Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 book 371

Rainbow Rowell's Attachments
After Lord of the Rings, I wanted to read something lighter and more contemporary, so decided to revisit one of my favorite books from 2011. (If a book set in 1999 can be considered contemporary, anyway.) Honestly, this book should not really work, but it somehow does, and I love it.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 book 370

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Return of the King
Sam really is the hero of these books, isn't he! He and Eowyn remain my favorite characters--though I will wonder forever why Peter Jackson didn't have Eowyn and Faramir get together in the movie, when he included so many other random things. I'd forgotten how funny this third one is--after all the intense drama, anyway. Great to revisit the series and now I need to rewatch the movies.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 book 369

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers
I've read before that Tolkien originally intended for LOTR to be six individual books, and nowhere is that clearer than in this middle one, which tells two completely different stories--the first, dealing with Aragorn and Pippin/Merry and Legolas and Gimli, and the second, with Frodo and Sam and Gollum. I'd forgotten how major the Ents are in the book, whcih was nice to revisit--all I remember from the movie is battle after battle, and maybe one scene with Ents. And Tolkien has a good sense of timing--as soon as I was getting tired of Frodo and Sam's sad journeying, they run into Faramir! Off to read the third!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 book 368

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring
Seeing The Hobbit made me want to reread the Lord of the Rings books--and actually, seeing it has enhanced my reading experience slightly, in that I actually know who Balin is (the friendly and lovable white-haired one!) and care about what happened to him. I'd forgotten that Frodo and the gang don't get to Rivendell until like halfway through, but things are pretty action-packed from that point on (barring the MANY poems and songs, anyway). And Sam is even better than I'd remembered.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

2012 book 367

Alan Sepinwall's The Revolution was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers who Changed TV Drama Forever
I love Sepinwall's writing--I read his commentaries on all the shows I watch, some shows I don't watch, and when I marathon something new (like today's viewing of season 1 of Girls), I go back and read his stuff too. So it was inevitable that I'd read, and enjoy, his book on the changing TV landscape, with each chapter focusing on a different relevant show, like The Sopranos and Mad Men and Lost (for this reason, the book is unfortunately very dude-heavy, though there are a couple of women network executives featured). I loved the chapters on the shows I watch, and even some of the ones on shows I didn't watch were fascinating. In fact, I'm actually starting Deadwood season 1 as a direct result of reading this. A-/B+.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2012 book 366

Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike: The Darkness Dwellers
I've been waiting for a new Kiki Strike book for four years now, and was worried at first that this could never live up to my expectations--it's a little bit of a slow starter, the Irregulars are split up on separate adventures, and there are some thoroughly unlikable characters. But at some point my antipathy melted away and I was completely caught up in the story, which did in fact live up to the first two Kiki Strike books, and lays the groundwork for some new adventures (or so I hope!). There are some marvelous moments in the catacombs of Paris, a historical mystery involving spies, and even a touch of romance. And it all came together in a great ending with some really nice takeaways. A/A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in January.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012 book 365 (!!!!!!)

Lisa Lutz's Trail of the Spellmans
The fifth Spellman book is not my favorite, and not just because I'm annoyed that my favorite two characters finally got together in the last book, and then we skip ahead two years and never get to see them happy together! What a rip-off. OK, clearly that is actually why. It's also because Lutz's editors are NOT detail-oriented; names change spellings from book to book, and ex-boyfriends change numbers, and that is also annoying. Anyway, another funny outing with a solid plot, it just breaks my little 'shipper heart.

2012 book 364

Lisa Lutz's The Spellmans Strike Again
I think this is my favorite of the Spellman books--two engaging mysteries, absolutely ridiculous Spellman shenanigans, and my favorite characters finally get together! Plus all the best pop culture references. This book makes me want to rewatch the Martha year of Doctor Who.

Friday, December 21, 2012

2012 book 363

Lisa Lutz's Revenge of the Spellmans
The third Spellmans book is much stronger--and even a bit funnier--than the second one. The central mystery is low-key, but still compelling, and all of Izzy's personal drama is both relatable and hilarious. I love this series so much no matter how often I read it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012 book 362

Lisa Lutz's Curse of the Spellmans
The second Spellmans book has my least favorite main mystery (because Isabel is so dumb about it), but there's plenty of good stuff to make up for it--plenty of Henry and Rae antics, the mystery of Mr Peabody, neighborhood vandalism, etc. And Doctor Who references!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2012 book 361

Maria V. Snyder's Scent of Magic
The sequel to Touch of Power suffered a bit from middle-chapter syndrome, plus most of it takes place hanging out waiting for battles to start, which is less compelling than the story from the first book. I had forgotten how super creepy the villain is--a power-hungry magician with rapey tendencies and a zombie army. And the two main characters are separate for the entire book, longing for each other the whole time in an annoying manner. THAT SAID, this was still pretty entertaining, the world-building is interesting, there are fun new soldier characters, etc. I don't know, B/B+?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2012 book 360

Lisa Lutz's The Spellman Files
I wanted to reread the most recent book in this series, but some anal part of me won't let myself read a series out of order--I have to start from the beginning (this may help explain why I've read the Harry Potter books so many times). Anyway, I have read this book something like seven times before, and it is still hilarious. I wish there were more mysteries like this one.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Favorite Books of 2012!

Without further ado--the books I loved, recommended, couldn't stop talking about, etc, presented alphabetically by author:

Ayad Akhtar's American Dervish
Chris Bohjalian's The Sandcastle Girls
Carol Rifka Brunt's Tell the Wolves I'm Home
Louise Erdrich's Round House
Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl
Rachel Hartman's Seraphina
Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child
Patrice Kindl's Keeping the Castle
Nina LaCour's The Disenchantments
Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies
Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles
Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper
Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette?
Elizabeth Wein's Code Name: Verity

And, for a bonus, here are my favorite comics of 2012.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

2012 book 359

Hannah Barnaby's Wonder Show
A book about a girl who runs away from a home for wayward girls to work at a traveling circus in the 1930s should have really floated my boat, but this one didn't. The plot was really thin, for one thing, and the constantly changing perspectives (from 3rd person omniscient to various 1st person chapters) kind of annoyed me. And there were not nearly enough details about the 1930s traveling circus! I just was not feeling this book at all. B/B-.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

2012 book 358

Victoria Strauss' Passion Blue
It's the 1400s, and a young woman, the illegitimate daughter of a recently deceased count, is told she's being sent to a convent (against her will). Attempting to circumvent her fate, she visits a sorcerer to get a talisman that will allow her to marry instead. But here is the thing: she is a moron. This book was enjoyable, don't get me wrong, but OH MY GOD. It took her the entire book to figure out what is immediately obvious to the reader (re: both her heart's desire and her love interest). It's hard to be too sympathetic to someone who is terminally idiotic. On the other hand, this is very different than most YA books and I have to give it props for that. B. (The terrible title actually refers to a color of paint, if you were wondering.)

Friday, December 14, 2012

2012 book 357

Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me
For the past couple of days I have been in a weird mood where I keep starting books and going "eh" and not liking anything. The only cure for this is to read a book you know you love (even if it's one that makes you cry and cry every time you read it). This is one of my very favorite books, and really the best book ever about friendship, families, game shows, books, and time travel. A+ forever.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2012 book 356

Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine
I have read--and loved--all of Erdrich's books, but many of those readings predate this blog and I really wanted to reacquaint myself with her Ojibwe novels (all of which involve the same families). Lady Doctor Book Club is actually reading this next month, but I was tired of waiting to read it and finally just went for it. It's actually even better than I remembered, which is kind of silly, since it won a million awards and was highly acclaimed. It mostly centers on the Kashpaw and Nanapush families living on a reservation in North Dakota, and their many interrelationships over the years. And, particularly, how everyone is affected when one woman dies. I'll definitely be revisiting more of these in the coming weeks (unfortunately, several of the books aren't available as e-books, which makes me less likely to pick them up). Anyway, Love Medicine rules, as do all Erdrich books. A.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2012 book 355

DD Barant's Undead to the World
The latest book in the Bloodhound Files series starts off in a whole new reality, and things aren't really explained till like a third of the way in, which makes it a really fun read. Everything is pretty bonkers and I am mildly annoyed at the cliffhanger ending, but I really enjoy this series and especially protagonist Jace. A-/B+.

Monday, December 10, 2012

2012 book 354

T.J. Brown's Summerset Abbey
I have to be at least a little bit cynical and assume that this book is trying to get in on the Downton Abbey craze, but I would still wholeheartedly recommend it to fellow DA fans. It's set a little earlier, in Edwardian England (the first decade of the 1900s), but has similar themes of young ladies chafing for new freedoms and lots of great stuff about the class divide. That's actually a prominent plot point, as the book mainly focuses on Prudence, daughter of a governess who was raised as basically a sister to the two girls of the house, especially after the death of her mother. When their father dies, the two girls are forced to move into their uncle's home--and Prudence is only welcome as their ladies' maid. Of course there's a big dark secret about her parentage that takes too long to reveal and is pretty obvious to the reader, but there's still a lot to like here--the three girls are all interesting characters, particularly Prudence, and my fascination with the upstairs/downstairs clash never does seem to die. A nice, quick, fun read, could be a good YA crossover (though I don't think is being marketed as YA). This is actually the first of a series, with the next one due out in March. A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on January 15th.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

2012 book 353

Diana Wynne Jones' Year of the Griffin
I found the second Derkholm book to be a MUCH more satisfying read--the youngest griffin from the previous book goes to Wizard University, where she becomes friends with a motley assortment of wizards, each with their own problems and/or secrets. And the head of the university is determined to be the first wizard on the moon. Great stuff, and pretty hilarious. A-.

2012 book 352

Diana Wynne Jones' Dark Lord of Derkholm
This book was just too  . . . weird, ridiculous, I don't even know. Not my favorite of Jones' stuff by a long shot. BUT I am still going to read the sequel, because I really liked the griffins in this one and apparently one of them is the main character in that one. B/B-.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

2012 book 351

Rilla Askew's Kind of Kin
Trying to summarize the plot of this one might sound convoluted (though when you're reading it, it works)--it's about what happens when an ambitious young state representative gets a law passed making it illegal to harbor or transport illegal aliens, and then a elderly Christian man is arrested under the law, throwing his family--and eventually, the town--into turmoil. Really strong characterization, especially of the man's harried daughter and his little grandson. I was totally caught up in the plot, too.  Normally I'm not into books that have a ripped-from-the-headlines feel, but this story was contemporary and relevant without feeling cheap or pandering. I'd imagine this would be a hit with book groups. A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on January 8th.

Friday, December 07, 2012

2012 book 350

Libba Bray's The Diviners
It seriously took me four tries to read this book, because the first chapter creeped me out so badly that I kept stopping. But since it made so many best-of-the-year lists, I figured I should plow through and finally managed it. And I can see why it made so many lists--it's a very ambitious cross-genre start to a series--but I didn't really love it. There's a lot going on here to like-- a bunch of young people in the 20s with special gifts (some of which turn out to be ridiculously bonkers) are all sort of milling around (presumably eventually they'll band together and form a super-powered posse) while a serial killer's ghost is murdering people for obviously nefarious purposes. Things I liked: flappers, the gay pianist, the black poet. Things I didn't like: general atmosphere of terror, sinister adults, people doing really dumb things all the time, awesome half-Jewish daughter of radicals is sorely underused, too many characters and not enough answers. This is a solid book if you're into creepy weirdness, don't get me wrong, but I'm just not interested in where this series is going to go. B/B+.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

2012 book 349

Bel Kaufman's Up The Down Staircase
This is one of the books I picked up for my Kindle on Cyber Monday and I am just ridiculously pleased to own it (even though I am pretty sure my mom's old copy is still on one of my bookshelves upstairs--don't worry, she bought it on Cyber Monday too! Side note: the charming illustrations and hand-written notes are all preserved in the Kindle edition). I just love what a time capsule it is for the early 60s--somehow I'd totally forgotten the death-by-illegal-abortion and all the discussion of integration. Even though it almost reads like a progenitor of those books where a white lady teacher inspires and saves a class of surly multicultural students, it's based on Kaufman's own years teaching and you can tell how heartfelt it is. PLUS Kaufman is Sholom Aleichem's granddaughter and totally inherited his abilities with characterization.

Look, I can't grade this, it's a classic that my mom gave me to read during those formative years.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

2012 book 348

Kendare Blake's Girl of Nightmares
I guess I should confess that I'm sick and cranky, which may be coloring my feelings about the sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood. But I just wasn't feeling it. Everyone talks too much. The whole thing is just like blah blah we have to rescue this ghost out of Hell and also there's like a secret society but it's all really boring and anti-climactic. I mean, stuff happens, but it's not as good as the first one. B/B-.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

2012 book 347

Melanie McGrath's White Heat
I have to say, the mystery in this book is overly convoluted--but everything else is completely fascinating. It's set in a small Inuit community in the far Canadian north, where the local schoolteacher--who also works as a hunting guide--gets caught up in a series of deaths. Like I said, the mystery is kind of all over the place, and the protagonist does some absolutely ridiculous things, but the setting and the characters are so strong that it almost doesn't matter. I really loved all the details of their lives. A-/B+.

Monday, December 03, 2012

2012 book 346

Patricia Wrede's Talking to Dragons
After reading the first three books, the fourth feels pretty predictable, but it's no less enjoyable, and ties up basically all the loose ends. B/B+

2012 book 345

Patricia Wrede's Calling on Dragons
The third book in this series focuses more on hilarious witch Morwen and her many (talking) cats, as our heroes try to foil yet another wizard plot. I admit that my respect for them is falling a little since those annoying wizards keep managing to cause trouble. This one has kind of a cliffhanger ending, though, which is interesting. B+.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

2012 book 344

Patricia Wrede's Searching for Dragons
The second book in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles finds the young King of the Enchanted Forest joining with the princess from the first book to find a missing dragon and figure out just what those shady wizards are up to now. These books are adorable and very funny. A-.

2012 book 343

Patricia Wrede's Dealing with Dragons
I'm finally reading the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and the first one is a super cute story about a princess who's uninterested in proper princess things, and instead wants to learn fencing, Latin, cooking, etc. When her parents attempt to marry her off to a boring prince, she runs away and volunteers to be a dragon's princess. Obviously (completely charming) adventures ensue. A-/B+.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

2012 book 342

Christian Moerk's Darling Jim
It's been a few years since I'd read this--it was one of my favorites of 2009--but I'd been thinking about it recently and decided to revisit it (even though I remembered most of the details). You really can't go wrong with a delightfully creepy novel about stories, families (especially sisters), wolves, and murder most foul, all told through the lens of a wannabe graphic novelist who discovers the diary of a murdered girl. I recognize that this story isn't perfect but I still love it.

2012 book 341

Hilary Mantel's Bring Up The Bodies
I have to say, I almost didn't read this--but I liked it a LOT more than Wolf Hall. For one thing, it's shorter, and the writing feels tighter and less stylized in general. Plus, the plot is great--not that Cromwell's rise to power wasn't fascinating (sometimes, anyway), but this one all takes place in like a year and features the downfall of Anne Boleyn--juicy stuff, even from Cromwell's perspective. I don't think this one would work as a standalone, unfortunately, because it was a lot more readable than Wolf Hall, and 1000+ pages is a lot to get through to get to the beheadings! A.