Thursday, December 10, 2009

25. Help! A Bear is Eating Me! (129 pp.) by Mykle Hansen. (Dec 10). This book is hilarious. It's about this total jerk-off materialistic guy who takes a group of work people to Alaska for some team-building bear hunting. But ends up pinned under his Range Rover with a bear eating him. That's not a spoiler, that's what's happening on the first page. The voice of the protagonist is brilliant because he's such a self-absorbed weenie and there are several people I'd love to give the book to and say: the protagonist totally reminds me of you. It started losing me a bit at the end but overall fun book.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

24. The Faggiest Vampire (99 pp.) by Carlton Mellick III. (Dec 9) This is such a cute story. It's about a well-known vampire named Dargoth Van Gloomfang whose entire self-worth is tied up in his amazing imperial mustache. Then Baron Van Ravengraves comes to town with his pencil mustache and things around the Land of Broodsarrow are turned upside down. Recommended.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

23. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove (304 pp.) by Christopher Moore (Dec 1). I won this book during Clarion West and I finally got around to reading it. I read Practical Demonkeeping way back when it was a brand new book and loved it. I still have it which is saying a lot because I like to pass most of my books on. Too much stuff. I've only read one other one of his books and while I always enjoy them, they're sort of like curry for me. Once I've had some I don't need it again right away.

This is a silly book that made me laugh out-loud even on the bus. It's about this giant horny creature from the sea who causes a lot of problems for a little seaside community. The story includes a stoner police guy, a former B-movie warrior queen, a mean sheriff and a really cool dog named Skinner. Recommended for light fun reading.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

22. A Woman Trapped in a Woman's Body (237 pp.) by Lauren Weedman (Nov 22). Wow. I haven't finished a book in two months. I did read a million stories and write a lot of words since then. Not like I've been a total slacker.

Lauren Weedman was at Wordstock, oh, two years ago. This has been sitting on my bookshelf for two years. We liked her on the Daily Show and she was hilarious in person. And the book is funny. It's a memoir that talks about her time on the Daily Show, her divorce and her family.

She comes across as one of those high-strung crazy women that I seemed be friends with in my younger years but not so much any more. Bob has a big crush on her and as I was reading I kept saying, "She's nuts" and he would say, "she's awesome." So use that as a guideline when deciding whether to read it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

21. Doomsday Book (578 pp.) by Connie Willis (Sep 20). I recommend you not start this book unless you know you have a lot of reading time to finish it. Connie Willis was one of my Clarion West instructors and I bought this during her week so she could sign it for me. I put off starting it because it was so fat and I was afraid it would take me forever to read. I picked it up last week thinking I would just peek at the beginning and shortly thereafter reading it was the only thing I would do if I wasn't sleeping or entertaining my parents. And it's not like it's an uplifting story.

It's the same scenario as To Say Nothing of the Dog which I read last year. It's about a group of academics who use a time machine for research. A young historian wants to go back to the Middle Ages which isn't a great idea but she manages to talk the people in charge into sending her only Oops, she ends up right in the middle of the black death. Meanwhile, in present time there's another sort of pandemic going on. This is an awesome book to pick up if you have H1N1 paranoia. Every time I coughed or had the vaguest sense of headache I felt a twinge of panic.

Really good. I recommend.

Monday, September 14, 2009

20. She's Come Undone (465 pp) by Wally Lamb. (Sep 14). I haven't read a book like this in a long time. A book like what? I don't know ... a big, fat gnarly mass-market book. As I recall, this was one of the first Oprah books. It's a tough one. For about 464 the protagonist does terrible things, says terrible things, acts like a terrible jerk. And terrible things happen to her. Yet, I kept rooting for her and I kept thinking: this book did pretty well. It can't possibly end without something good happening. The writing is wonderful. The characterization is fantastic.

It's about a woman who becomes completely unraveled due, mostly, to the choices she makes but (mild spoiler) she manages to pull herself together. It's not an easy journey. Recommended.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

19. The Gum Thief (275 pp.) by Douglas Coupland (Sep 8). Meredith loaned me this book when I was in Orleans last month. I used to be all caught up on Douglas books but looks like I fell behind around 2004. I think if you like Douglas you'll enjoy reading any of his books (except Girlfriend in a Coma which was dreadful) but if you don't like him, don't bother. I'm not sure I can articulate it other than to say: I like the spot-on observations. It's hard to summarize the book in a sentence but it's mostly about a correspondence between a 20-something woman and a 40-something man that has nothing to do with romance. They're both melting down for different reasons and they help each other out.

There's a moment in the book when Roger says to Bethany, "I'm showing my age, but send me a postcard when you're in your forties and see if you don't agree." p. 241. This cracked me up because I have a variation of this expression: "Call me when you're my age and we'll see how you're doing."

I'm not making any progress on the reading pile (updated photo someday) but I'm making progress on the annex pile that popped up at the end of the summer. Now I have to read a Wally Lamb for our first Arts & Lectures on September 24.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

18. Zadayi Red (350 pp.) by Caleb Fox (Sep 2). Well, this is another book that I was disappointed I didn't like more than I did. The cover art is gorgeous. It's a mythical-fantasy type story -- the bookjacket says it's a retelling of a Cherokee legend. I had a tough time getting into it although once the story got started there were parts in there where I couldn't put it down. Overall I had a tough time connecting with the protagonist and it felt more like a sequence of events rather than an epic tale. I also felt that there were parts that got bogged down in research details and left the story adrift. I would recommend for those into historical Indian stories.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

17. More Culinary Kudzu (152 pp.) by Keetha DePriest Reed (Aug 25).

Keetha is one of my blogging friends. We connected through NaBloPoMo a couple of years ago.

She has a blog, Write Kudzu and a cooking blog Kudzu Kitchen. I've been meaning to buy one of her books for a long time and I finally did it and I read it on vacation.

It's really fun. Keetha is born and raised in Mississippi and the book has recipes and memories of her life (so far). It reminds me of my family and made me appreciate all the unique family recipes that we have and look forward to every time we have a get together.

She talks about family and holidays and great meals. I'm probably not making it sound as good as it is but highly recommended for people who are interested in cooking and family.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

16. Downtown Owl (273 pp.) by Chuck Klosterman (Aug 23). Meredith and I talked about books when I was in Orleans. She handed me this book but said I should finish it before I left. No problem.

I like Klosterman but I don't love him and I wasn't sure about a book of fiction. The story didn't work for me but the characterization and setting are awesome.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

15. That Old Cape Magic (261 pp) by Richard Russo (Aug 20). Kim asked me if I saw the review of the new Russo book in the NY Times Book Review. I had not. I read the book review on the bus and decided to go ahead and buy it even though it was in hardcover because the review made me laugh and because I wanted to have something fun that I knew I would like for vacation.

For Russo fans, it's a fun read but overall I was a bit disappointed. It's shorter than a lot of his stuff (see e.g. Bridge of Sighs, my first book this year) so it might be an easier sell for people who don't want to dig into a giant tome. And there are great characters and both humerous and sad moments in the book. But I don't think the whole story held together and I think some bits were glossed over that would have benefited by more development.

Recommended with reservations.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Even though no one ever looks at this, it's been bothering me how screwed up it is. So I'm in stage 1 of trying to fix it. It's still screwed up but no more time right now. More later. I hope.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

14. Strange Piece of Paradise

by Terri Jentz (542 pp.). I bought this book for my mom a couple of years ago. She already had it so I exchanged it for something else and she loaned me her copy. It's been sitting on my shelf forever and I've put off starting it because it's such a hefty tome. I began coveting that space on my bookshelf and I'm going to see my Mom next month so I thought I'd give it a shot and dump it if it wasn't working for me.

It is a fantastic and hard to put down book but it is still 200 pages too long. It's about two college friends who set out on a bike trip across the U.S. in 1977. They started in Astoria, Oregon and about a week in they were attacked while camping in rural Oregon. The attacker drove his truck over their tent and then hacked them with an ax. Both survived. The attacker was never caught. Did I mention this is a true story?

About 15 years after the attack one of the victims goes back to Oregon and begins to investigate what happened. The story is horrible and fascinating and I was surprised how quickly I got involved in it. I understand why the writer went into such detail and it is easy to skim but I think it would have been stronger had it been whittled down a bit. Recommend.

Friday, July 17, 2009

13. The Ladies of Grace Adieu

by Susanna Clarke. (235 pp.). I bought this book over a year ago after loving Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (book #2). I had a hard time getting into the stories and read about half of it and then let it sit on nightstand forever. On numerous occasions I thought I'd get rid of it but I always figured I get back to it eventually. And I did. And I loved the stories in the second half. I'm half-tempted to go back and re-read the beginning but I've got lots of books here waiting for me. Recommended for Clarke fans.

Monday, July 13, 2009

12. The Left Hand of Darkness

by Ursula LeGuin (283 pp.)

In the process of writing up the previous book I found out that the New Yorker book club is reading The Left Hand Of Darkness this month in honor of its 40th year since publication. I only read this book once and I think it was about twenty years ago. It's fantastic. I've been having a lot of trouble getting into books lately and this is a brainy read but I could hardly put it down. It's about an envoy from a group of planets who travels to this technologically undeveloped world to try to bring them into their group. Things don't go easily for him. The planet is cold such that the cold is like another character in the story. Plus there are themes of gender, power, friendship. Highly recommended.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

11. Gifts

by Ursula Le Guin (274 pp.)

Ursula Le Guin has a new YA trilogy and the third one, Powers, won a Nebula award. I thought I'd check the series out. This is the first one and it is a really good book, but tough. No rainbows and unicorns in this story. It took me a little bit to get into it because there's some complicated culture/world-building. The story is about a boy who is voluntarily blinded because he believes he can't control his gift, the gift of unmaking, and might harm someone. That probably doesn't make it sound very good but it's worth it. I've got to track down the next two books.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

10. The Yiddish Policemen's Union (411 pp) by Michael Chabon (July 4)

Yeah! I finished a book. I'm on track for 20 books in the year 2009. Pitiful. I'm going to kinda anti-ditto myself in this brief review but here goes:

I thought this was a really cool book, fantastic idea, great characters, interesting setting. But I had a tough time getting through it. I read the first 50 pp. over several bus commutes and as I have said before, I don't have very good concentration. So for something to work on the bus it has to grab my attention and/or be easy to follow. This book introduced a dozen characters and I got bogged down in a blur. Then the book sat on the nightstand while I avoided it and read the back up on my digests (photo below). I finally got it back out, re-read the first 50 pages and started a notecard with a brief reminder who the characters were. Then I got into it and flew through the book up until the last 50 pages or so, that seemed to stretch on forever. When I finished I read the plot summary on wikipedia and to be honest, I'm still not 100% sure what happened.

It's an alternate history where there is a Jewish settlement in Sitka Alaska. The protagonist is Meyer Landsman who's a detective investigating a murder. Even though I had a tough time, I recommend.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What Have I Been Reading?

Since I still haven't managed to finish a book I thought I'd post a partial pile of some of the stuff I've read since January. That pile isn't counting all my classmate's stories and the stories I read online.

I'm going away this weekend and optimistically taking two books. (ha!)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

0. Un Lun Dun

by China Miéville

I'm always complaining about how much I have to read and I have repeatedly vowed to myself that I would not finish things I don't like. But that hardly ever happens. I feel like I owe it to the writer/publisher to give the story/book a chance and I slog along unhappily. I bought this book during CW last summer and I was really looking forward to it. I had a major public transportation day yesterday and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to dig into this book. Another disappointment. It's a YA. I got to page 90 (out of 471) and I can't tell you one thing about the protagonist(s). The world they went into was amazing and there were pages and pages of details about it. But I have the same complaint a I had about The Lightening Thief: instead of a story, it felt like someone was thinking of a bunch of stuff that could happen. Near as I could tell the girls fell into Neverwhere and needed to find the wizard.

9. Little Brother

by Cory Doctorow (365 pp.)

I didn't enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. In its defense, I'm not the target audience. It's about a computer-techie kid who lives in San Francisco. After a terrorist attack on the city he takes action against the government because of the loss of civil liberties in the name of keeping the city safe. The book is aimed at a YA audience and it makes a lot of great points that I think young people should be thinking about. However, Cory has talked about how quickly he wrote this book and it felt like it was written quickly. Some of the story developments were awfully convenient. Recommended with reservations.

Monday, April 13, 2009

7. and 8. Maus I: My Father Bleeds Hisotry and Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began

by Art Spiegelman

I knew these were going to be really good. They've been on the nightstand forever. I've been waiting until I was ready and honestly, the real reason I chose them was because they are short and I knew I'd read them fast. I feel like I've been getting bogged down in every book I've picked up this year.

There is no way to convey how fabulous these books are. They are graphic novels about the comic's father's experience in the holocaust. The first one is easier than the second one but they are both really grim. There was a part that was so sad I had to pause. Bob came in the room right then and I said, "This book is really sad."

"Yeah," he said, "But it's great."

I won't say anything else except the narrative structure is genius. My highest recommendation.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

6. Watchmen

by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

I don't know what to tell you. It was interesting. I'm not a big comic book person to begin with. I can understand the acclaim but wasn't for me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Black Powder War: Temeraire Book 3

by Naomi Novik (365 pp)

Ug, my book reading is SO pitiful. And my huge stack of magazines and digests that I managed to go through over xmas is completely built up again. I wish I could take a day off just for reading. But if I take a day off it's going to be for writing.

I read book 1 (#1) and book 2 (#12). I loved the first one. I thought the second one was okay. This one was also okay. I'm not sure I'd read another one. The series is an alternate history of the Napoleonic wars only with dragons. What I loved about the first one is that there was a lot going on. Temeraire hatches out of an egg and is brand new in this world. The protagonist, Will Laurence, has his entire life set on a wildly different course due to his contact with this dragon. That was fun and interesting. Now Temeraire is stuck on equal rights for dragons, not just beasts of burden, and it's not so cute after awhile. The battle was more interesting. Recommended for fans of the series.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

4. Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog.

by Ysabeau S. Wilce (431 pp.) I am endlessly frustrated with my inability to read more than 5 pages a day. This is the kind of book that should be gobbled up in a weekend. Yesterday afternoon I got cozy and vowed not to move until it was done. But then it was dinner time so I didn't finish it until I went to bed.

I'd heard this book was fabulous a bunch of times and finally got my hands on it and it is just as advertised. It's about thirteen-year old Flora Fyrdraaca who is born into a military family that's on the decline. There's magic and creatures and weirdness and humor. Flora gets herself into all kinds of trouble. Here's a quote: "That's the problem with guns: they pretend to be the solution to every problem." Recommended.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

3. The Daily Coyote (287 pp) by Shreve Stockton (Feb 15 09). I used to share the Daily Coyote with a friend at the old office. She got the book and told me she would loan it to me. "It will only take you an afternoon," she said. She was close. I actually read about 75 pages while I was still working on Wuthering Heights. I finished it this morning. You have to give the author credit, she managed to wring something resembling a story out of almost nothing. I'd be surprised to hear that someone wasn't trying to develop this into a feature for some plucky young actress. Women love stories about women who run away to some exotic other life. Other examples: Eat Pray Love, that one where Diane Lane buys the house in Italy and fixes it up. This one is about a woman who impulsively moves to Wyoming after driving through on a cross-country trip. She gets a coyote puppy after its parents and siblings are killed and the story is about Wyoming and dealing with the coyote. It's not an earth-shattering piece of literature but perfect entertainment for a few hours.

Friday, February 13, 2009

2. Wuthering Heights (334 pp.) by Emily Brontë (Feb 13 09). Alert the media. I FINALLY finished another book. This is pitiful. Also, I am just now noticing that the formating on this page is bunged up especially if you click on the comments. Doodoo. Oh well. If I don't have time to read then I certainly don't have time to fix my CSS.

I have been on the verge of finishing this book for two weekends. I decided I would not go to bed or read one more thing until I finished this damn thing and I gamely slogged through until the end.

My first question, is where is volume III? The title page says this novel has three volumes. I count only I and II. I guess I shouldn't complain since it took me forever to read what I had. I'm just curious. I guess volume III would be the tales of the next generation and poor Nelly in her crone years. This story is like the Flowers in the Attic of the 1800's. Or I guess the bulk of the story is set in the 1700's so take your pick.

I didn't hate the book. I found Heathcliff an intriguing character and I loved the setting. After the first 20 pages I was on Flickr looking for moors photos. But every character in the book has a scene of unrepentant cruelty. What a bunch of meanies. The second part went on way too long which is probably why it took me a month to read it. I kept starting other books and then setting them aside and trying to woo myself back to the moors of the meanies. Recommended with reservations.

Friday, January 2, 2009

1. Bridge of Sighs (642 pp.) by Richard Russo (January 2, 2009). It's been a long time since I've been so engrossed in a book. I could hardly put it down and I would make rules so that I could accomplish other things before I picked it up again and then all I could think about was the book. There's no way to sum it up in a sentence without doing it a disservice but this isn't a book report. It's about this family and how the decisions they make affect their entire lives. And the lives of others. It's really good. Highly recommended.