Thursday, June 30, 2011

2011 book 165

Daryl Gregory's Raising Stony Mayhall
OK, I know I solemnly swore to stop reading zombie books after I had some pretty freaky zombie nightmares, but this isn't really a zombie book--or well, it's totally a zombie book, but it's not a horror book. See, what happens is, it's the late 60s and there was a zombie outbreak but it was stopped pretty quickly. And soon afterward, the Mayhall family--a mom and three daughters--find a baby with his dead mother on the side of the road. And he's dead too. But not. Zombie baby!!! So they raise him up and he's not the usual zombie, and his story--and the story of the rest of the Living Dead--turn out to be pretty fascinating. And though this is a zombie book, it is really a book about family. And always having an escape route. A-.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

2011 book 164

Carolyn Cooke's Daughters of the Revolution
This is getting great reviews, but I have to say I wasn't really feeling it. It's described as like, how things change when an African-American girl becomes the first girl at a boys' private school, and I suppose that's technically true, but really it's just sort of about . . . change. In general. In the 60s up through the present, sort of. Told mostly from the POV of the old-school head of the boys' school, and the daughter of one of the alumni. I wish there had been more of the first girl in the school, as she's really the only likable character. Maybe the other characters are sort of likable, but we never get to know them; there's no resolution to any parts of their lives as the narrative keeps skipping forward in time. Basically, I didn't get this book at all and have no idea what it was trying to achieve, and there wasn't enough of a plot to keep me interested. B-.

Monday, June 27, 2011

2011 book 163

Myra McEntire's Hourglass
So Emerson is a teenage girl who can see ghosts of the past, and also her parents are dead and she is generally troubled. Her brother hires a dude to help her, and of course he's affiliated w/ a mysterious organization, and of course he's also a hot young guy to be her love interest. Just once I'd like a book about a girl coming into her powers with like the help of her friends (a la Buffy) and not dependent on some dude she's all twitterpated about. Especially since Emerson's best friend is a really interesting and underused character. Now, from all this, things go in a way you might not expect, though at a certain point I realized where it was going was just as stupid as the usual YA paranormal romance cliches. It's all just underwritten, the motivation for all the characters' action is really weak, and the twists McEntire throws in are just silly. I was really disappointed here--the first quarter had a lot of promise and then things just got . . . not great. B-.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

2011 book 162

Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides
Sometimes you just have to reread something awesome and today was one of those days. I've always found this book surprisingly lovely. Anyway, Eugenides has a new book coming out this fall and I'm psyched.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

2011 book 161

Meg Cabot's Big Boned
Pretty much the same as the last one--you have to suspend a great deal of disbelief, but fun story and very likable characters. I could do without the really really bad fake song lyrics at the start of every chapter, though. B+.

2011 book 160

Meg Cabot's Size 14 Is Not Fat Either
Seriously, what crappy editor let Cabot use these names for this series? WORST TITLES EVER. I mean, for one thing, they don't let you know you're going to be reading a funny mystery series about a former pop star who now works in a residence hall, and for another, they're just embarrassing. Like I don't want to admit reading, let alone liking, books with these titles.

Anyway, this is a fairly satisfactory followup. I mean, the mystery is completely ridiculous and unbelievable (despite what I said about the last one) but the characters are so likable that I didn't really mind. B+.

Friday, June 24, 2011

2011 book 159

Meg Cabot's Size 12 Is Not Fat
I've never read anything by Cabot before--I mean, she wrote those Princess Diaries books, and the title of this is just awful--but everyone always says she's an entertaining writer and I wanted something lighter and more fun after slogging through Doc all week. So this is the story of a former teen pop star who's take a job as the assistant director of a residence hall in New York, and what happens when a freshman girl is found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft. Conveniently, the love interest/landlord is a PI, which bodes well for this series (b/c how many dorm murders can a former teen pop star realistically--or semi-realistically--solve?). Anyway, this was as entertaining as I'd been told and Cabot's voice is very funny. I'm off to read the sequel now. A-.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

2011 book 158

Maria Doria Russell's Doc
Oh man, I have been reading this book ALL WEEK. It was one of the slowest novels I've ever read and I can't figure out why; parts of it are extremely interesting, and of course you really can't go wrong talking about Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. Part of my problem with this was that at times it reads like a history book. I also think Russell's habit of giving elaborate backstories to even the most minor characters made things go on much longer than they needed to. I actually can't figure out why this got such stellar reviews in the press and on Amazon--like I said, parts of it are very good, but it's not at all a compelling read, as in I wasn't at all compelled to keep reading to find out what would happen (and spoilers: it ends before they even get to Tombstone, so the excitement is really at a minimum). Which isn't to say it was a bad book--like I said, there were some really good parts, and I especially liked all the dentistry. But my god, slowest read ever. B.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

harry potter, etc

Sorry for the lack of posting--I'm reading a long and kind of slow book, and I'm not going to be done with it tonight either. To tide you over in the meantime, here are some links! (I've posted these on Twitter already, but what the hey, here they are again in case you missed them.)

On the literary merits of Harry Potter.

Speaking of HP, the whole Pottermore thing gets announced tomorrow--but was it leaked?

Literature Map is cool--type in an author's name and it'll pull up similar authors--the closer they are to the original author's name, the more likely someone is to like both of them.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

2011 book 157

Jennifer Finney Boylan's Falcon Quinn and the Crimson Vapor
The Falcon Quinn follow-up is pretty good, I guess. B.

2011 book 156

Jennifer Finney Boylan's Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror
A Harry Potter-ish book for the MG set, this book features young Falcon Quinn, who finds himself attending a school for monsters. But just like before, he feels like he doesn't fit in, b/c no one can figure out what kind of monster he is. Though some plot points are easily telegraphed, there are some surprises in store, and the large cast of characters is very likable (I was especially partial to La Chupacabra and a sweet little Frankenstein monster). B+.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

2011 book 155

Mary Pearson's The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Yet another book about a girl with memory problems! (Though this one came out in 2009.) Anyway, teenager Jenna Fox awakens after an accident with all sorts of memory and motor problems, but while we wait for her past to be revealed, we realize we're in some sort of near future and then things take a turn for the more interesting. I wasn't invested in the romantic subplot (the character of her love interest wasn't well-developed) and had some minor issues with the ending, but Jenna herself is a fascinating character. Apparently a sequel is coming out in August and it looks even crazier than this one. B/B+.

2011 book 154

Tracey Porter's Lark
Slight little novel about a girl who is kidnapped and killed, narrated through the voice of her former best friend, a girl she babysat, and her own ghost. Not much else to say besides that. B/B+.

Friday, June 17, 2011

2011 book 153

Cat Patrick's Forgotten
Yet another book about a chick with memory issues! In this one, teen London remembers the future--knows what'll happen years down the line--but at 4:33 every morning, forgets the present completely. She wings it with the help of her mom, best friend, and copious note-taking. But then a cute new boy come to school . . . and she remembers a funeral . . . and there's drama. On the whole, a very entertaining read, though I found the epilogue a bit cheesy. I actually find these memory-related stories very intriguing (though they don't always seem to be very scientifically accurate). A-.

2011 book 152

J. Courtney Sullivan's Maine
Sullivan (author of Commencement, which I liked a lot) manages a surprisingly entertaining sophomore effort. I say surprising b/c the description--three generations of women converge in a beach house--might sound kind of cliched and boring, but here, it isn't. Our women are 80-something matriarch Alice, plagued by past secrets and disappointments; her daughter Kathleen, a hippie-slash-recovering alcoholic; daughter-in-law Ann Marie, striving for perfection; and Kathleen's daughter Maggie, who's just discovered she's pregnant but is in a pretty lame relationship. I read a review complaining that Sullivan takes too long to bring the characters together, but I found her narrative effective--lots of backstory on their family dramas, and then things rachet up once they're together. Anyway, I liked the characters a lot, but thought the ending was a bit too abrupt--I'd have liked to see more resolution. I thought there'd be at least another chapter but then suddenly there were the acknowledgments and a reading group guide. A-.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

2011 book 151

M.L. Welsh's Mistress of the Storm
Pretty good YA fantasy about a girl and stories and a malevolent wind goddess type. Not particularly interesting but readable enough. Highlights: a pretty cool librarian. I spent the first quarter trying to figure out when this was supposed to be set; the characters all acted and talked like olden times (and were named things like "Verity"), but the protagonist plays field hockey in school. Maybe they were just British? B/B-.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

2011 book 150

Ann Brashares' Sisterhood Everlasting
After a couple of fairly lame books, Brashares has decided to return to her bread and butter and revisit the traveling pants girls, only it's ten years later and they're all 29. (And I had to read it, b/c I like those pants books.) Of course, most of them are still involved with (or obsessed with) the same dudes they were with back in high school, which, COME ON. Also, Lena is exactly as annoying and stupid as ever and Carmen is surprisingly boring and somewhat unlikable. I mean, when my favorite character is Bridget, you know something is wrong in the world of the magical pants. Though Bridget is surprisingly compelling in this one. Anyway, after drifting apart, the girls reunite in Greece, but things don't go according to plan (I actually said "What the F@&%" out loud at this plot point). Still, I kind of liked this, even though it's patently unbelievable as well as predictable, and frankly problematic from a feminist perspective (I have a lot to say about this, but as River Song would say, "Spoilers!"). Oh, and let me point out one last thing--each section starts with an epigraph, mostly cliched things from the Great Writers (Waugh, Whitman, White, etc)--but a couple are, randomly, from the Shins. Haha.

I dunno. B?

2011 book 149

S.J. Watson's Before I Go To Sleep
Another much-touted summer read that is definitely worth the hype, this novel is sort of like if 50 First Dates met Memento. OK, no, that makes it sounds kind of cutesy and it's definitely more in the Memento camp. It's about a woman who had an accident years ago and only hazily remembers her past and can't form new memories, so that every night when she goes to sleep, she forgets everything again, and wakes up confused and scared. When a new doctor encourages her to start keeping a journal, she discovers that her husband may be lying to her about a variety of things. The end is a bit drama-rama but I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway. And I'm labeling it as a mystery but it's much more of a literary thriller (and it is full of thrills, for sure). A/A-.

Monday, June 13, 2011

2011 book 148

Tina Fey's Bossypants
I finally read this and it was as awesome and funny as everyone said! Plus, for the first time ever, I used the word-definition-lookup-thingie on my Kindle (I've already forgotten the word--something like "canegeegen"). Anyway, great read, even better than I expected.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2011 book 147

Peter Ferguson and Michael Buckley's The Fairy Tale Detectives
Fairly standard MG novel about two sisters who go to live with their grandmother after their parents disappear and find out they're descended from the Grimm family, blah blah, a town full of fairy tale characters a la Fables, blah. B-.

2011 book 146

Rosamund Lupton's Sister
The actual title of this is Sister: A Novel, but it's one of those novels that straddles the line between literary fiction and mysteries. And let me just say, there's a reason it's been on like every summer reading list--it's excellent. It's about a woman who goes to investigate when her younger sister goes missing, and I'm not saying any more than that, b/c that's all I knew going in and so I was surprised and shocked at every turn. Great characters, great pacing, great atmosphere. A.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

2011 book 145

Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower
This is one of those books that was just never on my radar--it came out when I was in college and wasn't reading YA--but this article about the filming of the movie version (starring Emma Watson) made me want to read it. I just love that he made the actors all get O-fries. Unfortunately I wasn't that into the book--the stilted style didn't work for me, and I thought the revelation at the end kind of cheapened things and I'm still not sure it made sense. It did make me nostalgic for Pittsburgh (I was a few years younger than the characters, but my friends and I totally went to Rocky too). And I loved the throwaway references to Penn State and sticky buns. Maybe this is one of those books you have to be a guy to really get. B.

Friday, June 10, 2011

2011 book 144

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Hey, I actually have some new things to say about this one, since it still feels new and exciting to me (I still remember how excited we were for it to come out, and how much fun the midnight release party was!). Anyway, new things I want to say:

--I found out recently that the quote on Harry's parents' gravestone is actually a quote from Corinthians (no surprise that I didn't know this--I'm not at all up on my New Testament), lending more credence to the Harry-is-a-Jesus-figure theory (it makes me nuts that people try and ban these books). I still don't understand the quote though.

--I noticed on this read-through that during Neville's big awesome scene at the end, he breaks free from the Body-Bind curse--a callback to the first book?

--Deathly Hallows pt. 1 was the only HP movie I've liked wholeheartedly (they always leave out the things I think are important!!). I'm a little leery about part 2, but I think as long as they include the Snape-Lily stuff, I'll be ok with added-in exciting battle scenes (I'm guessing there will be extra battle scenes).

Thursday, June 09, 2011

2011 book 143

Jean Thompson's The Year We Left Home
Thompson tells the story of a family of Iowans--four siblings and their Vietnam vet cousin--from the 1970s through the early 2000s. Each chapter presents a scene in the life of one of them (mostly Ryan, who escapes Iowa for Chicago) moving up through time (but they're not really self-contained stories or anything). I liked the structure well enough, but some of the characters just didn't come to life for me, and I really wasn't interested in Ryan at all, so having him as a focal point was kind of eh. Not that it's a bad book, I just found my interest waning as it moved on. B.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

2011 book 142

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
If you're home sick, there are worse things to do than curl up on the couch reading some Harry Potter. Man, do I love these books.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

2011 book 141

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I'm pretty sure that every time I've read this book, I've written here something along the lines of "it's my least favorite HP" but I actually liked it a lot this time. Maybe I've just gotten reconciled to angry Harry in the first half, and everything I wish didn't happen in the second. Plus, I love Neville, Ginny, and Luna.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

2011 book 140

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
This is one of my favorites to reread--not just b/c it's so action-packed and adds so much to the world-building, but b/c it's fun to look for the clues to the crazy end. Plus we start to get some of Snape's backstory. I had planned to start some other book entirely, but it's really hard to stop reading at this point in the HP series.

Friday, June 03, 2011

2011 book 139

Christina Shea's Smuggled
It's 1944, and 5-year-old Eva is smuggled across the border from Hungary to Romania to save her from the Holocaust. She's given a new identity and a whole new life, growing to adulthood during the rise and fall of Communism (the book does an excellent job of showing what life in the Eastern Bloc was like) with very complicated feelings about Jews and Judaism. Really great characters and Shea does an especially good job with the atmosphere. A-. Oh, and don't read the Amazon description, it gives the whole end away.

An e-galley was provided by the publisher.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

2011 book 138

Liane Moriarty's What Alice Forgot
So the titular Alice has an accident one day at the gym, and wakes up knowing she's a 29 year old woman, happily married and pregnant with her first child. Except it turns out she's hit her head and completely forgotten the last ten years of her life, and in actuality she's a 39 year old woman with three kids, and in the midst of an acrimonious divorce. Plus parts are narrated by her older sister and their family friend/honorary grandmother, both of whom are also dealing with various issues. I guess it sounds a little silly and it is something of a beach read (though very well-written), but I read it as fast as I could b/c I couldn't wait to see what'd happen next. A.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

2011 book 137

Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan's Spoiled
Soooooo the Fug Girls wrote a YA novel, and I know they're funny and all, but I wasn't expecting much--so this book was a pleasant surprise. Of course it's fairly fluffy and somewhat predictable, and I wished the end had been like 2 chapters longer, but on the whole this was a very entertaining and likable book. It's about Brooke, the semi-neglected daughter of a major Hollywood celeb, and about Molly, an average teenage girl whose mother has just died, and what happens when they find out that Molly and Brooke are half-sisters and Molly moves from Indiana to LA. Both girls are sympathetic (if occasionally stupid) and the drama is pretty outstanding. Great summer read. A-/B+.