Monday, October 31, 2011

2011 book 273

N.K. Jemisin's The Kingdom of Gods
First I just want to say that a) I'm glad Jemisin can crank out solid books so quickly, and b) I'm glad her publisher doesn't set the publication dates a year apart (this entire trilogy came out in under two years). Anyway, the third/final book in the Inheritance Trilogy picks up something like a hundred years after the last one left off, and while it wasn't quite as awesome as the second one (I really loved that one), it was a fitting end to the story. It focuses on one of the godlings who appeared in the earlier books, and what happens when be befriends two mortal children. But because it's Jemisin, it also deals with politics, love, family, and war. The end was a bit kind-of-insane, but not in a bad way. I'm looking forward to her next series, which starts in 2012. Busy bee! I love it! B+.

Locas -- The Love Bunglers

I've been thinking a lot about Jaime Hernandez's conclusion to his Locas story "The Love Bunglers" (from L&R New Stories vol. 4)--mainly b/c it was such an incredible piece that I cry every time I read it. I even recently threatened to force a friend to read all the Locas stuff, because it's so freaking good. But then I started wondering--is it as awesome if you read it all at once? I discovered Love and Rockets when I was like 19, thanks to the fine folks at Comic Swap in State College, PA, and that's when I totally fell for Maggie (and Ray). So this story, for me, was 13 years in the making. I grew up (into adulthood) with these characters--is it the same if you read it as a 30-something?

I'm going to reread all the little Locas omnibus volumes in the next few weeks, I think. Let me know if I can lend them to you and see if you're an L&R convert too. :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

2011 book 272

Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races
Stiefvater has written a couple of YA fantasy series--I read the first one in her werewolves series and liked it pretty well, but never felt the need to read the others--but the premise of this standalone novel intrigued me. It's about a boy and a girl who are entering a super dangerous annual race involving super dangerous magical water horses. And I have to say, I liked it a lot--the relationship felt like it developed organically (as opposed to most YA fantasy relationships) and Stiefvater kept the tension ratcheted up. I really had no idea how it would end and was surprised throughout. A-.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

2011 book 271

Haruki Murakami's 1Q84
I don't want to say too much about the plot, b/c all I knew going in was that it was the story of a man and a woman, told in alternating chapters (and of course, what I read in the New Yorker excerpt, which interestingly comes from at least three different parts of the book). And I liked being surprised at every turn, trying to guess what would happen next. I think I agree with the assessments that this is Murakami's strongest work--it takes a lot of the themes he's touched on before and goes someone totally different and outlandish and awesome with them. I mean, there are some really weird things in this book (weird in a good way), more so than even in his earlier stuff (which is also pretty weird). Ah, but Tengo and Aomame. GREAT characters. My only problem was minor--too much of the third section was spent on another character entirely, and while I get why that was, I just was not super interested in his inner life when I could have been reading about Tengo and Aomame instead. But still just a great great great book. A, and best of the year list for sure.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

some book links

Sorry for the lack of updates--the new Murakami book is long! Have some book-related links to make up for it.

The Millions on Dumas.

The NYT on Lynda Barry!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

2011 book 270

Kate Atkinson's Case Histories
Masterpiece has put together movie versions of the first three Jackson Brodie books, which of course made me want to reread them! (And they've done a fairly good job--or maybe I just like watching Jason Isaacs play Brodie--so much cuter than when he's Lucius Malfoy! It is really interesting to see which parts of the book they felt like including, too.) Anyway, this one holds up really well--Atkinson deftly weaves together stories of lost girls and Brodie's adventures as a PI. This is one of my favorite series for a reason.

2011 book 269

Sara Zarr's How to Save a Life
This is the story of two teenaged girls--one, whose father has recently died and whose mother has decided to adopt a baby; and the other, who's pregnant with said baby. The former is a pretty great character; the latter is a bit more of a stereotype (mom obsessed w/ her boyfriends and her looks, and one of those boyfriends abuses the daughter--I feel like I've read this character before). Plus some other characters. And it's all just heartwarming as hell. B+.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

2011 book 268

Colson Whitehead's Zone One
I know I swore off zombie-related stuff a while back (zombies give me nightmares), but Whitehead's book has gotten a lot of positive buzz, and I always like when literary authors throw a little genre into their works. Zone One is the story of Mark Spitz (not his real name) in the days after a zombie apocalypse; he's part of a team hunting down the last few zombies in a certain part of NYC in an effort to make the city livable again. Though the action takes place over three days, Whitehead weaves in Mark Spitz's story and the bigger-picture story of the zombies. The writing here is outstanding, and for the most part the plot moves along at a nice clip. And it avoids overt horror (though I am still pretty creeped out, and will henceforth go back to avoiding zombie-related media). B+.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

2011 book 267

Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers
Hoffman's books tend to be hit or miss for me--either I like them pretty well, or dislike them with a strong passion. But this one--about four women living in Masada just before the Roman siege--intrigued me. And I will say, it's one of Hoffman's stronger works. Each woman's story is compelling and Hoffman clearly did her research. The end is a bit overly dramatic, but I don't think it could have been any other way (Masada, ya know?). B+.

Monday, October 17, 2011

2011 book 266

Maile Meloy's The Apothecary
You really can't go wrong with a YA book set in Cold War London, where a 14-year-old girl and her parents move after having some trouble with the whole anti-Communism thing. And then she gets involved in something even more dangerous and magical (like, literally magical, there is magic, but it's, interestingly, alchemy and so sort of science-based). Plus there's a cute boy. And a hilarious boy. And adventures. And strong writing, b/c it's Maile Meloy. Great read and I hope there'll be a sequel. A.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


photo.JPG by wordnerdy
photo.JPG, a photo by wordnerdy on Flickr.
I moved this weekend, hence the complete lack of reading. Here is a picture of JB examining his new surroundings.

Friday, October 14, 2011

2011 book 265

Gemma Halliday's Deadly Cool
In the midst of last-minute packing (come on, you know I'm a procrastinator), I read this fun YA mystery, about a girl whose awful ex-boyfriend is a murder suspect, and she agrees to clear his name. Otherwise it's a pretty typical YA book, though I will say that the protagonist's narrative voice is likably wry. I think this would have been a satisfying mystery if I was a kid reading it; as it was, it was entertaining enough that I'd probably read the sequel (I think this is the start of a series). B/B+.


photo.JPG by wordnerdy
photo.JPG, a photo by wordnerdy on Flickr.

I'm moving to a new apartment tomorrow! As you can see, JB is enjoying the mountains of boxes.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2011 book 264

Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot
Until maybe halfway through this book, I kept thinking I'd end up blogging things like "This is a solid story, but the angsty 80s college characters feel like the kind of thing that any of the Great White Males could have written, and not as special as I'd expect a book by Eugenides to be" or "Yeah, that one character is totally a David Foster Wallace type of guy." But at a certain point I got so caught up in things that I stopped thinking "What do I think about this book?" and was just racing through it. Not to say the first half is bad--I loved all the stuff about academia, religious studies, the burgeoning literary theory field, and the Jane Austen mentions--but things get much more engaging once the trifecta of characters (Leonard, the DFW type; Madeline, the rich girl who loves him and loves novels; and Mitchell, the Eugenides analogue, who loves her and is about to spend a year backpacking around Europe and India) are out of college and trying to make their way as adults in the first year after graduating. It may sound like a small story the way I'm describing it, but Eugenides' writing is as epic as ever. I worried I'd be disappointed after seeing some mixed reviews, but I loved this. A.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

2011 book 263

Alma Katsu's The Taker
So this book starts off really strongly--a murder suspect is brought to the ER doctor in a small town in Maine, and she has a crazy story for him about how she's immortal and killed her friend at his request, and then she goes on to tell him her story, starting in that same small town 200 years earlier. The modern day interludes are weak but the girl's story is compelling--at least until a third of the way in, when things take a turn for the oversexed (none of it is sexy, and much of it is nonconsensual). Things do pick back up for the last third but I still found the doctor really boring and the end was a little dumb. B.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

2011 book 262

Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs
I've read a few of Ursu's earlier books, and I believe they are more straight-up fantasy books--but here, magic collides with the real world (I love books like that). In this one, an eleven year old girl's friend gets taken away by a Narnia-like White Witch (but of course there's more to the story than that). I loved all the literary references here (at one point the protagonist starts to read a book that goes unnamed, but I recognized it as Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me, one of the awesomest books ever). Very readable MG book. B+.

2011 book 261

Denise Mina's The End of the Wasp Season
I'm pretty sure there are earlier books in this series, but it wasn't necessary to have read them for this one to make sense.* It involves a murder case in Scotland and the pregnant police detective trying to solve it. Parts were predictable, parts threw me for a loop, and I had a big question about the end. Pretty satisfying to see all the pieces come together though. B+.

* Hilariously, I actually have read the first (and only other) book in this series, but didn't remember it, or anything about it.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

2011 book 260

Leila Sales' Past Perfect
Aaaaaahhhh this is the CUTEST YA book about a girl who spends her summers working as a historical reenactor at a Colonial village, but the summer before her senior year might be traumatic because her ex-boyfriend is working there too. And then she meets a new boy . . . but he works at the RIVAL historical reenactment village. I loved the characters here (the new boy isn't fleshed out as much as I might have liked, but the rest are great) and it was just such a fun situation to read about. A.

2011 book 259

DD Barant's Better Off Undead
The fourth book in the Bloodhound Files series (about a criminal profiler who gets kidnapped to a parallel Earth populated mostly by vampires, werewolves, and golems, and forced to work for their government to solve crimes and whatnot) has protagonist Jace dealing with a case involving the werewolf mafia. I was less interested in a medical calamity that I knew would just lead back to the status quo. Still, Barant does a great job of reminding the reader of salient plot points, without drowning the story in exposition. Really a fun series, and great characters (I especially like sullen teenage werewolf Xandra and Jace's nattily-dressed golem partner Charlie). B+.

Friday, October 07, 2011

2011 book 258

A.S. King's Everybody Sees the Ants
I liked King's previous novel pretty well, and this one was pretty good too, about a bullied boy from a slightly troubled family. But it's weirder than that. I liked the characters a lot, and King did a good job doling out revelations. Not much else to say, gotta get ready for services and fasting! B+.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

2011 book 257

Michael Ondaatje's The Cat's Table
Strong book from Ondaatje, about a young boy traveling more-or-less alone from Sri Lanka to England in 1954, and how the events of that boat ride stay with him through adulthood. Great characters and descriptions--I especially liked how Ondaatje portrayed a child's fascination with, and lack of understanding of, adults, as well as the easy friendships between children. A/A-.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

2011 book 256

Lauren Oliver's Liesl & Po
Oliver--author of the AWESOME Before I Fall (one of my favorites of 2010) and the pretty-great Delirium--has written an MG book basically out of nowhere (well, not really, as an author's note at the end explains). It has a very old-fashioned kind of voice (except in one instance where someone says "Sheesh"), centering on a young girl, the ghost and its pet she befriends, an alchemist's apprentice, and various villainous adults (and one nice adult). And a cat. It almost feels Dickensian in theme if not in scope (it's an MG book, it's not that long). Oliver weaves her threads together satisfactorily and the illustrations are gorgeous and add to the fairy-tale feel (even in the Kindle version). A/A-.


Photo0165.jpg by wordnerdy
Photo0165.jpg, a photo by wordnerdy on Flickr.

It's been a long time since I've posted a kitty picture! Here is JB helping me unload the dishwasher, as only a cat can.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

2011 book 255

Rick Riordan's The Son of Neptune
Look, I don't read these books with a critical eye, I read them b/c they are super fun. The second Heroes of Olympus books puts us right back with Percy Jackson (which is awesome, b/c I'd forgotten most of the details of the other guy) as he makes his way to the Roman camp, picks up two new companions (who are pretty great), and of course goes a-questing. Action-packed and with a romance, as always, but also with a lot of sly humor. I have to say, I'm pretty excited for the next one to come out. A.

Monday, October 03, 2011

2011 book 254

Anne Enright's The Forgotten Waltz
Enright's (winner of the Booker for The Gathering) latest centers on a young Irish woman embroiled in an affair with a married man who has a daughter; she recounts how they got together, interspersed with her fascination with and ruminations on his child. The writing is lovely but I wished the end had more resolution. A-/B+.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

2011 book 253

Meg Donahue's How to Eat a Cupcake
Anyone who knows me knows I'll read any book involving cupcakes, no matter how inane it may be. Luckily this one manages to stay away from inanity for the most part, though it is fairly fluffy. It involves two women--Julia and Annie--who grew up together, because Annie's mom was Julia's nanny. They haven't spoken in ten years (since their tumultuous high school years), but after Julia returns home before her wedding and tastes one of Annie's cupcakes, she insists they open a cupcakery together. But with various love interests, lots of secrets, and lots of past hurt feelings, can they make their business a success? I will say that the dialogue sometimes feels really stilted, one secret is dragged out way too long, and one reveal feels like it comes out of nowhere. But I was in the mood for a nice, light read and this totally hit the spot. It comes out in March--add it to your to-read lists if you like cute books about cupcakes!

An e-galley was provided by the publisher.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

2011 book 252

Michelle Hodkin's The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
So teenager Mara has survived a terrible accident that killed her best friend and some other people, and now her family has moved to a new town and she's starting at a brand new school, but she keeps having crazy hallucinations and things get weirder from there. And of course there's the requisite cute bad boy. Plus great brother characters and an unusual school friend (whose plotlines completely trail off, unfortunately). I mostly liked this--certainly I kept reading b/c I wanted answers to various mysteries to be revealed--but the end was fairly ridiculous and didn't really make me want to read the inevitable sequel. B/B-.