Monday, January 31, 2011

2011 book 36

Allison Pang's A Brush of Darkness
This was a more-or-less entertaining urban fantasy in which a woman who has ties to the faery world agrees to help an incubus find his missing sister. But like, the world's mythology was so complicated and under-explained that I felt like I was missing the first book in this series (I wasn't). Also, the main character was really inconsistent and I didn't really like the end. There were some interesting magical paintings and an awesome unicorn, though. B-.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

2011 book 35

Laura Lippman's The Last Place
After getting intro trouble for attacking a guy who tried to molest her best friend's cousin, Tess is hired to look into some cold cases to try and raise money for training against domestic violence. But the cases lead to something much bigger and more terrifying. Seriously, this one was intense, made more so when I realized halfway through that one of the characters was mentioned in Girl in the Green Raincoat (the most recent book in this series, which I read first) and something baaad was going to happen. A.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

2011 book 34

Kiersten White's Paranormalcy
This book was being hyped pretty heavily a few months ago, but it seemed like just another YA fantasy romance kind of book. I'm not sure why I decided to give it a chance, besides the good reviews on Amazon. Anyway, it's about Evie, who works as a monster-hunter for an agency that captures and neutralizes things like vampires and werewolves--Evie has the ability to see through their disguises to the creature beneath. But when a mysterious boy breaks into their headquarters, and something starts killing paranormal creatures, all sorts of secrets come out. And there are, of course, adventures. Evie is a surprisingly likable and sympathetic character--she, of course, longs to be a normal teenager like the ones on her favorite tv show. Apparently this is the first of a trilogy, and I look forward to the sequels. A-.

2011 book 33

Laura Lippman's In a Strange City
I really, really enjoyed this Tess Monaghan mystery, which involved the Poe Toaster (the secret person who secretly goes to Poe's grave once a year and leaves cognac and roses), libraries, mentions of Pittsburgh, and literary history. Oh, and murder and mayhem, of course. A.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

2011 book 32

E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
When I got my Kindle back in 2009, this was one of the first books I looked for (proof!). And for some reason I looked for it again yesterday and there it was! Man, this was one of my favorite books when I was little--don't you wish you could secretly live in a museum and solve a mystery? This version has a nice afterword by Konigsburg from the 35th anniversary reissue of the book, which includes a funny little Claudia-and-Jamie vignette that she gave to the people at the Newbery Award ceremony that year.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 book 31

Eilis O'Neal's The False Princess
Very entertaining story about a princess who is told she's not really the princess--see, there was a prophecy that the princess would be killed before her 16th birthday, so they hid her and replaced her with another baby. So now the false princess has to leave the castle and go live with an aunt she never met. But somehow this leads to awesome adventures, some of which involve magic and romance and even some research! Totally a likable book. A-.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011 book 30

Hannah Pittard's The Fates Will Find Their Way
This book has been getting a lot of buzz, and with good reason--it's excellent. Comparisons to The Virgin Suicides are apt--though it's not as heartbreaking, the second person plural narrative voice coupled with the atmosphere of now-grown men looking back half-fondly, half-mystified-ly on their adolescence (and especially on the neighborhood girls of their adolescence) are definitely reminiscent of Eugenides. Here, the boys are obsessed by Nora, who went missing. They invent elaborate fantasies of what might have happened to her (it's not a spoiler to tell you that the truth is never revealed--this isn't a mystery/thriller and not-knowing is sort of the point), always thinking they see her in strange places. As far as I can tell, Pittard does a great job of delving into the mindset of the teenage boy--and the man the teenage boy becomes. Of course, I'm a girl, so who really knows. A.

Monday, January 24, 2011

2011 book 29

Laura Lippman's The Sugar House
I have to say, Lippman knows how to write a good story. In this one, Tess' dad asks her to take a case to help an acquaintance, who wants to know the identity of a murder victim. But things get super intense and much crazier than you might expect. I am really enjoying these characters and definitely will be reading more of the series.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

2011 book 28

Laura Lippman's In Big Trouble
I enjoyed Girl in the Green Raincoat so much that I decided to read more of the Tess Monaghan books. I picked this one--I think it's the 4th in the series--sort of at random, partially b/c it seemed to involve the guy who's Tess' boyfriend in the one I read, partially b/c I had the impression the earlier ones in this series aren't as polished as Lippman's later books. And yeah, this one was a bit clumsy and full of over-explanations at first--I had to put it down for a couple of days, but when I came back to it, the story was enough to keep me going. It all starts when Tess gets a newspaper photo of her ex Crow in the mail, with the headline "In Big Trouble," sending her off to try and track him down in Texas and finding her way into a crazy homicide case. Most of the book takes place in San Antonio, and since I've actually been there, I was pleased to see the touristy details were correct. Another side note: this must have been written in the early 2000s. I was amused to see references to Netscape. In the end, it all turned out to be very entertaining and I'll definitely read more of this series. B+.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

2011 book 27

Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay
I've been enjoying following as Mark Reads makes his way through the Hunger Games books. He's almost done with Catching Fire though, so I figured I'd reread this one so it'd be fresh in my head. Plus, I hadn't actually reread it yet and wanted to see if it held up. It did. Still completely heartbreaking and terrifying. I have no idea how they'll make good movies of these.

2011 book 26

Jo Walton's Among Others
In many ways, this is a very weird book. If I tried to describe it to you, you would think you would know just what it was like. Here: it's a book about a girl fleeing a family tragedy where her twin sister died, and she gets sent to a boarding school where she doesn't fit in at all, and oh yeah, there are fairies and magic. Doesn't that sound like a good book, and you can totally imagine it? But it's not really at all what you would expect it to be, in a really awesome away. For one thing, the protagonist, Mori, is really really into sci-fi books, and since this book is her journal, we get a lot of her thoughts about various books (some of which I've never heard of, but I'm not into sci-fi). For another thing, it's not a YA book, so it successfully evades the cliches of the current YA fantasy genre. And the magic, while important, is kind of like, just there, kind of a sidebar to the main plot. This is really more a book about books--libraries and librarians and book clubs are all key--and about coming of age and learning to be an adult. Sort of. There's even some discussion of Judaism! Hm, I can't explain this in any good way, clearly. Here is io9 talking about it at length. A/A-.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

2011 book 25

Eleanor Brown's The Weird Sisters
When their mother is diagnosed with cancer, three sisters--responsible Rose, beautiful and troubled Bianca, and flaky Cordelia, the daughters of a Shakespeare-quoting professor who named his daughters after the Bard's characters--return home, though all have various crises they're hiding from as well. I will say that this didn't turn out to be as predictable as I'd expected, but I was a bit taken aback by all the churchiness of the end. I've read a few positive early reviews and none mentioned all the churching. This falls more on the women's lit side than the literary fiction side, I guess, which isn't my usual bag. B.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2011 book 24

Laura Lippman's The Girl in the Green Raincoat
I've enjoyed Lippman's stand-alone mystery/thrillers that have come out the past couple of years, and have been meaning to give her long-running Tess Monaghan mystery series a try. This novella seemed like a good chance to get into it--heavily pregnant and on bed-rest, Tess gets involved with solving the disappearance of a dog-walker she'd been noticing from her window (nods are made to both Rear Window and Daughter of Time). And man, this book has lots of things I like--greyhounds, pop culture references, Judaism, references to To Kill a Mockingbird, general humor . . . I REALLY need to read the rest of this series. A.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2011 book 23

Maryrose Woods' The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling
I was just in the mood to reread this, b/c it's so delightful. Here are my original comments.

2011 book 22

Beth Revis' Across the Universe
I don't usually read straight-up sci-fim but this was getting a fair amount of buzz, and turned out to be better than the tagline on the back would have you think ("Titanic meets Brave New World"--really? That's terrible in every way. And inaccurate). So teenage Amy's parents are important military scientist types, and she goes along when they get cryogenically frozen to go on a spaceship that'll travel for 300 years and then colonize a new planet. Only Amy gets unplugged after 250 years and finds herself in a very strange spaceship society. Her counterpart is teenager Elder, being groomed to take leadership by the current mysterious (and possibly crazy) leader. When another frozen person gets unplugged and dies, the two teenagers have to figure out who's the murderer, and also try and solve the mysteries of the spaceship. The killer is way too easy to guess, as is the twist at the end, and I generally found the end unsatisfying, but it's an interesting book I guess. B.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

2011 book 21

John Stephens' The Emerald Atlas
By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, the first book in this new fantasy trilogy brings the story of three siblings and a mysterious book. Ten years ago, their parents were forced to abandon the three small children, and they've been living in orphanages ever since. But when eldest sister Kate, middle brother/explorer Michael, and tough little Emma find a book in a secret basement room, they're suddenly thrust into a world of adventure and time-travel, fighting to save a village from an evil witch. Of course their purpose is bigger than that, and I look forward to their quests in the next two books. A. Sidebar to Christina: Stephens is a former writer for Gilmore Girls and the OC!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

2011 book 20

Erin Kelly's The Poison Tree
Karen and her daughter are thrilled when the girl's father is released from prison after ten years and now they're all focused on putting their lives back together. The story flashes back to show what led to his arrest and also hints at a secret of Karen's. I was totally into this until the very over-the-top ending which kind of killed things for me a little. B.

2011 book 19

Clare Vanderpool's Moon over Manifest
I actually hadn't even heard of this book until it won the Newbery Award last week, so thanks, award-givers, for bringing it to my attention! It's a perfectly lovely book where a 12 year old girl in 1936 is sent to the town where her dad spent time as a child, and she and two new friends try and uncover the town's twenty-year-old mysteries with the help of a fortuneteller, a reporter, and a bootlegger. Totally awesome. A.

Friday, January 14, 2011

2011 book 18

Kerstin Gier's Ruby Red
When I started this book, I kind of had that thought that Gier was really inspired by The Time Traveler's Wife--at least, she takes the idea of a gene for time-traveling and runs away with it. Then I got so sucked into the story that I didn't care anymore. Our protagonist is teenager Gwyneth, living the normal London teenage lifestyle--only not entirely, because the women in her family have a gene that allows them to time-travel, and she has to watch her cousin Charlotte get initiated into the family secrets. But it turns out (of course) that Gwyneth has the gene, leading to all sorts of historical adventures and secret societies and maybe even romance. Oh, and some awesome ghosts. Gier does a great job of doling out the family secrets--I was intrigued enough to want to read the two sequels immediately, but alas, they're not out yet in other English-speaking countries either (this was originally written in German and I had hopes that the series would be out in England already). This is the down side of getting ARCs--this book doesn't even come out till May, so I'll be waiting like a year and a half for the next one! A.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2011 book 17

Veronica Roth's Divergent
Yet another YA dystopian post-apocalyptic novel, though a pretty good one. In this world, it's the far future, and to avoid wars and whatnot, people are divided into five factions based on personality attributes--selflessness, bravery, kindness, intelligence, and honesty. Our action begins at 16-year-old Beatrice is about to take the test that will classify her, but things don't go according to plan, and she has to adjust to a new way of life. Meanwhile, after many years of peace, one of the factions is starting to spread unrest. I figured this would be the first book in a trilogy (there's always a trilogy) but it has a fairly solid ending so who knows. Beatrice was pretty kick-ass, so I'd probably read another book about her. B+.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011 book 16

Ann Patchett's State of Wonder
I think I say this every time I read a book by Patchett, but I'm constantly amazed at how different her novels are. She just creates entire worlds every time she writes one, and damn, they're all dazzling. This one even rivals Bel Canto for me. The action starts when scientist Marina and her boss/secret boyfriend get a letter telling them a colleague is dead. He'd been off in the jungles of the Amazon investigating a mysterious project sponsored by their company that may or may not be going off the rails--and investigating the scientist creating the new drug. Soon Marina finds herself being sent off to the jungle herself to find out just what is going on down there, and what happened to her friend. Complicating matters--the scientist in charge is a former teacher of Marina's, whom Marina once feared and idolized in equal measure.

Patchett once again creates a world inhabited by captivating characters, and seriously, this story gets pretty intense. It touches on love (of all kinds), science and progress, ethics, and so much more. And the end kind of blew my mind a little. It comes out in June, but maybe don't take it on vacation with you if you're going anywhere tropical. A.

FW:(No Subject)

FW:(No Subject)
Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
I LOVE this picture of my nephew. Though a Batman onesie would be cooler.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

2011 books 13, 14, and 15

Kevin Wilson's The Family Fang
The description on the back wants to compare the Fang family to the Royal Tenenbaums, but the Fangs are dysfunctional in a less literary way (if that makes any sense). Parents Camille and Caleb are performance artists who stage public events--starring their children--intended to shock and/or amaze (a precursor to flash mobs?). Now grown, children Annie and Buster--an actress and a writer, respectively--are faced with life crises and both decide to come home. But as the famous saying goes, you can never go home again, and life just gets more complicated for them once they do. Great characters and ending. A-.

Gail Carson Levine's A Tale of Two Castles
The latest from the author of Ella Enchanted isn't as charming as some of her earlier works, but the story of a young girl who ends up apprenticed to a dragon and trying to figure out who's trying to get a local ogre is pretty entertaining. B+.

Joseph Monninger's Wish
This isn't an ARC--it's the book I was reading on my Kindle when I got distracted by all my ARCs. :) But I figured I'd finsih it on the way home. It's about teenager Bee and what happens when her beloved younger brother--who has cystic fibrosis--goes on a dream trip to see great white sharks. Their relationship is the heart of the book and is very well-done. A-/B+.

2011 book 12

Libba Bray's Beauty Queens
I've never been really into Bray's writing--I thought A Great and Terrible Beauty was ok, and never read Going Bovine (despite its many awards) because it just seemed depressing. But when I saw the cover (as seen here), I HAD to pick it up. I mean, it's about a bunch of beauty pageant contestants who get stranded on a desert island! And one is an undercover journalist, one is a comic book geek, and one is a transgender former boy-bander. I really enjoyed watching these characters get to know each other, and themselves. But the island may not actually be deserted after all . . . Also, it's mostly set in a world like ours but there is an all-powerful Corporation running the show. Bray's narrative voice is snarky, cynical, sweet, and hilarious. This may be the funnest book I ever read. And yes, that's funnest, not funniest. Pure fun. Comes out in May, be eagerly awaiting it. A.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

2011 book 11

Tayari Jones' Silver Sparrow
This was one of the ARCs I was most excited to get at Midwinter, b/c thanks to having friends at Algonquin, I feel like I've been waiting for it FOREVER (but it doesn't come out till May). So this is a story about growing up, about being an outsider, about the secrets that come from being a teenager girl--but mostly it's the story of a girl who herself is a secret, and that's b/c her father is married with a daughter, and she's the daughter of his secret second wife. We see her grow up, longing for the life she can never have, watching her sister from afar--and then the story shifts to the legitimate sister's point of view. Jones does both girls justice and both their stories broke my heart. A.

2011 book 10

Maryrose Wood's The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place Book 2: The Hidden Gallery
The second Incorrigible Children book--which I have been eagerly awaiting, and was the only ARC I absolutely HAD to have at Midwinter--made me giggle just as much as the first one. Wood's tongue-in-cheek narration and wordplay are excellent. And the characters are just as lovable as ever, and new clues arise and some mysteries are solved, and I can't believe I have to wait over a year for the third one. A.

Friday, January 07, 2011


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Hello! I'm in San Diego, which of course meant I had to go to the San Diego Zoo and see pandas. Which was awesome. We also saw an otter grooming a monkey, some bonobos, and some pretty awesome birds. And lots of other animals.

Bonus: video of a polar bear trying to get something out of a log.

2011 book 9

Jenn McKinlay's Buttercream Bump-Off
The sequel to Sprinkle with Murder is just as silly and fluffy as the first one. But as much as I enjoy these characters and their cupcakes, the mystery here was just dumb. The murderer was way too easy to guess (though the resolution here was also dumb) and there's no way someone who owns a bakery would close it in the middle of the day to stake people out when she's only tangentially involved in the situation. More cupcakes and romance and less silly sleuthing, please. B.

2011 books 7 and 8

Isobelle Carmody's Wavesong and The Stone Key
The 5th and 6th Obernewtyn books were kind of grueling to read--for one thing, they're both really long (and apparently are one book in Australia instead of two, sheesh), and for another, there's just a lot of fighting and rebelling and low-grade intensity. But things are moving toward a resolution, at least as soon as Carmody puts out another book in this series.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

2011 book 6

Isobelle Carmody's The Keeping Place
The fourth Obernewtyn book is almost undone by its length, its many typos, and the fact that the name of a character who's existed since book one keeps changing. Luckily the story moved forward enough to keep me interested and the protagonist figured out two obvious things I've been hoping she'd figure out sooner rather than later. B/B+.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

2011 book 5

Ruth Pennebaker's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough
Terrible title for a terrible book. It's about Joanie, on the verge of fifty and trying to raise her teenage daughter, and her mother comes to live with them, and then her ex husband calls to tell her he's knocked up his new young girlfriend. Joanie and the teenager are ok characters but her mother is written in the most unrealistic way possible, and then the end wraps up with a too-neat little bow. I was over it way before that but for some reason kept reading. What a waste, when I could have been reading silly YA fantasy books! C-.

2011 book 4

Isobelle Carmody's Ashling
I was vaguely disappointed with the third Obernewtyn book--not that interesting things don't happen, because they do, and I still want to know what will happen to the characters. But we know our protagonist has a destiny of some kind, yet there's never any building toward that. It just gets mentioned a lot. And to the reader, it's very obvious who her big opponent will be, but she has no idea. It's frustrating. I'm going to take a break from these, I think, and then see if the fourth one improves anything. B.

Monday, January 03, 2011

2011 book 3

Isobelle Carmody's The Farseekers
The second Obernewtyn book is much in the same vein as the first, though a bit overwritten at times (I hate when authors hint and hint and hint about romantic feelings that their heroines are too stupid to notice themselves feel). Interesting new characters and political intrigues, and Carmody writes some great animals, so I guess I'll read the third one. B/B+.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

2011 book 2

Isobelle Carmody's Obernewtyn
I really have enjoyed the other books by Carmody I've read, but this book--the first in a series--seemed more like straight-up fantasy and I kind of prefer stories set in the modern world that have fantasy elements (feel free to recommend any of those to me, by the way). But I figured I'd give this a go anyway after it was briefly mentioned in Saving Francesca, and it turns out it's not set in some fantasy land, but in the distant future, after the world has been destroyed (presumably by nuclear war). The remaining radiation causes mutations; if they are apparent at birth, the child is killed, but if the mutation is mental and isn't discovered until later on, the child is categorized as a misfit and sent away. Our protagonist, Elspeth, is living in an orphan farm after her parents' murder for sedition; she knows she's a misfit and tries hard to hide it, but of course things are never that easy. She has mind-reading powers and can talk to animals, which is pretty cool from my point of view. This first book does an excellent job of world-building, introducing the characters, and setting up Elspeth's path. I'm planning on reading the second one and then seeing if I want to delve into the rest. A-.

2011 book 1

S.G. Browne's Fated
This seems like the sort of book I should like--the personification of Fate, who goes by Fabio, falls in love with a mortal woman. But the world-building was fairly boring, most of the characters didn't have much in the way of personality, and the end was ridiculous. C.

Saturday, January 01, 2011


Originally uploaded by wordnerdy
Happy 2011! I rang in the new year with Wembley, the Wusses (for the third time!), and several of my favorite people. I also took a ton of pics, many of which made it onto flickr. It was an awesome night and a great start to the year.