Wednesday, December 31, 2014

39. When We Were Orphans

By Kazuo Ishiguro  (335 pp)

Poop. Did not enjoy this book much. It starts off slowly and when it finally gets going it is so loopy I didn't know what to think. It's about a British detective who spends part of his childhood in Shanghai and then his parents disappear.  The book is both his childhood and him, as an adult, trying to solve the mystery of what happened to his parents. Read Remains of the Day, instead.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Almost the End of the Year Wrap Up

For whatever reason, I still make reading goals and keep lists of the books I read. Why? Who is keeping track? I am.

This year I decided to go for pages read rather than books finished since I read books of all different sizes. I wasn't sure a good goal but guestimated 15,000 and I am *almost* on track. I would have to read 170 pages a day including today to make it. That's not impossible but not where I want to focus my energy right now.

I probably am actually a little closer but I read some really trashy books that I don't add to the list. Yes, you read that correctly. I keep a list of books I read for no reason and then don't list books I'm too embarrassed to mention.

I have another book sitting here that Hannah gave me and I would probably devour that, too. I can't decide if I should just read it or make myself read one of the books that's been sitting here awhile first.

38. The Martian

By Andy Weir (369 pp.)

If you give me a birthday present on June 1st and tell me not to open it until my birthday in December, I absolutely will set it aside and save it for my birthday. I start with that so you will believe me when I tell you that I never peek at the end of a book. Never. You have no idea how badly I wanted to peek at the last page of this book. But I didn't. Keep in mind that I'm a simpleton and if I'm enjoying my entertainment I don't try to figure it out. But this reminds me that I read a 1 star review of a romance novel and the person said: it was totally predictable. HA! That is the definition of a romance novel. That's why we like to read them.

Back to The Martian, this is the first time I devoured a book I for xmas this quickly since Pet Semetary in 1983. That book was so scary. The Martian is about a guy who is accidentally left behind on a mission to Mars. The book is pretty science-y. I got a little weary of it in spots. But mostly it's really fun to read. The protagonist is hilarious. A snooty hard science fiction fan would probably hate it but I recommend to everyone else.

Friday, December 26, 2014

37. The Runaway King

By Jennifer Nielsen (247 pp ebook)

This is the sequel to a book I read last year: The False Prince. I was a little disappointed. I still like the protagonist but the story had some implausible moments and dragged a wee bit in the middle. Not a bad book and I intend to finish the series.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

36. Sunshine

By Robin McKinley (405 pp)

I liked this book a lot and it was something I was reluctant to put down but I wanted to love it and never quite got there. It's set in a Buffy type universe - a world that looks like ours but has demons and magic. The protagonist is wonderfully flawed and works as a baker in a busy cafe. She is kidnapped by vampires which sets off the events of the story. She develops an interesting relationship with one of the vampires - and these are dark, scary vampires. The problems I had were spots that got bogged down in the narrator's internal ramblings and there were some serious info dumps to plow through. But overall: recommend.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

35. We Were Liars

By E. Lockhart (225 pp.)

This came highly recommended and unfortunately, didn't work for me. I don't think it's a terrible book, just not for me. It's YA. The narrative voice is sort-of dreamy and disjointed. It's about a young woman who has survived a tragedy she can't remember and she's dealing with a wealthy dysfunctional family that's in a huge squabble.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

34. Falling Sky

By Rajan Khanna (254 pp)

Full disclosure: Raj is a friend and my name is in the acknowledgements.

But it's a great action-y book! Recommend.

The story takes place after a sickness that turns people into feral killing machines takes over the earth. People survive by living in the air. The hero, Ben, operates the airship Cherub. A lot of things happen to him. Run out and buy 2 copies so you have one to give to a friend.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

33. Brief Encounters with Che Guevara

By Ben Fountain (229 pp)

This is the author who wrote Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk which I read last summer and LOVED. It's one of my first favorite books in a long time. I enjoyed these stories but story collections are harder. I always say they are uneven but that really just means I liked some stories more than others. For how many collections is that not true? I especially loved "Asian Tiger."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

32. The Wise Man's Fear

By Patrick Rothfuss (1107 pp.)

I took 1800 pages on vacation and managed to read 1400 in two weeks and it took 3 weeks to finish the last 400 pages. These books hold up great second time through. The only bummer is I bet Book 3 won't be here for at least another couple of years.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

31. The Name of the Wind

By Patrick Rothfuss (720 pp)

This is the second time I've read this. I wanted to wait until I knew book 3 was coming out but it seemed like the perfect vacation book and it was. I was always happy to get back to it when I was sitting on a train or sleepless at an odd hour. I only made it about 375 pp into Book 2 and I'm worried it will take me forever to finish when reading has to compete with all the other things in my non-vacation life. Original review here. Still highly recommend. Second reading greatly enhanced by Jo Walton's Re-Read.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

30. The Night Circus

By Erin Morgenstern (387 pp)

I resisted reading this book for ages and I think it's because the cover reminded me of a Tim Burton movie I didn't like. Isn't that a terrible reason not to read a book? My sister gave me her copy and I finally read it and what do you know? I liked it a lot. I felt like it was more atmosphere and setting than story but it kept pulling me along so much that I dragged a hardcover book on the bus with me. It's about a mysterious circus and its players and a couple of magicians who are in a competition they don't understand. Recommend.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

29. a land more kind than home

By Wiley Cash (306 pp)

This book did not work for me. It's set in a small town in North Carolina and while the setting descriptions are lovely and there are some suspenseful moments, I thought it was a cliched southern evil preacher story. The story is about a young boy and his brother who see something they aren't supposed to see which makes a bunch of terrible things happen. The entire story is just terrible things happening.

28. The Birthday Problem

By Caren Gussoff (216 pp)

How to describe the undescribable book? It's set in a future Seattle where nanobots used to improve health end up making people crazy. Civilized life falls apart. But that's just the backdrop Really it's about loosely connected characters trying to keep their act together while dealing with friends and family and loss and the world undone. It was a little more intense than I was expecting which is a total user error since Caren was in my Clarion West class so I'm familiar with her writing. Recommend.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

27. A Tale for the Time Being

By Ruth Ozeki (418 pp)

I've had this writer on my list forever and I finally grabbed a book. For the most part I was wildly in love with this book. However, last night I had terrible insomnia that I knew it was hopeless so I got up and went to the living room to read. Unfortunately, I was at a terribly dark part of the book which wasn't the greatest at 3am. This is about a woman who finds the diary of a 16 year old Japanese-American girl on the beach. She has her own issues and as she reads the diary learns of the 16 year old's issues. One of the featured characters is a 104 year old Buddhist nun. The book is hilarious, sad and has some tough spots but overall: RECOMMEND.

Friday, August 22, 2014

26. Writing is My Drink

By Theo Pauline Nestor (249 pp)

Hannah gave me this book for my birthday - it's both memoir and how-to for writing memoir. Here's a quote from when Nestor was unable to write something for work in a crunch: "I did not die because we never do die in those moments when we come toe-to-toe with the version of ourselves that's a fraction of the person we want to be." If would have been nice to read that in a book 30 years ago. Recommend for people interested in memoir.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

25. Green Grass, Running Water

By Thomas King (431 pp.)

This book came out in 1993 and it's interesting how timeless it felt. Sure, there were VCRs and no cellphones so it's not like you can't tell it was written over 20 years ago, but the issues the Indians were dealing are pretty much unchanged. I can't believe I had never heard of it before. (Thanks Carter).

I wasn't sure if this book was going to work for me because it has a magical realism thread and I can't always get into that. However, this book is hilarious. It concerns some missing elders and a group of contemporary First Nations people in Alberta dealing with life. Unique structure that took me awhile to figure out. Recommend especially for people who like contemporary Indian stories. Also I feel compelled to add that there is a character on p. 281 named Robert Loblaw.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

24. Wolf Hall

By Hilary Mantel (604 pp)

I had two half finished books before I went on vacation and of course I can't take a half finished book on vacation. I've been wanting to read this and I like taking a tome on vacation so this was it. Actually I originally chose 2 tomes but I smartly put one back. Over the course of vacation I read 450 pages and I was afraid I would never get around to finishing this. But I am still feeling worn out from travel and the busy week I had this week so I spend a couple of lazy afternoons finishing it. It is a King Henry VIII story from the POV of Thomas Cromwell. It's a little dense for a vacation book. I like KHVIII as much as the next person but after awhile I can't keep track of who is who and jeez, they sure liked executing people. Definitely recommend for people who love KHVIII stories.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

23. Eleanor & Park

By Rainbow Rowell

This is a YA romance set in 1986 and it's really good. Unfortunately, I can't say a whole lot of what was so good about it without spoilers. I can say: it's not a typical romance story and the author has perfectly captured the fresh and super-intense feelings of being in love for the first time. Remember that? When you could spend hours in your head re-living the tiniest details. Like after the dance when he put his suit jacket over your shoulders so you wouldn't feel cold. Mm. Recommend.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

22. The Known World

By Edward P. Jones (388 pp.)

This book won the Pulitzer in 2004 and it's been on my bookshelf almost that long. I started it once and couldn't get into it and although I always intended to pick it up again, it never seemed the right time. Then I finally tried again and got a little stuck at first. It took me awhile to figure it out. It drops in and out of different story lines and sometimes will tell the entire story of a character upon introduction and then never mention that character again. After about 25 pages I went back and started again and made a little cheat sheet to help me remember who was what. It is a fabulous book. It's set in Virginia and revolves around slave owners and former slaves who own slaves. It is not an easy story but really well done. If you've had it on your shelf for almost 10 years, time to dust it off.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

21. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won't Stop Talking

By Susan Cain (271 pp)

A couple of people recommended this book for me. I've had it on the shelf for awhile and finally read it. It is terrific and would have been helpful information about 30 years ago. It's about introverts and talked about it in the context of kids, the workplace and life in general. It's a bit long-winded in spots but a lot of great information.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

20. The Beginner's Goodbye

By Anne Tyler (198 pp)

I haven't read Anne Tyler in years. I loved Breathing Lessons. I think my copy is still around here somewhere. I was at the library and decided to grab one of her more recent books. One thing I always liked about Tyler was that her style is deceptively simple. I thought this book was just simple. I wonder if a first time novelist was trying to shop this around if s/he would get anywhere. It's about a sort-of sad sack kind of guy in a quirky marriage and the wife dies unexpectedly. (Not a spoiler, the death is mentioned on the first page.) The story is about him dealing with his grief. Did not work for me.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

19. Me Before You

By Jojo Moyes (369 pp)

My cousin recommended this to me and I guess I was mixed up about the subject because it was a total surprise. It's set in a small town in England where the main economic enterprise is a tourist attraction castle. The main character is a young woman without a lot of drive who loses her job at the local diner. She gets a job as a helper to a man who is a quadriplegic after an accident. And they both open up each other's lives. I loved the setting and all the characterization especially Louisa's family.

Friday, May 23, 2014

18. Yellow Medicine Review (Spring 2014)

Carter Meland ed.,  (210 pp)

This is an indigenous literary journal that I am appearing in for the second time. It should be available at  their website and at Amazon shortly. This is a collection of poems, stories and prose pieces and a lot of them are terrific. My favorites were Benjamin Burgess's The Kennewick Chronicles: 101 Ways to Explain Kennewick Man's Pelvic Projectile Wound (hilarious, if not obvious by the title), Hans Carlson's Strangers Still, and the Land Nearly Devoured (about land stewardship and the Cree), and Carol Miller's Twilight exile: Elders, Aging, and an American Indian Family (about dealing with her aging parents.) My story is called, Reservation Jobs and I will post it on my website eventually.  I wish it were easier to find YMR out in the world because lots of interesting contemporary Indian stories that I bet would find an audience.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

17. S.

By Doug Dorst and JJ Abrams (456 pages)

My sister-in-law gave me this book. It looks like an old library book complete with damaged spine and dewey decimal sticker. The book is filled with margin notes and inserts like maps and newspaper cuttings. I love this kind of book. I told my sister about it and she ran out and bought a copy, too.

Sadly, it did not work for me.

Problem #1 is that I do 90% of my reading on the bus or right before bed. Didn't seem like a good choice for the bus with the inserts.

Problem #2 is how to read it. There is the book itself. Then there are the margin notes which are between a grad student and an undergrad and there are several timelines. There is story about a mystery concerning the book and its author that they are investigating and also a story about the two of them getting to know each other. So it's like if you set several books side by side and read one page of each and then repeat. This reader found it a challenge, after a long day and a couple of glasses of wine, to keep up with what was going on.

I started this in January and I've been trying to carve out chunks of time where I could get into it.

Which brings us to Problem #3. I didn't find any of the stories particularly compelling. The book itself was like a boring book you had to read for school. The academic mystery wasn't interesting and didn't feel genuinely urgent. And the exchange between the students, while feeling very authentic, made me want to poke my eyes out. Their communication style was, "Um, some people are kinda sensitive aren't they?" "You're one to talk."  I did not care how they ended up.

I thought I was reading toward some sort of interesting revelation so I stuck with it and I was disappointed. I looked online for some sort of summary to help me figure out what I read and holymoly. There are huge sites that dissect this thing to pieces. Check out this page that helps figure out the puzzle part (unlikely that looking at this will spoil anything) and tell me if you can understand it. I can't imagine being that interested.

I wish I was more excited about it because the presentation is amazing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

16. This Is How You Lose Her

By Junot Diaz (217 pp)

This was a birthday gift. (Thanks Jennifer!) (She will never see this.) For some unknown reason I thought it was a YA book. If you've ever read Diaz you will know how ridiculous this is since his writing has a ton of sex and slang, and as they say: mature situations, in it. This is a book of short stories and they are terrific.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

15. Dreadful Dystopian YA That Will Go Unnamed

By Inexperienced Author (265 pp ebook)

Have I ever told the story about my cousin and Family Circus? She hates Family Circus because it's never funny. On Sundays someone would hold the comics section of the paper (this was 20 years ago) and say, "Family Circus is funny today." And she would say, "Let me see," and then read it and toss the paper aside and say, "No it's not. It's never funny."

WHY DO I KEEP READING THESE TERRIBLE YA BOOKS? I hear somewhere that they're good. The story elements sound interesting. And then I start reading.

First person, present tense. Weak characterization. Conflict consists of petty arguments that go on for pages. "Should we tell him?" "Don't tell him!" "Tell me what?" (repeat for 10 pages) Cliched writing: guttural cries, chills go up and down spines, stomachs clench and unclench. Plot issues are resolved by someone guessing a password or escaping an impenetrable fortress via a conveniently forgotten staircase or easily locating and administering life-saving medicine from an abandoned hospital. And scenes have details that sound like they came from watching TV or Wikipedia. Implausible police interrogations, medical procedures or military operations.

Do not recommend.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

14. Fire

By Kristin Cashore (461 pp)

I read a whole book while I was at Mom and Dad's. My excuse was I had to finish so I could leave it for my sister. But this was the perfect book for a long lazy weekend. It's set in the same world as Graceling and it's a fantasy-romantic-y story which admittedly got pretty Shonda Rhimes at times, but I loved the characters and the world so much I was okay with it. (SR is the creator of Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice and Scandal so when I say that I mean soap opera-y.) The protagonist is a human "monster" with powers and a complicated history. She reluctantly has to use her powers to help the kingdom. Recommend.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

13. The Split Worlds: Between Two Thorns

By Emma Newman (394 pp)

I was so-so about this book at first but once I got into it I really enjoyed it. It's about someone from the Split Worlds who goes missing, a human from our world who witnesses, a Split Worlds woman who wants to escape her life there, and a guy who is looking for the missing person. All the stories collide. The series is already complete but I'm thinking I might just read a summary. I have too many other books I'm trying to get to.

12. Go: A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design

By Chip Kidd (150 pp)

Bob brought home a stack of Kidd books. He also brought home his fiction but I didn't have time to get to those before they had to go back.  This is an intro to graphic design aimed at young people but since I know squat about squat I learned a lot from it. If I had the time, I would love to study this. Just for my own fun. Some day.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

11. Chip Kidd: Book One -- Work 1986-2006

By Chip Kidd (396 pp)

One of our lectures this season was Chris Ware.  He was joined by Chip Kidd. I had no idea who Chip Kidd was but enjoyed the lecture a great deal and when I got home I looked him up and wow. Look at all these book covers.  Bob brought this book home and I am in love. It's a collection of book covers, sketches, abandoned ideas and text about the projects. I read it cover-to-cover (hehe, sorry) and loved the entire thing.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

10. Tales from Indian Country The Apple

By Andrew Genaille (85 pp. ebook)

I was chasing down a URL for an anthology that I have a story in, also called Tales from Indian Country and this title popped up. I'm always thrilled to see Indian writers (Genaille is First Nations, I don't see his affiliation in his bio) getting their stories out there. I liked this book a lot, great settings and characters, however I felt at times that the stories were weighed down by issues.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

9. Ancillary Justice

By Ann Leckie (384 pp)

I keep starting more books and then setting them aside to start more books. I intend to finish them all but my reading-in-progress pile is out of control. I (half-heartedly) swear that I won't start any new books until I finish some books I've already started. But this book is really good.

It's sci-fi which I realize is a hard sell for a lot of people - but's also a thriller, only in space. I will admit I had a little bit of a tough time at first because the world building is so rich and you get dropped in there and a bunch of stuff is introduced. I'm not generally a patient reader and I had to go back and re-read parts but totally worth it. It's one of those, the more I got into it, the more I got into it books. I would recommend even to people who think they don't like science fiction if you like stories with political conflict and interesting culture and customs.

I don't know how to sum up in a sentence. It's about a soldier who is on a mission and nothing is quite what it seems. Recommend.

Monday, March 17, 2014

8. The Round House

By Louise Erdrich (321 pp)

I used to read everything Erdrich wrote and then I didn't like a couple of books in a row and gave up. This is the first of hers I've read in a long time and it is terrific. It is terrific in the way that a book that is tough and sad but also has funny moments can be. Erdrich manages to squeeze in a lot of information about the unique legal issues involved for crimes in Indian Country. The story is about a 13 year old Indian boy whose mother is assaulted and how their family deals with the crime. Lots of details about life in Indian Country. Recommend.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

7. Graceling

By Kristin Cashore (320 pp ebook)

This book has been on my list forever and I LOVED it. It's a fantasy set in a kingdom where some people are born with graces - special abilities. The hero has the ability to be an amazing fighter and the King uses her to bully people into doing what he wants. A grandfather is kidnapped, his graced grandson appears and all kinds of adventures happen. Very entertaining and fun book.

Friday, February 28, 2014

6. The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope

by Rhonda Riley (326 pp ebook)

I wanted to like this book but it's tough to recommend. The story begins at the end of WWII and this young woman finds "someone" in mud on her farm. It's never explained but I think we're to conclude it's an alien. Initially the story is pretty interesting and seems on the verge of exploring some interesting issues. But it just turns into an events-in-a-woman's-life (who shacked up with an alien) on the farm. I never really bought the problems as being major problems. The character development is superficial and the primary characters have few flaws. The story doesn't offer any satisfying resolution.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

5. I Am The Secret Footballer

By Anonymous (221 pp)

This is supposedly a peek inside professional football (soccer) from a player who has played at high level clubs in England. Since he's anonymous, we're getting the secret insider view. There are a few interesting bits but by the middle of the book my main takeaway was that the Secret Footballer is a giant weenie and this book is his opportunity to tell everyone how great he is and smarter than everyone (fans, managers, other players, everyone). It was a slog to finish. Do not recommend.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

4. The Fifth Wave

By Rick Yancey (434 pp. ebook) My sister-in-law recommended this book and it wasn't what I expected but it was fun to read. It's a post-alien invasion YA story with some romance and lots of action and violence. Of course it's the first in a series and of course it's being made into a movie. I don't think I'll knock myself out continuing with the series but this was good.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

3. The Twelve

By Justin Cronin (588 pp)

This is second in a series that started with The Passage which I liked a great deal. I was doing okay with this book until about page 300 where I became annoyed. It's a post-apocalyptic scary vampires caused by virus abused by military story and lots of things were happening to lots of people but I had no idea what was going on. As soon as I finished I searched for a wiki to fill in the gaps and the most informative item I found was this which is a lengthy review by a person who hated the book. This person articulates a lot of what didn't work for me: the bad guys are uniformly cartoonishly bad, the good guys ever so good; amazing coincidences; magical parental bonds - everyone who has lost a parent/child is miraculously reunited; even the eye-rolling bit where one character has a mystical relationship with a horse. Nothing original here. Lazy "feels like a first draft written at top speed" writing. Disappointing.

Monday, January 20, 2014

2. About Writing

By Samuel R. Delany (419 pp)

This is kind-of a cheat because I just skimmed the interviews. Delany is a sci-fi writer and has taught at Clarion West (among other places.) As others have said, this is a dense book. Lots of information to think about. But very interesting for a writer.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I Ditched Book #2

Normally I don't mention books I give up on and I'm not going to say the title of this one. The only reason I am bringing it up is because I was really excited about this book. And I had a little trouble finding it and wasn't sure I wanted to buy it in hardcover. So I asked the library about requesting materials and filled out a form. And they bought it. And I thought I was so clever getting this book into the library. Then I borrowed it.

Oh my. I don't even know where to start. The narrative style is a bit different but I got over that. Have you ever had a friend tell you about an event you missed and it's like, "Roger was there and his roommate Vernon. Vernon brought his girlfriend Peggy and her friend Sandy. My old roommate Winnie was there with her brother Fritz and his friend Craig and Craig's girlfriend Daisy" and after awhile your eyes glaze over because you can't keep them all straight and you don't have enough information about the people to even care? I was determined to slog through but just for kicks I checked the book reviews at major online book retailer. There were a few generic 5 star reviews and about a dozen 1 star reviews that said they kept hoping something would happen or the book would get better and it never did. It's on its way back to the library. Sorry taxpayers for getting the library to buy a crappy book.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

1. The Goldfinch

By Donna Tartt (5 million pp.)

You can't imagine how much it pains me to not be in love with this book. It's terrific writing and a great story but it is just way too long. Every bit drags on. Every time the scene changed, I would get swept up in the story again only to find myself wondering why we weren't getting anywhere. By the end I was so resentful of the slow pace, I didn't care what happened. I think there's an amazing 500 page in there. It's about a boy who the victim of a terrible event and comes into possession of a famous painting.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The 2014 Book List Starts Here

I don't even know why I do this. I told myself I wasn't going to do reading goals this year. But now that I'm sitting, here, I can't help it.

I read 37 books in 2013. I wish it was more but given all the other stuff I do and stuff I read that doesn't get counted, I guess it's not that bad. I also kept track of pages read with the idea of reaching at least 15K and I made it to 13K. Again, not counting the other stuff. I gave up on several books and I have a bunch of half-read things sitting in my room. I intended to finish them up by the ended of the year but became side tracked by Book #1 for 2014 which monopolized all of my reading time.

I gave up several magazines but in exchange we just subscribed to the New Yorker so I imagine my book total will look pretty similar at the end of this year.