Monday, December 21, 2015

29. Fangirl

By Rainbow Rowell (319 pp. ebook)

I LOVED this book. It took me a little while to get into it. It's about a twin who goes to her first year of college. She is a successful fan fic writer in a world that's like Harry Potter. Her sister wants to be independent from her twin and her Dad has some mental health issues. Mom left the family when the twins were young. Cath is flawed but relatable character trying to plow through a tough transition in life. The romantic element is adorable. RECOMMEND.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

28. A Thousand Pieces of You

By Claudia Gray (249 pp. ebook)

This book has the most amazing cover. I wanted to like it and it had some good moments, but it didn't work for me. The protagonist's parents are scientists working on inter-dimensional travel. Her father is murdered by one of his grad students. She and another grad student start jumping through parallel worlds to find him. There were moments when it was page turning but often the plot developments felt simplistic and the characterization fell flat. There is a strong romantic element which also doesn't quite work.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

27. Rising Tide

By Rajan Khanna (268 pp)

This is the sequel to Falling Sky which I read at this time last year.  The story is set in post-apocalyptic earth where a virus has turned part of the population into feral killers. This book focuses on the scientists who are trying to save the day and a bunch of bad people who have other plans. Lots of action and complicated relationships. Recommend.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

26. Blasphemy

By Sherman Alexie (464 pp)

This is a collection of short pieces. Some of them aren't stories. What do we call them, fragments? I mostly loved it, especially the stories that I've already read. The pieces that didn't work for me, didn't work at all. I had a lot of deja vu while I was reading, to the point where I wondered if I'd already read this book. But I know I haven't. My favorite story that I read this morning is called "The Search Engine." It's about a Indian woman going to college in Spokane who finds a book of poems in the library. The book is by a Spokane Indian and it's never been checked out. She goes on a mission to find the author and nothing happens the way you would expect. Recommend.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

25. Voyager

By Diana Gabaldon (1057 pp)

Yeah. I had to run out and buy the next volume. I'm pretty sure I read something between this and the previous volume but I can't remember what it is right at this moment. Goodness, this is one long enjoyable soap opera. I could not wait to see Jamie and Claire back together and my wish was fulfilled. Then they had all kinds of crazy adventures with new characters and previous characters. Lots of new locations. I thought she was setting up for a cliffhanger and I was ready to curse her to the stars. It's an arguable cliffhanger. There are threads of the story still undone that I would like to see wrapped up but I can get on with my life without running out to get the next volume. And good thing. Have I mentioned I have fallen into the bargain ebook trap? I have a lot of reading to do.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

24. Dragonfly in Amber

By Diana Gabaldon (813 pp. ebook)

Back in 2012 I read Outlander which I enjoyed as a big fun cheesy book. I wasn't in a big hurry to continue with the series but I watched the TV show and decided I would read the next book to get ready for the next season, whenever that is. I'm always reluctant to start giant books because I don't always have huge chunks of reading time and it's tough to get into them and I end up reading 1 book for months. I had a long plane trip and started it then. The story is about a woman named Clare from 1945 who time traveled to 1743 and fell in love with someone in that time and had a load of adventures. As this book opens, she's back in her modern time, which is now 1968. This is the hook, how and why did she come back and what happened to Jamie? The story shifts back to the 1700s and tells an endless story of Jamie and Clare being involved in historical events that lead up to Clare's return. I mostly enjoyed it, but it felt long. When I started, I didn't think I would continue with this series, but there are unresolved story bits that I need to see resolved so I'm going to have to track down the next one eventually.

Friday, September 4, 2015

23. Baltimore Blues

By Laura Lippman (285 ebook)

My keeping track of books I read system has totally fallen apart. I've had several did-not-finishes and a couple of things I read quickly. I don't think the world will crumble if my records are incomplete. This was a cheap ebook that was first published in 1997. It's the first in a series -- in this one the protagonist first tries private investigating after a friend of hers is accused of murder. I'm going to guess the rest of the series is her career as a PI. It was fun to read and I would read another, but not going to go out of my way to track them all down.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

22. Anna and the French Kiss

By Stephanie Perkins (273 pp ebook)

I keep forgetting to put my books up. I've read a bunch of romance and YA lately.  This is a really sweet YA romance about a girl whose Dad sends her to school in Paris for her senior year of high school. She doesn't want to go. She would rather stay in America with her friends and a boy she met. She makes new friends and discovers the city and has more boy troubles. It gets a little long and high school drama-y (which, of course it has to) but overall enjoyable and made me wish I could have gone to school in Paris.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

21. All the Bright Places

By Jennifer Niven (293 pp ebook)

This is a YA directly aimed at people who loved The Fault in Our Stars. And it totally succeeds. It's about a high school girl who has lost her sister in an accident and she connects with the "weird kid" over what seems to be a suicide exploratory mission. The story is sweet and funny and obviously sad - but I really liked it. Also a bit of a love letter to Indiana. Recommend.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

20. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

By Roz Chast ((228 pp)

Last year there was a piece in the New Yorker by Roz Chast about dealing with, uh, "end of life" talk with her parents. Link:

It's funny and sad and heart-breaking and relatable. When her memoir came out I wanted to read it. It'a also funny and sad and heart-breaking. And really, really tough. It's like a horror story about aging. I remember once my Aunt looked at me and said, "You aren't old enough to be scared."

I am now. "Quick and painless" is my mantra.

I recommend for its honesty but it's a tough read. And she did have a tough relationship with her parents that contributed to the difficulty - so comfort yourself with that.

Friday, July 3, 2015

17. 18. 19. The White Mountains Books

By John Christopher

The White Mountains (214 pp)
The City of Gold and Lead (218 pp)
The Pool of Fire (218 pp)

My Mom gave me this set when I was in middle school. The last one was written in 1968. I love this series. I've read it at least 6-7 times over the years. It's a post-alien-invasion YA story where the aliens "cap" humans when they are 13 to control them and make them loyal to the aliens, known only as tripods, as the series opens. The story is about a small group of uncapped that try to free the world. It's a great story. There's lots of action and conflict. Cool ruins. The person telling the story is deeply flawed. You know what else I realized at this reading? There are no women. The protagonist has a Mom but she doesn't figure into the story. They end up at a castle at one point and there is a Comtesse and her daughter and they get speaking parts. That's it. No women anywhere in the resistance movement, not even stuck cooking and cleaning. How are they going to remake the world without women? I know that's how most stories were written then but it was still annoying to see how obvious the omission is, this time through.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

16. Every Day

By David Levithan (238 pp ebook)

(Vague spoilers about the ending.) This is a YA book and the premise is that the protagonist wakes up every day in a different body and lives the life of that person. The body is the protagonist's age which is about 16 at this point. The event that triggers the story is that the protagonist falls for the girlfriend of one of the body's he inhabits. This is an interesting idea - how do you make a story out of a person who is in a different life every day and who can't form lasting relationships? I was curious to see how the writer was going to pull it off. And he almost does, I think with a little tweaking he might have made this work well enough, but as it is, I thought it was weak. The protagonist "fixes" it for the girl, which I did not approve of, and then took an action that violated one of his basic rules of living in these other lives.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

15. Reliquary

By Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (464 pp)

It's been a whole month since I finished a book. How did that happen? I guess since I wasn't sick I was finishing up on other stuff. I wanted a cheezy book to take on a plane across country and this filled the bill. It's a sequel to a book (and movie) about a monster under Manhattan that eats a bunch of people in a museum. This one is about some virus that might turn everyone into this same kind of monster. A lot of it takes place in tunnels deep underground NYC. Entertaining for a plane ride.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

14. The Golem and the Jinni

By Helene Wecker (484 pp)

My sister-in-law gave me this book and I loved it. It is set in 1899 NYC and tough to summarize simply and without spoilers. The golem, named Chava, is brought to life en route to the city where she is supposed to become a wife. The jinni, called Ahmad, is released from a lamp but has a complicated history. They become acquainted and form a lovely friendship. As I say about everything I read, I had a few issues but overall, interesting and satisfying story. Recommend.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

13. Broken Harbor

By Tana French (450 pp)

Another murder mystery. Childhood sweethearts grown and married with two kids buy a home in a fancy suburban development outside of Dublin that goes bust in the 08 financial troubles. The family is murdered except the woman who barely survives. That doesn't quite cover it but I don't want to get spoilery. The story is from the POV of the detectives. It was a good, readable book but got long for me. This author is not afraid to sink the reader into an endless interrogation scene that consists of Detective asks question, Respondent says: I don't know, Detective says: we know you're lying, Respondent reluctantly gives up a piece of information. Sometimes interrogation scenes duplicated information we already learned.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

12. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

By Claire North (405 pp)

I actually read this book and #11 at the same time. I usually don't do that but I don't know what happened. I really liked both books. This one is about a guy who more or less repeats the same life over and over. He remembers everything about his previous lives every time he is reborn. There are other people like him and eventually someone starts mucking around with things making trouble that has to be stopped. It's hard to summarize all the mechanics in this little blurb- but I recommend.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

11. Ready Player One

By Ernest Cline (372 pp)

I really loved this book, but I had a few issues. It's set about 30 years in the future where the world has become a bleak place and people spend their time in a virtual world. The eccentric bazillionaire who helped create the virtual world dies and leaves behind a puzzle hidden in the virtual world. The person who solves it inherits his money and the company. It's a big battle to win the contest. There is lots of 80's trivia and a lot about video games which went over my head. Super fun to read and a great story but there bits where it felt amateurish for example, major info-dumping at the beginning. Also, the bad guys are cartoonishly bad. All that was missing was actual mustache twirling. Still: Recommend!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

10. Coming Out to Play

By Robbie Rogers (222 pp)

This is a memoir by a professional soccer player who came out in 2013. As I write this he is still on the roster at LA Galaxy. Bob and I used to play this game called "celebrities who might have been interesting once but are now tiresome."  It's been a long time since we've played that game but I think some current nominees are James Franco and Seth Rogen. I felt like I went through the entire interesting-to-tiresome arc while I was reading this book. Rogers is so charming and he was so painfully tormented while he was closeted -- so worried about disappointing his family, also Catholic, and in his mind there was no way he could play professional sports and be out. It was heart-breaking to see how deeply this affected him. However, his coming out goes great, his family, friends and teammates are a million percent supportive and by the end he sounds just like any other self-involved handsome and successful athlete who benefits from enormous privilege. I honestly enjoyed the book and still think he's charming and I'm happy that he can be who he really is and I'm certain his story benefits others so I will give him a pass on the self-involved, etc.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

9. The Magician's Land

By Lev Grossman (401 pp)

This is the third in a trilogy that started with The Magicians and The Magician King. For both of those books, I said that really liked them but the entire time I was reading I felt like I was on the verge of falling insanely in love and fell just a bit short of that. The only time I've ever been disappointed in great books for not being great enough. This book was great enough. I'm sorry I didn't re-read the others before I read this. And yes, I read this book in a day plus one morning because of The Crud. I'm almost recovered so back to my slower reading pace.

Friday, February 27, 2015

8. In The Woods

By Tana French (429 pp)

Yes. I read a book in 1 day. I had the crud and the only thing that felt comfortable was sitting up in bed reading. I can't remember the last time I did that and, other than being sick, it was quite enjoyable. I read an interview with this writer and her books sounded good so I put her on my list. It's a contemporary murder mystery set in Dublin. The protagonist was one of three children who disappeared when they were young. He is the only one ever found, blood in his shoes and no memory of what happened. In present day another murder of a child happens in the same place and he is one of the detectives. I really liked it and was glad to read it one sitting. I liked the characters and setting. There were a few bits that strained reader credulity but overall recommend for mystery fans.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

7. Before I Fall

By Lauren Oliver (470 pp)

This is a YA that I saw described somewhere as "Groundhog's Day" meets "Mean Girls" and I would call that accurate. It's about a wealthy, popular, shallow, mean girl who apparently dies in a car wreck after a big party and then wakes up to relive that same day. The book is pretty long-winded and my interest waned in the middle. My problem is that the protagonist and her friends were all awful. Not just awful in the way that teenagers are self-absorbed and thoughtless, but "let's go out of our way to be cruel and make less fortunate kids fear us" awful. I don't like these people. I don't care that they had backstories to help me understand that they had pain. Non-wealthy, non-attractive kids with nothing going for them also have pain in their backstories and none of the perks to go along with it. I didn't hate the book and the story pulled off a reasonably satisfying ending.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

6. Some Assembly Required

By Anne Lamott (272 pp)

A Journal of My Son's First Son

I read Operating Instructions a long time ago. The link says it came out in 1993 so probably close to 20 years ago. I loved that book, which is about Anne's first year with her son, and just recently found out that this "sequel" existed so I grabbed it from the library. I love how honest Lamott is about her flaws. There are some great moments in here and overall I enjoyed it but it felt a little phoned-in.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

5. City of Lost Dreams

By Magnus Flyte (355 pp.)

This is a sequel to City of Dark Magic that I read a couple of years ago. In this one the main character goes to Vienna to try to find a cure for a sick teenager that she befriended in the last book. It's not exactly time travel but there are time portals and alchemists and mustache-twirling villains. It's fun, light reading but gets pretty silly, especially the ending.

Friday, February 6, 2015

4. Broken Monsters

By Lauren Beukes (436 pp)

I am disappointed. This book did not work for me. Last year I read The Shining Girls which I loved. Both books have a speculative element that is never really explained. It worked in TSG but not really in this one. This is a serial killer story set in Detroit that follows the detective and several other characters. It just felt like a bunch of terrible things happening without understanding why, to characters I felt mostly ambivalent about.

Friday, January 23, 2015

3. Big Little Lies

by Liane Moriarty (415 pp)(ebook)

Definitely fun to read but got a little cartoony there. This is set in Australia and concerns several women who have children in the same school. They have issues and secrets. There's a murder. Overall recommend.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

2. Bitterblue

By Kristin Cashore (563 pp)

This is the third book set in this world. I read Graceling and Fire last year and liked them both. I liked this book, too, and recommend them all. In this world some people are born with a special power called a grace. This story is about a young woman who inherits the throne after her horrible father whose grace was getting people to do awful things is given the heave-ho. I did think it got long winded and thought the whole story hung on pretty slender premise. I said I thought Fire was soap-opera-y and this one is too. But the characters are so charming and wonderful, it's fun to read.

Friday, January 9, 2015

1. Station Eleven

By Emily St. John Mandel (333 pp)

Hannah gave me this book and it is terrific. It's post-apocalypse after a terrible flu. I know you're probably thinking, what again? But this is more of a literary story that goes back and forth in time with loosely connected characters. Recommend.