Tuesday, December 26, 2023

46. Squad: Anyone Would Kill to Belong

By Maggie Tokuda-Hall (Lisa Sterle Illustrator)(211 pp)

This is a graphic novel about a teenager who moves to a new school and falls in with the "it" crowd only turns out they are werewolves and she has to join them now that she knows the secret. I don't want to give away any spoilers but problems ensue. Loved the illustration style. Fun story.

Monday, December 25, 2023

45. Blood of Elves

By Andrzej Sapowski (398 pp)

This book was first published in 1994. I think I got it before I started watching The Witcher but then I never got around to reading it until after I watched the show. Like I say for almost every fantasy book: I got lost with the kingdoms and which people were for an against other people and who had what goals. But I loved the characters and active writing style. I loved the humor. I don't think I'm going to carry on with the entire series. Maybe.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

44. Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas

By James L. Adams (209 pp)

This is one of those books I have had sitting around and read a chapter here and a chapter there and took a few notes. The book talks about creativity in organizations and problem solving. The book was recommended to me in the context of writing and for that I don't think it's particularly helpful. But as a general text to get someone thinking about blocks to creative problem solving (e.g. cultural, intellectual) it is interesting. There are also lots of exercises and ideas to improve creative thinking.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

43. Tracy Flick Can't Win

By Tom Perotta (272 ebook)

This is a sequel to the book, Election, that might better be known as a movie staring Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick. Like all of us, Tracy is 30 years older and like many of us, the ambition of her youth didn't turn out quite the way she had hoped. Due to her mother's serious illness she ends up back in the town where she grew up and back at the high school of election where she is the vice princpal. The story is told through several viewpoints including some of the high school students. This is my favorite kind of story: dark but funny and nothing turned out like I expected.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

42. The Heart Principle

By Helen Hoang (351 pp)

I followed up my romantasies with a contemporary romance. This one is about a violinst, Anna, suffering from burnout. Her terrible boyfriend wants to open up the relationship before they commit so she seaches for a one night stand and finds a dude, Quan, who is going through some stuff of his own. When the book started, I didn't think it would work for me but the leads are super charming and won me over. The story did get a little long for me with almost all of Anna's family being so insentitive and wretched toward her.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

41. A Broken Blade (Halfling Saga #1)

By Melissa Blair (450 pp ebook)

When I finished Fourth Wing, I was in the mood for another fantasy book and had this one already on my ereader. I bought it because the author is Native and I love seeing a Native author in this genre. The story is about a young woman who is an assassin for the King in a magical world. There are Fae, Elves, and Mortals plus Halflings. A mysterious Shadow threatens the kingdom and Keera is dispatched to take care of him. Everything quickly becomes more complicated with lots of surprises. Fun book.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

40. Fourth Wing

By Rebecca Yarros (528 pp, ebook)

This book has been popping up everywhere for me since it came out in May. It's been on my list and then moved up the list. I decided to treat myself for a long airplane ride and I am happy to say the book delivers. It's fantasy about a young woman who is enrolled against her wishes into a brutally competitive military academy. By brutal I mean people die because they can't keep up with the training or because they kill each other. Also, there are dragons. If you take all the super popular books of the last 20 years and stick them in a blender -- this is what you'd come up with. But it was super fun and page turny. I almost forgot to mention there is a steamy romance. The book isn't perfect, I had a few beefs but very fun to read. A flight attendant glanced at my ereader and immediately asked me how I was enjoying the book and whether I had Book #2 yet. It's loaded up and ready to read next.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

39. A Prayer for the Crown-Shy (Monk and Robot #2)

By Becky Chambers (152 pp ebook)

Love these books. Sibling Dex and the Robot Mosscap hang out together and travel around to different villages. I find these books very comforting and relaxing.

Friday, November 3, 2023

38. What Moves the Dead

By T. Kingfisher (176 ebook)

What a creepy read! It's about a soldier who is called to visit some friends in distress and arrives at the moldering estate where unsettling things are afoot. I was lamenting that I didn't set aside anything scary to read for Halloween this year. At the same time I read this and yikes! Really good. T. Kingfisher is terrific. This was inspired by Fall of the House of Usher. I have not seen the TV series but have it on my radar and now that I've finished the book, I will prioritize. I put the Poe story on my nightstand so I can re-visit that. The author also cites Mexican Gothic by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia and I thought for sure I had it on my ereader but, alas, I do not. It's on the list for next time I buy books.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

37. The Interestings

By Meg Wolitzer (560 pp, ebook)

Meg Wolitzer has been on my radar for decades. I don't know how many times I've picked up one of her books and then set it back down. I finally bought this one and loved it. I can't wait to check out more of her books. This is the story of a group of friends that starts in the 70s when they are all at summer camp together. The story follows them into their 50s with success and setbacks and lives that didn't come out as expected. Terrific writing. Great characters. I really enjoyed the book although I found the ending a wee bit unsatifsying. I say this more as a reader who likes when everything works out perfectly than as a flaw in the book.

Monday, October 16, 2023

36. The Blade Itself (First Law #1)

By Joe Abercrombie (560 pp, ebook)

This is a fantasy series set in a primitive-ish Europe? It's the story of a bunch of very different characters who cross paths by the end. There are battles and more set to come, crooked politicians, some slight magic elements that add mystery. I just read my first Joe Abercrombie earlier this year and now I have at least 6 of his books sitting around here. Terrific characters. Very dark and brutal but also funny. Inquistitor Glotka is one of my most favorite characters I've come across in a long time.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

35. Dust and 3 short stories (Silo Book #3)

By Hugh Howey (539 pp, ebook)

I wanted to wrap up this series so I plowed through this last book. I felt the longer the story went on, the harder it got to suspend my disbelief. So many of the characters acted ridiculously. In this last one, the secrecy of the Silo world is undone and there is lots of violence and miraculously, equipment that's been sitting around for 500 years still works. This is one post-apocalyptic story convention that always gets me, how technological devices still work hundreds of years later. Have you ever found an iPod that's been in a drawer for 10 years and tried to make it work? There are three short stories set in this same world and I would avoid them. The characters make the most bizarre choices, it's not worth it.

Friday, September 8, 2023

34. Shift (Silo Book 2)

By Hugh Howey (578 pp, ebook)

This is the second in a series that is also a series on Apple. I am writing this months after I finished the book so I can't remember the exact events of this one. The books are set in a post-apocalyptic world where what is left of mankind live in underground silos but they each think they are the only silo and know nothing of the history of the world. I think this is the one that switches between what happened leading up to the apocalypse and how the carefully guarded secrets of the silo world are falling apart. It's fun to read but it felt really long and there were times that the story developments were so preposterous, it was hard to stick with it.

Monday, August 28, 2023

33. The Phantom Tollbooth

By Norton Juster (272 pp ebook)

This was on sale so I grabbed to see how it holds up. A bored kid named Milo finds a tollbooth in his room and sets out on a portal adventure. It holds up magnificently. I loved this book as a young reader. I read the book over and over and looked at those Jules Feiffer drawings. I loved it now. All the puns and word play.

Friday, August 25, 2023

32. Special Topics in Calamity Physics

By Marisha Pessl (540 pp)

I don't know what to tell you about this book. It's about a young woman in high school who lives with her dad who is complicated and possibly up to something. She becomes part of a group of friends that are under the spell of a secretive instructor and they get into all kinds of situations. At times, I enjoyed the writer's writing style. But for huge passages, it was too much. Here's a random paragraph:
He was looking at me intently with his I’m-Thumbing-a-Lift-Here look, which soon slipped into his Please-Pull-a-Ripcord face, and then, If-You-Would-Be-So-Kind-as-to-Administer-a-Rabbit-Punch. Normally, he reserved those faces for instances when a June Bug with some sort of physical deformity was actively pursuing him, like a faulty sense of direction (extreme nearsightedness) or an erratic wing (facial tic).
There were times when this would go on for pages and I would just slide my eyes over the words. There were other parts that were hard to put down. I liked the main character but her story was unsatisfying for me.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

31. Now is Not the Time to Panic

By Kevin Wilson (256 pp ebook)

This is about a couple of teenagers who get into trouble making art and the fallout twenty years later. I loved it. I thought the author perfectly captured that mindset of a 16 year old girl and I loved the idea of young people being creative and making stuff.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

30. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

By Taylor Jenkins Reid (385 pp)

This is a fictional history of an old Hollywood movie star who has lots of dramatic secrets told to an unknown journalist who gets her lucky break writing Evelyn's story. It was fun to read but got a little melodramatic for me and I thought the characterization was a bit thin. The 1.5 million 5 star reviews on Goodreads disagree with me.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

29. Crosstalk

By Connie Willis (512 pp, ebook)

I can't tell you how much it pains me to pan a Connie Willis book. I loved the Blackout/All Clear duology and I re-read The Doomsday Book during the pandemic. I loved To Say Nothing of the Dog and I enjoyed reading Passage, even if I had problems with it. I found this one a slog. It's about a young woman who works in technology. Her partner convinces her to get a medical treatment that will make them more emotionally connected and instead it makes her telepathic. With everyone. There were too many missed calls and misheard communications and the main character's family barging in with goofy problems. It wasn't that funny or romantic. But it had moments. I think it would have worked as a 300 page story.

Friday, July 14, 2023

28. The Ferryman

By Justin Cronin (560 pp, ebook)

I LOVED the Passage books. If I didn't have 300 books in my to read pile I might read them again. This one is about a utopian island where when a person's well-being breaksdown they go across the water to be remade. The Ferryman is the guy that guides them on this journey. But there is a lot going on in this world and it starts to unravel. I enjoyed reading it but didn't love it like the Passage books.

Friday, July 7, 2023

27. Slow Horses

By Mick Herron (366 pp)

I read about this writer in the New Yorker last year and started the TV series and got this book. It's another crime book with MI5 spies that made mistakes and have been sent down to Slough House where they have nothing important to do. A young man is kidnapped and the kidnappers announce they will execute him live on the Internet. It's hard to summarize in a few sentences because there are all kinds of twists and surprises. I really enjoyed it -- great characters! I love the TV series. Gary Oldman is incredible. My only issue is I had a little bit of character fatigue. It takes a lot of characters for stories like this and if I can't pick up the book for a couple days I have trouble keeping track.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

26. A Brief History of Seven Killings

By Marlon James (686 pp, also audiobook)

It took me over a year to get through this book. Don't get me wrong: it is amazing writing and a great story. But for this reader, it was tough going. It's set in Jamaica and the story is around the events of the attempted assignation of Bob Marley. There are several sections starting in 1976 and ending in 1991. It's told in a number of voices, many with a heavy patois (if that's the correct way to use that word). It's also super violent and graphic and also meandered at times. I had trouble getting into the book so I got the audiobook and thought listening and reading at the same time would help me stick with it. And it did except then I could only work on the book when I could sit there with the audiobook. I eventually switched back and forth, some parts reading and some parts listening, sometimes going back over a part twice. The audiobook is a fantastic performance. It's a really great book and I recommend. But I had to put in some effort to finish it.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

25. The Man Who Died Twice

By Richard Osman (352 pp)

I picked up a box of books from Mom's to add to our little free library donations and this was in there. It's a murder mystery where the main characters are in a retirement home. They are hilarious. It starts with one of the character's ex-husband and some stolen diamonds. (I recently saw someone misspell stolen as stollen and it made me smile because stollen is a favorite German holiday treat in this house.) And it goes on to involve various bad guys and gals. I really enjoyed the humor and characterization.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

24. Sea of Tranquility

By Emily St. James Mandel (255 pp)

I love this author's writing so much -- she is able to create a whole mood, scene, or character in just a page or two. This is a time traveler story that overlaps with the characters of The Glass Hotel. Also there's a pandemic. The story takes place with different characters in different moments in time but tied together by the time traveler. It's really good, but not my favorite of hers.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

23. Silo

By Hugh Howey (595 pp ebook)

I had a DNF before this -- it's a book I want to read but I need to wait for a time when I have some big chunks of reading time to get into it. Meanwhile, I started this. This is one of those dystopian future series set in a world where the planet is poisonous for human life and people live in silos dug deep into the ground. It starts off fast and is a fun read with lots of action and twists. But it got long for me. I intended to read the entire trilogy but after I slogged through the last 200 pages of this one, I decided to come back to it later.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

22. Amy Falls Down

By Jincy Willett (324 pp)

Hannah recommended this book to me years ago. Amy is aging novelist who teaches writing and fits the description of a curmudgeon. She falls down and bangs her head and this sets off a series of gently escalating events that leads to hilarious adventures. Lots of insightful bits about writing and publishing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

21. Moon Called (Mercy Thompson 1)

By Patricia Briggs (304 ebook)

This is my first Mercy Thompson. I've been curious to read one of these books since they are set in Washington in the Tri-Cities area. She's a shape-shifter and everyone in the story is a werewolf or a vampire or some sort of creature. She get tangled up in a battle of creatures. It's fun and page turny but I don't love the "magical Indigenous people" aspect.

Friday, May 5, 2023

20. Diving Into the Wreck

By Kristine Kathryn Rusch (336 ebook)

I feel like I already wrote about this one but I don't see it on the list. I read the first part in Asimov's years ago and remember liking it so I grabbed the book. The story is set in space where people "dive wrecks" meaning they go into derelict spaceships. Some people do it for salvage but the MC takes tourists out and also researches the ships from a historical perspective. In the story, she finds some interesting technology and has many adventures dealing with it. Great world building.

Friday, April 28, 2023

19. The Pleasing Hour

By Lily King (256 ebook)

This isn't my favorite Lily King that I've read. It's about a young American woman who is a au pair in Paris. The story jumps around in time and it felt like threads were dropped and it was sometimes hard to follow. The writing and characterization are great but also this character makes some aggravating decisions.

Look how many books I read in March and April -- 11! Yeah, a lot of them were short. But also I was recovering from Covid and we had a long wet spring. I can read a lot if the circumstances are right.

Monday, April 17, 2023

18. So Quick Bright Things Come to Confusion

By Caren Gussoff Sumption (114 pp)

Caren is one of my Clarion West classmates and it was great to read something new from her. This is about a guy who is part of a space mission on another planet who befriends a resident creature of that planet while the space mission does some sketchy studies. It's sweet and disturbing and funny and sad. Terrific characters and world building.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

17. To Be Taught, If Fortunate

By Becky Chambers (160 ebook)

Becky Chambers can do no wrong! Even the books that don't really work for me pay off. This one is about a science mission to potentially habitable planets and has a wonderful cast of characters and so much heart. Recommend.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

16. Verity

By Colleen Hoover (333 ebook)

Hoover is all over the best sellers list so I've been wanting to read something of hers out of curiosity. This is a suspense-romance(?). I think it might be romance but it's pretty dark and there's lots of sex but it's not that romantic. It's about a down-on-her-luck woman who gets a job finishing a popular book series by a famous author who is ill. Of course, it requires going to the remote estate where this author wrote to go through her office and of course, she has to stay longer than intended and of course there is a mysterious sexy husband and a creepy kid. At first it was fun, page-turny, suspension of disbelief but the ending went completely off the rails and did not work for me.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

15. Murder in the Library

By Agatha Christie (224 ebook)

I bought a 3-book Agatha Christie Miss Marple bundle. This is the 2nd that I've read and I enjoyed it more than the first. This one starts opens with the discovery of the body of a young woman in the Bantrys' library. Another young woman's body is discovered in a quarry. There are dancers and actors and tennis instructors and an old guy with a sad story and lots of money that people want to inherit. Miss Marple is on the case.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

14. Ninth House

By Leigh Bardugo (496 ebook)

I read a lot of books in a short period because I was dealing with fatigue from The Covid. Plus it was a cold wet winter/spring so what better to do than sit around and read? I have never read Bardugo but I loved Shadow and Bone on Netflix and she's been on my list. This book is set in a different world from her main books and seems like her regular readers weren't as fond of this. I LOVED it. It's set at Yale and has secret societies, dark magic and ghosts. The main character is a troubled and rebellious woman who gets a second chance but signs up for more than she expected. There's a murder and ever-shifting bad guys. REALLY GOOD.

Friday, March 24, 2023

13. Neverworld Wake

By Marissa Pessl (323 ebook)

This is another one of those books that I don't know where it came from. Probably a Bookbub deal. (BookBub is a blessing and a curse. SO MANY BOOKS -- but it's a deal do I have to buy it.) It's a thriller about a group of friends--they all have secrets--and they are in a car accident that turns into a groundhog's day thing. It was fun and page turny with great dark atmosphere but the story went off the rails a bit in the middle and the characterization was kind-of flat.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

12. Nettle and Bone

By T. Kingfisher (262 ebook)

I have only read 2 books by T. Kingfisher but I put the list of everything she's written into my phone because I don't want to miss one thing. Fantastic stories with interesting, complex characters who have to work through tough situations. This one is set in a land with waring kingdoms and the main character tries to rescue her sister from a cruel king. She has to endure terrible trials and manages to assemble an odd group to help on her quest. Dark, but really good.

Friday, March 17, 2023

11. Crossroads

By Jonathan Franzen (580 pp)

We got this hardcover in one of the free little libraries in our neighborhood. I had it sitting here and I finally read it because it was taking up so much real estate on my shelf. It's set in the 70s and is about this family in the midwest and their relationship with their church. Complex family dynamics and people going through personal crises. It was interesting because it was really easy to read, I zoomed through it but I didn't love the story. The characters were sympathetic but also awful to themselves and each other and kept doing things you didn't want them to do. But the writing is so good and story also felt very real for the time and the subject matter.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

10. Twelve Tomorrows (MIT Technology Review Annual 2014)

By Bruce Sterling, ed. (230 pp)

Bob bought me this collection a few years ago and I finally finished it. Like every story collection, out of 10 stories I will love 2, hate 2 and the rest I might like the writing but not connect with the story or thought it started strong but didn't pay off. Of course, I am writing this months after I read it so I can't remember which stories I liked best. Good sci-fi collection.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

9. Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

By Gabrielle Zevin (397 pp)

This book was a gift and I LOVED it. I love new-to-me authors that have zillions of online reviews and zillions of books and here I am finding out about them for the first time. I read this while I had The Covid and was too tired to do anything else. It's set in the gaming world which is something I know nothing about but for me it was really about lifelong friendships. The characters were flawed and did things you didn't want them to do, but I really enjoyed this. Recommend!

Saturday, February 25, 2023

8. The Once and Future King

By T.H. White (654 pp, ebook)

When I picked this up, I didn't realize how long it was (4 books in 1) and it's mostly really good but there are some sloggy bits in the middle. This is a re-telling of the story of King Arthur. The first book, The Sword in the Stone is set when Arthur was a boy and growing up with Merlin the magician. This book is so playful and adorable -- I wondered why no one put it in my hands when I was a middle school reader and looking for just this kind of book. (Probably someone did and I didn't read it.) The middle 2 books are about Arthur's enemies, and Lancelot and Guinevere's affair. The last book is about Arthur at the end of his life with everything he built unraveling and trying to make sense of it. There is a lot of food for thought in here -- great turns of phrase. Makes me want to read The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley) again.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

7. Bad Day for Sunshine

By Darinda Jones (397 ebook)

This is yet another author that I have heard a lot about but never read. This one is about Sunshine, a woman who returns to the New Mexico town where she grew up to be sheriff. The story is shared with her teenage daughter who is having a tough time fitting in at school. A teenage girl goes missing and there is drama at the high school. There are a lot of characters including a super sexy former crush who stills lusts for Sunshine. It took me awhile to get into it but ultimately it was a fun read although there was a lot of melodrama.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

6. Darkfever

By Karen Moning (384 ebook)

This is another book I read on recommendation and wasn't what I thought. It's about young woman who goes to Ireland to investigate her sister's murder and gets drawn into paranormal activities. There are Fae and darkness and evil creatures and the main character is the one to save us all. I found her difficult to relate to - her characterization seemed motivated by "being contrary" even if it meant ignoring any sense of self-preservation. There are some good page-turning bits but over all not for me.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

5. Educated, A Memoir

By Tara Westover (352 pp ebook)

I have been hearing about this book forever and I finally got my own copy and it's not quite what I expected. It was harrowing. It's about a woman who was raised in rural Idaho by survivalist Mormans. There is so much violence and the author experienced so much abuse. It was tough to read.

Friday, January 13, 2023

4. A Better Man

By Louise Penny (417 pp ebook)

This is my first Chief Inspector Armand Gamache book but something like 15th in the series and I think I suffered a bit without knowing the background characters and the setting established in the previous books. This one is about a missing woman and a terrible weather event and there's a thread with an artist. I liked that it was set in Quebec - not a setting I have read a lot. Decent crime-solving story.

Monday, January 9, 2023

3. Rez Metal: Inside the Navajo Nation Heavy Metal Scene

By Ashkan Soltani Stone and Natale A. Zappia (89 pp)

This book starts out with a pretty dry academic essay about What is Rez Metal? I was a little disappointed but then it gets to the interview section, talking to different people within the scene and it is riveting! Really amazing people playing and promoting metal music on Navajo rez. I love NDN Country.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

2. Half a King

By Joe Abercrombie (352 ebook)

How did I manage to miss this author for so long? This book is fantasy but set in viking-like times and is about a prince who nobody wants around. He endures a lot of terrible things while he tries to get back to the throne. Amazing writing, great characters, page-turning action. So good. Will be back to finish the series.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

1. Moonflower Murders

By Anthony Horowitz (608 pp)

I am not an expert on the mystery genre but having just read an Agatha Christie I am going to say this is written in the Agatha Christie style with a huge cast of characters that possibly have a motive. Again, I had issues with character fatigue and had to go back and make a post-it to keep everyone straight which is why I groaned when I saw that there is an Agatha Christie style mystery within the Agatha Christie style mystery. The main book is about a former book editor living in Greece who is hired to go back to England and look into the disappearance of a woman associated with the mystery in a previous book by this author. The inner book is about the investigator Atticus Pund hired to investigate the murder of an American actress. Like most murder mysteries, I was turning the pages to get to the end but overall I'm not sure this is my favorite kind of mystery.