Friday, December 26, 2008

36. 37. 38. The Long Winter (335 pp) , Little Town on the Prairie (307 pp) and These Happy Golden Years (289 pp) by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Dec 25-26). I decided to pull out The Long Winter to be ironic. Maybe if I read about people who had to crack the ice off their bed before they got out of it in the morning would make me stop feeling sorry for myself. I don't really feel sorry for myself. The weather is a bit tedious but I'm not unhappy.

Once I read that one I wanted to read the part where Laura and Almanzo fall in love. I'm such a sucker for romance. Why is that?

I used to pick and read these books on a fairly regular basis but now it's been years and years. It was fun to re-read and also to get wrapped in a story that didn't need a lot of concentration. Man, those people worked hard. A fun day was doing all the laundry and ironing without any machines. I laughed every time Ma complained about how she hated those savage Indians. But she sure like settling the land that was stolen from them.

Friday, December 12, 2008

35. Touch (300 pp.) by Elmore Leonard (Dec 12). Finally, I read a book. My book reading has been so pitiful lately. I brought this on the plane to Idaho 2/3d's finished and was afraid I'd finish it before the flight ended so I took my time and then had 12 pages left that had to wait until I had time to finish it the next morning. I would love to think that I'm going to cram some book reading in before the end of the year but my magazine pile has taken over my nightstand. The drawers groan with the weight of all that stuff so I'm going to try to clear all that stuff out first.

But on to Elmore. I usually love Elmore Leonard and I had a very hard time with this one. It may be because I read it while I was doing NaNoWriMo and writing 1667 words a day. Then as I got into bed, braindead and eye-fatigued, I'd read a single chapter before turning off the light and going to sleep. You can't really get into a book that way. And I never really got into it.

He wrote an intro that when he originally wrote it, the publisher bought it but then never could figure out what to do with it and he eventually bought it back and sold it elsewhere. It's not like a usual Elmore book. It's about a regular guy who can heal people and exhibits the stigmata and various people want to exploit this. I had a hard time with the characters bad and good.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

34. War Slut (105 pp.) by Carlton Mellick III (Nov. 18). At BizarroCon Christopher told me I should read this one. It wasn't what I thought it would be. It started in one place but ended up somewhere else. I loved it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

33. House-Keeping (219 pp.) by Marilynne Robinson (Oct. 26). Wow. I think Mom brought me this on her last visit. I've heard it was good and I could hardly put it down. I think I'm going to have to read it again.
The absolute black of the sky dulled and dimmed and blanced slowly away, and finally half a dozen daubs of cloud, dull powder pink, sailed high in a pale-green sky, rust-red at the horizon.
It's about a girl and her sister who are raised by a series of relatives after they lose their Mom. It doesn't all go well. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

32. The Lightning Thief (375 pp.) by Rick Riordan (Oct 20). I've heard good things about this book and had it on my list for a long time. I bought a copy during one of my big book buying binges at the UW bookstore during Clarion West. I know I'm not the target audience for this but there are many books for which I am not the target audience that I love. I did not like this book.

It's about a kid who discovers that one of his parents was a Mount Olympus god and he goes to a summer camp for other halflings or godlets or whatever their called. Then he discovers he has a power. Then he has to go on a quest. There were a few fun moments. But mostly it felt like a book where instead of a story someone was trying to think of a bunch of things that could happen. At times it felt like a huge smug inside joke for someone who sleeps with Bullfinch's on the nightstand.

I wanted to like it and it sells well. It's probably perfect for a 12 year old boy who loves to read.

Monday, October 13, 2008

31. Pyongyang (176 pp) by Guy Delisle (Oct. 13). I heard about this graphic novel on a website and bought it for Bob last Christmas. After we saw Spiegelman last week, I moved a stack of graphic novels onto my nightstand. I picked this one up just for a second to look at a few pages and see what it was like and didn't put it back down until I was halfway through. I finished it this morning. It's about an animator/cartoonist who goes to North Korea to work for several months and what life is like there. Really good and really depressing. Highly recommended.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

30. Snuff (197 pp) by Chuck Palahniuk (Oct 4). This isn't a book I would have bought if Chuckles wasn't on of my instructors this summer. I liked Rant which I read earlier this year (#22). I didn't like this one at all. It's about a porn actress doing a big final gang bang film. The book is told in first person from four different points of view. And within each POV the character tells some backstory intercut with the present story that includes the other POV characters. Do you follow? I had a hard time. And I didn't like any of them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

29. The Miss Hobbema Pageant (200 pp) by WP Kinsella (Sep 24). One of my classmates sent me this book. These are short stories about first nation Indians in Canada and some are funny and some are sad-funny. Pizza Ria is one of my new favorite short stories of all time.

Friday, September 5, 2008

28. Four and Twenty Blackbirds (285pp) by Cherie Priest (Sep 5). I heard about this book several years ago but I don't remember where. I gave it to someone as a gift. Cherie visited our Clarion West class one afternoon and after that I ran out and bought a copy for me. Great creepy book with scary ghosts and hidden family secrets and a fabulous setting in the south. Recommend.

Friday, August 22, 2008

27. Dust (342 pp.) by Elizabeth Bear (Aug 22). I loved this book and it's the type of book that's hard to summarize in a sentence or two. It's got a generation ship that's been stalled for 500 years and a Amber-like warring family and Neil Gaiman-esque angels all held together with fancy nanotech. If I have one complaint, it's that there was a lot of information. I read about 50 pages and then went back and re-read and took notes to help me keep it all straight. Recommended and I'm definitely going to track down more of Bear's books.

Monday, August 11, 2008

26. Breaking Dawn (754 pp.) by Stephenie Meyer. (Aug 10). Finally, I finished a book and a mostly dreadful one at that. There will be spoilers in this review but nothing you wouldn't guess if you aren't following the series.

First of all, there's barely a 350pp book in this monster. There are long, long sections, including the first 400 pages that are just typing. People talk and talk and nothing productive or interesting happens. Second of all, she [the writer] jettisons everything that made Bella an interesting character. For the first half of the book she's like a child. Even her husband treats her like a child. In the second half she becomes a vampire and of course she's the most amazing vampire ever with fabulous powers. And she gets a Ferrarri and a closet bigger than a house. Then there's a long-winded super-talky showdown with the bad vampires.

Not recommended. I would not read another book in this series.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

25. One Foot in the Grave (357pp.) by Jeaniene Frost. (Jun 11). I have about 5 books going right now plus I'm trying to clear out all the magazines and stuff in the nightstand before I go to Clarion West. I made a point to finish this one because I'm returning it this weekend. Boy, nothing like reading gnarly vampire sex on a 6am flight to Boise.

Friday, May 23, 2008

24. Halfway to the Grave (364 pp.) by Jeaniene Frost (May 22). This is a dopey but entertaining "paranormal romance." I had no idea such a thing existed. It's about a Buffy-ish half vampire/half human vampire hunter who hooks up with a Spike-like vampire so they can kill bad vampires and have lots of hot vampire sex that you can read on the bus with a totally straight face.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

23. The Road (287 pp.) by Cormac McCarthy (May 18). I've been a Cormac McCarthy fan for a long time. A couple of years ago I read Suttree (book #9) which I described as grim and joyless. When The Road came out the first review I read said it was probably McCarthy's grimmest book to date and I couldn't imagine what that would be and was in no big rush to read it. Meanwhile it won the Pulitzer and everyone's read it and I finally picked it up. Oh my. I knew it was grim. I had no idea it was harrowing. I could hardly put it down, yet I wanted to avert my eyes. Here it is all in one sentence from p. 274 of the paperback:

"Ten thousand dreams ensepulchered within their crozzled hearts."

Very highly recommended.

Friday, May 16, 2008

22. Rant (319 pp.) by Chuck Palahniuk (May 16). This is another instructor this summer. I read Fight Club but it was at least 10 years ago. This book surprised me because I was ambivalent about it until I got about 2/3rds of the way through and when I saw how it was all coming together, I could hardly put it down. This is a terrible review but I don't want to give out any spoilers. It's about a juvenile delinquent type kid who gets involved with this car crash culture. But it's way more than that. Highly recommended.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

21. A Place So Foreign (243 pp.) by Cory Doctorow (May 11). This is by another one of my instructors for the workshop this summer. Fun collection of sci-fi flavored stories. My favorites were Craphound, the title story and Return to Pleasure Island. I started to explain what they were about but it's hard to give a simple explanation of a sci-fi story.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

20. To Say Nothing of the Dog (493 pp.) by Connie Willis (May 3). I loved this book. I went to bed early last night because I didn't sleep well the night before. I could barely keep my eyes open but I couldn't stop reading wanting to finish it. I finally pooped out and had to finish the last chapter this morning. This is a time travel book set in Victorian times and it's hilarious. Recommended. Even if you think you don't like time travel books.

Friday, April 25, 2008

19. Horizons (324 pp.) by Mary Rosenblum (Apr 25). Mary Rosenblum is another one of my CW2008 instructors. I actually chose this book because I thought the cover was cool which I'm sure the publisher would be thrilled to hear. Something about a big cylindrical city floating over earth - I wanted to read that story. The story is about how people born in this environment evolve into something that doesn't seem human but is and how everyone else reacts. That's a pretty simplistic summary. There are lot of politics in here that are good food for thought. Fun book.

Friday, April 18, 2008

18. A Princess of Roumania (460 pp.) by Paul Park (Apr 18) I picked this book up because Paul Park is one of my instructors at Clarion West this summer. I liked it as soon as I started it but it grew on me the more I got into it. The protagonist is a girl in our world who ends up really being from another world that's like Europe only different. Our world is a fake. Her transition between the two worlds causes her a lot of problems, meanwhile there's this evil Baroness who gets a lot of pages in this book and at times became more interesting than the protagonist. Good book. I'm going to continue with the series eventually.

Friday, April 11, 2008

17. Born Standing Up (207 pp.) by Steve Martin (Apr 11). One of my friends at work told me he had just read this book and really enjoyed it and then I went home that night and found, by coincidence, my husband was reading it. Steve Martin writes about how he became a stand-up comedian starting as a kid doing magic tricks and then through the huge success of his comedy tours until he gave it up and focused on movies. There's something very sweet about the way he tells his story and he should be the poster child for all things related to perseverance because when you read about the early days, it's hard to imagine how he stuck with it and how he ended up so successful. Recommended.

Friday, April 4, 2008

16. Red Thunder (411 pp.) by John Varley (Apr. 4). I know I got this book for Xmas because I asked for it but I'm not sure where I heard about it first. I ended up liking it way more than I thought when I started it. For the first 30 pages I was thinking: okay, kids want to go into space. This is nice. But as you get into it, there are these incredible characters and a family forms from people on the fringe who are attempting this crazy adventure. Jubal was a fabulous character who steals every scene he's in. My only complaint is that it was a tad long and repetitive in spots. They didn't get to the adventure until page 300 and once that got going, Jubal all but disappeared (for reasons related to the story, but still.) Recommended esp. for people who love space travel stories.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

15. The Courts of Chaos (142 pp.) by Roger Zelazny (Mar. 28).

Overall I loved this series and I highly recommend it. But I was a tad let down by this finale. I'm not sure I can articlulate it. It seemed like a lot of the action was glossed over while the narrator's personal experience and thoughts were front and center. I thought some of the action bits could have been ... more.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

14. The Hand of Oberon

by Roger Zelazny. (188 pp.)

If these books were being written right now, the publishing company would insist that he make these about 10 trillion pages longer. Most fantasy books are way too long. These are way too short. At the current page count, the first 5 books could be one giant tome.

This is book four in a series I started last year (book #32) and continued this year (books #4 and #6). If I understand the series correctly, there are 10 books in two groups of 5 so hopefully after I read #5 I won't have to drop everything to get my hands on the next 5.

The story is way too much to condense into a short review. See comment above about 10 trillion pages. Our hero Corwin continues to navigate his complicated family and nobody is exactly who he/she seems. Excellent series.

I started book 5 the minute I finished this one.

Friday, March 21, 2008

13. The Long Exile: A Tale of Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the High Arctic. (298 pp.) by Melanie McGrath. I had to force myself to keep reading this because it is probably one of the most heart-wrenching and depressing books I've ever held in my hands. In the 50's the Canadian government decided it was important to settle the High Arctic. God forbid Greenland or Norway might claim a windswept ice cube with few resources for its own use. The government told incredible lies to Inuit people happily settled elsewhere and put them in a situation where they couldn't really say, 'No' and then relocated them to the ice cube where they lived in complete misery if they didn't die first. There is a tiny bit of justice in 1994 when the Canadian government admitted that maybe it wasn't the most well thought-out plan they could have come up with.

It's well written and worth reading. It starts with Robert Flaherty who made Nanook of the North. Remember Nanook? Did you know the actor who played Nanook starved to death? I know, there isn't a lot of good news in this book. Flaherty jumped under the caribou robes with a local and fathered a child that he never saw or had contact with. That child was one of the poor bastards relocated to the ice cube.

His daughter (filmmaker's Granddaughter), my new personal hero, Martha Flaherty has made it her life's work finding some justice for the Inuit.

I found tons of amazing photos of some of the places in the book on Flickr. The landscape is incredible:

High Arctic Set

Another High Arctic Set


Inukjuak (the Inuit's home before relocation.)

Resolute Bay

Friday, March 7, 2008

12. Throne of Jade

Temeraire Book 2: Throne of Jade (398 pp.) by Naomi Novik. Wow, I've really slowed down on my reading. My eyes have been bothering me a little bit so I've been monitoring my reading time, plus I read a fictiony magazine and had some cookbooks home from the library.

About the same time I started this book, I noticed a guy on my bus was reading it, too. This is second in a series (see book #1) about the Napoleonic Wars only with dragons. Temeraire is a rare breed who came from China and in this book they go to back on a complicated mission of politics and diplomacy. I'm sure it sounds dopey but these are very fun to read, perfect for the bus and Temeraire and his human companion, Captain Will Laurence are some of my favorite characters in recent reading. I recommend these books and they are rated PG and perfect to share with your favorite young readers.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Perdido Street Station

11. Perdido Street Station (623 pp.) by China Miéville. (Feb. 16). This is an intense book set in a dark, squalid world with corrupt government officials, sketchy scientists, criminals ranging from the petty to the druglord type and strange creatures. A creature who has had his ability to fly taken from him approaches a scientist for help. This sets off a series of horrific events and bizarre revelations. I liked it a lot but wanted to love it. There were parts where I sat on the bus reading with my mouth open, but other parts felt like a slog. Definitely recommended for those who like dark inventive fiction.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

but enough about me

10. but enough about me: How a Small-Town Girl Went from Shag Carpet to the Red Carpet (279 p) (aside: apparently there's more than one subtitle) by Jancee Dunn. (Feb. 13). I can't remember where I first heard about this book but I sent the info to Hannah because she's a rock-n-roll girl. She gave me the book for my birthday probably because she knew I'd say, "Oh, it's on my list," for the next 10 years if someone didn't put it into my hands. There are worse crimes than not getting around to reading everything you intend to read.

This is a wonderful book purely on the charms of its writer/heroine. It's sort of like an episode of Behind the Music only in this case hitting rock bottom is barely skimming her butt on the floor. Small town girl has big dreams, gets unbelievable break and starts working for Rolling Stone magazine. Success follows success. She begins VJ-ing for MTV2 and profiling huge celebrities. After awhile friends settle down and she realizes her age. Unwisely picks up with crummy boyfriend and spends too much time drinking and carrying on and not enough time sleeping or hanging out with loved ones leading to hurt feelings and sort-of alienation. Bad drug experience leads to getting her act together. Friend introduces her to shy nerd who is not an artist or musician. Love. The End.

Fun book. Recommended.

Monday, February 11, 2008


9. Jumper (344 pp.) by Steven Gould. (Feb. 10). This is the original Jumper book from 1992 and it was just re-released last week in a new mass market paperback with the movie on the cover. Normally I will go out of my way not to buy a movie cover but didn't have the same feeling about this one. I powered through it this weekend so I could read it before the movie. It's very good, but I think Griffin's Story is better. This one felt a tad long and I thought the protagonist was slightly less lovable. Also, if you did an exercise where you outlined some of the key moments in the book and did the same thing with Griffin's story, you'd find they were mighty similar.

It's about a kid, Davy, who can teleport and bad things happen to him and his family unrelated to this power but he uses the power for revenge and in the process government officials want to find him. Recommended.

Jumper: Griffin's Story

8. Jumper: Griffin's Story (286 pp.) by Steven Gould. (Jan?) There's a movie coming out called Jumper and the book has been on my list for awhile so I asked for it for Xmas. This is the book I got and I inhaled it — it's really good and if you had a 15 year old boy who you wanted to find a book for, I'd recommend this. However, this isn't the original Jumper that's the movie. This is a companion book published in 07. I never found a straight explanation but the original book was written in 1992 and when they adapted it into a movie (3 screenwriting credits, gulp) I guess they changed some stuff and this book would fill in some of the gaps and also be fresh material for readers. For some reason I forgot to add it to my finished list so I'm not sure when I read it. In fact, I've spent an unreasonable amount of time here trying to figure it out, as if the book reading officials are watching.

It's about a kid, Griffin, who can teleport and very bad people are trying to find him. He has to figure out all sorts of clever things to evade them. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


7. Slam (309 pp.) by Nick Hornby. You have no idea how much it pains me to pan a Nick Hornby book. I've been a fan since High Fidelity. I even read Fever Pitch all the way to the end and that's a lot of soccer even for me.

The book is about a teen pregnancy from the boy's point of view. It suffers a bit because I saw Juno less than a month ago and filled my quota of teen pregnancy stories for the time being.

But beyond that, I don't think it's a very good book. Sure, the dialogue and characterization are wonderful classic Hornby, but it felt like a book written on a deadline. He uses a couple of gimmicks that grew tiresome and I don't think the story holds together and by the end it felt long. Sorry, can't recommend.

Did you know the Atlantic Monthly is no longer behind a pay wall? You can read an interview with Hornby on this book here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sign of the Unicorn

6. Sign of the Unicorn (192 pp.) by Roger Zelazny (Jan. 25). Check it out, already 6 books this year. At this rate I could challenge my record of 82 books in one year. Note: I did not have TV that year. The books I've read so far haven't been long and they've all been good. I've got a bunch of fatties on the shelf so my completion rate will probably slow down and also, it's not a contest.

This is the third book in the Amber series. They were written in the 70's and super easy to find used so I need to track down the rest. It's about this huge family who rule Amber and everybody is up to something and nobody can trust anybody. Really uncomfortable Christmas dinners in this household, if they celebrated Christmas in Amber. Somebody got killed, two people got stabbed, a unicorn appeared, then everyone started pointing fingers and guilty people ran off to rebuild their forces. Excellent.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Memory of Running

5. The Memory of Running (358 pp.) by Ron McLarty (Jan. 24). Several years ago I subscribed to Entertainment Weekly. I was never so happy to see a subscription lapse. I could write three screens on this but let's just boil it down to: it took way too much time. However, I remember the Stephen King column that talked about this book and I put it on my list. I read it now because someone at my office told me it was good and brought me his copy. It is a wonderful book but also sad. It's about a guy hitting 43 and stumbling through a series of family tragedies which launch him on this journey where he meets a lot of people who also have sad stories. But everyone is plodding along through life with a great deal of dignity. Recommend.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Guns of Avalon

4. The Guns of Avalon (223 pp.) by Roger Zelazny. Book 2 of the Amber Chronicles. Fabulous. Loved it. Corwin keeps fixing one problem and causing another one 10 times worse. Book 3 is ready for the bus trip on Monday.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (230 pp.) by Sherman Alexie (Jan 13). I've had a hard time figuring out what to say about this book. Definitely highly recommended. I really liked it but I had some problems with it that are difficult to articulate. I'm very cautious, some might say cowardly, about the controversial so I will decline to discuss further here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


2. Postcards (309 pp.) by Annie Proulx (Jan 10). As always, fabulous writing, grim story. Its about the decline of a farm family. If you like Proulx, highly recommended.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

His Majesty's Dragon

1. His Majesty's Dragon Temeraire: Book 1 (356 pp.) by Naomi Novik (Jan 6). This is dragon nerd porn. I LOVED this book. But as I thought about it, it *is* kinda silly. It's the Napoleonic Wars with dragons. And turns out dragons are like big dogs that need a lot of attention and love, AND are warlike killing machines. I know. And there are at least three more written.