Monday, December 17, 2012

Summer Reads

So. This is awkward. It's like you've called and left a few messages and I haven't called back. You're not sure if I'm mad or just flaky. Well, the answer is flaky. I've been updating my personal blog regularly ( but my book blog has taken a major back seat this year. I'm still reading - in fact I'm now in 2 book clubs! - but A. Many of the books have been sub-par and B. I can't seem to muster the energy to write about them right after reading. Which means that unless I loved the book, I remember almost nothing about the books I read this summer. So without further ado, I give you a list of books I've read over the last 6 months or so with only a star rating of 1-5 stars.

Through Rushing Water - Historical fiction and my hazy memory gives it 3.5 stars

Spring for Susannah - More historical fiction (it was a bit of a phase) and this one was 2.5 stars

Caleb's Crossing - Fellow book-clubers found this one hard to read. It's sort of old timey-English but I give it 3.5 stars for the strong female heroine and fascinating insight into this period of history.

We The Animals - 1 star. I strongly disliked the self-conscious style - it read like a short story from a budding writer who was trying too hard.

Sweetness in the Belly - 4 stars. This was an interesting look at Ethiopia in the 80's but could also be relentless at times.

Juliet - 4.5 stars. This was romantic and interesting and a good read about Romeo and Juliet old times and present day.

Family Fang - 4.5 stars. Witty and interesting.

Seating Assignments - 2.5 stars. Meh. I felt about this like I did Emperor's Children - the plot didn't go very far and I disliked all the young, apathetic characters immensely.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Spring Reads - Recap

The Leftovers
I really enjoyed this book that was recommended by Jeff's aunt Carolyn and would definitely recommend it.  We read this for book club (full disclosure - it was my pick this month).  The Leftovers is a total WTF plot in which tons of people all over the world literally disappear at the same time on the same day.  This particular story follows the lives of people all from the same small town in middle America.  Some of them have had family members and loved ones disappear with no explanation.  Some try to move on and others don't seem capable.  It's super fascinating in a 'what if' type of way, but also VERY readable. I had some complaints about minor flaws in the plot (like how come people don't think it was ALIENS?), but none strong enough to prevent me from recommending this book.

The Lock Artist
I can't wait to loan this one to my Dad.  This story hooks you in the first page and I couldn't put it down until it was done.  The Lock Artist is about a young man who as a result of a childhood trauma hasn't spoken since. Like, not a single word.  But he narrates the book and from the first chapter you learn he's writing his "memoir" from prison.  He learns early that he has a special skill and can open just about any lock put in front of him.  His skills make him a target for some criminal types and he's off on a life of (silent) crime.  But there's aching romance and the plot is fast and well written.  Thanks Jessie for gifting me this book!

When I Reach You
A YA (young adult) book that was confusing at first, but by chapter 2, very addictive.  This was another gift from my friend Jessie, who always has winning recommendations. My only problem with this book was that I never read A Wrinkle in Time as a child.  I'm not sure why, I think it might have been required reading around the time I changed schools and therefore missed the opportunity - but this book made me excited to read it with Edie when she's older. The story of this book quasi-coincides with the story of A Wrinkle in Time and heavily references it throughout the story.  Nonetheless, the mysterious plot line still hooked me and it's YA Fiction after all, it's not as if you can't fill in the blanks. The book follows 6th grader Miranda in the 1970's while living in New York City with her mother.  She starts having problems with her best friend Sal at the same time that she starts receiving anonymous notes in her apartment.  The mystery unfolds!  Try it - you'll like it.

The Emperors Children
Blergh.  I couldn't get on board with ANY of the characters in this book - they were all so lazy and self absorbed and annoying.  I think that was maybe the point of the book, but I found it hard to enjoy and didn't look forward to reading it before bed.  I can't argue with the fact that it was well written prose, I just didn't really like anything about the people in the book and since there wasn't really a plot (it's more a character driven novel), I couldn't fall in love.  I have a feeling there are people out there who really loved this book, which reminds me of the time I didn't like any of Zadie Smith's books for the same reasons and got cranked messages from Zadie lovers around the globe (or at least in Seattle).  What can I say? I like a heroine.

The Postmistress
Surprisingly I loved this book.  It was a freebie from my annual "Christmas Box" of books, so it could have gone either way.  Don't get me wrong, it's S-A-D.  But in a sentimental and articulate way.  I'm slow to be moved to tears and this book made me cry like a baby at the drop of a hat.  It takes place during WWII when London is experiencing The Blitz.  It bounces back and forth between London/Europe and Cape Cod - but both story lines follow strong female characters playing unconventional roles during the 1940s.  One is a radio show host in London for the BBC, telling war stories and the other is the unmarried 40-something postmistress in a tiny Cape Cod town.  There are other compelling characters in both stories and having not lived through this era myself, it FELT like the times were captured well in the book.

Five Quarters of the Orange
Just finished this one over the weekend.  It's by the author of Chocolat, and has a similar feel to it.  It took a while (like 150 pages) for the story to warm up, but it's beautifully written and tells a complex story very well.  Without retelling the entire plot, I'll just say that it is a story of mother-daughter relationships, World War II in rural France, food, childhood with a pinch of romance.  About halfway in, this book finally hooked me and I couldn't put it down for the last 2 days.

50 Shades of Grey
Um.  I really don't have anything to say about this. Except that in my defense it was a BOOK CLUB selection and therefore I HAD to read it.  I will describe it by saying that it is essentially Twilight without the vampires, plus 5 years for the main characters and ... it's super naughty!!

50 Shades Darker
Double um. Because I really have no reason for reading this.  I think when we chose 50 Shades for book club, the requirement was only the first book.  And I seriously said out loud and to Jeff while reading the first book in the series - "This is the worst book EVER!" like every other page.  But I have a problem with book series.  I MUST read them all.  Especially when they end the first book with no resolution what so ever.  Needless to say this book was terrible.... and naughty!!

50 Shades Freed
Um, wow.  This was by far the worst book of the series.  Except they were all so terrible that I'm not really sure what ranking system I'm using here.  If it wasn't for the fact that each book takes about 1 day to read, I wouldn't have finished this one.  By the third book it's naughtiness had lost the appeal (and shock value).

Her Fearful Symmetry
Disappointing!!  This is book #2 by the author of The Time Traveller's Wife - one of my all time favorites.  And while there are some redeeming qualities, the characters are boring and poorly developed and the plot seems rushed and missing motivation and explanation.  I'm bummed because I enthusiastically voted for this one in book club.


This is a page turner, but not exactly a quality book.  The writing is good, but the story/mystery is a bit ridiculous and full of those moments where you want to yell at the main character.  This book is essentially a mystery that takes place in rural England.  A snake expert with a disfigured face is called upon to solve the mystery of why people in her tiny town are being besieged with weird snake incidents.  It would be a good plane or vacation read, but you have to suspend disbelief before you get sucked in.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Winter Reads

Clash of Kings

I'm not going to lie. After Game of Thrones, this second book in the series was a bit of a snoozer. I still read all 5 million pages but was hoping for more action. I'm also still waiting for this series to get a little romantic. I mean, I love dragons and warriors as much as the next girl, but when are these lonely teenagers going to finally discover each other? And is Shae really just humoring Tyrion? I'm told that book 3 is where it's at, so perhaps I won't drop this series after all, but I will admit to being tempted.

The Sparrow

This was a book club read and while this isn't something I would have picked out for myself, I'm really glad I read it. And it was a great discussion book. The book follows a Jesuit mission to a recently discovered planet containing sentient beings. I was a little bothered by the main character who everyone worshipped, and the creepiness of what happens to him on this new planet stuck with me far longer than I wanted, but there's no denying it was a well written and fascinating book.

A Visit from the Goon Squad

This has been on my bed side table for ages. I will admit to being slightly disappointed by this much awaited read. It was more like a collection of short stories, and I've never been a fan of short stories - preferring a heavy plot that sucks me in and in depth character development that attaches me to the people in the story. I kept thinking all the stories/characters were going to link up, but mostly the chapters just hop around in time and (I suppose on purpose) make you work awfully hard at the start to figure out WHO is narrating each particular chapter. Sometimes I would read the first 5 pages of a chapter totally confused, trying to figure out what year it was and who was narrating. I will grant that the author has a knack for capturing a huge variety of distinct "voices", but that skill was a bit lost on me. I mostly just wanted this book to be about Bennie and Sasha, as the back of the book description promised. And while I suppose you could argue that it WAS about them, it was too peripheral for me.

Night Circus

I very much enjoyed this read. This is a book club pick that we haven't discussed as a group yet, so I'm hesitant to say too much. But I will say that it reminded me of an old timey favorite of mine - A Trip To the Stars in that it's very magical, filled with smart and sad characters and takes place in an other-wordly space. Someone recently compared it to a combo of Harry Potter and Water for Elephants and I guess that's not too far off?  My main criticism is just that the plot felt a little rushed at the end. I wish she'd taken more time with the ending, built the conflict up to a higher pitch before wrapping it up.

The Man from Beijing

While the plot was totally addictive, I remember being disappointed a little by this book.  Time magazine sold me on this being even better and/or more sophisticated than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I disagree.  I kept waiting for the plot to turn more legit thriller on me, but I was never on the edge of my seat like I wanted to be.  Truthfully, it's been too long since I read this book to now review it, so I guess I'll just stop there with my vaguely negative review... 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Game of Thrones

I just finished A Game of Thrones and woah. Bold move at the very end there George RR Martin, BOLD. Consider it a done deal that I will now move on to the next book, like immediately.

This book was all sorts of mythical and magical, which is not so much my game, but whatever. If I can get into Outlander and Enders Game, then I can't really turn my nose up at dragons and unicorns can I? I'd write more, but I need to star the next book in this serious to find out WTF Daenerys?!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Last books of 2011

Before I take the plunge into A Game of Thrones and disappear for however long it takes to plow through that series, I thought I'd play a quick game of catch up and try to remember the last few books I read in 2011.

The Last Werewolf: This was a juicy read, if gory at times. If you're able to suck it up and read about killing and eating humans every 200 pages or so, this is a worthy read. It's about a 200 year old misanthropic werewolf in present day who finds out he is officially the last living werewolf on earth. I found it fascinating to read a first person narrative told from the perspective of a (mostly likable) villain. It's an epic adventure with quality (read: Adult) writing style. Also, I totally smell a sequel.

At Home: Major bore. Bill Bryson seems like a charming man but DUDE. This was a book club pick that I couldn't finish. Every time I picked it up I had flashbacks to 1997 during my freshman year of college when my roommate Maggie and I would need to take official nap breaks during reading assignments. This book induced many a nap break before I gave up on it.

An Echo in the Bone: After reading A Breath of Snow and Ashes (the 6th book in the Outlander series) I took a year or two long break. Then I recently saw An Echo in the Bone on the Buy 2, get 1 free table at Barnes and Noble and I snatched it up. It had been so long since reading the previous book that I had a hard time remembering some of the secondary characters, but eventually I fell back into the easy rhythm of Diana Gabaldon. I feel sad that Jamie and Claire are getting old, but am starting to find my groove with Brianna and Roger, who I assume are going to start playing a more major role in the next book. Thumbs up Diana. And way to leave us hanging until 2013 for book number 8. Rude.

Open: Andre Agassi's autobiography. Jeff got this book for his birthday and I read it to kill time, assuming it would be snoozeville but I loved it. Totally addictive and fascinating, despite my utter ignorance of tennis. This made me think I should be reading more autobiographies.

No Great Mischief: Boring. A little interesting, but mostly boring. I couldn't quite finish this book about sad Scottish immigrants living in Canada.