Wednesday, December 26, 2012

37. Perfect Gallows

By Peter Dickinson (234 pp)

Peter Dickinson is a terrific writer of all kinds of stuff. This particular book is a 1988 mystery. It opens with a body being found. It's set during WWII and this young man is told he's the heir to a huge fortune when the son is lost in the war. But then the son appears and who is to inherit is in question. Except there is a twist. There were parts of the story that were uncomfortable but overall a good one.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

36. The Photographer

By Emmuel Guibert, Didier Lefevre and Frederic Lemercier. Translated by Alexis Siegel. (267 pp.)

This is a graphic novel. Well, it's not a novel, it's a documentary so I don't know what to call it. It's illustrated with drawings and with photographs. It's about Lefevre going into Afganistan to document a Doctors without Borders mission. It is terrific. An amazing close-up look into a corner of the world that you'll never see. Recommend.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

35. Outlander

By Diana Gabaldon (850 pp)

A couple of weeks ago I decided I wanted to read some big cheesy books. The kind that even when they're silly, you still want to keep reading. This one gets 100 gold stars plus it's the first in a series. There are 6 more published plus another one on the way. It's a historical fiction romance time-travel book. This happily married woman from 1945 goes back to 1743 through some sort of stone-henge type place. That element isn't addressed. Dues to circumstances of the story she has to marry this 1743 guy but they fall in love and then have to rescue each other through a series of adventures, many of which challenge reader credibility. I'm not going to rush to the next one but thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

34. Ironskin

By Tina Connolly (302 pp)

I finally read Tina's book and it is terrific! It's Jane Eyre with faeries. I don't think I've read Jane Eyre. My knowledge of the classics is practically non-existent. Ironskin is set 5 years after the great war with the fey. Jane goes to be a governess for a girl who was born during the war and the kid has turned out a little funky. All kinds of creepy stuff happens. The world of the story is so dense, there are all sorts of corners where there is something interesting and I was curious to know more. Great success for Tina's first novel.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

33. A Knight in Shining Armor

By Jude Deveraux (464 pp)

I wanted to read a trashy romance novel and that's exactly what I got. Plus: time travel. This book is so ridiculous, there were times when I had to set it aside to roll my eyes. But I read every page all the way until the end. It's about this total knuckleheaded woman who cries in a church and brings back a knight in shining armor from 1564. They fall in love. There's a part when she travels back to his time, too. Oddly satisfying.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

32. Another Place, Another Spring

By Adrienne Jones (285 pp)

This book was a gift a long time ago. The author's signature is dated March 1980. I found it in a box and don't remember reading it so I pulled it out now.  It's the story of a young woman in 1840 Russia who is about to be exiled to Siberia and instead escapes. All sorts of adventures happen. I was ambivalent about it as I read it. It's heavy on the melodrama. But when it was finished the characters had won me over.

Friday, November 2, 2012

31. The Drawing of the Three (Dark Tower Book #2)

By Stephen King (463 pp)

My goal for 2012 was to read more than 30 books. Yay.

I finally started reading this series at the beginning of the summer. I brought it on my trip because you can't use the nook during takeoff and landing and heaven forbid I miss out on 15 minutes of reading time. So when I go on a trip I carry a paperback, too.  This one is mostly good although I had some problems with one of the characters. But it's quite involving. It's been awhile since I read a book that I wanted to cover my eyes while I was reading. Good research for crafting a hair-raising ending. It's about this badass gunslinger looking for a Dark Tower. I already forgot why but in this book he's linked to our world via these doors that are connected with these people who are troubled to say the least. Six more books to go.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

30. The Perks of Being A Wall Flower

By Stephen Chbosky (140 pp, ebook)

At one point I was checking out stacks of recommended YA books from the library and I found that 4 out of 5 of them were unreadable crap so I stopped. This book was on the list although I never tried to read it. I saw a trailer for the movie and I thought it looked dreadful. Then I read an interview with the author and changed my mind about everything. I put the book on my nook for my trip and zipped through it. It's told in letters and when I saw that I did a big "uh-oh" but you know what? It's really good. It's about a weird kid who starts high school and is having hard time and trying to figure things out

Saturday, October 13, 2012

29. Farthing

By Jo Walton (319 pp)

Since I liked Among Others I wanted to read other books by this author. I had no idea what this was about until I started it. It's an alternate history set in 1949 where Hitler is in control of the main part of Europe. It's a murder mystery set in England with wide range of people doing terrible things for various reasons. The story is told by the investigator and by a woman stuck in the middle of it. It's excellent.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

28. Tam Lin

By Pamela Dean (456 pp.)

I stuck this back on the bookshelf and almost forgot to put it on my list.

What happened? I read 6 books in August and barely read one in September. October isn't going to be much better.

This is another Tina Connolly recommendation. It's set in the early 1970's at a small college in Minnesota and is mostly about the protagonist Janet's freshman year of college. In incredible detail: dealing with roommates, what they wore, doing homework, reciting poems, going to the dining hall, busy-bodying everybody's love life. The story is a retelling of Tam Lin which is a Scottish ballad or ode or lament or whatever fancy literary term. The story continues through Janet's senior year where a speculative element gets thrown in.

I have mixed feelings about the book.The details of college life were fascinating in that they were completely alien to my own, but also got a bit tedious. The speculative element was interesting but not developed as much as I would have liked. Overall, I kept thinking about it after I finished so success.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

27. Columbine

By Dave Cullen (408 pp)

This book is really tough to read and just as tough to put down. It's a journalistic account of what happened at Columbine H.S. in 1999. The author did incredible amounts of research and was committed to telling the whole story. There were so many things that the initial news accounts got wrong. He also talks about the events that came after. You've got to be ready for it but it's worth reading.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

26. The Book Shop

By Penelope Fitzgerald (123 pp)

This is going to be a giant spoiler but I don't recommend that you read this. In fact, I threw the book away when I got home so no one else would have to read it. I've heard of Fitzgerald for some time and wanted to read one of her books. This is the story of a widow who opens a book shop in 1959 in a rundown town. Some of the locals are charming and supportive. Others are petty and awful. The setting and characterization are wonderful. The story is also wonderful until the end when terrible things happened to all the good people. The petty people won. And the widow ends up with nothing and taking the train out of town. Only recommended if you enjoy your soul crushed by story's end.

Friday, August 17, 2012

25. Girl of Nightmares

By Kendare Blake (332 pp)

This is the sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood. Annie read the first one when she was here so I ran out and bought this so I could give it to her when I saw her in Orleans. Another fun to read, scary YA. Recommend if you've read the first one.

Friday, August 10, 2012

24. Housekeeping v. The Dirt

By Nick Hornby (153 pp)

This is another collection of columns from The Believer. I read the first collection, The Polysyllabic Spree in 2005. Each month Hornby makes a list of the books he's purchased and then the books he's read and writes about it. I'm a huge Hornby fan and loved this book although there are a few columns where he sounds like a man filling up space, like he'd woken up that morning and thought: Shit, my column is due today and I have an Arsenal match to watch. There's also the unfortunate column where he's mortified to find himself buying and unable to get through a sci-fi book.  But most of the time he manages to make books I've never heard of sound too interesting to miss and several times I found myself jotting down a title so I could look for it. Later I discarded those because I already have so many books to read.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

23. War Dances

By Sherman Alexie (209 pp.)

Almost three years ago, Bob and I saw Sherman read at Wordstock. It was one of those deals where you had to pay for the reading, but you got a signed book. So Bob and I each have our own copy. This is another pretty slight book for $23—I read it on the bus in 3 days — but it's Sherman. I'm pretty sure I read the title story in the New Yorker and it is brilliant. The book is a collection of stories, memoir and poems and is terrific.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

22. Among Others

By Jo Walton (302 pp.)

Tina Connolly recommended this to me awhile back and it's been on my list since then. I was a little out of it yesterday and spent all afternoon mowing through this book. It's set in 1979-80 and is about a girl with a wretched childhood who goes to boarding school in England and reads tons of sci-fi books. Yes, seriously. But it's good. The protagonist is wonderful. There is a speculative element but that's not the point of the story. It's not going to be for everyone but I loved it.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

21. Blue Nights

By Joan Didion (188 pages)

What was I thinking? I just read post-apocalyptic cotton candy and thought: I should read something a little more challenging. Where's that new Joan Didion?

It's about her daughter who died at 39. The daughter's illness started the same year that Didion's husband died. Here's a woman in her late 70's reflecting on death and aging. 

I started it last night before I went to bed. Then I had insomnia and stared into the dark, trembling with anxiety and sadness. 

So, it's good? It's a slight book, more like a long magazine article between hardcovers. Kinda cheeky to charge $25 for that but it's Joan Didion. I still need to read her earlier stuff. I keep meaning to go dig around in the basement and see what we have.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

20. Angelfall (Penryn & The End of Days)

By Susan Ee (256 pp ebook)

Post-apocalyptic Twilight with angels. I've been loving these fun easy-to-get-into books. Angels have done damage to planet Earth. Penryn is  a scrappy girl just trying to keep her family together. Can't wait for Book 2. Recommend.

Monday, July 16, 2012

19. Olive Kitteridge

By Elizabeth Strout (270 pp.)

I keep calling this book Olive Strout. Kim recommended it to me a long time ago. We saw Ms. Strout at Arts & Lectures in Jan 2011. This book has been sitting here to read forever and you know what? I brought it with me on vacation because it was skinny and easy to stick in the backpack. I'm going to do a post about how I decide what to read next because my system is really a head-scratcher.

This is a book of connected short stories that include the character Olive Kitteridge. Sometimes her part is minor. Sometimes she's the whole story. The stories range through a large part of her life. She's not the nicest lady but she's portrayed with great love and compassion. I recommend.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

18. Anna Dressed in Blood

By Kendare Blake (211 pp. eBook)

Kira reviewed this book and I wanted something fun and easy to get into for my trip. This was perfect. It's scary and unexpected things happen and has great characters. It's about a guy who hunts ghosts. Anna is a ghost with some surprises. I recommend.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

17. The Tesseract

By Alex Garland (273 pp)

When I visited Kira she had credit at the used bookstore and told me to pick something out. I picked this. Alex Garland wrote The Beach and the movie 28 Days Later and other things that I like. It's about a bunch of different people in Manila with switching POV characters and it takes awhile to see how it's going to connect in the end. Also its suspenseful. I liked it a lot. I'm thinking about reading it again. But I think it might be a hard sell for folks who like their narrative more straightforward.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

16. The Gunslinger

By Stephen King (300 pp)

I've intended to read this series forever and I finally started it. This book was published the same month I graduated from high school. So: a long time ago. Now I've got 6 more books to look forward to. Actually a new one came out this year, so 7! It's about a pitiful but badass guy who is traveling the ends of the earth (or someplace like earth) to find the man in black.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

15. The Fear Principle

By B.A. Chepaitis (196 pp ebook)

One of my stories is in an ebook collection and I had a coupon to download it. While I was getting it, I decided to support small presses and buy a book and I decided on this one. I put it in my cart and turns out it was on a freebie promotion. So I ended up buying the book I was in.

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. There were a couple of parts where I felt like it was getting into "don't want to put it down" territory but then the scene would change to a long explainy bit. It's set in the future after "the killing times" a mass murder free-for-all. The protagonist is a woman who treats criminals using telepathy. It has some good moments but not enough for me to check out other books with this character.

Monday, May 28, 2012

14. Insurgent

by Veronica Roth (342 pp ebook)

This is the sequel to Book 12 and it didn't do much for me. It's set in a future dystopia with a war and a bigger picture. The protagonist is scrappy in the first book and mostly annoying in this book. Her entire relationship development consists of juvenile bickering and the story doesn't hold up well under scrutiny (tiny example: where the hell is the food coming from and who works in these giant cafeterias?). Having said all that, I still would probably finish the series.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

13. The Magician King

By Lev Grossman (362 pp ebook)

This is the sequel to The Magicians and I had almost the identical experience. I really enjoyed the book but I kept waiting to fall madly in love and came up a bit short. Again, this isn't intended to be an iffy recommendation. I'm a solid recommend. This one is the further adventures of Quentin and it also fills in the story of Julia who disappears for a big chunk of the first book. To be honest, I got a little bored with Julia's story and was happy when it went back to Quentin. I can't say much more without spoilers.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

12. Divergent

by Veronica Roth (312 pp. ebook)

My sister gave me this book and I gobbled it right up. It's the new hot dystopian genre with teens who have to bad scary stuff in a terrible world. Plus romance where they're always drawing a finger along each other's cheekbones. It's fun and cheezetastic in the best possible way. *And* book two is coming out next week.

Also, I don't like this new window Blogger and I'm sure you don't care even though I see the little "send feedback" tab at the bottom, I'm not going to fall for that.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

11. St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised By Wolves

By Karen Russell (246pp.)

I've had this book 30 minutes away from being finished for almost a week and just couldn't get to it until this morning. This is a collection of short stories, all with a speculative element. I feel like I should do a discussion talking about speculative fiction vs. literary speculative fiction but I've had the world's longest week and I did epic amounts of yard work and I'm pretty sure my arms are about to fall off.

I loved the writing in these stories. While I was reading the first couple I was a little lukewarm on the stories themselves but eventually the author won me over. I think my favorites were the one with the turtles and the one with the old folks home at the marina. The avalanche singers one is a nice hair-raiser. Recommend.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

10. Nobody's Fool

By Richard Russo (549 pp.)

Holy moly this was a long book. It felt long. I love Richard Russo and this was easy enough to read, even when I just had a short time to dip into it. But after all that I'm not sure where we've been. The protagonist is a jerk at the beginning and a jerk at the end - but not without some humanity. Things were screwed up at the beginning and screwed up in a different way at the end. As in all Russo stories, the characters are pitiful and hilarious. I didn't hate it but it's not my favorite Russo book.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

9. The Secret History

by Donna Tartt (503 pp.)

Both Keetha and the Awl (this month's classic trash!) mentioned The Secret History recently. I read this book close to when it came out (1992). I thought it was when I still lived in California but the dates don't line up. This is the first time I've re-read it in its entirety and it mostly holds up. It's about these college students who kill one of their classmates (not a spoiler, this is on the first page) and then goes back and explains what happened. It's a tad long and tedious in spots. Too much lounging around smoking/drinking/doing drugs/sleeping/not sleeping - this college is nothing like the one I remember. I think even Tartt made a crack about all the knocks on doors in this book. But mostly it's fun and easy to get wrapped up in. The scene at the classmate's funeral is brilliant.

And look at me. Already 9 books for this year and three of those fatties!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

8. Bird Cloud

by Annie Proulx (234 pp.)

I think this is mainly a book for Annie Proulx fans. And I am one. It's a memoir about the house she built in Wyoming. Also covered: personal history, Wyoming historical tidbits, nature-y stuff. If I learned anything, I never want to build a house. But I would love to live in this house for an extended period of time and watch the birds and landscape. It sounds amazing.

I am going to add that I finished this book in the middle of the night suffering some major indigestion after a delicious Italian meal (where I ate too much). If I have terrible indigestion I prefer to sit up until it passes so I managed to do a chunk of reading that night.

Friday, March 2, 2012

7. The Wise Man's Fear

By Patrick Rothfuss (994 pp)

This is the second in a series. I finished the other one last month (book #4). Mostly I enjoyed it but I had a few problems with it. This morning I spent way too much time reading threads discussing the book and those readers pointed out some things that I hadn't considered and that address the gist of my problems. More epic fantasy story. Recommend.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

6. A Conspiracy of Kings

By Megan Whalen Turner (319 pp)

This is the 4th book in a series and possibly the last. It felt like it was finished but I could see the author squeezing more stories out of this world. One of the things I love in this series is the different POV characters. I loved this one but like some of the earlier books it does have some moments where it goes a little dry. It has to do with kingdoms and power. Overall I recommend the entire series.

Friday, February 10, 2012

5. The King of Attolia

By Megan Whalen Turner (385 pp)

This is the third in a series. (Book #1 and Book #2). I loved the first one but was lukewarm on the second one. I loved this one. I can't say why without being too spoilery. Our beloved hero Eugenides gets what he wants but has to take what he doesn't want along with it. There's another book in the series which I am going to get at the bookstore tomorrow.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

4. The Name of the Wind

By Patrick Rothfuss (662pp)

I have been sitting on this book forever. Partly because I knew I would like it and I wanted to wait until I had time to really get into it. Partly because I knew it was going to be a series and didn't want to be left hanging at the end. And partly because it was hardcover and I didn't want to carry it on the bus. None of those reasons makes any sense now because I never had time to really get into it and have been sneaking in a few pages here and there for the last 6 weeks. Book 2 is out but the series isn't finished so I'm still going to be left hanging. I never did take it on the bus but I'll probably end up lugging #2 to work with me. I'm warming up to the idea of an ereader mostly for tome reading on the bus. I have other reasons pro and con but not going into it here.

This book is awesome. It's a about a guy and bad stuff happens and he's the hero and he wins a little, loses a little, but it's a story within a story and nothing is what it appears. If you like big fat fantasy books, highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

3. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

By Alan Bradley (370 pp).

I really hate the title of this book, but that's the only part I don't like. My cousin Jennifer recommended the book and I loved it. The protagonist is 11-year-old Flavia de Luce and she's a total smart ass and hilarious. She finds a man dying in the garden and gets involved in solving the mystery. I wish I was in Mr. Bradley's crit group because I would have had suggestions about the ending because it didn't completely work for me. But fun book. Recommend.

Friday, January 20, 2012

2. The Last of the Live Nude Girls

By Sheila McClear (243 pp)

During the holiday break I started at least 5 different books and every time I sat down to read I'd pile them all around me and take turns reading from each one. In regular life I rarely read more than one thing at a time because my concentration is crap plus I don't have huge amounts of time to read so can't remember what's going on if I have too many books going. Now holiday break is long over and I have these books half read. The other night when I couldn't sleep I went into the living room to read and this was the book I grabbed. It's grim reading at 2am. It's a memoir about a woman who moves to NYC and ends up working peep shows to earn money. She comes unraveled before she gets it together. Interesting look peep show business.

Friday, January 6, 2012

1. It's So Easy and Other Lies

By Duff McKagan (361 pp.)

I LOVED this book. I loved it as much as you can love a book where the hero's pancreas explodes because he drinks so much. Ten bottles of wine a day — that was when he was trying to stay away from the hard stuff. Try to wrap your head around that. Ten bottles a day. Yikes. It's amazing what the human body can survive. Duff started out in bands when he was a teenager and was in Guns 'N Roses. He came back from total disaster. Recommend.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Book List for 2012 Starts Here

Only 30 books this year. Not great. I'd like to do better.

But I read 149 short stories/novellas/novelettes. And that's not everything. I don't always keep track of the shorter stuff.

I had some busy times where not much reading happened.

I'm not making any reading goals for 2012 except to read more than 30 books. Especially since I bought or was given at least 40 books in the last 6 weeks. Must keep ahead.

My favorites were The Miracle of Castel Di Sangro by Joe McGinniss, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan and Bob Mould, See a Little Light.