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06:19pm 01/01/2009
  (cross-posted from quietjenn. sorry if you are on both lists.)

oh, livejournal. how do i neglect thee? maybe if i were were a resolution-making sort of girl, i might vow to be better in the new year. maybe i am a resolution-making sort of girl and i have made that vow, but only unofficially because i don't want the guilt if/when i fall once again into neglect. i have missed you though. yes, i might flirt with blogger and twitter, it's you i always come back to eventually. i am a creature of habit, or something.

in any case, friends i hope you have been well. i do still read and on occassion comment, so i am sort of up to speed. and if you have not been well, i am sorry and hope for good things in this new year. yes, it's corny and essentially just another day, not all that different from the one that came before it or the one that will follow. but still.

and in the grand tradition, which really isn't all that grand, but is one of my little rituals, i offer you the list of books i read in last year, without elaboration. although if you are quite interested, maybe you should befriend me on goodreads, where another not-resolution will be to actually offer commentary. with regards to this list, it's really heavy on the kidlit and mysteries, indicating that i spent the year a) trying to be a with-it professional and b) did a lot of comfort reading. also, as per usual, if features me going on a lot of author-kicks. also, it's really difficult to believe that those "begining of the year" books were read just a year ago. a rather long year ago.

2008 list - sorry for the inevitable typosCollapse )
     Read 4 - Post
04:06pm 09/03/2008
  er, hello.
remember me? once upon a time, i used to read a lot of books and post little things about them. lately, which is to say all of 2008 thus far, not so much. because it has been cold and wintery for much of the last few months. and contrary to what you might think, instead of making me hunker up to the internet and type away, this makes me curl up with books and not talk about them. or else watch far too many hours of not-very-good reality television.
also, i read a lot of what other people say about books, here on ye olde internet, and lately lots of them have been sort of bugging the shit out of me, so i'm loathe to count myself as a member of said ranks.
nevertheless, i have quite the long list of books here and it just keeps growing, so the least i could do is throw a little out there. and so.

sparkling cyanide by agatha christie

ordeal by innocence by agatha christie

evil genius by catherine jinks (please someone send me a copy of the arc of the sequel. i want to read it badly.)

little house in the big woods by laura ingalls wilder (rereading totally inspired by the jezebel "fine lines" posts. laura ingalls wilder might just have been my first obsession. i actually want to reread all the books, but only if i can get my hands on the same editions i read as a kid - the butter yellow ones. when i went home for christmas i tried to find them, but they seem to be lurking in some far reaching corner of my mom's garage, under lots of crap, and it was far too cold to find them.)

a crooked kind of perfect by linda urban (i was worried that this would be a little to twee for me, but i actually loved it.)

endless night by agatha christie

green grows the city by beverly nichols (i have about the blackest thumb ever, so i wasn't sure i'd enjoy this book that centers on creating a loverly garden in the midst of london. but, i felt sorry for the book, because i'd ordered it and then worried that no one would ever check it out of my library. i was utterly charmed by it and highly amused. i guess it helps if books on subjects you have no knowledge of are written by dandies.)

thre true meaning of smekday by adam rex

petal pusher: a rock and roll cinderella story by laurie lindeen (i have to admit that it was mostly curiosity over the fact that lindeen is paul westerberg's wife that made me initially interested in this book, but i ended up completely digging it for so many other reasons.)

the labours of hercules by agatha christie

the charmed bracelet, global warning, ghost in the machinery, the disoriented express (nancy drew graphic novels v.7 -10) by stefan petrucha (these are sort of a guilty pleasure. which aren't particularly good, but i have a sentimental attachment to nancy drew and it's not like i'm going to ever read any of the monthly paperbacks that whatever company owns the character churns out these days. it was interesting to note that i enjoy the books way more when sho isn't the artist.)

captain underpants and the invasion of the incredibly naughty cafeteria ladies from outer space, captain underpants and the perilous plot of professor poopypants, captain underpants and the wrath of the wicked wedgie woman by dav pilkey (i love captain underpants. it's true and i am not ashamed of it.)

dorothy l. sayers: the complete stories by dorothy l. sayers

the unpleasantness at the bellona club by dorothy l. sayers

whose body? by doroth l. sayers (i actually listened to this. i think maybe it's the first book on tape i ever made it through and it took forever, because listening to books just isn't my think. it was an exercise. i'm somewhat intrigued, but probably not a convert. go librivox, though!)

cloud of wintess by dorothy l. sayers

the poison apples by lily archer (pretty, pretty book design. the words aren't half bad either.)

pipi longstocking by astrid lindgren, illus. lauren child (whoever had the idea of lauren child illustrating pippi longstocking is a bloody genius.)

the qqikpick adventure society by sam riddleburger (i like it when kids book acknowledge class issues in a non-didactic or cliched way.)

story of a girl by sara zarr

billy bones: a tale from the secret closet by christopher lincoln

the clocks by agatha christie

total constant order by crissa-jean chappell (so good. i think crissa-jean is the bee's knees, but even if i didn't i would've liked the book. you know, because it's good.)

appointment with death by agatha christie

tips on having a gay (ex)boyfriend by carrie jones

there's a new name in school (the ashlesy, book 1) by melissa de la cruz

shug by jenny han (is my new favorite recommendation for tween girls.)

the road by cormac mccarthy (why yes, you are brilliant. and i suppose maybe once in a very great while, oprah gets things right. but i still don't like her.)

masquerade by melissa de la cruz (um, could you please publish the third book in this series already? thanks.)

the nixie's song (beyond the spiderwick chronicles) by holly black and tony diterlizzi

the pinhoe egg by diana wynne jones (note to self: read more diana wynne jones.)

helping me help myself: one skeptic, ten self-help gurus, and a year on the brink of the comfort zone by beth lisick (which i enjoyed way, way more than i expected to.)

dealing with dragons by patricia c. wrede (is on our summer reading list this year. i look forward to pushing it on people and do think i'll read the rest of the series. yay, for the slightly subversive and yet light-hearted.)

an incomplete revenge by jacqueline winspear (i've been totally lukewarm on the last few massie dobbs books. this one i enjoyed far more, although some of winspear's breathless descriptions of just how amazing and great masie is still make me grit my teeth.)

gilda joyce: the ghost sonata by jennifer allison (in contrast, gilda joyce is starting to bug me a little. wendy kinda rocks here, though. and i still love that joyce doesn't provide some easy-peasy explanation of the paranormal in her books.)

a great and terrible beauty by libba bray (i know people who loooove this book. and i know people who hate it. i figured it was finally time to see for myself. it was a slow start, and there were definitely aspects that i wasn't keen on, but i'm more love than hate. although, "quite like" would be more accurate. or at least, quite like enough to go digging through the boxes of books in the closet because i think there's a copy of rebel angels in there somewhere.)

and, that's it. finally. now i'm either going to go do the abovementioned digging. probably, at least until justin comes back from the store with milk, at which point i'm going to eat some rice krispies.
     Read 3 - Post
books of 2007   
06:00pm 31/12/2007
  this list is probably riddled with typos, because i typed it up at four o'clock this morning when i couldn't sleep. but what really, really tired. it was definitely the year of agatha christie, although mary wesley made a noteworthy showing as well. when i post this in a few minutes to quietjenn i'll probably try to do some sort of summation, because people seem to like that. here, i just present it to you in all it's unadulterated glory. sorry if you have to scroll lots! happy, happy to all.

looking for alibrandi by melissa marchetta
this side of paradise by f. scott fitzgerald
the case of the left-handed lady by nancy springer
living on air by anne shapiro
nice big american baby by judy budnitz
fly by night by frances hardinge
the end of mr. y by scarlett thomas
still life by louise penny
cupcake by rachel cohn
american born chinese by gene luen yang
popco by scarlett thomas
the house of arden by e. nesbit
the mysterious affair at styles by agatha christie
curtain by agatha christie
daddy's girl by lisa scottoline
the rossetti letter by christi phillips
the murder of roger ackroyd by agatha christie
ivy and bean by anne barrows
the year of the dog by grace lin
toys go out by emily jenkins
the pale horse by agatha christie
summer at tiffany by marjorie hart
pocketful of rye by agatha christie
the yiddish policemen's union by michael chabon
the oxford murders by guillermo martinez
the man in the brown suit by agatha christie
austenland by shannon hale
gilda joyce: the ladies of the lake by jennifer allison
there's a (slight) chance i might be going to hell by laurie notaro
the double bind by chris bohjalian
silence of the grave by arnaldur indiradason
the green glass sea by ellen klages
the enchanted castle by e. nesbit
the goose girl by shannon hale
london is the best city in america by laura dave
a drowned maiden's hair by laura amy schlitz
scarlett by cathy cassedy
the rising star of rusty nail by lesley m. m. blume
the queen of cool by cecil castelluci
the gentle axe by r.n. morris
factotum by charles bukowski
enna burning by shannon hale
four and twenty blackbirds by agatha christie
the every boy by dana adam shapiro
the case of the missing books by ian sansom
tiny tyrant by lewis trondheim
blindspot by kevin c. pyle
the spellman files by lisa lutz
lullabies for little criminals by heather o'neil
cures for heartbreak by margo rabb
jeremy fink and the meaning of life by wendy maas
ask again later by jill a. davis
the world of psmith by p.g. wodehouse
murder is announced by agatha christie
notes on a near-life experience by olivia birdsall
peppermints in the parlor by barbara brooks wallace
the higher power of lucky by susan paton
dairy queen by catherine gilbert murdock
13 little blue envelopes by maureen johnson
the mirror crack'd by agatha christie
at bertram's hotel by agatha christie
the moving finger by agatha christie
on the naive but honourable self-determination of teenage girls by amber gayle
angels on sunset boulevard by melissa de la cruz
twilight by stephanie mayer
fly on the wall by e. lockhart
hannah west in the belltown towers by linda john
hannah west in deep water by linda john
hannah west in the center of the universe by linda john
boys of my youth by jo ann beard
after dark by haruki murakami
cat among pigeons by agatha christie
sleeping murder by agatha christie
the mystery of the blue train by agatha christie
murder on the orient express by agatha christie
dead man's folly by agatha christie
hallowe'en party by agatha christie
the hollow by agatha christie
murder in mesopatamia by agatha christie
lost horizon by james hilton
by the pricking of my thumbs by agatha christie
five little pigs by agatha christie
one, two, buckle my shoe by agatha christie
hercule poirot's christmas by agatha christie
murder at the vicarage by agatha christie
murder is easy by agatha christie
ruby lu, brave and true by lenore look
french milk by lucy knisley
kiki strike: the empress's tomb by kirsten miller
kat and mouse (v.1 & 2) by alex de campi
goosebumps: 3 goulish graphix tales by r.l. stine
ivy and bean and the ghost who had to go by annie barrows
clementine by sarah pennypekcer
when last i died by gladys mitchell
the christopher killer by alane ferguson
a caribbean mystery by agatha christie
the plain janes by cecil castelluci
nemesis by agatha christie
the railway children by e. nesbit
what mrs. mcgillicuddy saw by agatha christie
evil under the sun by agatha christie
the body in the library by agatha christie
they came to baghdad by agatha christie
death on the nile by agatha christie
derby girl by shanua cross
death in the air by agatha christie
the big four by agatha christie
the au pairs by melissa de la cruz
bone (v. 1-3) by jeff smith
tantalize by cynthia leitch smith
theodosia and the serpents of chaos by r.l. lafevers
have his carcase by dorothy l. sayers
gaudy night by dorothy l. sayers
on chesil beach by ian mcewan
so many steps to death by agatha christie
busman's holiday by dorothy l. sayers
restless by william boyd
manhattan, when i was young by mary cantwell
murder in three acts by agatha christie
the talented clementine by sarah pennypacker
charlie bone and the beast by jenny nimmo
once upon a crime by michael buckley
travels with my aunt by graham greene
mr. dixon disappears by ian sansom
songs without words by ann packer
a little friendly advice by siobhan vivian
harry potter and the deathly hallows by j.k. rowling
the rotter's club by jonathan coe
howl's moving castle by diane wynne jones
cold water by gwendolyn riley
chain mail: addicted to you by hiroshi ishizaki
murder at hazelmoor by agatha christie
how to teach filthy rich girls by zoey dean
eat, pray, love by elizabeth gilbert
take-off: american all-girl band during world war ii by tonya bolden
luxe by anna godbersen
wicked lovely by melissa marr
the egypt game by zilpha keatley snyder
beige by cecil castelluci
the house of mirth by edith wharton
pretty little liars by sarah shepard
northern lights by nora roberts
the game by diane wynne jones
the guy not taken by jennifer weiner
harnassing peacocks by mary wesley
an imaginative experience by mary wesley
strong poison by doroth l. sayers
freakanomics by steven leavitt and stephen j. dunbar
the lightening theief by rick riordan
the welsh girl by peter ho davis
into the dark by peter abrahams
part of the furniture by mary wesley
a sensible life by mary wesley
sea of monsters by rick riordan
a dubious legacy by mary wesley
the mystery of the third lucretia by susan runhaldt
the moving toyshop by edmund crispin
the titan's curse by rick riordan
a field guide to high school by marissa walsh
august by gerard woodward
hero by perry moore
naomi and ely's no kiss list by rachel cohn and david levithan
a curse dark as gold by elizabeth c. bunce
good as lily by derek kirk kim and jesse hamm
the re-gifters by mike carey
my faith in frankie by mike carey
clubbing by andi watson
the secret life of sparrow delaney by suzanne harper
guyaholic by carolyn mackler
drama: the four dorothys by paul ruditis
the highest tide by jim lynch
hand in glove by ngaio marsh
the a.b.c. murders by agatha christie
poirot loses a client by agatha christie
peril at end house by agatha christie
the secret of chimneys by agatha christie
moxy maxwell does not love stuart little by peggy giford
into the wild by lyn gardiner
runaways (v.1-5) by brian k. vaughan
me and mr. darcy by alexander potter
olivia kidney and the exit academy by ellen potter
the mysterious edge of the heroic world by e.l. konigsburg
bridge of sighs by richard russo
girl at sea by maureen johnson
remembering mrs. rossi by amy hest
iris, messenger by sarah deming
13 reasons why by jay asher
hope chest by karen schwarenbach
deep down popular by phoebe snow
diary of a wimpy kid by jeff kinney
holy disorders by edmund crispin
the harrowing by alexandra sokaloff
middle school is worse than meatloaf by jennifer holm
frequent hearses by edmund crispin
the spell book of listen taylor by jaclyn moriarty
the return of jeeves by p.g. wodehouse
the absolutely true diary of a part-time indian by sherman alexie
bertie wooster sees it through by p.g. wodehouse
the mysterious mr. quinn by agatha christie
cards on the table by agatha christie
wuthering high by cara lockwood
surprise, surprise by agatha christie
the scarlet letterman by cara lockwood
jade green by phyllis reynolds naylor
there is a tide by agatha christie
third girl by agatha christie
lord edgware dies by agatha christie
laika by nick abadzis
murder with mirrors by agatha christie
the invention of hugo cabret by brian selznick
sammy keyes and the hotel thief by wendelin van dranen
elephants can remember by agatha christie
death note (v.1-12) by tsugumi ohba and takeshi obata
n or m? by agatha christie
murder on the links by agatha christie
postern of fate by agatha christie
towards zero by agatha christie
the adventures of captain underpants by dav pilkey
captain underpants and the attack of the talking toilets by dav pilkey
the wolves of willoughby chase by joan aiken
later, at the bar by rebecca barry

later, at the bar by rebecca barry   
02:13am 31/12/2007
  later, at the bar is the sort of book where i sort of wish that i were reading my own copy, instead of the library's, because i kept wanting to underline stuff in it. and, if you know that i'm totally not the kind of person who routinely underlines things in books (at least, not since i graduated from college), that should make that fact even more significant. this "novel in stories" revolves around a small town bar called lucy's and focuses on the lives and loves of the hard-drinkin' and livin' people who populate it. as i was reading it, i kept thinking that i should be listening to jeff buckley's sketches (for my sweetheart the drunk) whilst doing so, not so much based on the songs there (although some of them would totally work), but just for the title, which could be an alternate for this book. you could shift it around a bit too and go with sketches (of my sweetheart the drunk) and that would totally work too.

anyway, if you've read this journal at all, you probably know that i'm a sucker for stories about drunks and dying small towns and sad sacks, and later, at the bar has all of these. and i mean this in the best possible sense. it's also got beauty and poetry and sparse, lovely sentences that convey so much in each seemingly-tossed off phrase. hence my desire to constantly underline them. there are minor quibbles; at times, it's difficult to keep track of just who's who, and a few details get repeated from story to story - perhaps because the originally appeared in different publications. but the loveliness of the experience - of getting to pull up a bar stool and knock a few back with these characters, if you'll forgive the obvious analogy - far outweighs those moments.

and, on a totally unrelated-but-geekily-true note, i'm very proud of the fact that barry got her mfa at osu. sure, thousands and thousands of us have sat through hours in denney hall, but that doesn't keep from feeling a stab of kinship anyway.
05:37pm 30/12/2007
  today, i am feeling sort of bleh. it's cold and grey, i slept way later than i intended to and i'm full of the crampy. those are my excuses if i am snide and snarky in any of the following comments, although glancing over the list of books here, i don't think i should be excessively so. we'll see, however. once again, the list is dominated by dame christie. thanks e-bay! as much as i've enjoyed working my way through her collection, as i mentioned to my boyfriend the other day, i'm awfully glad that the new year will mean reading lots of books not written by her.

anyway, let's just get those out of the way first, shall we? lord edgware dies, murder with mirrors, elephants can remember, mrs. mcginty's dead, n or m?, murder on the links, postern of fate and towards zero. of these, i'd definitely say that n or m? was my favorite. it's tommy and tuppence at work during world war ii, and as such is more of a spy story - discovering who the nefarious undercover agent is - than a traditional mystery. maybe i ought to explore the genre of spy stories, because i read a fair number of them this year and quite enjoyed them. here, i pretty much figured out who the agent was way before tommy and tuppence, but that didn't prevent enjoyment. postern of fate is tommy and tuppence as well, although i wouldn't rate it nearly as highly. of the poirots and the marples on the list, my vote goes to elephants can remember, which gets points not only for mrs. oliver, but also for bohemians and drug addiction.

the invention of hugo cabret by brian selznick is maybe the most talked about children's book of the year, a status the stems in large part from the fact that it's unlike anything you've ever seen before. a weighty tome, it's descirbed by selznick as "not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things." which, really, is pretty ambitious and you've got to admire the experiment for experiment's sake. i'm always a fan of pushing the proverbial envelope and boundaries. so why do i feel so underwhelmed by the whole thing? i was tempted to chalk it up to one of those instances where you hear so much about a thing in advance that there's no way that there's virtually no way the actual book can live up to your expectations, but then i remembered that i actually started to read the invention of hugo cabret at the bookstore right after it came out and before i'd read all the laudatory comments. and, i put it down without regret fifty or so pages in.

simply put, i just wasn't feeling it. and even after going back to the book with all the hype in mind and a determination to understand the fuss, i still wasn't feeling it. it's fine; certainly not bad. but the most pleasure i got from it was tied to my interest in film history and the real-life work and story of georges melies, who's a character in the book. but even though i know a lot of smart kids, i don't know any of them who are jazzed about the early history of motion pictures. sitting here, trying to sum up my reaction to the book, i keep deleting what i've written in an effort to come up with something more intelligent than, "i was bored by the story and don't think the characters are developed enough to sustain it," but i can't. i was bored. the characters aren't develped enough. by the way the book is constructed, you can't divorce the words from the text, but if you did i don't think that either one of them would be strong enough to stand on their own. i concede though that i could be wrong. so many people like it so, so much and despite the thickness of, it's circulated a lot at my library. i'm glad it exists and if it compels people to ask questions about how we define and talk about books - or certain types of books - i'm glad. but at the end of the day, my initial, "not feeling it" take remains and i'm just left shrugging my shoulders.

now then, concluding with the category of "children's books i probably should have read before now," i offer you sammy keyes and the hotel thief by wendelin van draanen, the adventures of captain underpants and captain underpants and the attack of the talking toilets by dav pilkey and the wolves of willoughby chase by joan aiken. the first is the initial book in the sammy keyes detective series and it was enjoyable enough that i'm looking forward to reading the others. the captain underpants books are super fun and did, in fact, make me laugh out loud, so i'll totally read the rest of these as well and go to bat for whenever anyone denounces them. and the wolves of willoughby chase i really wish that i had read as a kid (how did i not read it when i was a kid?), instead of as an adult. i still really liked it, but i suspect if i had experienced it as eight things like the complete ineptitude of the parents wouldn't have bothered me. again though, i look forward to reading the related books.

anyway, that's it. sorry i'm not up to offering better-thought out commentary. i suppose it really is one of those days.
10:34pm 10/12/2007
  hi. i read some books. this is what they are. do you want to know about them? ask me, because tonight i'm sort of lazy but if i don't post this now, it will probably be twice as long when i get to it.

the spellbook of listen taylor by jaclyn moriarty (quirky, but totally enjoyable to me. i hate that it was published as a young adult book. it shouldn't have been. for further insight, see the very good review in the new york times.)

the return of jeeves by p.g. wodehouse (much love, as expected. there is no wooster here. how can that be? it still works though.)

bertie wooster sees it through by p.g. wodehouse (more goodness, much the same although bertie's back.)

the absolutely true diary of a part-time indian by sherman alexie (this recently won the national book award. i'm okay with that. i don't know if i'd call it the best "young people's" book out this year, but i liked reading it and alexie seems really awesome. i keep wanting to call it the true story ... not true diary, because really there is nothing diary-ish about it at all. funny though, and massive bonus points for the ellen forney involvement.)

the mysterious mr. quinn by agatha christie (eh. certainly not one of my favorites. short stories that i am just not sure what to make of)

cards on the table by agatha christie (an excellent one. i love it when dame agatha includes fops and dandies! the dead guy was totally stephen tennant in my head.)

wuthering high by cara lockwood (clever enough to pass the time, but no great shakes and i felt like an idiot trying to describe the plot to my boyfriend.)

surprise, surprise by agatha christie (short stories taken from other collections, which i totally didn't realize. these are good though, maybe because there is only one mr. quinn. it made me realize that when my time with the novels is over i am okay with working my way through the short stories. because without even intending it i guess i'm going to read all of agatha christie's books.)

the scarlet letterman by cara lockwood (sequel to wuthering high. not as good, but i'll still read the third when it comes out. culprit way too obvious and her boyfriend is a moron.)

jade green by phyllis reynolds naylor (have i read this before? i don't think so and yet it feels so familiar. ghost stories are always okay, although i can't really say this one made much of an impression.)

there is a tide by agatha christie (also known as taken at the flood. rather good, although i totally figured it out. at least in part. there were a few twists i didn't catch but i was pleased by my own detective work whilst reading)

third girl by agatha christie (not a favorite. drags and meanders a bit. but yay for the hippie inclusion! i figured out a lot of the clues here, too, although not how they all fit together.)

i also read like six or seven more issues of death note, which i continue to love. i'm trying to parcel the last four out, but i'm not sure how long i can hold out. right now i'm reading another christie (lord edgeware dies), listening to whose body? by dorothy l. sayers and about to start the much heralded the invention of hugo cabret.
     Read 2 - Post
07:43pm 12/11/2007
  okay, maybe i'll lump the remaining adult books together too. not because i'm lazy (um, maybe a little), but because of some other acceptable reason. ahem.

richard russo is maybe probably one of my favorite living writers, so i was understandably stoked about bridge of sighs, which is sprawling and complicated. i had a very involved bit of commentary planned when i first finished this book, but that was a few weeks ago. and it doesn't really help for me to tell you that, knowing full well that i'm not going to go that into it now. but, i will say that i think it's a very good book. but not a great book, because it could use a little bit of editing and there's a development at the end that i totally sort of hated. but, the language - oh man. i sort of wish that i could take a bath in it because it's so spectacular. and a lot of the characters i loved. i actually really wish that i could have a book about the women in the book - the focus of the story is very much on the boys, particularly one boy, lucy lynch. it spans the entirety of lynch's life and that of his town and that of all the people around him. you very much have to give yourself time to sink into this one. i was totally not feeling it when i started the book and it took maybe a hundred or two pages to really get into it. but once I did, man was i hooked. the bit at the end i can even forgive, when the rest of the tome is so lovely.

oops! when i did the other post, i forgot about 13 reasons why by jay asher, which is a book for older teens. the fact that i forgot to even mention it may or may not be indicative of something. jay asher seems like a cool guy and the website that accompanies the book is swell, but i was rather disappointed with this one. i love the premise, not quite won over with the execution. the premise: teen girl commits suicide, leaves 13 tapes explaining her actions, each one focusing on an individual to whom the tapes should be sent for listening. clay jenson is a good egg who always had a thing for hannah, the dead girl, and isn't quite sure where he fits into her story. but, she'll tell him eventually, when his time on the tapes comes around. sounds promising, right? i can't quite put my finger on why it didn't work for me. i know that, in part, it's clay's voice. it didn't ring true to me oftentimes and at others i just found it to be intrusive. and part of it was hannah herself. reading this book, i realized that i have an issue with books that can be summed up as "sensitive boy loves troubled girl, mostly from afar, and tries to make sense of her self-destructive behaviour." and this book can certainly be summed up as such.

anyway, i had so much fun reading the moving toyshop that i decided to read another edmund crispin/gervase fen) mystery - holy disorders. not quite the rollicking god time of the first - it moved a lot more slowly and i kept getting distracted as i was reading it. but, it has a lot of good points and is a fine offering when one is in the mood.

the harrowing would, i suspect, make a heck of a horror movie. which is so not surprising, given that authr alexandra sokoloff is a screenwriter and this is her first novel. it doesn't exactly break any new ground here, but it does what it does well. it's creepy and scary enough that you want to keep reading, but not so terrifying that i had nightmares last night (yes, i read this yesterday). five students are left in their gothy dorm over thanksgiving break, smoke a little pot, drink a little whiskey and decide to break out the ouija board. something speaks to them? or does it? and if it does, just who or what is it? things get very outlandish towards the end - almost comically so and i found myself thinking "not possible" more than i should in a horror novel, which you automatically give a lot of suspension of disbelief too. those points niggled, but not enough to make not recommend the book if you happening to be looking for something a little scary, a little lightweight and relatively quick for a dark and stormy night.
some kiddie & y.a. lit   
07:10pm 12/11/2007
  if i'm going to get through all the books on my list, i'm going to have to consolidate here, or else i'll inundate the friends-list of the handful of people reading this, which i wouldn't want to do. i'd actually planned to just do one gigantic post about everything, but then i spent too much time talking about jane austen and her fans in that first entry of the day. but the least i can do is link together all of the children's and young adult books, not least of all because i'm not passionate about most of them.

so, olivia kidney and the exit academy i decided to finally read because the third book in the series is out and if i want to read it (which i do), i should get to the second one first. my liking of the series is totally rooted in the fact that i dig olivia. she's a smart kid, well-portrayed to be complicated and spunky and funny and sympathetic. that said, a lot of the plot-elements to this one i wasn't so keen on. i liked the exit academy - where people about to die go in their dreams to rehearse their deaths - on one level, but on the purely physically, totally confusing, what with the flooding and the boating about the first floor. i loved the appeance of her brother and the friends she makes with the skateboarder dude and the girls next door. not so much the return of principessa. i realize that most of what i'm saying makes no sense to people who haven't read the book, and for that i apologize. maybe i'm not at the top of my game today.

now then, i am a huge e.l. konigsburg fan, so take that into account when i say that i really disliked the mysterious edge of the heroic world. and i don't think it's just a case of vaunted expectations. things i usually love about her books: big words! well-rounded characters! the fact that she begins with the assumption that the people - including the kids - who read her books are smart and doesn't talk to them like they're not! good plotting! divergent experiences coming together! and on the surface, the mysterious edge of the heroic world has most, if not all of these elements. but, i totally don't think it works here. maybe because i disliked almost every single character. maybe because the way the divergent experiences tied together seemed just too implausible. maybe because the dialogue didn't feel real - not because the words were too big, but because no one would actually string them together that way. i don't know exactly why, i just know that it felt half-assed and icky and i'm bothered by people who seem to love it. actually, people/reviews i've read on this one seem pretty evenly divided. i'm sitting very squarely in the thumbs down camp.

moving on, i really liked 13 little blue envelopes and i think maureen johnson gives good blog, so i was not surprised at enjoying girl at sea, her latest. featuring clio, a high school artsy chick compelled against her will to spend the summer with her estranged father. who happens to be living on a boat, doing some shadowy shipwreck research with his new lady, her daughter and other assorted characters. one of whom is dreamy, one of whom is an uncle character with a bad ticker and one of whom is, um, somebody else. adventure, growth, mistakes, love, friendship, what-have-you ensues. but, like, in a good way.

now then, i pretty much only read remembering mrs. rossi because amy hest came to a meeting at the library and spoke and she was very fun and enthusiastic and personable and made me totally want to go out be a writer already. and, there was a lovely stack of the books at the table, from which i took one and her sign it and then felt like i should read it. and i did, even though when i'd first read about the book in some reviews and stuff, i was pretty much like, "hm, dead mother book? no thanks. haven't we enough of those already?" but hest's book is written for a younger audience and it's unique in the fact that the departed mom is in a lot of ways the point of - the central fact of the story - instead of just an aside that defines the protagonist. and, yes, it totally made me tear up. on the bus, no less. also, it will be nice to be able to hand all those education students who come in looking for "problem books" something that i actually think is pretty good, instead of, like Susie Goes to the Hospital, or some such crap.

iris, messenger by sarah deming is sort of like the percy jackson books, only not really at all. "sort of like" because it starts with the premise that the gods are still kicking around here on earth and have, from time to time, spawned a few kids with mortal. "only not really at all" because mostly said gods seem to hang around despondent, watching tv or hanging around red light districts or pining away in a falling apart crab shak on the jersey shore. not quite the one-adventure-after-another, the-world-is-in-danger-and-only-our-young-hero-can-save-it world of mr. riordan. thus, of course, i thought it was aces. too bad the cover sucks.

both hope chest and deep down popular i read for work and they don't come out until next year. i doubt that i'd recommend you look for them. they aren't bad, just part of that vast mediocre middle.

i was likewise not so impressed with middle school is worse than meatloaf by jennifer holm, although practically everyone i've come across things it's fantastic, so maybe it's just me.

so not mediocre, however, is diary of a wimpy kid by jeff kinney. totally awesome. can't wait for the sequel. well, i can, i just mean i'm very much looking forward to it.
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me and mr. darcy by alexandra potter   
06:25pm 12/11/2007
  so, remember when i wrote last time, sort of bemoaning the fact that i wasn't feeling very bookish? turns out, i just wasn't feeling the sort of books i'd been reading and i got over it pretty quickly with the help of a little bit of chick lit and a whole lot of comic books (no more death note because my order hadn't come in yet - finally it has and i am eagerly awaiting that they be processed. instead, runaways, scott pilgrim and some other not-really-of-note manga). and then, things just moved along nicely at their own pace, which is why i have lots of books to talk about now! oh, happy day ...

i didn't have very high expectations for me and mr. darcy, because it is straight up, jane austen-inspired, brit chick lit with a pretty cover. and i've been burned by that sort of thing before. but, it's cute and engaging and i surprised myself by liking it as much as i did. emily albright is a new york city bookstore manager, who impulsively signs up for a holiday tour of jane austen country, mostly to avoid club-meding it with her friend and co-worker. once back in the old country, she finds herself surrounded by little old ladies and one rather callow british journalist with a broody appeal. you can see where this is going ... and the reason that i think the book works is because potter is smart and assumes that you know where this is going. she assumes that her reader is smart and is going to make the connection in about five seconds and just has fun with the whole premise and doesn't take herself at all seriously, as she moves emily and spike and the other characters through the story.

how do i know this? well, there's this line at the beginning of one of the chapters which summarizes a lot of the austen-fanatics one encounters so perfectly that i burst out loud laughing and wanted to copy it for my comments here. but, i forgot and returned it to the library already. but trust me ... the whole jane-austen-storms-pop-cultre is weird. because i consider myself a huge jane austen fan, in the sense that i read all of her books (p&p a few times) and loved them and keep an eye out for things like this. but, the die hard jane austen fans freak me out. the way, i suppose lots of hardcore fans freak me out. just now i clicked on the bad reader reviewers that this book got on amazon and it pretty much encapsulates it.

but, that's a total aside that i didn't even know i was going to go on. because the point i was going to make was: [you know potter gets the wink and just has fun with things because] along the way albright starts having encounters with mr. darcy, like physically. and austen makes a corporeal appearance as well. which, is totally ludicrous. worked well-enough that i's believable though. and emily is a charming-but-flawed character who we want to root for, and hang out and get sloshed with, instead of wanting to punch her in the face (which, i must confess, is how i've felt about a lot of the heroines i've encountered in jane austen-inspired contemporary literature). plus, if you're completely shallow - look how pretty the cover is! also, spike, the mr. darcy-ish character is pretty dishy. way more so, actually, than darcy himself, which is totally the point.
into the woods by lyn gardner   
12:30am 19/10/2007
  see, i told you i would finish into the woods tonight. even when i'm not in the mood, i just can't not read. seriously, i've tried. it just doesn't last. especially when you're having one of those days when you don't feel like putting clothes on and leaving the house (although, in a good, cozy way, not in a depressive, antisocial and unbalanced way). because seriously? there is only so much time you can spend on the internet, no matter how much you try.

so, the book. i sort of feel like it's one of those stories that i would maybe have really liked if i had been a different mood. big, thick book by an english writer, based on fairy tales and full of sly references to please both children (the target audience) and adults? with spunky girl heroines and awesome illustrations? um, yes, totally, sign me up already. even if you do bite the sondheim title. and yet. i'm just not feeling it. i actually skimmed pages at a time, and let me tell you, i am so not a skimmer. but i just couldn't get into this story of storm (spunky, techy, heroine type) and her sisters aurora (older, domestic, princess type) and any (preternaturally gifted baby type). there mother - rapunzel - dies early on, bequeathing with her last breath a beat up old tin pipe, which we come to learn was once in the hands of ye olde pied piper. who happens to be working evil under a new identity and is very keen to get it back.

yes, there is misfortune and adventures through the titular woods and encounters with fairy tale characters you probably recognize, even if they aren't always portrayed in the familiar way. it's appealing and sometimes funny and i'm confident that it will find a lot of enthusiastic readers (i'm guessing 4th & 5th grade girls). as such, i don't think it particularly matters that i wasn't bowled over by it. i'm thinking that, even when i do go into avid reader mode again, i should probably stay away from reimagined fairy tales for a little while, just because i'm burning out on them.
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i am so not feeling it   
08:29pm 18/10/2007
  so, i just have to start by confessing that i really haven't been feeling bookish lately. every once in a while, even the most devoted reader gets tired of things and needs to take a wee break. which doesn't mean that i've not been reading at all. more that i've sunk into comforting easy books that i know i'll enjoy, even if they aren't particularly new or challenging. which in reality means i've read a heck of a lot of manga (most notably the first issue of death note, which i totally loved and promptly requested the remaining books of the series for my library), other comic-type books like most of the minx books, and a lot of dependable old agatha christie.

i'd like to say that i'm out of my funk and will soon be back in the swing of things, if only because my on-hand supply of illustrated books and ms. christie have almost entirely run out. as a necessity, i last night started a children's book which has gotten good reviews and sounds like it should be right up by alley. i'm already halfway through and i can't really say that it's doing much for me. i'm sure i'll finish it tonight and maybe i'll feel differently by the end, but i must say that i'm thus far underwhelmed.

but, that's just how it goes sometimes, no? in the meantime though, just what did i think of all those agatha christies? (sorry, no comments on the illustrated stuff. in part because i can't remember all the manga and in part because i'm not enthusiastic enough about most of them offer individual commentary.)

i thought maybe reading the a.b.c. murders might be ruined for me, because not very long ago i heard a radio adaptation of it xm164 (which is totally, like, one of my favorite things ever). i wanted to give it a go though since it was the only christie i could find used at the nifty bookstore billy and i went to in, um, huntington? or some other long island town ... happily though, that episode was more playing in the background than occupying all of my attention. so, even though i could remember bits of it, there was a lot of the core mystery that i didn't recall, and thus reading it was a-ok and not at all redundant. besides, look at the cool old typewriter on the reissue cover? that isn't the copy i read, actually, but gee it's swell. this is a poirot novel, which examines a mysterious series of murders taking place in and around london, but one who seems sort of serial killer-ish. the crimes occur in alphabetical order and at the scene of each, a copy of the a.b.c. street guide is left by the killer. as you might imagine, all is not as it seems, but overall the story is enjoyable and just perplexing enough to be fun.

poirot loses a client is a good one, maybe because it involves little old ladies. and while i like it better when the little old lady is miss marple, this was thoroughly enjoyable. the mystery kicks in when poirot randomly receives a letter from a rich matron who died two months previously, apparently of natural causes. while hastings assumes that there is really no mystery to solve under those circumstances (and, by the way, yay for hastings! poirot is always so much less insufferable when he's around), poirot has other ideas. lots of english countryside and gentry with secrets and how can you not dig that?

peril at end house also features poirot and hastings, although as this one begins they are on vacation, where they happen upon the lovely and endangered nick buckley. hm, why is someone trying to kill her? who are all these bright young things around her and might their be a little evil behind their good-natured debauchery? and what has the mysterious missing airman have to do with things? So many questions, all of which you can count on the funny little belgian eventually finding the answer to. this one gets bonus points for the bright young things, because i love them so, as well as for cocaine, which you expect in sir arthur conan doyle but not in agatha christie. also, the twist that so often characterizes these books is a really good one here.

rounding out the dame agatha is the secret of chimneys, which i rather loved. i think i've mentioned before how much i enjoy the books where a.c. departs from her well-known characters, as she does so here. And there's a little bit of spy action and a little bit of mysterious european nobility action and a bit of romance and adventure and likable characters and it just all really works for me here. i read a lot of it on the bus and it was so perfect to sink into on there, especially on that long one back from jfk, where i had dropped my mom off. it's just good stuff, and now i totally want to listen to the audio version of it, just because that write up on audiofile makes it sound so swell.

and, in non-agatha christie news, i was pretty disappointed in moxy maxwell does not love stuart little by peggy gifford, although everyone i know seems to love it so maybe you should chalk that up to the aforementioned "bleh books" mood. i dunno, i guess it's cute in its own way. the cover is good and, um, i like the name moxy. overall, i just found the book a bit too twee for me. i love twee in my music but not so much in books, even ones written for children. plus, i know that i was supposed to find moxy and her antics as she procrastinatess her summer reading assignment cute and charming and what have you, but i just found her annoying and obnoxious. not junie b. jones level annoying and obnoxious, but enough. and frankly i'd much rather hand this out to young readers than that horrid little spawn, so i will give the book that. that being said, kids should really like this book. they'll relate. it has photographs. it's pretty short and some of the chapters are only a line or two long. and maybe they'll want to hang with moxy.
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hand in glove   
04:13pm 05/10/2007
  eh, i really don't have that much to say about ngaio marsh's hand in glove. i am more reveling in the fact that it is, in fact, possible for me to post about a book in a timely manner after completion. truthfully, it's been a slow week. i've grazed a bit, read a lot online and in magazines, but no book is particularly calling to me. i pretty much just picked up this one because i needed something to read on the bus ride home from work, and a light mystery is usually a good way to go in those instances. as you might guess, i'd prefer a christie or a sayers, but we (scandalously!) own no sayers at my library and i've read all the christie we have, save the short stories which i'm not so into. thus: marsh. i'd never read anything by her and she's often lumped in with those two, so it seemed like a good option.

i suspect that this isn't one of her strongest books? or maybe i should say that i hope this isn't one of her stronger books. it isn't bad, but it seemed pretty by the numbers and not especially remarkable in anyway whatsoever. it moved more slowly than christie and wasn't as literary and sink-into-me as sayers. it took longer than i would've liked to get to the crime and at first i had a great deal of trouble keeping the various characters straight. for a while in the middle i was very excited because i thought maybe the butler did it. and, as much as that is a genre cliche and as much as i've dabbled in the genre, there are very few instances that i can think of where, in fact, the butler did it. but (sorry for the spoiler) he didn't here either. i'm curious enough that i'd read other mysteries by her - i think it usually takes more than one book to get a real sense of an ongoing character and superintendent alleyn didn't exactly bowl me over with his keen detective skills here. but i won't rush out. next time it's time to ride home and i've nothing in my bag though ... i'd be willing.
08:41pm 01/10/2007
  sorry, everyone! i am still in lazy reviewer mode. at least this time around i didn't wait until the books-i-have-read-lately list was an entire page long. capsule commentary for now. maybe soon i will get back in the swing of things. the coming of fall (which i looove) and early nightfall just might help.

in the meantime ...

a field guide to high school by marissa walsh - um, why does this book exist? at least in it's published form? it should not. it's sort of like the publishing house thought, "hey, you know what we should make? a sort of hipster handbook for high schoolers. wouldn't that be a riot? only, i don't know if teenagers (librarians/teachers/parents) would buy that (didn't they already buy the hipster handbook?), so we should sell it as a novel." only, inserting an awkward narrative amongst lists of high school cliches does not a novel make. hasn't anyone ever taken writing 101? isn't the first thing you learn in writing 101 "show don't tell?" this book is all show, and not very good show at that. you are much better served reading the books or watching the movies and television shows that are listed as recommendations at the books conclusion. also, the book is short. and, to the person who wrote upon seeing this book in a pre-pub catalog (i think it was colleen from "chasing ray" - our ideas frequently don't mesh so i shouldn't be surprised), "oh, why hasn't anyone ever thought to compare teenagers/high school to wild animals in nature before?," they have - it was called mean girls. just walk on by, my friends.

august by gerard woodward - oh man, is this book slow. really, really slow. and pretty much a mixed bag. it concerns a middle class english family who every year spend the month of august camping at a welsh farm. we see the family and the family dynamics grow and evolve. some of the characters are sympathetic. a few of the key ones are grossly annoying and unsympathetic. one of them develops a serious addiction to glue sniffing which, i'm sorry, i just couldn't take seriously. maybe that points to a flaw in my character. i'm sure that many a life has been adversely effected by glue sniffing, especially maybe in this "mama's little helpers" time period. but if you insert that as a pivotal, devestating plot angle, you're just going to lose me. but at least i'll have the ramones in my head. i discovered this book because the dewey blog compared it to mary wesley - maybe in the remaining books of the trilogy, but i just don't see it here. and i am skeptical that i will read the other books in the trilogy, although i rule nothing out. big love to wales though.

hero by perry moore - i loved this book. and not just because the author randomly bought and signed a copy for me, to then send home with my boyfriend. it appeals hardcore to the various parts of me that a) has a yen for good y.a. literature, b) spent way too much time and money in the comic shop when i was younger and had semi-naughty thoughts about cartoon batman and c) has spent a good portion of my life hanging out with gay boys. it is the story of thom creed, the mostly-closeted son of a failed supehero, just as he begins to come into his own extraordinary abilities, whilst simultaneously dealing with his own sexuality. that being said, it isn't angsty or over the top and there is plenty of action and humor and pathos. thom is awesome, hands down, as are so many of the supporting characters. and there is a big melee and all sorts of nifty powers and allusions to the marvel/d.c. universe that fanboys can have fun spotting, but not so many of them that non-comic book geeks will be put off by.

and, to the amazon reviewer (from my hometown no less!) who said that the audience for this book was extremely limited to "gay adolescents who believe in superheroes," a big bronx cheer to you. first of all - way to not see any of the overarching themes of the book. and second - do you know how many of my gay boy friends were comic geeks who salivated over muscle-bound heroes while their friends were lusting over big-boobed and latex-wearing female heroes? a vast majority of them. but, you do not have to be gay or a comic book geek to like this book. so looking forward to the sequel, if only moore isn't busy producing narnia movies and being beautiful.

naomi and ely's no kiss list by rachel cohn and david levithan - loved this one too. more so, actually, than nick and norah's infinite playlist, which i liked when i read it, but has sort of paled for me over time. i had a friend who really disliked that one, and i think her comments swayed me a bit. naomi and ely though - aces. and i actually thought i wasn't going to like it at first, because in naomi's first chapter there is a lot of icon-usage-in-place-of-words, which i found annoying and just a bit too precocious. thankfully though that subsided and cohn and levithan did a great job trading off on the chapters and telling the story from all the different perspectives. although i have to say that i got tired of hearing about how hot naomi was. maybe though i'm just jealous because i want to be ely's best friend. i really think they captured some essences of friendship here and i'm going to love recommending this book to my library patrons.

a curse dark as gold by elizabeth c. bunce - and yet, more great y.a. fiction! wow, i was really on a tear there, huh? this one isn't out yet, although it's already getting some much-deserved blog attention. i'm always keen for a well-done fairy tale retelling and bunce does a terrific job with the story of rumplestiltskin. which i actually had to go look up the details of on wikipedia, because it's not one of the grimm stories i remember being at the top of my list. it's a bit disturbing really, but then many fairy tales are if you think about them too much. this book takes the story from the angle of the miller's daughter; he has recently died and she and her sister are struggling to keep the mill, and the town it supports, running. rumplestiltskin is the savior who comes at just the right moment, but of course charges an increasingly high price. it's very feminist and very engaging and written incredibly well. the so-called mystery of rumplestiltskin motivation was a bit obvious to an astute reader, but that didn't lessen one's enjoyment in the least.

the secret life of sparrow delaney by suzanne harper - pretty good, although i think my perspectives is muted a bit by the fact that i had immediately preceded it with three y.a. books that i loved. i wouldn't say that i loved this book, although i did really like it. sparrow is the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter, in a long line of psychics. she herself has been gifted with extraordinary psychic power, although she hides it from her friends and family because she doesn't like the way it makes her "different." she's learned that, for the most part, if you ignore all the ghosts, they eventually leave you alone. that is until she starts a new school and comes face-to-face with a very persistent (and very cute) spirit who very much needs her help. and by helping him, she'll end up helping herself. it's cute and moving and not schmaltzy and it made me totally want to road trip to lily dale, ny.

guyaholoic by carolyn mackler - i was a huge fan of carolyn mackler's earlier books, but, alas alack, i found guyaholic to be slight and underwhelming. passable, not crap, but disappointing.

the four dorothys by paul ruditis - y.a. fluff; good bus reading.

the highest tide by jim lynch - shockingly, not y.a., although it does feature an adolescent protagonist and may have some teen appeal. again, i found it well-written but slow. miles o'malley is a naturalist, growing up in olympia, wa. his parents are fighting and it's looking like divorce; the girl-next-door is troubled and beautiful; his best friend is a rapidly deteriorating old woman with a.l.s. and his teenage compatriot is a chainsmoking wisecracker whom he technically pays to hang out with him. miles is in love with the bay that surrounds him and the life that thrives in it. and one very mysterious summer, all sorts of life that really shouldn't be there starts appearing - giant squid, freakish fish, black dolphins and obscure smaller creatures. also making an appearance: outdated japanese street signs and multiple random hockey gloves. so then, what is going on in skookumchuck bay and what role does miles (and rachel carson) play in discovering and explaining it? he's an appealingly idiosyncratic character, as our the people who surround him, but it's the look at marine life that one can't help but be fascinated by. this is a very quiet book, but pretty worth the time that one puts into it.

okay, yay - that's it. i'm not actually reading anything right this very moment and am not sure what i'm going to go for next, but i'm sure that will change soon. i'm super-excited about the new richard russo - whom i love so very much - but our library hasn't processed our copies yet. fingers crossed that they get to them tomorrow.
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oh so very many books   
06:57pm 13/09/2007
  a ramona quimby movie? how have the kidlit bloggers not posted about this and protested? i hope it stumbles in pre-production. first harriet, then nancy ... i just hope they never option the westing game. oh wait, they already have. but it was for tv and hopefully no one ever saw it. i actually have no problem with subpar tv adaptations - i think that's how i first "experienced" many stories, via abc weekend specials. i recall freckle juice, but i seem to be mistaken because i can't find a listing for it on the episode list ... oh, memory you bastard.

in any case, i've read a lot of books since i last posted. i ambitiously thought that i would get around to writing lengthy reviews of all of them, but it seems that was folly. enjoy a few nuggets instead and hopefully they will suffice. [halfway through, i realize that i'm being really glib here. take that as a warning if you need to.]

[upon completeion, i note that this is a very long offering. as such, i recommend that you skim, if you read it at all, because it gets pretty spotty in places. i go off on tangents and towards the end am barely capable of thought. to save your scrolling, i am going to add a cut. to figure out if you want to click on it or not, here is a list of the books that i talk about.

cold water by gwendolyn riley, luxe by anna godbersen, wicked lovely by melissa marr, the egypt game by zilpha keatley snyder, beige by cecil castellucci, the house of mirth by edith wharton, pretty little liars by sarah shepard, northern lights by nora roberts, the game by diana wynne jones, the guy not taken by jennifer weiner, harnassing peacocks, an imaginative experience, part of the furniture, a sensible life and a dubious legacy all by mary wesley, strong poison by dorothy sayers, the lightning thief, sea of monsters and the titan's curse all by rick riordan, freakonmics by steven levitt and stephen dunbar, the welsh girl by peter ho davis, into the dark by peter abrahams, the mystery of the third lucretia by susan runholt and the moving toyshop by edmund crispin

sorry, i'm knackered and need to figure out dinner. thus, too lazy to put things in italics and do other sort of formatting.

i really need to get some more hobbies.] Read more...Collapse )
01:22am 06/09/2007
  sorry for the neglect. i have tons of books to write about, and maybe i will get to them tomorrow (if we are slow at work) or this weekend (when i am off and have no plans). in the meantime, brdgt, a friend on my regular lj posted this meme. how can a girl resist?

1. Total number of Books I Own
a few thousand, to estimate. perhaps conservatively. it's pretty out of hand. we keep saying that we are going to get rid of some of them, but thus far it hasn't happened.

2. The Last Book I Bought
despite that large number, i rarely buy books. i am lucky to get many for free - sometimes from work, more often from justin's job. i used to buy more in ohio, where we had better used bookstores ... that being said, on the way home from south carolina, i had to spend a really long time in the airport and in addition to upteen magazines, bought they guy not taken: stories by jennifer weiner.

3. The Last Book I Read
just now in the bathtub i finished into the dark by peter abrahams. it is the third book in the echo falls mystery series for kids/teens. i loved the first two books and am always pushing them upon patrons at my library. the third book (review sneak preview) is slightly shorter, but packs a good wallop.

4. Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me
none of these will come as a shock to anyone who knows me or has been reading this blog for awhile, and the list would be different on another day, but ...
revolutionary road by richard yates
a fan's notes by frederick exley
selected stories by alice munro
empire falls by richard russo
the westing game by ellen raskin

now i am going to go read this until i fall asleep.
a few more   
05:56pm 05/08/2007
  okay - it seems as though five books in is the point at which i get tired of typing up book reviews. i should keep that in mind for next time ... thus, in order to bring you up to date, i'm rushing through these last ones with just a few comments. as always, feel free to ask for details if you really want to know more. although probably you're tired at this point too. also, my computer is being slow and it's making me rather batty.

howl's moving castle by diana wynne jones - been meaning to read this for a long time. finally did and it was totally not what i expected and i super enjoyed it and will probably read more by diana wynne jones when i'm feeling the fantasy. very charming and witty and now i must watch the movie.

chain mail: addicted to you by hiroshi ishizaki - japanese teenagers and the internet - can't go wrong there, right? well, maybe. lots of promise, somewhat disappointing execution. overall it's okay, but no great shakes.

murder at hazelmoor by agatha christie - yeah - i can't stay away completely from dame agatha. this one is very entertaining and is yet another one that does not feature any of her famous detectives. but, snow and murder and a teeney unexpectedness at the end. although not about the guilty party. enjoyable, but forgettable.

how to teach filthy rich girls by zoey dean - um, it's called how to teach filthy rich girls. and is by the author of the a-list novels. and has a gold bikini on the cover. and characters described as prettier, smarter hilton sisters. come on. it's exactly what you would expect with a pedigree like that. but whatever, dude - it is summer.

eat, pray, love: one woman's search for everything across italy, india and indonesia by elizabeth gilbert - i think i probably would've liked this book a lot more if i had read it when it first came out, instead of waiting for months and having a gazillion people tell me "oh my gosh, you have to read this book! it's sooooooo good." because it is good, but not like the best thing ever. and it didn't change my life or anything. yes, i could relate to gilbert enormously in parts. but in other parts (read: the india part, which just seemed to go on and on), not so much. she's a great writer and i'm really curious to read her other books now, but i'm not convinced that i ought to go around pressing this book into the hands of everyone (female) that i meet. i dunno. it's tricky because while i was really glad to read the book, i'm even more glad to have read the book, if that makes any sense? i'm not sure if it does, but i've been sitting here a long time and think i need to get up and go to the grocery store.

take-off: american all-girl bands during world war ii by tonya bolden - wow - fascinating subject matter done surprsingly badly. clumsy prose, lots of trying too hard and a most superficial of treatments, even for a kids book. great pictures (and captions: i think they were actually written better and were more intersting than the main text) though.
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the rotters' club by jonathan coe   
05:22pm 05/08/2007
  before i even get into the literary merits of the rotters' club, can i just rhapsodize a bit about the book cover? so, so perfect. and great even if you don't read the book. but, if you do - just spot on. good book cover design makes me really happy, in the geekiest of ways, and this is the best bit of synchronisity that i've come across in a while, so i just had to throw that out there.

moving on to the actually book - i quite enjoyed it and found it very enlightening. meaning i have to plead my ignorance of the world that coe recreates here. despite occassional bouts of anglophelia, i know precious little about working-class england in the 1970s. except of course that it gave birth to punk rock and the conditions had to be such to allow that to happen. but the details? a little hazy there. so i was keen on the portrayal of the declining industrial class, the stuff about the labour unions, the stuff about the i.r.a., the stuff about nme or whatever music rag it was that appeared in the book. see, coe fits a lot of that stuff in as he tells the story of four friends and classmates at a decent public school in, er, manchester (i think it was manchester). and really, school story + sprawling book with lots of characters and their intertwining lives (some of the most interesting bits of the rotters club have to do not with the boys directly, but rather with their assorted family members) + coming of age + working class + british + obviously smart writer is pretty much a winning equation for me.

because the book sprawls so much, it's almost impossible for me to do the plot encapsulation thing, which as i've already said is not really my strong point. so - a lot of stuff happens to these boys and their family. there's schoolboy pranks. sexual fumbling and conquest. affairs. death. madness. adultery. othello. bus rides. fab female characters whom i'd like to have seen more of. riots. miracles. lots of talk. bit of action. it's all pretty decent.

that being said, i thought i was going to hate hate hate the book, because there's this sort of introductory few pages that take place in the present time and feature the descendents of the characters meeting unexpectedly in germany and sitting down for a chat. and this introductory bit concludes with a terrible line, something to the extent of "cast your mind back to those crazy days in the not-so-distant past, if only you can imagine" and when the book ends there's a return to these two, mulling over this almost four hundred page book which one has seemingly just shared with the other over a languid dinner. oh many. terrible literary device and completely unnecessary and it almost made me give up on the book before it began and it still makes me angry to think about it a week or two later and really i wish i could stricken it from future editions of the book.

so yeah. also, to be pithy, the rotters club reminded me a bit of black swan green, so if you dug that one, maybe you'd like this one.
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harry potter and the deathly hallows by j.k. rowling   
05:00pm 05/08/2007
  by this point, if you care about harry potter and the deathly hallows then you've read the book already and have your own opinion. and, if you don't care about harry potter, you're pretty much sick and tired of hearing about it already. so i'll try to keep this brief. maybe if i had written as soon as i'd finished the book i'd be all into going on at great length about stuff, but that moment has pretty much passed.

if i had to sum up this book in one word, the only one i could even think about applying is "satisfying." i thought it was an incredibly fitting conclusion for a series that i've loved oh these many years. yes, i cried a lot. but at least half of those tears were ones offered joyfully because they reminded me why i've been such a fan all along. i really do think that rowling is a terrific storyteller, and as justin and i were discussing soon after he finished the book, i think she's earned her millions and deserve than more than many.

so, specific spoilery stuffCollapse ) i've always said that once the series was finished i'd go back and read them all straight through. don't know when that will be, but it could be soon. i thought maybe my enthusiasm would've passed by now, but i just watched the last half of prisoner of azkaban on tv and i downloaded a lot of wizard rock last week, so maybe not.

finally, this has absolutely nothing to do with the book, but whilst over on amazon to get the links for this entry, i stumbled on this, which i'm sort of in love with. i dunno, it could just be because i haven't been out of the house today and i woke up way too early, but i'm a bit in love with it. oh, for a child to dress up. only, not really.
a little friendly advice by siobhan vivian   
04:27pm 05/08/2007
  so, it's always a little tricky when you read a book written by someone you know and/or are friends with. as excited as you might be for it, there's a little anxiety too, because what if you don't like it? what if you think it's bad or hackneyed and cliched or riddled with inaccuracies and false language. it's not as though it's a manuscript that you've been asked to critique. it's a book, the finished printed product and if you find fault with it there's nothing really to say or do. should you try to avoid the topic, hemming and hawing and making up excuses for all the reasons why you haven't had a chance to read it? should you try to find something to admire in the book and focus on things like "that really lovely description on page 27 of roasted chicken"? do you lie and say you loved every single bit of it or be bluntly honest and say you hated it, or try to frame the sentiment more diplomatically and offer something along the lines of "it isn't my cup of tea"?

alas, sadly enough there have been an occassion or two in the past when i've had to opt for one of the above options. happily though, i had no such dilemna facing me upon reading a little friendly advice by siobhan vivian, know in these parts as siobhan_says_so. totally loved it. so much so that i stayed up until like four in the morning on a night when i had to work at nine-thirty the next day, just so that i could finish it. frankly, i've not been feeling a lot of young adult literature lately. most of what i've tried i've not been able to finish and the piles of a.r.c.'s taking up too much space in my apartment are just not pulling me towards attempting them. so to stumble upon one that i not only felt like finishing but actually loved? complete bliss.

a little friendly advice tells the story of ruby, a girl from akron (go ohio!) who is turning sixteen as the book begins. coming over to celebrate are her three friends - beth with whom she's been close to almost her entire life, maria who joined their circle a year or two ago and katherine, a more recent acquaintance about whom ruby isn't quite sure about yet. but, making a surprise appearance at the festivities is ruby's long lost father, who she hasn't seen since he ditched her and her mom when ruby was a kid. what follows the awkward encounter is a week or so of ruby doing some serious dealing (sorry siobhan if this is a terrible summation - they aren't my strong suit). in the years since her father left, ruby "went a little crazy" and at sixteen she thinks she's finally came to a point where she's okay with who she is and the life she has. but jim (the dad) showing up brings a lot of shit to the surface, including issues with her mom, katherine and, maybe most of all, herself. that being said, it isn't at all preachy or issue-oriented or touchy-feely, because you should all know by now that i hate that sort of thing. it's all very smart and witty and most of all true.

and by true i don't mean "yes, this did happen/could happen/has happened exactly like this." although maybe there's a bit of that. it's more in terms of the way that the book is written. i think what i most admire about it is how real ruby is and how true her voice seems. like, even when she says or does things that you don't want her to (or, more accurately, doesn't do stuff that you really want her to do), it's understandable because you know that that's how the situation would probably play out in real life. ruby makes the same sort of excuses that you've found yourself making, tells her the same sort of stuff to justify someone else's behaviour that you've told yourself, and for the same reasons. she makes sense and she feels real in a way that unfortunately book characters don't always seem to.

plus, she has excellent taste in music and thrift stores and boys. in any case, the book doesn't come out for quite a while now, but when it does it is totally worth reading. i'll try to remind you ...
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songs without words by ann packer   
03:43pm 05/08/2007
  i remember reading the dive from clausen's pier pretty soon after it came out. it was when we were living in chicago and i picked it up on a whim from the bookstore where justin was reluctantly employed. and i remember that it knocked me out; i sort of adored it and it was such a welcome surprise to read something that you had no expectations of that just completely knocked you out. later, i picked up mendocino, packer's short story collection and i think i liked it to, although at the moment i remember almost nothing about it. unfortunately, most of those memories of dive ... have been dampened by the not-so-good tv movie adaptation of it that i saw on, uh, lifetime fairly recently.

but, that's all just background. frankly, i had no idea that ann packer had a new book coming out, until the day i was ambling through the many many aisles at book expo and stumbled upon not only copies of it, but ms. packer herself signing copies. so i stood in line for a few minutes and mumbled a few pleasantries and stuck it in my bag with the many other free books that i was fortunate enough to maintain. and then i sort of forgot about it, because there were tons of other books angling for my attention. frankly, i've barely read any of the things i got at book expo, no matter how excited i was to obtain them. i suppose it just goes that way sometimes.

in any case, songs without words had a few things going against it, but i eventually started it one late night, after i'd concluded whatever book i had been reading and wasn't quite ready for sleep. it was slow going, however. the book is somewhat meditative and i had a bit of trouble getting into the headspace of the main characters - two teenaged friends, liz and sarabeth. sarabeth comes to live with liz and her family following her mother's suicicde and the girl were close. Fast forward to some twenty or thiry years later, when the two are grown women living near san francisco. their lives are neatly delineated, with liz a responsible, soccer mom type and sarabeth the shambling, dysfunctional and artsy single one. the women are still close, sometimes uncomfortably so, with liz depending on sarabeth and the semblance of belonging that her family gives her a bit too much. into said situation comes lauren, sarabeth's daughter. or i guess that she doesn't really come, since she's been around for fifteen or so years, but she's going through her own teenage angst whatnot and it presipitates a sort of crisis - within her family and between these two old friends.

the novel alternates between chapters told from each of these female's perspective - plus i think maybe a few between the men in the story as well, peripheral though they may be. it's a little difficult to talk specifics, without getting to spoilery and i don't want to ruin things for anyone who might read the book. so let me just move on to my ultimate feelings and response to the book. i liked it, but i wasn't even close to knocked out by it. i think a lot of the problem stems from the fact that i didn't particularly like or relate to any of the characters. lauren just seemed spoiled and melodramatic. liz sort of boring, sort of knowable but the kind of person that i wouldn't much like in real life and liz like a maddeningly selfish and overindulged dilletante. hard to get behind any of those. and while i do think the book is well-written, i just generally wouldn't want to spend time with any of the characters and under such circumstances it's difficult to want to spend any time with them, or really recommend that anyone else do so either.