+. Conspiracy: B.

Monday, December 06, 2010

2010 book 282

Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen of Attolia
The sequel to The Thief is less of an adventure story than its predecessor, and more of a story about war and political machinations. But there is still some adventure and the characters are just as fascinating at they were in the first one. A.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

2010 book 281

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
This book never stops being awesome. But am I the only one who wondered what happened to the Dursleys? Did they get to come back home? Were Dudley and Harry friends after all that?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

2010 book 280

Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief
This won the Newbury award back in 2005, which seemed like a good enough reason to add it to my to-read list--plus, the last book in the series came out this year and has received some positive attention. Anyway, it's the story of what happens when a king's advisor springs a boy who's famous as a thief from prison and forces him to help steal a neighboring kingdom's special stone. I knew nothing about this going in and found the character development, the Greek-like god worship, and the awesome ending to be above and beyond what I expected--I immediately bought the sequel for my Kindle, I was so eager to see what would happen to these characters next. A.

Friday, December 03, 2010

2010 book 279

Chelsea Cain's The Night Season
In her fourth Archie Sheridan mystery, Cain wisely stays away from another story involving the Beauty Killer, Gretchen Lowell, who has left Archie both physically and emotionally scarred (the first two books in the series were great, but the third felt forced) and instead focuses on a whole new serial killer who may have ties to a past tragedy. He and intrepid girl reporter Susan Ward are both in fine form, and though I did have to suspend disbelief a little (would a cop really question a possible suspect alone?) and thought the end wrapped up a bit too neatly, I absolutely tore through the book to find out what would happen next. Plus, craziest murder weapon EVER. This one totally revitalized the series for me and I can't wait to see what Archie and Susan will be up to next. B+.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

2010 book 278

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Man, I'm still mad about how the movie of this one totally butchered its action-packed and dramatic ending!