Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Goodreads Sparks My Action!

So I just found out that I can post my goodreads reviews here pretty easily. Now I suppose I could just copy and paste. And why have I not been doing this? I have no idea. But let's see what it looks like when I put the HTML in here. Because it makes me feel techy!

Alive (The Generations Trilogy, #1)Alive by Scott Sigler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, this is like a 3.5, but you know me - I round up. The story is great. Sigler describes the setting so well that you really can picture it - even if you are as setting-averse as I am. The story is clever and twisty and the reveal is smart. The problem is that I hate everyone. They all suck. I don't care if they live or they die. And the violence is ridiculous. Seriously, I have three words for you- Flesh.Eating.Pigs. Wilbur would never stoop so low. But I have to admit, I loved the plot and it is a rewarding reveal. I will read the next one. There had BETTER be a next one.

View all my reviews

Well, that looks slick! I'll be back posting my previous reviews! Thanks good reads! I give you FOUR exclamation points!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

United Books of America!

Entertainment Weekly, my favorite periodical, has come out with a list of representative books from each state and I am thrilled! These are the ones I have read, followed by those I intend to read very soon~

Alabama - TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD - Anyone past grade 11 at BHS has read this too and knows why it is so great!

Alaska - JULIE OF THE WOLVES - I read it as a kid and it is second only to Farley Mowat's NEVER CRY WOLF, it is my favorite wolf book.

Arizona - ANIMAL DREAMS - Sometimes Barbara Kingsolver makes me crazy, but usually she makes me look at the world differently. Thanks, Barbara!

Arkansas - TRUE GRIT - Okay, I only saw the movies, but I loved them both!

Connecticut - THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND - I am not a witch! But I have been accused, not unlike Kit.

Florida - THE YEARLING - Again, the movie. But why would they make a movie out of a book if that didn't count?

Georgia - GONE WITH THE WIND - HA! I saw the movie once, couldn't stand it, but I must have read the book 12 times, cringing at the racism each time, but still loving the story.

Hawaii - THE DESCENDANTS - Fine, fine, I'll read the book. But I am going to think of how amazing George Clooney was in the movie the whole time.

Idaho - HOUSEKEEPING - Maybe I should be a film archivist instead of a librarian. I saw, didn't read, this one too. But I have to admit, the makers of the list are only listing books that were made into awesome movies, so I think they would give me the benefit of the doubt too!

Kentucky - IN COUNTRY - I loved this movie, but I read the hell out of this book too. And the movie didn't get great reviews, but I truly loved it. Not as much as the book, but still...

Maine - EMPIRE FALLS - This was an amazing book. I didn't see the movie. I think it was a cable miniseries back when they still called them cable miniseries. Usually I am not big on books that stress a feeling of place, but Russo is an astounding writer.

Maryland - THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST - This was heartbreaking and a wonderful story. And I read it before the (wonderful) movie came out so I get extra credit.

Minnesota - THE BETSY TACY SERIES - Seriously?? My favorite books ever! I thank you EW for recognizing perfection!

Missouri - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN - I really hate dialect, and Twain is always messing about with it. But it is still a spectacular cultural touchstone.

Nebraska - MY ANTONIA - I have called it LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE with sex and violence. It is tremendous.

Nevada - FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS - I really just read it to look cool in college. Thompson seems like the person I would most hate to take a road trip with, but the book pops.

New Hampshire - A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY - I never thought I would love an Irving book as much as GARP, but this one was spectacular.

North Carolina - JIM THE BOY - This was a quiet gem that took me completely by surprise.

Oklahoma - THE GRAPES OF WRATH - Yes, I threw it at the wall when I finished for its lack of hope, but it is still a book that sometimes sneaks into my brain and twists me around when I am not expecting it.

Oregon - GEEK LOVE - My mother recommended this to me. Which shocks me to this day. It is twisted, weird and wonderful.

South Carolina - THE PRINCE OF TIDES - I still remember the tree I was parked under when I read this book in my car back in 1988. Every time I drive by I think of it.

Texas - LONESOME DOVE - This is the first book I am going to read if I ever get the chance to retire. I surely will have forgotten most of it by then and can enjoy it with fresh old lady eyes. I can't wait!

Washington - THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART TIME INDIAN - Hey, this is on the summer reading list! It is the first book I put on twice. Funny and heartbreaking, who's to say I won't put it on again someday!

Okay, I have to read at least 2 more to have read half of them. I'm going to get:
California - PLAY IT AS IT LAYS

Because I love America!

Friday, May 15, 2015

2014 Stats

I read 97 books altogether: 16 – rereads, 29 YA, 7 children's books, 24 adult fiction, 8 graphic novels, 2 memoirs, 7 non-fiction titles, 2 books of short stories and 2 books of essays. This doesn't count the tons of books that I started and didn't finish. Because that would be wrong. 

As far as my rating system I read one one-star book, 10 three-star books, 44 four-star books and 42 five-star books.

My one one-star book this year was Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You by Greg Gutfield who is actually a really interesting writer but a hateful human being. I can only hope that this is his schtick that he makes a living off of, because if he really feels this way – put upon by everyone with a college degree or an idea that differs in any way from his – his life must be a misery. I read this because a student asked if they could read it for summer reading and the rule is, if you let me know before vacation starts what you would like to read, I am happy to read it over vacation so we can discuss it in September. Hey, it was an interesting perspective – I never would have read it otherwise...

The three-star books are books that I read because I was obligated to due to outside forces, I was dying to find out what happened or they were so short I decided to see them through just because I could.

The had to finishers are:
Elusion by Claudia Gabel and Cheryl Klam - A Sci-fi story with an interesting premise that quickly got too convoluted. I reviewed it for VOYA.
Saints by Gene Luen Yang – The sequel to the much more intriguing Boxers, I used this in my YA class and felt obligated to finish. Nothing horrible, just bleak.

The must-find-out-what-happeneders are:
The Ax Man of New Orleans by Rick Geary – This graphic novel is about a guy who plays sax. And kills people with an ax – in New Orleans. How can I not need to know how it turns out?
Last Night at the Viper Room by Gavin Edwards – Okay - I knew that River Phoenix was going to die at the end, but he actually died at the beginning and we flashed back for the rest. This was actually a compelling read, but I was so sad all the way through and not in the good cathartic way. But I wanted to see the big picture.
Janis Joplin: Rise Up Singing by Ann Angel – Same as above but with Janis instead of River. Really well done but heartbreaking.
Not That Kind of Girl by Siobahn Vivian – So there was a big stink awhile back about how a main character doesn't have to be likeable (regarding Claire Messud's The Woman Upstairs which I never finished because I found the main character so un... nevermind why I stopped reading... move along...) and yet, I didn't like Natalie, the main character of this book. She was so rigid. And I liked Spencer, the secondary cautionary tale character. And I was curious to see what was going to happen to them, but I didn't ever feel swept away by their story. Although I think Siobahn Vivian has a strong grasp of a lot of aspects of the high school experience.
The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise – If I can't remember a single thing that happened then it gets three stars. A funny book, but so slight that it has completely fallen out of my brain.
Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes – So close to four stars here. A compelling mystery with a terrific twist, but there were some aspects so improbable that I kept getting pulled out of the action. A pregnant woman who has a husband at sea hires a new nanny who may not be all she claims to be.

The shorties I just plugged away at:
Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth by John Moe – This is such a cute idea – the communication behind pop culture touchstones. I kept waiting for it to get funny enough to make me laugh, and it never did.
Debutante Hill by Lois Duncan – Lizzie Skurnick has re-released a bunch of classic YA and I love the feel of this teen romance from the 1950s. The story is pretty predictable and a little preachy, but it did transport me back to that time.

Four Stars

It occurs to me that four stars are my default. That means that I really liked the book, it held my interest, but it tended not to stick with me. Looking back over this list there are a few that I thought, "Why didn't I give that 5 stars?" and I think the reason I didn't is because I truly can't remember much about it. All of my 5 star books, I remember exactly where I was when I read it and exactly how I felt when I finished. With these, not so much. Although they were all entertaining, they didn't stick to my ribs. And thus, no blurbs...

Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff [YA, January]
If I Lie by Corrine Jackson [YA, January]
Winter Cottage by Carol Ryrie Brink [children, February]
Branded by the Pink Triangle by KenSetterington [nonfiction, February]
Roomies by Sarah Zarr and Tara Altebrando [YA, February]
Trafficked by Kim Purcell [YA, February]
Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elson [YA, March]
In Search of Sarah Rector by Tonya Bolden [YA nonfiction, March]
The Bear by Clare Cameron [fiction, April]
The Year We Disappeared by Cylan & John Busby [nonfiction, April]
Unremembered by Jessica Brody [YA, April]
The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe [YA, April]
More Than This by Patrick Ness [YA. April]
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaria [YA, May]
Boxers by Gene Luen Yang [graphic novel, May]
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Powell [children's nonfiction, May]
Still Foolin' Em by Billy Crystal [memoir, May]
Cinderella by Charles Perrault & Roberto Innocenti [picture book, June]
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos [children, June]
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi [fiction, June]
Because I Said So by Ken Jennings [nonfiction, June]
Unfriended by Rachel Vail [YA reviewed for VOYA, June]
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang [ [YA reviewed for VOYA, June]
Lyddie by Katherine Patterson [children, July]
Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews [fiction, July]
Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham [fiction, July]
Worthy Brown's Daughter by Phillip Margolin [fiction, July]
Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen [fiction, July]
We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Levinson [YA nonfiction, July]
Neptune Noir edited by RobThomas [nonfiction, July]
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski [YA, July]
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman [YA, July]
Murphy's Law by Rhys Bowen [fiction, August]
Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi [fiction, August]
Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen [fiction, August]
Tina's Mouth by Keshni Kashyap [graphic novel, August]
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher [YA reread, August]
I am a Genius of Unspekable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President by Josh Lieb [YA, August]
The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes [fiction, September]
With or Without You by Dominca Ruta [memoir, September]
Young Pioneers by Rose Wilder Lane [fiction, October]
This One Summer byJillian and Mariko Tamaki [graphic novel, October]
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay [essays, November]
Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan & Nathan Fox [graphic novel, December]
Hold Me Closer by David Levithan [YA reviewed for VOYA, December]
Some Boys by Patty Blount [YA, December]


Well, it is a banner year when I get my year end booklist up here by June first... Here are the books I loved in 2014 - MY BELOVED 5-STARS!

Now, I pretty much love everything I read because I don't keep reading if I don't like it. But these are the ones that I couldn't put down. And they are listed in chronological order. Not that it matters...

THE DAYS OF ANNA MADRIGAL by Armistead Maupin – This was a no brainer. While I didn't love the penultimate TALES OF THE CITY book, MARYANN IN AUTUMN, I did adore this flashback-laden look at Mrs. Madrigals youth as a boy growing up in a Nevada bordello as well as the way the former residents of Barbary Lane and their partners, friends, and children surrounded her at the end of her days. A perfect ending for a beloved series. [fiction]

MARCH by John Lewis – This graphic novel about Lewis' part in the Civil Rights Movement was very moving. The graphics were simple and evocative and the text was linear and strong. It had a great combination of humor and drama. [YA graphic memoir]

A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnett – The story of Sara Crewe and her transformation from poor little rich girl to rich little poor girl is worth rereading every year! [children's book - reread]

MAYBE ONE DAY by Melissa Kantor – What looked at first glance like a teens with cancer weeper turned out to be a wonderful blend of dreams shattered and the power of friendship. Two best friends are asked to leave their dance academy – one vows to never dance again, the other goes on to teach dance to underprivileged kids. One of them gets cancer. [YA - reviewed for VOYA]

CHARM & STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn – This is a BLEAK look at a kid who thinks he might be a werewolf. Which is why I refused to read it for so long. Sounds dumb as hell. It is so much more than that. And it will knock you right down. It is really stunning in both a good and a bad way. [YA]

THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE by Leila Sales – A girl who is bullied finds solace in DJ-ing at a local unlicensed club. The character is oddly appealing, the writing is stunning and the story is much more interesting than it appears at first. [YA]

IS EVERYONE HANGING OUT WITHOUT ME by Mindy Kaling – Mindy's autobiograpy/guide to life is just a hoot. It was a summer reading option this year and was quite popular. [memoir]

MR.PENUMBRA'S 24 HOUR BOOKSTORE by Robin Sloan – Is a story about, well, you can probably tell from the title. I didn't love it at first, but I had taken it out of the library and a previous borrower had written snarky comments about the quality of the writing in the margins, in a polite, light pencil, but still... The notes were enough to keep me reading until I fell in love. It was a nice, twisty, techie caper that was just a little magical. [novel]

ATTACHMENTS by Rainbow Rowell – I love this little slice of office life, female friendship and benign stalking. [novel - reread]

HUMAN.4 by Mike A. Lancaster – This was an odd little scifi book involving mind control in the digital age and the comfort of cassette tapes. Freaky, weird and very compelling. [YA]

CAN'T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT by Roz Chast – This book got great press this year. I think of Chast as kind of emotionally distant and she didn't go obviously for the heartstrings in this story of her parents' final years, but she got them just the same. [graphic memoir]

ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell – This is such a beautiful book. I adored both of these 1990s Omaha kids in love. [YA reread]

THUNDERSTRUCK by Elizabeth McCracken – Holy smokes! McCracken wrote one of my all time favorite novels – THE GIANT'S HOUSE and only for her would I read a collection of short stories. I was amply rewarded. These are crazy good, some touching, many creepy and twisty. [short stories]

WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart – Lockhart steps away from her usual sharp humor to explore some bleak family dynamics at a family's summer island compound. [YA]

CHEAP SHOT [A Spenser Mystery] by Ace Atkins – I have always been one of the people to mock those who write “from beyond the grave” like V.C. Andrews, but I have to say that the folks who are still churning out the late, great Robert B. Parker's detective novels are doing it right. They hired Atkins who has a great grasp of Parker's dialogue and action heavy style. All the mysteries smush together in my head, of course, but they are still a lot of fun to read. [mystery]

84 CHARING CROSS ROAD by Helene Hanff – I am a sucker for epistolary novels and this is a favorite that I reread nearly every year. Helene Hanff was a television writer in New York whose thirst for obscure classic literature led to a pen-pal-like relationship with the manager of a London bookshop in the years after WWII. Her sharp wit and brass bumps up against his amused reserve in the best possible way. [fiction - reread]

JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta – A friend has been touting the genius of this book since it won the Printz in 2009, but I could never get past page 20 or so. Well, I decided that if I taught it, I would have to read it so I assigned it for my YA class and dug in. It is simply amazing. It is beautifully written and falls together perfectly. [YA]

OPEN ROAD SUMMER by Emery Lord – If ever a novel cried out to be on the summer reading list, it is this one. Basically, imagine you are Taylor Swift's best friend back when she was 17 or so and you go on tour with her and fall in love with a cute guy who understands you and the reason for the walls you have put up to keep people at bay. Sure, it is a little predictable, but it is also adorable! [YA]

THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS and THE BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA by Katherine Patterson – I realized this summer that I had never read any Katherine Patterson and chose to remedy this. I now understand why everyone gasped in horror when I said I had never read any Katherine Patterson! She is stunning. I regret that I didn't read these as a kid. I wonder if they would have been as heart-wrenching back then. [children's books]

THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir – “It is a great story and the science is so realistic!” is how this book was described to me. So of course I had no interest in reading it. But I always need science-y books for the SR list so I dove in. It was just fantastic! Mark Watney is a botanist/engineer who is left for dead during a mission on Mars. He has to survive until the next mission shows up in 4 years. Oh, and no one knows he is still alive. [science fiction]

ONE PLUS ONE by Jojo Moyes – A destitute family does everything it can to get the youngest daughter to a math meet. It involves roping a repressed millionaire into driving across England. It is funny and touching even (surprise!) romantic. [fiction]

THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger – The first chapter of this book us my go-to when I just want to practically weep with happiness. Funny, because the rest of the book can be depressing as all get-out. Still, this is one that I go back to again and again for the swoony love story and the cleverly patchy chronology. [fiction – reread]

ZAC & MIA by AJ Betts – It's no THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, but this Australian “kids with cancer” story is compelling in its own way. Peppered with “of the moment' online references, it is hard to say if this will last, but the experiences of two very different teens dealing with cancer is much rougher around the edges than I expected. And I mean that in a good way. [YA]

LUCKY US by Amy Bloom – Amy Bloom is so odd. I loved the way this story slithered around itself and the way that it kind of clicked together at the end. Her writing is so good and while the characters don't end up feeling like friends (or even better, like I am living their life through the book) it still works as a picture of a family navigating through some bizarre events in the middle third of the 20th century. [fiction]

LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell – Just to be clear, this is the worst thing that Rainbow Rowell has ever published. That being said, I still loved it! The story of a 30-something comedy writer and her marital troubles drags a bit and you will need to suspend a pretty significant amount of disbelief, but it is a lot of fun and I couldn't put it down. [fiction]

WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT by Elizabeth Blackwell – A retelling of The Sleeping Beauty, this is a rich, detailed and suspenseful story that pulls the magical aspect back into the real world with magnificent results. [fiction]

ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes – To say that I enjoyed this would be a lie, but I was compelled to read it and it was perfectly put together. It is the story of a underperforming young woman who gets a job as a caregiver to a recently paralyzed entrepreneur. [fiction]

SAY WHAT YOU WILL by Cammie McGovern – When a young man with a secret disability begins a volunteer project as a companion to a seriously physically disabled girl, both of their lives change. I loved the way that the book allowed you to hear Amy's inner life without being cloying. [YA]

MORE ALL OF A KIND FAMILY by Sydney Taylor – Five Jewish sisters growing up on the upper east side of New York at the turn of the century are the cast in an adorable series of books just rereleased by Lizzie Skurnick Publications after years out of print. [children's book – reread]

STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. James Mandel – A medetation on the beauty of the human experience set in pre- and post-apocalypse Toronto, LA and Great Lakes region featuring a present day paramedic, a movie star and an itinerant actress traveling through a landscape ravaged by plague. [fiction]

IN THE WOODS by Tana French – The murder of a young girl in a Dublin suburb harkens back to the disappeareance of some other children 20 years eariler in this compelling mystery. [mystery]

HEAVEN TO BETSY, BETSY IN SPITE OF HERSELF, BETSY WAS A JUNIOR, BETSY AND JOE, BETSY AND THE GREAT WORLD and BETSY'S WEDDING - by Maud Hart Lovelace – These are my favorites from way back and it is a rare year when I don't reread at least a few of them. This year I went hog wild and read them all over again! [YA, before YA was cool!]

THE STORIED LIFE OF A.J. VICKERY by Gabrielle Zevin – A.J. is a widower who finds a toddler in his bookstore and decides to raise her himself. The heartwarming and often very funny story is interspersed with his reviews of short stories. This inspired me to read all those short stories too, so thanks, Zevin! [fiction]

MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME edited by Stephanie Perkins – This collection of holiday themed short stories was incredibly varied and just the perfect thing to read over Christmas vacation! [YA]