Friday, December 31, 2010

37. The Sopranos: Selected Scripts

By David Chase (323 pp)

I didn't expect to finish any other books this year, however insomnia had other ideas. I woke up at midnight last night and read most of this. I think I fell asleep at 4am. Nothing like waking up the day after your birthday and feeling like you've aged a million years.

I was a HUGE Sopranos fan and these were really fun to read. The collection includes the pilot episode, the episode where Tony takes Meadow to apply for college which was one of my favorite. It also has the episode called Pine Barrons where Paulie and Christopher chase that guy around in the forest. Really great writing.

Monday, December 27, 2010

36. Heart-Shaped Box

by Joe Hill (351 pp)

When I was a teenager I read lots of horror books. I rarely do anymore although I really liked Cold Skin by Albert Sánchez Piñol. This is a horror story about an aging rock star who gets haunted by a ghost. The first 75 pages are crazy and you can hardly believe there are still 250pp to go. But it dragged for me in the middle and went on too long.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

35. Quest for a Maid

by Frances Mary Hendry (270pp)

This is one of cousin Lisa's favorite books. It's a YA book set in the 1200's and is inspired by the story of Margaret, Maid of Norway who was shipped off to Scotland as a child as part of some treaty and was killed en route. This story is about a young girl whose father builds ships and she becomes involved with the Maid of Norway. I loved the time period specific details and I also loved the protagonist who kept doing stuff she wasn't supposed to be doing and making things worse. Recommend.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

34. The Forever War

by Joe Haldeman (278 pp)

This book was published in 1974 and I'm always hearing how great it is or seeing it on some top Sci Fi book list so when I saw it at Camille's book exchange, I grabbed it.

I guess I don't like hard SF as much as I think I do. I don't get why this book is considered so great. Yeah, I get it's about the stupidity of war and it was entertaining enough. But there were long mathy explanations about how the fighting suits could withstand .006 gees with a tachyon conversion process as long as the temperature wasn't more than 7.6039 absolute while the vibrating factor of the liquid could be reduced by 7³. And I'd be reading along thinking, "Why are you telling me this?"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

33. Rat Girl: A Memoir

by Kristin Hersh (319 pp.)

I am amazed by how much I liked this book. Kristin Hersh started a band called The Throwing Muses when she was a teenager. I wasn't what you'd call a huge fan but I followed the band and was always fascinated by such young people having a successful band and Kristin being a Mom. This memoir is based on her journal when she was 18 and when she was pregnant. It's a little odd, and probably not for everyone but I loved it. I especially love how they were like the anti-attention-whores. They just wanted to do their thing.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

32. Some Girls: My Life in a Harem

by Jillian Lauren (339 pp.)

The premise is great: an American woman ends up in the harem of the brother of the Sultan of Brunei. The actual harem part is riveting. The way they recruit the girls, the culture of the harem, the mind games, the way the women treat each other. But wow, it's amazing how this woman managed to write her own memoir and make herself into a completely unsympathetic protagonist. Let's go through a checklist of memoir drama points: Sex industry worker? Check. Daddy issues? Check. Depression? Check. Disordered Eating? Check. Unplanned pregnancy? Check. Abusive parents? Check. Search for birth mother? Check. Plus a couple I've never seen before: a life changing ginormous tattoo and trauma over feeding live mice to large snake she purchased. Unrepentant money grubbing followed by aw shucks, I just needed to find myself.

I recommend if the harem stuff sounds intriguing. The rest of it is easy to skim through.

Friday, November 26, 2010

31. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

by Stieg Larsson (644 pp.)

This is my 7th book this year with 600 or more pages. I'm on fire. I'm going through my "to read" pile and pulling out all the fatties.

When we were in Europe in March I saw stacks of these Stieg Larsson books everywhere. I'd never heard of them and thought about buying all three. They were so popular. They must be good. But I didn't have room to carry three more books with me.

I bought this one when I got home and I have to say I'm mystified by the rabid popularity. It's a nice enough page-turning thriller. But nothing exceptional. I thought the pace was sludgy and there was some structural weirdness including a mindbendingly dull email exchange section near the end that ground the book to a halt. I'm not going to run out and read the other two, but if someone leaves them in a beach cabin where I happen to be staying (should I be so lucky) I'd read them then.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

30. The Passage

by Justin Cronin (766 pp.)

This is my 5th book this year over 700 pages. Remember the library gave out bookmarks and stuff as prizes when you read books during the summer as a kid? I feel like I should get something for reading so many giant books.

I 95% LOVED this book. It's a post-apocalyptic super-scary vampires take over the world story. Really, there isn't an original idea in here. It's all in the execution. Great characters. Fun to read. If I have a complaint, it's that I wish he'd dropped some of the ideas and developed other ideas more. By the time you get to the end there's a major development and resolution every couple of pages. I also thought there were some loose ends that I would have liked to see tied up a bit more. But overall: recommend.

Friday, October 29, 2010

29. All Clear

by Connie Willis (641 pp)

I've read a lot of giant books this year. I feel like I should make a list with page counts. This is the conclusion to Blackout that I read in February. It's about time travelers from 2060 who go back to WWII London and everything goes wrong. It's a tad long but I really liked it. I kind-of want to reread both together now to fill in some of the bits I missed but I've got other stuff to read now so I'll save it for another time.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

28. Epitaph Road

by David Patneaude (266 pp)

This book did not work for me. It's YA and the premise is interesting: what if 97% of the male population was wiped out by a virus? However the story that came out is completely implausible on a number of counts the biggest one being that all the women in the entire world sign off on the idea of carefully controlling any future male population growth. Yeah, sure it's YA, but seriously, a huge majority of women on the entire planet don't care about getting laid? I also found the characterization weak and the story relied to much on info dumps at the beginning.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

27. The Windup Girl

by Paolo Bacigalupi (300pp)

I read this book while I was in Orleans last week. It's a future story set in Thailand and there isn't much energy and the food supply is all farked up and everything is unstable. There are bad guys and super bad guys and a lot of stuff going on. Overall I recommend although I did have a problem with it which has nothing to do with the writing and everything to do with me as a reader. This book is set in an altered universe and has its own vocabulary plus a bunch of character threads and political/social background. I have a hard time holding it all in my head. If I can read quickly (meaning not on the bus or a little bit before I go to bed each night) I can usually keep up and that was the case with this one.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

26. Super Sad True Love Story

by Gary Shteyngart (331pp)

I don't even know where to begin with this book. It's set in a near-future New York City and it's simultaneously funny and disturbing. It's about a 39 year old man who works for an anti-aging firm and he gets involved with a much younger and superficial woman. It felt a tad long at times but I enjoyed it. Recommend.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

25. The Magicians

by Lev Grossman (402 pp)

So I still haven't finished Super Sad True Love Story. That's no reflection on the book. I'm enjoying it. It's just timing. I had to spend a bunch of time on planes and in airports this week and I wanted something that was easier to carry and not half finished.

This is going to sound like an iffy recommendation but it's not. I really liked this book. However, the entire time I was reading it I felt like I was on the verge of falling wildly in love with it. It was going to be another book that I buy more copies of and shove in people's faces and demand that they read right away. It kept falling short of that. It's about a mopey guy from every day reality that gets chosen to go Magician school. All sorts of things happen, many of them grim. Can't say more or risk spoilers. Recommend.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

24. Mockingjay (Hunger Games Book #3)

by Suzanne Collins (390 pp)

Well, of course I had to drop everything and finish the series. (Sorry Gary) I think this is my least favorite of the three although I still enjoyed it. It felt a tad long and sometimes cartoony over-the-top and I can't be too specific because of spoilers. Overall I recommend the series.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

23. Catching Fire (Hunger Games Book #2)

by Suzanne Collins (391 pp)

I finished Book #1 last week and since I didn't have book #2 in my hands yet, I started a different book (Super Sad True Love Story). Then I went and bought #2 and #3. I intended to finish SSTLS and then break open this. But there was a particular plot issue that I really needed to know about that I figured would at least be hinted at in the first chapter and I could satisfy my curiosity and then go back and finish SSTLS since I already started it.

Next thing I knew I was on page 260 and missed lunch. So be warned. I'm not going to say much to avoid possible spoilers but I liked this book a great deal, too.

Friday, September 10, 2010

22. The Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins (374 pp.)

This book is fantastic. It's a YA book set in the future where the US is reduced to a bright shiny all-powerful capitol ruling twelve districts. The Hunger Games are an annual event where each district sends two kids to violent survival game where the last kid alive wins. The story is dark and disturbing and really good. The entire series is written. Number 3 came out last week. I only have to wait until Monday when I'll pick up that and book #2. Super highly recommended.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

21. A Storm of Swords

by George R. R. Martin (1128 pp.)

Damn you Denise! My sister-in-law started me on this series. She did warn me that it wasn't finished when she gave me the first one. She didn't warn me that everyone dies. Even the good people. Often in gruesome ways. The first was book #9 and the second book #19. I have book #4, which is the last one written out of seven planned supposedly, at the office but I'm going to hold off for a little while. I've just done over 2000 pages of grim, gore and treachery in a month. I need to read a few lighter things.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

20. Financial Lives of the Poets

by Jess Walter (290 pp)

I read three books in the month of August! I might pick another short one so I can finish four in one month and get my star on the book reading walk of fame.

This is about a guy my age who gets into trouble in the financial crisis plus his family is unraveling. Every time things look up something goes wrong. But it's funny. Recommend.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

19. A Clash of Kings

by George R.R. Martin (969 pp.)

No, that's not a typo. I read a 969 page book in a little over a week. This is second in the series started with book #9. We took the train to Seattle last weekend and I knew I'd have big chunks of uninterrupted time to get into a book so I picked the brick book. Then I had to find out what happened next so I've been reading it every chance. Then I had insomnia last night so now it's done. It's about everybody wanting to be king and everybody dies or has to do terrible things to avoid dying. Now I have to run out and buy the third book.

Friday, August 6, 2010

18. My Life in France

by Julia Child (333 pp.)

"One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed."

Another thing Julia says is the cook should never apologize for the meal, even if it's clearly dreadful. I need to practice that one. I can't believe how much I enjoyed this book. I didn't see the movie Julie & Julia so I didn't know that they used this for the Julia story. I love Julia's passion for France and food and sharing it with America. I think just reading about all the butter and cream made me go up a pants size. But I need to get my hands on her recipe for French bread.

Friday, July 30, 2010

17. The Etched City

by K.J. Bishop (382 pp)

I have no idea where this book came from. Someone passed it on to me. I picked it up with no expectations and ended up loving it. It's a weird dark fantasy/westerny/Sopranosy dreamworld. I don't know how to describe what it's about. There's a guy who has a long history of doing bad stuff who gets involved with violent crime. There's a woman doctor who works in the bad part of town. It's good.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

16. Out Stealing Horses

by Per Petterson (238 pp)

This is a literary book translated from Norwegian about an older guy who retires to a remote cabin and has adventures and reflects about certain events in his life. It's one of those quiet books that sneaks up on you. Recommend.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

15. Scar Night

by Alan Campbell (549pp)

This poor book. I started it before our trip in March thinking it would be something I could whip through before we left. But I only got through about 200 pp and didn't want to take a partly read book on a trip. So I waited until we got home except then I had to finish book #9 and when I finished that I had short stories piled up. By then the book had been shoved back in the reading stack and we know what that means.

By the time I got it back out I had to skim the first 200 pages to remember where I was.

I liked this book a lot but I wanted to love it. It's a dark fantasy set in this crazy city that's suspended over a giant pit with a huge network of chains. I can't believe anyone survives childhood. There are angels, crooked religious leaders, a poisoner, assassins and other weird stuff that would be spoilery to elaborate on. It took me a while to get into which may be due to the way I read it. I would recommend to fantasy fans.

Monday, May 31, 2010

14. Bellwether

by Connie Willis 247 pp

This is my least favorite of the Connie books I've read so far. It's about a woman who's a research scientest studying how fads start and after a series of setbacks ends up working with this other scientist doing something with chaos theory. It was perfect for reading on a long day of travel. It's hilarious and but feels a bit researched at times.

Friday, May 28, 2010

13. Liar

by Justine Larbalestier 384pp

This is a YA book about a teenaged girl who tells you on the first page that she's a liar. Her boyfriend is found murdered and she tells her side of the story. Tina said she liked it as a writer and as a reader and I agree. I don't want to say too much for fear of being spoilery. Recommend.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

12. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

by Wells Tower 238 pp.

I can't remember where I heard about this writer. It must have been a review. I was intrigued and found a story online and liked it enough that I bought the book.

I'm in love. Every story had a moment that made me laugh outloud or made me cringe or both at the same time. The characters are all deeply flawed, some of the protagonists are outright shitbags, but I liked them anyway.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

11. The Quiet War

by Paul McAuley 403pp.

I read a bunch of good stuff about this book and got it for a gift. I really wanted to like it more than I did and I probably wouldn't have finished it if it hadn't been a gift. It's set in the future and there are people on earth and people who live out around Jupiter and Saturn and the two groups have strained relations. The story is told from several points of view of people on both sides of the conflict. The characters, the world and the set-up are all interesting but I had a tough time getting into it and a tough time keeping everything straight.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

10. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

by Max Brooks (342pp.)

Co-worker liked this book so I asked if I could read it. It's like a non-fiction book except about a fictional event. The narrator interviews a wide variety of people to discuss their role in the world zombie war. For the most part I enjoyed it. It was the perfect mix of smart and disturbing. It haunted my dreams more than once. Overall, I think I admired it more as a piece of writing than as entertainment. There were definitely sections that were so scary I could hardly read but other parts were more political and war mentality and while realistic and brilliant -- dry for me. Definite recommend for zombie book fans.

Friday, March 26, 2010

9. Game of Thrones

By George RR Martin (807pp). For the first 100 pp. of this book all I could think is how this is not my usual kind of book. Medieval kings and battles where everyone tries to kill each other. Also the characters are always doing what you don't want them to do. I mean that in a good way. For the next 300 pp. I thought even though I was enjoying the book, I probably wouldn't continue with the series. Mostly because I already have so much stuff to read. It was nice to have this on vacation because I was able to read giant chunks in one sitting. Now that I've finished this one, if nothing else, I'm at least going to have to read the next book,

There are about a million characters and I had a tough time keep it all straight even with the 25 page appendix at the end. Luckily a lot of people die although there are plenty new people to take their places. I'm going to read the wiki-page later and see what I missed.

I need to wait a bit on Book 2 because I have so many magazines and digests piled up we might need to add another room to the house to hold it all

Sunday, March 14, 2010

8. A Man In Full

By Tom Wolfe (787 pp). Bob read this book on vacation a few years ago and I was going to read it but never got to it and it's sat on my shelf ever since.

This is quite a book. It's set in Atlanta and concerns a number of story threads with people who've either made it big and are on their way down or trying to work their way up out of their current situation. Politics, race, society, business. Lots of great characters and hard-to-forget scenes. The scene with the horse breeding was particularly eyeball searing. This book is a great lesson for writers on characterization and how to do terrible things to your characters.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

7. Diary of A Wimpy Kid

By Jeff Kinney (217 pp). The Neuner kids recommended this book while we were at their house. The second morning of the trip I woke up early and went downstairs to read. Luis heard me laughing and knew right away what I was reading. The title character is deeply flawed and completely hilarious. Cute drawings. It's labeled for middle readers but I'd recommend to anyone who needed something fun to read.

Friday, February 19, 2010

6. Blackout

By Connie Willis (491 pp). I already knew that this is one book split into two. It doesn't end. It stops. Right in the middle of everything. But even with warning it's hard not to be a little annoyed. The story has several threads following different historians in the Oxford time travel program who go back to World War II. Everyone runs into problems. For the most part I enjoyed it but at times it suffered from Passage (#26) syndrome in that we're watching the characters try to solve their problems in tedious detail. Overall recommend. Book #2 is coming out in October.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

5. The Keep

By Jennifer Egan (242 pp.) I'm not sure how I heard about this book. I think I'd heard of the author before and then read a review and put it on my list. I inhaled this book in less than 48 hours. I loved it. I'm going to keep my comments brief and vague because the way the story unfolds is a nice surprise. At least I thought so. It's about a guy from New York who has an attitude and is a mess. He goes to Europe to help his cousin turn a crumbling castle into a fancy hotel. Things get weird and creepy fast.

My Mom is always trying to find books for book club and I thought this might be a possibility. Out of curiosity I went to giant online book retailer to read some reviews and see what other people thought. Book reviews on that site are hilarious. People give five stars and write things like, "A sweeping epic tale of romance and danger in prose that alternately sparkles then burns, the author takes you on a journey that you will never forget."

Who talks like that?

This book had an even spread from 1 star to 5 stars with a slight advantage to 5 stars. The people who hated it complained that all the loose ends weren't tied up. And that's a valid complaint but I think the book's structure makes up for that.

I recommend.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

4. Just Kids

By Patti Smith (279 pp). I really loved this book but I'm also a Patti fan. Here's the link to Bob's review of when we saw her on this book tour. This memoir focuses on Patti's relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. They lived together in New York City starting in 1969 and focused on becoming artists and hung out with all kinds of musicians and artists. I love the photos. My only beef is that the ending felt rushed but I suspect that was intentional. She wasn't interested in talking about her life once it diverged from Robert's.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

3. Heat Wave

By Richard Castle (196 pp.). The only reason I watch Castle is because of Nathan Fillion. Turns out there's a book to go with the series and my mother-in-law, who also watches the show, got it for Christmas. I asked if I could borrow it. It's about as good as you'd expect a tie-in to be. It's a mildly entertaining detective mystery and a fun in-joke if you watch the show. It would have been better if Nathan Fillion came over and read it to me.

Friday, January 22, 2010

2. The Mysterious Benedict Society

By Trenton Lee Stewart (485 pp.). My first boyfriend had a word for in between love and like which was either "loft" or "luft." We're going to go with "luft" because "loft" sounds like a trendy over-priced and spatially stupid apartment/condo where your bed, television, frying pan and living partner are in the same echo-y hard to heat/cool room with you at all times. Huh. "Luft" is in urbandictionary which says it means in between lust and love. Interesting. Maybe I misunderstood the whole thing with the boyfriend.

Now I don't want to use the word to apply to this book. I liked this book a lot but didn't quite love it. I did not lust it whatsoever but I can't think of any moment in time where I lusted after a book. I should just remove the anecdote while I have the chance.

This book is about a group of kids who are recruited for a dangerous mission by a mysterious man: Mr. Benedict. I loved the characters. I loved the drawings. There were puzzles. I laughed out loud a bunch of times. This is exactly the kind of book I would have loved as a kid. I would totally recommend it.

However, I just think it was a bit long, especially for its intended audience. It's not like there wasn't always something happening, I just think it could have been pulled a little tighter. Also the very ending was egregiously cheezy.

According to the back of the book there are two more. Are there any stand-alone books anymore? Every time I see a shelf with a million books with similar covers and words like "Book IX of the [insert grand-sounding name here] Series" I want to lie down and take a nap.

Friday, January 15, 2010

1. The Mortal Instruments Book One: City of Bones

By Cassandra Clare (485 pp.). This book has been in "almost finished" status all week. I had so few pages I didn't want to take it on the bus because I might finish it and I didn't want to carry two books. But then by the time I got in bed at night to read it, I'd be so tired I could only finish a couple of pages. I finally finished this morning. I wish I liked it more than I did. It's about a teenager in NYC who learns of her connection to the Shadowhunters who are people who hunt and kill demons. There's tons of great action and unexpected developments but I grew weary of the angsty teen soap opera stuff.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

2010 Posting Will Begin Here

I think I have this thing working good enough for me.

I've always intended to figure out the deal with titling the posts but just got to it this morning.

So now when you look in your feeds there should be titles.

I'm sure this issue was troubling many of you. For this I apologize.