Tuesday, December 20, 2011

30. The Necessary Beggar

By Susan Palwick (316 pp.)

Another book I was looking forward to reading that I wish I liked more. The set-up is great. A family from another world is exiled and they end up in Reno, NV. The main protagonist is a young girl who grows into a teenager during the course of the story. The characters are likable and the contrast between cultures is detailed and interesting. The first problem I had was it was too long. Every scene seemed to go on longer than it needed to. We watched the exiled family try to understand crime, Christianity, Halloween, Christmas, casinos, homeless people. It went on and on. The second half of the book turned into an implausible teen romance and family melodrama. I didn't hate it but have trouble recommending.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

29. The Queen of Attolia

By Megan Whalen Turner (404 pp)

Well, I disagree with the person who reviewed this book online and wrote, "Best Book Ever." I liked it a great deal but didn't love it mostly because of an unexpected plot event I found implausible and not particularly desirable. The story is about the Thief from the previous book, who gets into serious trouble and a terrible thing happens. Then he needs to get his groove back. The backdrop is political maneuverings of three countries plus an empire from over yonder that would also like to get its grubby hands in the mix. I thought the book got a little too bogged down in that stuff and the end was about 50 pages too long. I'm still going to read the third one but not for a bit. First, I'm back to working on the nightstand odds and ends.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

28. The Thief

By Megan Whalen Turner (219 pp)

I still haven't cleared out the odds and ends on my nightstand but I made a big dent in them. I read this book when it came out but I never continued in the series so I wanted to read this again before I moved on. I barely remembered the story so it was just as big a surprise this time around. It's about a thief who is taken out of prison so he can steal something for the king. Really good. I recommend.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

27. The Blind Assassin

By Margaret Atwood (521 pp.)

I can't believe how long it's been since I finished a book. Not for lack of trying. I have been juggling too many things lately. It took me a month to read the first 150pp. This is actually my second time reading this book. I haven't re-read a book, other than a Laura Ingalls or a Narnia book, in ages. My to-read shelf is always piled so high I never take the time to re-read anything. But I've wanted to re-read The Blind Assassin since I finished it the first time which was probably 10 years ago. I remember reading it very quickly and feeling like there was stuff I missed that I wanted to understand better. I enjoyed the re-read as much as I enjoyed the book the first time but now that I'm finished, I'm not sure what I thought I missed. Highly recommended.

I'm going to see if I can clear up all the odds and ends on my nightstand and read the books Carol gave me and then tackle the Rothfuss books during the holidays. No doubt this will end up being over ambitious.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

26. Dreamsnake

By Vonda McIntyre (312 pp.)

Wow, I haven't finished a book in over a month. I have read a ton of short stories. And also September was super busy.

I've had this book forever. I decided to read it now because I was going to Canada for the day with only a little backpack and this book would fit in there perfectly. It's set in a future post apocalyptic earth in some ways more advanced and in some ways more primitive and with different social customs. The protagonist is a healer who needs to find a dreamsnake. It got a little crazy at the end but I enjoyed it a great deal. I like stories set in future ruins.

I'd like to read another novel and it seems like my bookshelf is mostly stories. I hate to buy more books when there are so many sitting here. I'm sure I'll find something.

Monday, September 5, 2011

25. The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival

by John Vaillant

At the beginning of the summer Powell's had a big summer book sale. I had already read and liked several of them so I took a chance on this one because it sounded good. It's about a tiger in far east Russia who stalks and eats people. It's really scary. It's non-fiction, in case you were wondering. Because that part of the story wouldn't make a whole book, there is a ton of interesting stuff in here about the area: ecosystem, politics, economy, culture, what happened to that area after Perestroika; plus a ton of interesting stuff about tigers, humans and predatory behavior. I thought it went on a little bit too long but it's a definite recommend.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

24. The Replacements: All Over but the Shouting

by Jim Walsh (267 pp.)

I grabbed this as soon as I finshed the Bob Mould book (#23). I liked the places where the books overlapped but overall I wasn't in love with this one. It's subtitled An Oral History and the entire book is snippets of stuff people said about the band including the band members. So instead of being a straight narrative it jumps and starts, sometimes repeating, sometimes random bits that just went on too long. Now I'm going to have to get my Replacements catalog out and listen to that. Here's a favorite quote from the book by Tommy Stinson: Boy, if "Aqualung" is a classic, then "I'll Be You" is history.

Friday, August 19, 2011

23. Bob Mould: See A Little Light

by Bob Mould (385 pp.)

I have been a fan of Bob Mould since New Day Rising which I still own on vinyl. I don't own his complete catalog but pretty close. Reading this inspires me to pull out everything that I have and listen to it in order. Needless to say, as a fan, I loved this book. It's the story of his life and career. I particularly loved the early years stuff with Hüsker Dü and the Minneapolis scene and rivalry with The Replacements. (which is another of my all time favorite bands). What I admire about him is the same thing I admire about Patti Smith. They are true to their own artistic vision - they never try to be anything but themselves. I've had a Replacements bio on my shelf and I'm reading that now.

Friday, July 29, 2011

22. A Dance With Dragons

by George RR Martin (1 million pp)

It seems like every brick book series has moments in it that are just typing. This book is way too long for what happens in it. It felt like every chapter ended with a twist and by the time you met up with those characters again, a bunch of stuff had happened to solve the problem and a few characters stood around and talked about it. Then there would be a bit of action and another plot twist. Too much stuff happened off screen that would have been nice to see and too much standing around talking that could have been shaved down. I'm invested enough that I want to find out what happens next and there were good parts, too. And lots of people died.

Monday, July 4, 2011

21. Fathom

By Cherie Priest (380 pp.)

I almost didn't finish this book. I got it at a book exchange and it's not that I thought it was a bad book, it just didn't seem like my type of book. But then some unexpected things happened and I was sucked in and had to finish. This book is about an old god (goddess?) of water and her schemes. She's bad and she finds other bad people to help her out. Meanwhile other gods have their own plans. A fun story. I found myself wanting to go back and read just a few more chapters. I have a small complaint in that it felt like every other scene went on about a page and a half longer than it needed to. And then end felt like it went on about 20 pages longer than it needed to.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

20. The Year of the Flood

By Margaret Atwood (432 pp.)

It's not that I didn't like this book but it's not my favorite Margaret Atwood. I loved Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin. TBA is sitting on my "to read" shelf for a re-read. I hardly ever re-read books anymore. I think I got a little mucked up with the structure going back and forth in time with different narrators. But the closer the book got to the end, the more I got into it. This is a companion book to Oryx and Crake that I like when I read it. It takes place in the near future when the world is falling apart and then there's a pandemic and it really does fall apart. It made me want to skim Oryx and Crake again except I think my copy must be at Mom's because I can't find it. Recommend for MA fans.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

19. The Golem's Eye: The Bartimaeus Trilogy #2

By Jonathan Stroud (562 pp.)

This is second in a series (See Book #16.) I had a much harder time getting into this book and I don't think it was any major thing, it just could have been trimmed by 50+ pages so we got into it quicker. Bartimaeus, my favorite character barely appears in the first 100 pages. But once we headed to the conclusion, it went quick. It's about a djinni, a boy magician (who is a bit of a putz), a common girl who are fighting the magician establishment, and some big bad stuff.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

18. So You Want to Be A Rock & Roll Star

By Jacob Slichter (286 pp.)

When I graduated from college I really wanted to work for a record company or do something in the music business. For numerous reasons it didn't work out, but I'm still interested in how it works.

The book is written by the drummer for Semisonic the band that did the song "Closing Time" which is a great song but was everywhere in 1998. I remember getting to the point where I'd want to jump out the window when that song came on.

This is about them getting started, getting a record deal and trying to get their music on the air. Then getting a monster hit and how it all worked out. Slichter was in his 30's when this happened so he's got a grown-up's perspective. Lots of great inside scoop. The music business is scarily crooked. I'm lucky I didn't end up in it. Good book.

Friday, June 3, 2011

17. The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro

By Joe McGinniss (404 pp.)

My love for this book grew exponentially as I read it. Very highly recommended for people who love books about soccer. I don't think anyone else will be so thrilled. It's about a soccer team from a tiny town in Italy that makes its way into Serie B. Non-fiction just in case it isn't clear. The author is an American and he lived in the town for the 1996 soccer season to write this story. My biggest beef, and I understand this is how this type of journalism works, is that the author make himself such a big part of the story. But he's such a big personality, I think this is also what makes the story work. It ends on a sour note which almost ruins the whole experience but I think the author and the team would agree on that.

Friday, May 20, 2011

16. The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus Book 1)

By Jonathan Stroud (462 pp.)

My sister gave me this book and I LOVED it. I'm going to buy the other 2 ASAP. It's a YA book about an ancient djinni (Bartimaeus) and a kid named Nathanial who is studying to be a magician. It's got action, danger, great humor and characters who keep doing the wrong thing and then getting into more trouble when they try to fix it. Recommend!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

15. Chasing the Game: American and the Quest for the World Cup

By Filip Bondy (293 pp)

This is the story of the US Men's National Soccer team at the World Cup. It tells the story leading up to the 2010 World Cup and also the history of the US and the World Cup. There is a ton of great information in here and I learned a lot of new stuff. However, I found the structure sort-of confusing because the lead up to 2010 is intercut with the historical stuff and as you get closer to the present there are overlapping characters and I sometimes had to take a minute to sort out where I was in time. Plus the backstory of some of the players -- which are fantastic -- are thrown in seemingly at random. I also think the choice to put Tim Howard (click here for a special treat ladies) on the cover is weird. It seems like having a bunch of US players would have made more sense.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

14. As Always, Julia: Food, Friendship and the Making of a Masterpiece

Ed. by Joan Reardon (402 pp)

This is a book of correspondence between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. They met when Julia wrote a letter to Bernard DeVoto after reading an article he wrote about kitchen knives. It's hard not to love people who are passionate about cutlery. That letter started a correspondence that developed into an amazing friendship. Avis ended up playing a key role in getting Mastering the Art of French Cooking published.

I loved it. It gets a tad long in spots but is easy to skim. One of the things I loved is that they both write about being frustrated with trying to balance all the things they want to do. I feel like my personal challenges are so unique and here are two ambitious women 50 years ago, struggling with the same thing.

Friday, April 22, 2011

13. A Visit from the Goon Squad

by Jennifer Egan (274 pp.)

Another book of inter-connected short stories that would be tough to sum up in a sentence. People in different places at different times. It's really good. I recommend.

I wanted to check something about the book online and found the author website here which I highly recommend *after* you read the book. She talks about the stories in the book and real life connections to them.

In course of doing that I found a bunch of reviews and blurbs. Man, I'd like to start a project making fun of book reviews. Like, every week on FB I'd review a fake book: "A shocking tour de force that rewards the yearnings of modernity and pits us against the sweeping land mines of the human heart."

This book inspired quite a bit inanity in the review department.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

12. A Wind in the Door

by Madeleine L'Engle (211 pp.)

I read this book when I was a teenager and I remember loving it. I did not like it even a tiny bit this time. Tedious. It's a YA book about smart teenager with a science-y family. Her brother is sick and some random beings show up with stuff to teach and there are tests and evil.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

11. A Feast for Crows

by George R.R. Martin (684 pp)

I've been sitting on this for awhile. It's book #4 in one of those sweeping epic swords and kings series. The series is still in progress and this is last one that's been written. (book #1, book #2, book #3). The TV series starts on HBO this weekend and supposedly number #5 is coming out this summer so I went ahead and plowed through it.

I didn't hate it but this is my least favorite of the series so far. Too many characters. And characters have more than one name and sometimes more than one identity. At one point I could swear the writer was doing this just to be mean. And it felt like the last book knocked all the pieces off the board and this book was about setting them back up again. But only some of them. There were still lots of good bits and I did manage to read it in two weeks and even dragged it on the bus with me (I read the hardcover). I will for sure continue with the series even though at this point my takeaway is that no matter if you're good, honest, bad or crazy: you will die, probably horribly.

Still, looking forward to the TV series.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

10. The Native Star

by M.K. Hobson (387 pp.)

I'm on track to read 40 books this year. That's not terrible but I still wish I finished more. I'm trying.

I love the set-up for this book. It's magic and witches/warlocks in 1876 California. There are horses and trains and lumbermen. The protagonist is an everyday witch from a small settlement. Magic goes wrong and pretty soon there are all sorts of unsavory characters trying to find her. Very fun book.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

9. Unlucky

by Dave Ungrady (207 pp.)

This book is about a soccer team's first year in D3 of the USISL. I'm copying that off the back of the book because I'm not even sure what that means. My big takeaway was: Wow, some guys really want to play soccer. For some of the guys, they hope this will be a jump-off point to bigger things. Some guys seem to be happy just to play for the team. Some guys have issues of one kind or another and just end up here. There was no pay, poor organization and a lot of uncertainty. And they lost a lot. This was in 1998. Looks like the club has done great. That would have been tough to predict from their first season. It's tough to resist the urge to put all those names into a search engine and see where they ended up.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

8. I Capture the Castle

by Dodie Smith (343 pp.)

I wish I'd read this book when I was 17. Then, I bet I would have found it flawless. Sadly, I bring my aged wisdom and experience so I found our charming narrator a bit of a doofus. A doofus in the way that we all are when we're 17.

This book was originally published in 1948. It's about a 17 year old girl named Cassandra who has a wacky and extremely dysfunctional family and lives in poverty in England until some rich guys move into the manor next door. Then it becomes about boys and bagging a husband for the pretty older sister.

The narrator is wonderful. The characterization fantastic. Great setting. It's definitely worth reading.

Friday, March 4, 2011

7. How Soccer Explains The World

By Franklin Foer (252 pp).

First of all, this book has the widest margins I've ever seen in a trade paperback. Every time I opened it I remembered writing book reports in grade school where they had to be at least 4 pages long. My writing (we used handwriting in those days) and the margins would get bigger and bigger as the report went on so I could make sure I filled the space.

Second, I don't know if I'd be as annoyed if the book had a different title. I don't think this book shows how soccer explains the world. Well, now that I look at the cover there is a subtitle that calls this an {unlikely} theory of globalization. Joke's on me!

The book isn't terrible. I enjoyed most of it. I thought the author tried too hard to convince the reader that he's badass hanging out with gangsters, hooligans and thugs. But there are interesting inside bits about how Brazilian and Italian soccer works within those countries, violence associated with the sport and fan culture. Worth a look for soccer fans.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

6. The Imperfectionists

By Tom Rachman (269 pp)

Hannah was reading this when she visited and she liked it so I grabbed a copy when we went to the bookstore. It's another one of those linked stories novels and is set at an international newspaper located in Rome. I mostly liked it. The writing and characterization are fantastic. I thought some of the stories unraveled a bit and a couple of the characters were unforgivably pitiful. Overall, I recommend.

A favorite line: Nobody throws anything away here; nobody knows whose job that is.

There was also a good rant about misuse of the world "literally."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

5. Soccernomics

By Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski (306 pp)

This book came out in 2009 and it uses statistics to talk about soccer. Most of it is super interesting but since the point of the the book is use of statistics, they sometimes talk so much about statistics my face melted. It's easy to skim over those parts. I wish I'd taken better notes as I went along so I could point out some of my favorite bits. They talk about soccer all over the world. They talk about the business side of soccer but also the game like penalty kick data. They talk about the US and soccer v. the NFL. They talk about why so many of the world's top players grew up in extreme poverty. I guess a better way of phrasing it would be to explain why such poor kids were able to grow up into great soccer players. Because they had nothing else to do so by the time they were teenagers they'd already logged in the hours and hours of practice to develop their skills. Recommended for soccer nerds.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

4. Soccer Made Simple: A Spectator's Guide

By Ominsky, Dave and Harari, P.J. (127 pp)

This book was put together for the 1994 World Cup. I didn't realize that until I got it home. It's kind of funny. The guide says that as a condition of awarding the 1994 World Cup to the U.S., FIFA made them promise to start a professional soccer league. Major League Soccer didn't even exist yet. This is just a really basic book about how soccer works. The rules of the game, how the World Cup works and soccer personalities. I'm probably the first person to check it out in eons.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

3. The Thinking Fan's Guide to The World Cup

Edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey (397 pp.)

This collection with the unfortunately elitist sounding title, was put together prior to the 2006 World Cup. It's made up of 32 essays by different writers, one essay for each country in the final. Plus there's a recap of the 02 WC and a preview of the 06 WC and a bunch of statistics about the countries and the World Cup. There was no format for the essays. Some of them read like school reports about the country with a sentence or two about soccer thrown in. Others are like school reports about soccer in the country. The best ones are personal anecdotes where the writer has a personal connection with the country and with soccer. My favorite was the Iran essay by Saïd Sayrafiezadeh. It's both sad and hilarious and unfortunately that link is only an excerpt. I don't think you can really appreciate it without reading the whole thing. I also loved Portugal, Italy and Togo but lots of the essays are great. I recommend for soccer fans but the Iran essay I recommend to everyone.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

2. What It Is

By Lynda Barry (209 pp)

I've had this book on my nightstand forever and I pick it up and page through it now and then. I finally actually read it cover-to-cover last week. It's a book based on the writing class that she does and it's a must for all Lynda Barry fans. Bob got me her new book for my bday and now that has been moved to the nightstand.

Friday, January 7, 2011

1. On Writing

by Stephen King (288 pp)

I picked this up during the holidays while I was organizing my bookshelves. I intended to just flip through it and ended up reading the whole thing. Really good as a writing book and as a memoir.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Book List for 2011 Starts Here

I just want to point out, again, that I read a lot of big books last year. Thirteen books had 400 or more pages. Five had 700 or more. In case there is a regulatory body reviewing my stats I just want to make sure they have all the data they need. It added up to 15,968 pages. If I'd known how close I was to 16K I would have hurry-upped and read another book.

I also kept track of reading 133 short stories. That isn't completely accurate because I don't write down every short story I read. Sometimes it's too much trouble.

I don't have any specific reading goals for 2011. I'm not going to keep track of a page count again. I just did that because I kept finding myself mowing through giant books and I haven't read giant books in a long time. Giant books can be really good. I still have a couple on my bookshelf.