Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I don't count graphic novels toward my book totals, so I usually forget to mention the ones I'm reading (and most are volumes of the series I love--20th Century Boys, Unwritten, iZombie, Fables, etc). But I want you guys to know that Americus exists--it's an awesome story about a teen boy and a librarian teaming up to stop their favorite books from being banned! And some other stuff too. You can even read the whole thing online here (though the last few pages aren't up yet).

I also recommend the adorable new Sara Varon book, Bake Sale.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

2011 book 223

Colin Meloy's Wildwood
I'm not at all a Decemberists fan and probably would have avoided lead Decemberist Meloy's MG book out of spite if not for three things: 1) his big sister is Maile Meloy, and I love her books (she has an MG book of her own coming out in October); 2) the charming illustrations by Carson Ellis, who also did the Mysterious Benedict Society illustrations and who is apparently married to Meloy; and 3) a sample chapter given out at Midwinter was just intriguing enough to make me put my reservations aside.

So, with all that said, was it worth it? Actually, yes, it was a pretty great MG fantasy/adventure book! (And the illustrations do add a lot.) It's the story of 12 year old Prue and what happens when her baby brother is kidnapped by a bunch of crows and she goes into the Impassable Woods to find him--with one of her classmates (a Jewish comic book geek!) tagging along. And since I knew nothing more than that, pretty much everything that happened next surprised me. It's very much in the tradition of classic books like the Narnia series, and the writing is occasionally stilted, but there are some really fun characters, some interesting grey bits (as opposed to black/white good/evil stuff), and a nice subtle pro-environmental message. Gotta say, it's a solid A-.

Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 book 222

Miriam Toews' Irma Voth
Toews has written a whole bunch of really great novels that I loved, and luckily, this one was no exception. It reads a little bit different than the earlier ones--it feels more dreamy, somehow, though the plot has a fair amount of action. Our titular Irma is a young Mennonite girl whose family has immigrated from Canada to Mexico, but she's been more-or-less cast out after marrying a local boy. Things only get more complicated when she's hired as a translator on a film about Mennonites, and the film is causing an uproar in the community (well, mostly an uproar with her father). And that's only the first half of the story. Irma's journey--and the gradual revelation of past family secrets--isn't an easy one, but as always, Toews has created a world of sympathetic, complicated, and ultimately lovable characters. A/A-.

An e-galley was provided by the publisher.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

2011 book 221

Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers
I swear I read a review of this where the author talked about encountering a book on the language of flowers (I actually own a book like that and have always found it intriguing myself) and how that inspired her (though this article kind of denies that--as a side note, also check out this fairly negative review of the book, also from NPR). Anyway, it seemed an interesting enough read, even though I hate when things are overly heartwarming (and yet I like happy endings--sorry, authors). So it flashes back and forth in time between protagonist Victoria's liberation from the foster care system and how she tries to make her way as an adult, and her brief time with a particular foster home in her childhood and how that is still influencing her life . . . I didn't find it as saccharine as the NPR reviewer did, though some of the dialogue was overly cheesy and the love interest was perhaps too perfect. I don't know, B+?

2011 book 220

Jackson Pearce's Sweetly
I was super excited to read the companion novel to Sisters Red, and was intrigued by the premise of a Hansel/Gretel reworking. See, when Ansel and Gretchen were little kids, they were in the woods and something took Gretchen's identical twin. Now that they're young adults, they've been kicked out and make their way cross-country, ending up at the home of a pretty, young chocolatier. Sounds cool, right? But while I liked Gretchen, I just felt like Pearce left too much of the reveal for the very end, so the whole time I was reading I was just like, what is the point of anything they're doing? It wasn't nearly as satisfying as its predecessor. B/B-.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

2011 book 219

Laura Lippman's The Most Dangerous Thing
I've loved pretty much all of Lippman's books, so it was kind of a bummer to find this one so . . . disappointing. The characters are ok, more or less, but the story and the reveal are just not very interesting. There's a guy who gets really drunk and dies in a car crash, and something happened with him and his friends when they were kids, and now they're all annoyingly troubled adults . . . Even the flashes back and forth in time, while giving a sense of dread to things, don't propel things forward much. I feel a little bad for thinking so, since at the end an author's note says that this is Lippman's most autobiographical novel. I just wasn't into it. Even a brief appearance by Tess Monaghan couldn't save it. B-.

Friday, August 26, 2011

2011 book 218

Terry Pratchett's I Shall Wear Midnight
The fourth (and presumably final) Tiffany Aching book involves various romances, lots of witches, and something spreading dissent about those witches. I actually had completely forgotten the plot of this one and so was a little surprised when it took such a turn for the dark (not in a bad way! I only remembered the romance). Still, Tiffany is a remarkable bad-ass, so it's still a fun read.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

2011 book 217

Sorry for no post yesterday, I went to see Richard Buckner and David Kilgour (both of whom played several of my favorite songs and generally were awesome).

Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith
Oh, Tiffany Aching, what scrapes you get into! But somehow you always are awesome anyway. And the parts with the kitten make me giggle. Off to start the fourth (and final?) Tiffany Aching book, then on to something non-Pratchett.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2011 book 216

Terry Pratchett's A Hat Full of Sky
I don't have much to say about this Tiffany Aching book, except that this series is really some of Pratchett's strongest writing.

Monday, August 22, 2011

2011 book 215

Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men
Well, after reading all the regular Discworld witches books, of course I had to restart the Tiffany Aching series, b/c she is just the best little witch! It's interesting that, though this is technically a YA book, it seems much more serious than the other witches books (which do tend toward the silly). Not that there isn't humor here, b/c it's a Pratchett book, so of course there is. I'd forgotten that the main witches are only briefly in this one--it really is Tiffany's story. And, of course, the Nac Mac Feegles.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

2011 book 214

Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why
After reading all those slightly silly Discworld books, I was in the mood for something more serious, and there are few things more serious than a book about teen suicide. Not to sound flippant; this was my third time reading this and I still cried more than once. I still don't know how they're going to make a movie of this--it's about a girl who records tapes telling the story of how she decided to kill herself, and it's about the boy who's listening to those tapes. I really wonder how they'll translate it to screen (probably not very well).

2011 book 213

Terry Pratchett's Carpe Jugulum
Witches vs Vampires, hahahaha!! This Discworld book is great--fewer fat jokes than the previous one, and it features the Nac Mac Feegles (from the Tiffany Aching books). Love those witches.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

2011 book 212

Terry Pratchett's Maskerade
It's really just a pleasure to read a book about the Discworld witches for the first time--especially one that involves an opera ghost. :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

2011 book 211

Terry Pratchett's Lords and Ladies
So it turns out I HAD read this one before but completely forgotten it, which is a shame b/c it's pretty awesome--in this one, our three witches have to deal with elves coming back. And there's a wedding, and some Shakespeare references. And the witches are awesome, as always.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

2011 book 210

Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad
I've decided to read all the Discworld Witches books, since I've only ever read the first two (Wyrd Sisters and this one) and, of course, the Tiffany Aching books. I may take a break if the Pratchett starts to overwhelm me though (sometimes such arch narration can). Anyway, I love this one--as the witches get tangled up in fairy tales--and am curious to see how the later ones compare.

shelf awareness

Check it out, there's a new thingie on the right sidebar there where you can sign up for the Shelf Awareness newsletter--it's pretty awesome, lots of reviews and book news--and if you sign up for it you can be entered for giveaways and whatnot.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

2011 book 209

Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters
I'm clearly on a rereading fantasy books kick--and there are few characters I like more than Pratchett's witches.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2011 book 208

Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys
I remembered even less of this one than I did of American Gods, so it was really a joy to rediscover these characters and their world. Why doesn't Gaiman write grown-up books anymore?

2011 book 207

Neil Gaiman's American Gods
It's been years since I read this, and since the only thing I really remembered were the Zorya, I figured I'd give it a go and see if I still liked it. Plus apparently Tom Hanks is making a tv version for HBO, which clearly demands a refresher. Anyway, I did still like it, and I'm off to read Anansi Boys now.

Monday, August 15, 2011

2011 book 206

Yannick Murphy's The Call
Great great great story about a country vet (who mostly works on horses) and his family and what happens after his young son is involved in a hunting accident. I really enjoyed the writing style and descriptions of animals and of the woods. Sorry, not feeling well today and not up for any kind of analysis, but after reading--and deleting--the samples for five or six Kindle books, I was pleased to find this one. A/A-.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

2011 book 205

Nina Revoyr's Wingshooters
I really liked Revoyr's The Age of Dreaming so figured I'd check this book out--it's about a half-Japanese girl in the 1970s who ends up living with her grandparents in a very white Wisconsin town, and what happens when a black couple moves to the area. There is an extremely awesome dog--an English Springer Spaniel, like the awesome dog I had when I was a kid--and of course something terrible happens to it (I HATE when bad things happen to animals in books--it always feels like a deliberate choice by the writer to make readers cry, and not at all natural). Anyway, it's fairly over-written--too many emotions and things spelled out by the narrator looking back on her childhood--and the end is more than a little melodramatic. And I just can't get past the dog thing. B/B-.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

2011 book 204

Kathryn Miller Haines' The Girl is Murder
Great little noir-ish story about a fifteen year old girl in 1942 whose life has been upended--her father lost a leg at Pearl Harbor, her mother killer herself, and now she has to start at a whole new public school after going to private school her whole life. Money is a problem, since her father's obvious limp is affecting his business as a private eye. So of course she decides to assist him with his caseload. I loved the narrative voice and atmosphere, but the whole thing was well worth reading. A/A-.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

2011 book 203

Lisa Goldstein's The Uncertain Places
It's Berkeley in the 70s, and Will has just been introduced to Livvy, who comes from a large and somewhat mysterious family. And weird things keep happening. But when Livvy falls into an enchanted sleep, Will has to do some pretty crazy things to get her back. And that's just like, the first third of the book! Goldstein's book defies easy categorization--I guess it's urban fantasy, but set in the past? And it doesn't really have the usual urban fantasy tropes. And it's really more of a growing-up story/novel about people than one about fairy tales being real. Well, clearly I'm having trouble articulating anything about this book. I'll just say that I liked it a whole lot and found the end thought-provoking. A-.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

2011 book 202

Martha Brooks' The Queen of Hearts
Short but compelling novel about a young girl in a TB sanitorium in the early 1940s. It ended a bit abruptly, though--Brooks really could have told more of the story. B+.

Monday, August 08, 2011

2011 book 201

Lara Zielin's The Implosion of Aggie Winchester
After slogging through the 2000+ pages of historical epic and star-crossed romances of the Tea Rose trilogy, I was ready for something more contemporary and this seemed like it'd fit the bill. And it starts off strong--goth outcast teen Aggie finds out on the same day that her mom (who is also the principal of her high school) has cancer and her best friend is pregnant. But then things get really annoying. Aggie is terminally stupid and kind of a brat, and the end is a) completely predictable, and b) full of overly emotional and unrealistic dialogue and activities. Ughhhhh I disliked it so much. C-.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

2011 book 200

Jennifer Donnelly's The Wild Rose
The wrap-up to the Rose trilogy is grossly unsatisfying, mainly b/c the couple at its core, with their supermagical special timeless looooooooove, are total jerkwards. I think I was supposed to like and/or sympathize with them, but they were terrible and selfish people. Also, there was one final twist at the end that was just silly. Which isn't to say the book is all bad; the other characters are still interesting, and it's a fairly strong WWI epic (featuring Lawrence of Arabia, no less). But wow. I had enough problems with the superspecial magical love of the previous two couples, but these ones were the worst. B-.

2011 book 199

Jennifer Donnelly's The Winter Rose
The sequel to The Tea Rose picks up a few years after the last one left off--it's now 1900 in London and we're back in the thick of things with Fiona Finnegan and her family (though a likable lady doctor and a Jewish nurse and her relatives have been added to the mix). At times, these books are frustrating to read--Donnelly keeps adding all these artificial obstacles to various people getting together and dragging it out--it's like a bad romantic comedy half the time with everyone falling in love at first sight but then beset by miscommunications and bad timing. I mean, this book is 720 pages long, and it's a lot to slog through to get to the inevitable happy ending. Still, I loved the characters (except for the ones who were assholes) and really did want to know what would happen to them--and Donnelly threw in a few surprises toward the end (as a reward for her diligent readers?). I'm off to read the third one now, b/c dammit, I need to see how things end up. B/B+.

Friday, August 05, 2011

2011 book 198

Jennifer Donnelly's The Tea Rose
I've enjoyed Donnelly's YA books, but somehow her historical adult trilogy had completely escaped my attention. The first, The Tea Rose, centers on a young girl in London at the time of Jack the Ripper. She dreams of starting a shop with her love interest, but of course things are never that simple, or else this book would be a lot shorter. Despite patently unbelievable plot points, incorrect history, and a whole lot of sometimes unnecessary drama, I found this story to be entirely engrossing. Donnelly populates her world with likable (ok, not all likable) and realistic characters, and really brings the late 1800s to life. A-/B+.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

2011 book 197

Nicole Peeler's Eye of the Tempest
More fantasy fighting and shenanigans as Peeler spends most of this book setting things up for whatever will happen in the next one--and once again, interrupting the protagonist every time she's about to get with her love interest. Peeler's narrative is firmly tongue-in-cheek most of the time, which makes reading such a silly book work. B.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

2011 book 196

Patricia Wrede's Across the Great Barrier
The sequel to The Thirteenth Child features more magical alternate-Wild-West adventures. The protagonist is very likable, but the story just wasn't that exciting this time around. B.

Monday, August 01, 2011

2011 book 195

Emily Arsenault's In Search of the Rose Notes
Arsenault's The Broken Teaglass was one of my favorites of 2009, so I was eager to read her second novel-slash-mystery. Rose Notes is slightly more traditional but no less compelling, centering on Nora, and her childhood best friend getting back in touch because a body has been discovered--their babysitter, who went missing sixteen years earlier. Nora returns to her hometown to see her friend and talk about the missing Rose, but gets sucked into some investigations amidst flashing back to the fall when Rose disappeared, when the younger girls were obsessed with books about paranormal activity. Anyway, really interesting characters (I won't say "likable"--Nora's friend, in particular, is a super major brat) and I found the resolution satisfying. A/A-.