Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Broken Teaglass

I wasn't an English major, but most of my friends were. I did take linguistic anthropology as well as Greek and Latin medical terminology. I love to look up words and find out etymologies. At one point I read Merriam-Webster's website updates religiously, and actually I don't know why I ever stopped. Also, I LOVE A GOOD MYSTERY.

The Broken Teaglass feels like a book that was tailor made for my friends, my Mom, and my co-workers to all read and discuss in some giant cross country book group.
The Broken Teaglass: A Novel The Broken Teaglass: A Novel by Emily Arsenault

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Billy Webb has just taken a position at the largest dictionary company in the US. Unfortunately the company is in the armpit of Massachusetts, but Billy is gung-ho about his first job out of college. The job is about as exciting as one might expect. His first day of training consists of reading all of the "front matter" of the dictionary. His coworkers field phone calls about Scrabble fights, and none of them talks to any other lexicographer much, until Mona talks to him. Mona is about Billy's age and has been working at the dictionary company for about a year when Billy starts. Together they find a couple of fishy "cits" or "citations"--examples of words in actual use-- in the dictionary's files. The fishy citations alert Billy and Mona to something that must have happened at the dictionary company in the past, something that might have involved an actual corpse. They dig deeper and look for more of the citations...and it doesn't take long before they find them.

This book is fabulous.The plot is fabulous, the characters are fabulous, the setting is somehow both boring and fabulous. The plot has a few twists and turns and surprises, but it's also so easy to just enjoy the simple straightforward path to solving the mystery. And, Billy was a high school football player who majored in philosophy. Mona has her own conflict of identity. At times she seemed on the verge of being Billy's manic pixie dream girl, but it blessedly never happens. Even the side and peripheral characters have interesting and complex lives that the reader at least gets to sample. The Broken Teaglass is a book you want to pull quotes from for Twitter, or your Gmail or Skype or Facebook status updates.

This book seems handcrafted for all the wordsmiths, writers, cross-word lovers, Scrabble-players, English majors, etymologists, etc. But, even if you aren't all those things the mystery may well suck you in anyway. And Mom, this is a book I think you need to read.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Witness-a quick disparaging cry.

The Witness The Witness by Sandra Brown

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Skimming was the only way I could get through this book. The characters were flat and more like caricatures and none of them likeable. The "mystery" of the author not revealing any of what was really going on went on for FAR, FAR, FAR too long. And amnesia, despite being an awful plot device, also needed to be researched a whole lot more before Sandra Brown decided to use it in ways that make no sense. I could not suspend my disbelief for even the events of the first page, and it all got harder and harder to swallow as the book went on.


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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Heist Society

I feel like I come down harder on this book than I really meant to do. But, I think that's because I was so excited about it and it didn't meet my expectations.

Heist Society Heist Society by Ally Carter

Katarina Bishop is kicked out of the Colgan academy, framed for a crime (that this one time) she actually didn't commit. Before she's even off school grounds the real reason she's been kicked out becomes apparent (in the form of billionaire heartthrob and burgeoning teen thief W.W. Hale the somethingth.) Hale is the bearer of bad news. Her dad is in trouble and he's refusing to try believe that situation is as bad as it is.

It is up to Hale and Katarina and their junior thief friends to work one of the most difficult heists in the world to keep her dad safe. Katarina has been gone from "the world" and "the family" for three months, and her confidence is shot. Add to the mix a new boy who is...interesting and who Hale is jealous of and doesn't trust and you have what could be an explosive time. I was underwhelmed by this book after really enjoying the Gallagher Girls books. Katarina didn't engage me very well and I liked every other character much more than her. I think that's because--despite the specific description and background-- Ally Carter was trying for that "everygirl" sort of character that we can all identify with and it didn't work for me. I found the inevitable love triangle a little predictable.

I wasn't a huge fan of the audiobook reader either. She wasn't bad, but I wasn't drawn into the story through her voice. That has a big impact on how I like the book. At no point did I feel the tension that should have been inherent in the scenes where Katarina and her loved ones are being threatened or in the scenes where they are pulling off a huge and impossible con job.

But! In concept and secondary characters this book shines. It was one of those escapes where, even though hackneyed a bit, I did feel like I was a part of a criminal underworld I would never even glimpse in real life. I don't want to be an art thief, but it was kind of fun to think "what if." Could be a younger read-a-like to some of Jennifer Cruisie's books, like "Bet Me.'

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Vintage Veronica

Quick confessions before I get into this book review. In a total first for YA fiction, this book harkened me back to my high school days to the point where I actually looked at my graduating classes' facebook group. (Ugh, btw.) I love vintage and vintage style clothes. I wore a 1960s dress to the biggest social event of my high school career (which, I might add, was NOT prom, but the Thespian Club dinner/awards.) My wonderful grandmother is using a vintage pattern to create my wedding dress. Though I have never been obsessed with vintage funky clothes to the point that Veronica is in the book, I can still relate to using clothes/style as a barrier and shield as well as a sense of identity. I loved this book and can't wait to see more from Erica S. Perl. I actually hope to see more of Veronica, because she's one of those characters that doesn't have just one story to tell.

On a slightly unrelated note this book cover/design is one of my favorites I've seen, especially in YA lit. WELL DONE.

The Review.

Vintage Veronica Vintage Veronica by Erica S. Perl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Veronica has a dream job for someone who wears funky and vintage clothes like a shield. She works by herself (dream come true!) in the consignment corner of the largest vintage clothing stored in the Northeast (home of the famous Dollar-A-Pound.) She is the deciding authority of what clothes are depped (sent into the Dollar-A-Pound chute, the language of this book is phenomenal) and what clothes are mined for the higher end spaces of the store. The book sticks mainly in the inner workings of the store and the groups of people working and interacting there, but ventures into Veronica's home life some. The store: there are the Florons (the girls who work on the sales floor), and there are the pickers who spend all day in the Dollar-A-Pound pile, there's Bill the stoner boss, and then there is Lenny a boy who has interesting interests and who thinks Veronica is different in a good way.

This summer job, which her overbearing skinny-is-winny type mom thinks is at an animal shelter, is a turning point in Veronica's life and the way she relates to other people. Two of the Florons actually seem to like her and want to be her friends. But that friendship seems to have a pretty hefty price.

This book is one of those character-driven reads that is just riveting. Un-put-downable, even as I wanted to yell at Veronica that SHE KNOWS BETTER THAN THAT, COME ON! A great read for anyone who likes clothes (or anything) more than most people. Also a great read read for anyone whose ever felt, even a little bit, like an outsider.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mysterious howling

This book is possibly the most quotable book I've read in a very long time. I still have mixed feelings about its actual kid appeal, but I know it is a book my mom would quite enjoy.

The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, #1) The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Miss Penelope Lumley has just graduated from Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Girls. Her first position as a governess turns out to be quite the strange one. She's brought to Ashton Place and told to watch over and train the three children that the lord of the manor, Lord Fredrick, found in the woods. Lord Fredrick gives them ridiculous names and no one really expects Miss Penelope to be able to teach them anything. Of course, Miss Penelope Lumley is armed with wit, common sense, a love of learning and teaching, and the many sensible sayings of Agatha Swanburne, founder of the Swanburne school. The three children, Beowulf, Cassiopeia, and Alexander have some strange hard to break tendencies such as chasing squirrels and howling. This is probably due to their unusual upbringing by wolves. But in the end, the children prove their humanity and do abundant credit to Miss Penelope Lumley's governessing skills.

The book is written very much in the time period and vein of "The Secret Garden" or "The Little Princess" but is much more tongue-in-cheek and witty than either of those classic reads. It is very obviously also the first of a series, as the Mysterious Howling is never actually explained and really only comes in towards the end of the book anyway. This book didn't get the full amount of stars mainly for some plotting issues, but it isn't a book that is really so much about plot. It is episodic in nature, and each episode shows a little more about the characters and their relationships and loyalties to each other. The book is also, perhaps, just perhaps, a little to cheeky and impressed with itself. By which I mean, adults, especially those that loved the aforementioned Victorian girl stories will love this book and be in on the joke(s). But will it appeal so mightily to its intended audience? Though quite likely it could be one of those books you loved as a kid for one reason, and then, upon rereading as an adult, find entirely new reasons to love.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Naked--in death.

Do you read Unshelved? I bet you have at least looked at it once or twice. It is,after all, the library webcomic. Well, sometimes they feature book reviews and sometimes those book reviews tell you a blurb about the plot, why they picked the book up, why they finished it, and who they'd give it to. I like that style and thought I'd give it a try myownself. (Though of course my ownself is more longwinded and not quite as nice as those Unshelved guys.) Anyway, Here it goes.

Naked in Death (In Death, #1) Naked in Death by J.D. Robb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A right-wing senator's prostitute grand-daughter has been killed, a lot of heavy hitters are sticking their noses into the case, and more people are dying. The pressure is really on Eve Dallas, but she doesn't have much in the way of backup or she's falling heart first into bed with one of the prime suspects.

Why I picked up this book:

The Romance genre study through ARRT put J.D. Robb on the list of authors for Romantic Suspense subgenre. I get a lot of requests for this series at mpow so I thought I'd check into it and see what I thought.

Why I finished listening: This Romance passes the Bechdel test! Eve has a friend named Mavis, and they talk about things other than DUDES!
The romance in this book was almost completely incidental to me. I kind of wanted both Roarke and Eve to stop with the contrived tension already, we get it. Also, I felt like the whole "I don't know why I like you" thing from both of them was ridiculous. You articulate repeatedly what it is you like about the other character and then expect me to feel tension about your relationship? No.

Despite that, I liked both their characters and wanted them to get together. And, the fast-moving plot rife with suspense kept my interest. The futuristic setting oddly out-dated already (laser weapons and flying cars, yes, okay, The Future,; electronic memos, seperate electronic communicators, databooks, etc., and all data stored on "discs" not so much The Future.)

Two notes about this book which may or may not be spoilers:
1) The book is really political. I would not say feminist though the the undertones are there, but the way rape and prostitution are handled undermine any feminist leanings. Still, it is pretty left-leaning, mostly in a good way.
2)This one is pretty spoilery.****
I actually laughed out loud when the villian did the classic blunder of telling his supposed last victim (Eve) about his crimes. He actually says that he wants to gloat to her! I just pictured Dr. Evil telling Austin Powers all about his plans as Austin works on escaping. I cannot believe anyone outside of a superhero comic seriously used this plot device.
The reader, Susan Ericksen, was MOST EXCELLENT. Sometimes that's quite hard to find. Also, the production values were high, and many times that is not the case. I really enjoyed following Eve through Ericksen's narration, and was rooting for her to get her killer and her man.

Who I'd give it to: I can see why this series appeals to so many people (though in my conservative neck-of-the-library woods I'm a little surprised that such an anti-conservative book is so popular.) There's sex, mystery, suspense, action, violence, flying cars, some humor, and more sex. So, basically give it to anyone who likes any of those things in their books.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

I'd been waiting breathlessly (well, not breathlessly, but with some level of intensity comparable to physical reaction) for the tech services department to finish processing this book every since Josh Berk started promoting it on Twitter. I can report that it was worth the wait. First, there are just not enough books with this kind of male character. I know that you are about to tell me that most male characters in ya lit are kind of geeky--ya lit loves to loathe the popular crowd-- but that isn't what I mean. Will is the kind of character with a strong voice and a strong sense of self, despite a lot of strikes against him from the start. It is refreshing to read. Also, I love a good mystery. Will and Dev are my new favorite crime-fighting duo.

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Will Halpin decides to opt out of the political issues at his deaf school and go mainstream. At the mainstream school he will have to use his lipreading skills to get by, but he doesn't mind because his ability allows him to drop some eaves on other people's conversations. In the first week he finds himself in love with the most popular girl in school, but on the bottom run of the social ladder. By the second week a mysterious death of a student (in the very coal mine where one of Will's long lost relatives died) sparks an intensive investigation by Will and his only new friend at the school--the social pariah Devon.

The book is funny (Will's written observations of the silent world around him are hilarious, but when he combines with Devon it just gets better and better) and smart; it plays with narrative. The first week sets everything up for us so when the the book turns into a mystery in the second part it's not jarring. The pieces of the mystery come together quickly, but in a way that make sense for the characters. Putting the book down once you've picked it up is the hardest thing about reading it.

Though the main characters make a lot of references to the Hardy Boys, this is NOT a wholesome Hardy Boys read. There is an edge of the sharp reality of being a real american teenager underneath the cartoony cover that gives the book gravity.

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Friday, April 2, 2010


I keep wanting to spell Gail C A R R I G E R with an N, as C A R R I N G E R. Evidently I'm not the only one. At my ARRT Romance Genre study meeting today the discussion leader spelled it with an N as well. I did not correct her; I had one of those momentary memory lapses and couldn't convince myself which way was correct. Anyway. This book is a mixing of my last two reviews, one paranormal romance and the other steampunk. In fact I think this book crosses every genre and has something for everyone. I think it should be required reading or something. Also, hot cover appeal. I enjoyed judging this book by its cover and not being disappointed at all.

Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate, #1) Soulless by Gail Carriger

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
This book is everything one could want in a Victorian steampunk paranormal Romance. Oddly enough--you won't realize until you read it--you'll love a book encompassing all these genres with the added benefit of a funny/sassy female hero w/out a soul (not as much of a hinderance or moral indicator as you might think) and a surly powerful shapeshifting Duke. The Duke and Alexia dance around their attraction with some verbal sparring that will make your head turn round.

Also, I love that this book is most certainly steampunk but the word "airship" was not bandied about like it was going out of style. For some reason it seems most steampunk books feel like they have to through those airships in right away and keep throwing them in so we remember that this is a steampunk book! No, the world building is much too sophisticated and wonderful.

The plot is sufficiently complicated and twisty, the society suffocating and dry (except Alexia's best friend who is also a girl and who she talks to about Things Other Than Boys--thus this book passes the Bechdel test!) The world building (as I mentioned)is fantastic, the suspense is tightly strung, the paranormal bits are seamlessly woven into the story and the Victorian age.

My only star-stealing gripe: for all her awesomeness Alexia can't take a compliment about her appearance. There is a reason behind this glaring fault, but it does grow thin after awhile. You know that girl who always self-depricates when you try to compliment her and you just want to shake that girl and tell her to say thank you and shut up? Sigh, that's Alexia. Also, her family is just so atrocious. They remind me of the Featheringtons in Julia Quinn's Bridgertons' series, but so much worse. Mostly I just think the compliment thing was overused a bit before resolution, is all. A bit Mary Sue-ish, if you will. Otherwise, Soulless is a very promising beginning to a unique series.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010


A very steampunk April Fools' Day to you! Actually I wonder what steampunk AFD jokes would look like? Glue in the parasol? Black greasepaint on the edges of goggles to make those racoon rings? Explosives in the coal that makes the steam that powers the punk? Airship shennanigans?
Anyway, the book isn't perfect, but the world it is set in just might be. It makes me waint to don my best petticoat and set sail on an aeroship of adventure!
Leviathan (Leviathan, #1) Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Alek is the somewhat spoiled son of the Archduke Ferdinand and his commoner wife Sophie. He has to go on the run when they are killed. Dylan is the daughter and sister of airmen and wants to be an airman too despite the inconvenient fact of being a girl. With the help of her brother she studies both how to be a boy and how to be an airman. She used to love going up in the air with her dad, before he died, and she wants to spend the rest of her life with the feeling of being so high up above everything else. She becomes Deryn, a midshipman on the giant Darwinist airship "Leviathan" after an adventure. When the book starts the tensions are tight between the Clankers and the Darwinists. The Clankers build giant metal machines, but the Darwinist create their technology using the "lifethreads" of various animals. On a ship as large as the Leviathan the Darwinist technology creates an entire ecosystem of things like messenger lizards, hydrogen sniffing dogs, hydrogen producing bacteria and even glow worms.

We switch from Alek's point of view to Deryn's regularly through the plot to see the build-up to the Darwinist/Clanker war from both sides. The two are destined to meet but it is hard to tell when that will happen. The cast of characters is rich, including both the crew and passengers of the Leviathan as well as Alek's loyal crew traveling in a 2-legged Clanker war-machine called a Stormwalker. Everything is very richly drawn and even in some places beautifully illustrated. Westerfeld's world building is impeccable. My only wish is that he'd ratcheted up the tension and urgency throughout the book. Even during battle and chase scenes I was never really worried about the fates of the main characters or any of the "mysteries" aboard the ship. This didn't detract as much as you might think and a few times the characters managed to surprise me with their courses of action. I'm eagerly awaiting the next two books in this trilogy.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dark Lover

Ugh, I started this book months ago but ended up skimming through the end last night. I just couldn't take another description of the forced and contrived tension between the main characters. I feel like my feelings about Twilight and this book are going to give people the impression that I hate Vampires, especially romantical ones, but that is simply untrue! I <3 Gail Carriger's "Soulless" delievered all the things this book tried for but failed to achieve.

Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #1) Dark Lover by J.R. Ward

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Wrath, Rhage, Tohrment, even these character's NAMES make them sound like pro-wrestlers and the descriptions in the book "giant, towering, intimidating, scary, scarred, muscled, mountainous" don't help much. In fact, I kept picturing all of the Brotherhood as the pro-wrestler "The Undertaker" and all of the "lessers" as that kid in "Powder." That isn't even the worst problem with this book, but it certainly didn't help me get into the story at all.

So, basically Darius, an important Vampire/member of the Brotherhood (protectors of vampires from some arbitrary war with the vampire hunters known as "lessers") is killed by the lessers. As luck would have it, he'd just asked the leader of the Brotherhood/future king of Vamps, Wrath, to watch out for his half-human daughter, Beth. Darius never bothered to introduce himself to Beth, but we are supposed to believe he's always watched out for her and cared for her. Evidently daddy dearest watched her from afar as she went from foster home to foster home like a creepy stalker. In Ward's world vampires don't mature until their 20s when they become vampires...a transition which they may not survive. Her world building is pretty intricate and even involves a glossary at the front of the book (thank goodness.)

Things are complicated by the fact that Vampires only really get much nutrition from feeding from the opposite sex of their own species (which must be unpleasantly intimate for the gay vamps.) Most vamps have some sort of relationship with their feeding partner, but our kingy, Wrath, he just has never been much interested in his partner Marissa. Of course, his disinterest means Marissa is totes in lurve with his beefy self. But, Wrath meets Beth, Darius's neglected urchin of an intrepid reporter (of course) and he's instantly all hot in the pants for her. She's instantly all hot in the pants for him. They basically explode from overwrought metaphor. It is pretty gross and not sexy. Also the fact that Wrath is so damn intimidating that scariness roils off of him like tangible waves in all directions scaring Beth to bits just before they hit the sack the first time makes me cringe. And I'm not really sure why, but the Vamps are kind of wussy and die easily so why am I supposed to be all gushy about them in the first place? Way to ruin the appeal, J.R.

For some reason though I really liked the servant character Fritz though. I guess because he kept trying to help Beth make sense of the crazy-storm around her, which not a whole lot of anyone else did.

Seriously, do yourself a favor, skip this book and read "Soulless" by Gail Carriger or anything by Kelley Armstrong or early"Anita Blake" stuff by Hamilton instead.

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Reading a Romance (or any other kind of book but especially Romance) is kind of like entering into a relationship for the space of a novel. And just like entering into a relationship there can be red flags or worse, dealbreakers. I mentioned a couple of these in my post the other other day, if your memory is as short as mine the two rules were The Bechdel Test and The ladyprotag must show up by the end of Chapter 2. I decided to add to this list of things that just mean that this book and I aren't going to work out.

Other rules:
1) Consent. No explicit sexytime moves should be pulled by either male or female protagonist without consent of other protagonist. Some of my favorite authors have failed at this (I'm looking at you Susan Elizabeth Phillips, with the Molly Sommerville plotline, b/c it is Rape, not "if she were the man and he were the woman it would be Rape", non-consentual sex=Rape, the end.) The rule, for a Romance, should be simple; the characters don't touch each other without express permission, no matter what dazzling desires you have to plant to make that happen. As a side note, I don't mind if there is so much barely contained passion that a character doesn't think they can hold back, but then somehow miraculously they do hold back.

2) The conflict that keeps the couple from the HEA* must be more involved than the couple just refusing to talk to each other. There is nothing more annoying than two characters going on and on about how they think the other person feels and therefore they would NEVER tell them how they are really feeling.

3) 3rd person, or at least pov switching, I needs it. Maybe a year ago, before I really knew what I was doing I would have been okay with first person from the female protag's pov. No longer, it seems. My relationship to the female protag is way, way more important how I feel about the male protag. HOWEVER, first person leads to the tendency for the male protag to be fairly invisible with all the other things going on in her life. The balance is important, and the focus. And even if I don't have to love the male lead as much as the female, I do at least need to get to know him. I may not need to spend all day in his head, but a scene or two every once in a while doesn't hurt anything. Plus this helps me know what kind of conflict is really going on here. Is it just a miscommunication? How does he really feel about her? And so on.

4) Muscles do not need to pile on top of muscles. Actually let's just call this one the "cool it on the hyper-masculinity already." J.R. Ward did a lot of world building for her Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and I applaud that. Every times she describes a Black Dagger Brotherhood brother I picture The Undertaker from pro wrestling. I don't mean just for one of the characters. I mean for all of them, just with different haircolor or whatever. I'm sorry, but when you hypermasculinize dudes and go on and on about their muscles and maleness than that is what you get. I understand that while the Undertaker is not my cup of tea he might just do it for someone else. But, he is so aggressive and masculine to be a caricature of the alpha male. So, there's that. Also, please see my review of Dark Lover where I get into this book a little deeper.

Obviously this is all very personal to me, but I think it could be expanded out to other readers. What are your likes and dislikes and absolute dealbreakers when you read Romance?

After by Amy Efaw.

I've started and restarted this review. I've recommended this book and been a proponent of it though it is not an easy read. I picked it up and put it down and picked it up because it hurt my heart to read. Before I give you my review, let's talk about pregnancy. Once I, not all that long ago, told someone that I'm more terrified of the idea of being pregnant than I am the idea of dying. This point of view of mine is slowly changing with age, maturity, and stability. But, age, maturity, and stability are all luxuries really. Not everyone (or most even) has that kind of privilege on their side when dealing with a pregnancy. And even though I know this is not a fear I will actually have to face in this lifetime, there is still nothing, not one thing, I can think of that is more terrifying than the idea of being pregnant and being (or even just feeling) completely alone.

After After by Amy Efaw

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Denial and fear are two of the most motivating emotions that drive this story. Ripped from real life, the actuality that dumpster babies exist is a tough issue to explore from any side. Especially tough to explore from the perspective of the person who did the dumping. By the end of the story, not only do you feel for Devon Davenport, but you hope for her too.

On the surface, it seems impossible that Devon would be able to hide her pregnancy from everyone, including herself. But, until IT was born, she managed to suppress any of the clues. The story is a riveting character study, not only of Devon and her motivations, told mainly through flashbacks and through interactions with her court appointed lawyer. This topic is so harsh, so hard to wrap the mind around, but Amy Efaw does so with grace and a storytellers knack for spinning tale. A sad, disturbing tale that is skillfully told.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Way better than Oprah.

This middle school reworked the "I've got a feeling" song by the Black Eyed Peas into a "flash mob" all about reading. Seriously, this is totally cheesy and is making my Fuming Friday (oh and it is fuming!) better by inches.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I thought I was just reading yet another unreliable narrator. A kid who may or may not be in some kind of trouble. I did not realize what I was getting myself into, and all because twitter set ablaze over the white-washing of the cover.

Liar Liar by Justine Larbalestier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'll admit it. I started this book because of all the controversy over the cover. But, I finished and loved it because of the unreliable narrator's voice and story. I did not know what I was getting into, and 1/2 through the book I almost threw it to the ground with a giant WTF? But I couldn't tear my eyes from the page long enough to actually throw anything.Micah is a lot of things. Top of that list is: liar. We cannot believe a word she is saying, though she claims she is trying to tell the truth. She amends things, over and over she amends them. Though she's telling us lie after lie the voice is scary authentic. I can't tell you more of what happens without ruining the book for you. Except this: her boyfriend is dead. Some of the people at her school think she did it.(One of the bullies, Brandon, is the most one-dimensional character. But, he serves his purpose. Most of the rest are nuanced, and that's as told through Micah's voice.)There are irksome things about the story that take away from the overall satisfaction of the book. But, it is the kind of read designed to leave you unsettled and disquieted. Last, but not least, the most believable thing about Micah are her passions, running, the people she cares about most, and science. I love that she loves science, and talks about it at a level that may be beyond the scope of some readers, but will serve to ignite their interest, rather than bogging down the story.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

When awkward librarians attack

Today I was at this thing with these people.Librarians, maybe some teachers. The purpose of the thing was to highlight the Best New Young Adult Books. And that was sort of accomplished. More useful were all the nifty ways I'd never thought of to booktalk and promote. Including book folders (so you don't lug books all around) with the cover on the front and an excerpt, reviews, blurbs on the inside and back. I also really enjoy the idea of doing one of those "make your own recordable card" in which you record a booktalk and put the cover in the picture slot instead of a goofy and tactless picture with a recorded message like "happy birthday and like um yes, hey how's it going? WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Maybe that's just how my bumbling birthday greetings sound.

The bad part about today was that with a room full of introverted librarians all sitting next to people they already know, it is very hard to talk strike up a conversation when you don't know anyone and are Awkward Librarian.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Nothing has ever made me wish for a canine companion quite this much.

Dog on It Dog on It by Spencer Quinn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"Love it. Is this the life or what? I ask you?"

The plot is a fairly straightforward PI missing persons case. The twist is that it is told to us throught the POV of Chet, the best K-9 trained (though not certified) partner Bernie could ever want. Chet and Bernie go through a lot together, but they are the most steadfast of partners. While the plot is standard fair and relies a bit much on pure luck, the unfolding through the eyes of a dog (especially a dog who knows things that the humans around him don't) is refreshing. Also refreshing is Chet's exhuberance, his earnestness, his ability to forgive and forget, his love of "his guys" the "nation within a nation" of dogs. I don't know how well this will work as a series, but I really enjoyed this on audiobook and suggest it to anyone who loves mystery/crime fiction and/or dogs.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Capital R, please.

I've been reading and discussing "The Rule" a lot lately it seems. Otherwise known as the Bechdel Test or the Bechdel/Wallace test, Wikipedia gives the following criteria for The Rule:

1.It has to have at least two women in it,
2.Who talk to each other,
3.About something besides a man.

The "it" in the original The Rule was for movies, but this criteria has been expanded to include any sort of media. I don't apply it to everything I consume, the last book I discussed on this blog would have failed miserably. But I think there is one genre of book that should have this Rule at the forefront of the reader's mind. Romance. I know that the main relationship in a traditional Romance is between the male and female protags, and that is fine. But, I've noticed if The Rule isn't followed than I find myself unable to suspend my disbelief. Romance, to me, without women's relationships with other women is weak and underdeveloped, and I wonder in what world do these characters live where the only thing women have to talk about is men? Women's lives, and therefore Women's fiction, includes many daily interactions with people, men and women, in which their lovelife is not discussed at all. Real, rounded characters, think about things other than their current romantic partner/situation. So, it is essential in Romance, to have full complete characters who have conversations (even offstage conversations) about something other than their relationship. I think from now on when I review or discuss Romance I will mention whether or not the book followed The Rule.

Another thing about Romance that I've noticed in my own reading is that if a story starts out from the male protag's pov and doesn't switch within the first chapter or two into the female protag's pov, I get bored and give up. I tried to read "Marriage Most Scandalous" by Johanna Lindsey both on audio and in they traditional mass market paperback form. It took me a while to figure out why, even though I like the writing, I couldn't get past the first few chapters. I thought back on other Romances that I wanted to read but couldn't get into, and the common thread is that I'm following the adventures of the man for ages and ages and what he's doing may or may not even be related to the actual story. And, I have absolutely no idea who the female protag is even going to be. She's the one I'm going to identify with, so why am I going to care what this random dude is doing...UNTIL HE MEETS THE LADY. So Romance authors, you get 2 chapters max to switch to the lady's pov or I'm probably out of there. Oh, and let her be a normal human having normal non-relationship-based conversations. Him too actually. I'd be equally creeped out if all the dudely protag could think about was lady protag.

So, I've been reading a lot of great Romance lately, particularly historicals by Julia Quinn, and they all pass Bechdel's test and my own. I don't even think it is all that hard to do, and most great Romance (IMHO and to be fair, I mostly like historical and contemporary so maybe this won't work for thrillers or all Romance subgenres) is just written that way.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The book just whizzed by so fast I couldn't blink, so I wrote a short review.

I'm not even brave enough to illegally download music. My major in undergrad was criminal justice (and anthropology)...Crime and the people who commit it and the people who try to stop it all fascinate me. This book enthralled me completely.

Beat the Reaper: A Novel Beat the Reaper: A Novel by Josh Bazell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Peter is a doctor. He's also a former mob-hitman turned informant who is having one hell of a bad day.

When reviews say that something is a fast-paced thrill ride, they should use this book as a platonic ideal. So gruesome it is hard to read in parts, but mostly filled with brilliant action and dialogue and a story that races from past to present moment at breakneck speed.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Home Safe

Sometimes the perfect book hits at the perfect time. I read Home Safe the day after a trip to The San Fransisco Bay Area. Since the book involves that area and Chicago the conflict between those areas for the main character were palpable. And, because I'm struggling with writing group problems, parts of it felt like a message to me: not only to keep on writing, but also not to give up on the idea of a functional and healthy writing group. It was the perfect book for that particular day. But it is also one of the rare BOOKS I RECOMMEND TO MY MOM. Not because the mother daughter issues in the book reflect ours, but because I think she'll also feel like she and Helen and Tessa are just friends you haven't seen in a while.

Home Safe: A Novel Home Safe: A Novel by Elizabeth Berg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Helen, a successful writer, lost her husband, and after a year of emptiness and blank pages. She's turning all the energy she used to spend on writing and hr life towards interfering in her daughter, Tessa's, life instead. Then she finds out her husband was keeping a very big secret which involved removing most of their life savings. Reading this book is like having a long conversation about everything with an old friend you haven't talked to in a while. Helen and Tessa and their muddled relationship jump from the page. Since Helen can't write and is suddenly in more dire financial straits than she was prepared for she takes on teaching a writing class, and the class finally draws her out of herself.This book is one to suggest to most every mother, daughter, grandmother, or person who has ever lost anyone ever. Red Flags: The book groups are unrealistic and not as well drawn as they could be. Since it is a book about a writer other writers may find this jarring. If you don't like tidy endings you may not like this book.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Magical and redemptive

Hoping for blogdemption:
I've fallen off the review wagon. These things happen. The holidays come around, the Law and Order marathons add up, you start actually planning that whole wedding thing, and suddenly you've read 20 books and haven't reviewed a single one of them. If by you I mean me, anyway. This makes writing a blog entry doubly hard because if I don't review books what exactly is this blog here to do? Ideally I'd have found a niche by now. Probably said niche can be found in same place I keep thinking I'm headed before I get distracted by other things and shy of public forums: awkwardness+customer oriented community-based vocation. That is to say: Awkward Librarianism. Again.

So here is an awkward transition to a discussion about pop culture featuring a quote from Sherman Alexie.

This brings me to Magical?

So Paul was certainly not addicted to the present day. on the contrary, Paul believed that the present, past, and future were all happening simultaneously, and that any era's pop culture was his pop culture. And sure, pop culture could be crass and manipulative, and sometimes evil, but it could also be magical and redemptive.
From "The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless" in "War Dances" by Sherman Alexie.

Maybe it is the anthropologist in me, but do you know what I love to imagine? I love to imagine people reading popular contemporary authors being read in classrooms and lecture halls and analyzed as "classics." I think that the Nicholas Sparks and Nora Roberts, as fun and palatable as they are, will not endure to that point. However, I like to think the Nick Hornbys, Sherman Alexies, and Audrey Niffeneggers (well, at least TTW) might just make it to that point.

The truth is, of course, I have no idea what piece of our pop culture will become a piece of future pop culture. It could be someone as yet undiscovered who is discovered to have written amazing pieces about now 10 years after they die. It could be that not a single title published in the past ten years is ever discussed by anyone 100 years from now. The zombiepocalypse may have happened and their may be no one left to discuss much of anything. Or maybe everyone will be reading Harry Potter and Twilight 500 years from now and making vast sweeping generalizations about everyone who was around at the end of the last millennium or the beginning of this one based on Hogwart's Sorting Cap and Bella Swan's insatiable use of adverbs.

But really, this is all just my awkward way of saying that I really liked the collection of short stories in War Dances. I like Sherman Alexie and I hope that his works endure and become part of the pop culture of the ages. Because, his books and stories don't just give me an escape for a few moments, but instead leaving me twisting with the ideas behind them and the characters and situations in them.

Whew, tied it all together there in the end, I hope.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Awkward* Reading in Twenty Ten

More of this.

  • Nonfiction.

  • Graphic Novels.

  • High Fantasy.

  • Bestsellers and book club choices.

  • Essays, articles, books, blogs on writing by writers.

  • Audiobooks. This is one area of my own RA and everyone else's where I have trouble. I know what I like when I hear it but very often it takes a special book to draw me in and keep me listening and that is hard to find.

Less of this.

  • Superhero stories, until someone does something that really surprises me like "Hero" by Perry Moore did.

  • Comfortable fluffy reads (for emergency use only.)

  • Bizarrely addictive blogs where people laud appalling behavior. (I think you know what I mean.)

  • TV. Seriously way too much of my reading time goes to the evil USA and TBS crime drama marathon monster.

  • Blogs about publishing. Why do I obsess about how to write a query letter when I haven't even written anything worth inquiring about?

*The reading itself isn't awkward, but as usual, I am.