Monday, June 21, 2010

The Passage, by Justin Cronin

Fantastic, epic doorstopper of a near-future apocalyptic vampire novel. This was so good, it really does deserve all the hype and praise it's getting- it read like early Stephen King on speed, and I love me a good government conspiracy book.

Imperial Bedrooms, by Bret Easton Ellis

Ferocious and ghastly sequel to Ellis' landmark 80's novel Less Than Zero. Revisiting Clay, Blair, Trent, Julian and Rip is even more devastating than you'd think- this was a hard book to read. I'm not sure if it would have the same impact if I had't read and known those characters so well all along, but this was like being ripped apart- an Ellis specialty, for that matter. Ugh- and amazingly good.

Alice in Wonderland

Visually stunning version of Wonderland, very far from the books, but a glorious and lush movie with a pretty kick-ass Alice.

A Good and Happy Child, by Justin Evans

Super creepy demonic posession thriller- unreliable narrator, echoes of the Exorcist- really good.

Still Missing, by Chevy Stevens

Creepy thriller. This was well written, but seems to be getting a lot of attention. Realtor Annie is abducted, and kept prisoner for a year by a psychopath, but even after the end of that ordeal, the true horrors in her story are still to come.

Neighborhood Watch, by Cammie McGovern

Very well done mystery. Librarian (hah) Betsy is released from prison after 12 years when evidence of her innocence finally comes to light. The only problem, then, is who in the small town did bludgeon Linda Murphy all those years ago? This really was very creepy and well plotted.

From Away, by David Carkeet

One of the strangest books I have read in a long time. It was a mystery, of sorts, it was a caper, of sorts, it promised to feature model trains and then really hardly did, it was kind of a confusing mess, yet it was a feel-good confusing mess. It left me really puzzled.

Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl, by Mary Mycio

Well, I wanted to read this to try to get an idea of how the long term damage from the Gulf oil spill would compare to the long term fallout of a nuclear meltdown, but what with the Gulf thing getting worse every day, it doesn't seem like there's any real way to compare the two.
This was fascinating though, how the land has been reclaimed by so many animals that were previously rare in the area, like boars and storks, and the effect of radiation on tree growth was really interesting- radiomorphism affects tree growth in some very funy ways. LINK

Category 7: The End of the World

Fantastically absurd (and endless!) disaster movie. This was great.

The Big Ass Book Of Home Decor, by Mark Montano

Much like it's predecessor, The Big Ass Book of Crafts, this is a big ass book of home decor crafts. Once again, I am impressed with the heft and inventiveness of the book, but don't want to make a single thing.

The Gallery of Regrettable Food, by James Lileks

Very amusing collection of mid-century American cookbook images, with a heavy concentration on unlikely casseroles and jello salads.

The Lonely Hearts Club, by Elizabeth Eulberg

Pretty charming YA book about Penny Lane, a girl with Beatles fan parents, who after dating some duds, decides to swear off dating for the rest of high school. Friends join Penny's Lonely Hearts Club, attend school dances with each other, have sleepovers etc, and soon not a guy in school can get a date. Administrators get involved, there's a little story arc about the right to form non-school sanctioned groups, but mostly it was a fluffy and sweet romantic comedy.

Elliot Allagash, by Simon Rich

Pretty bizarre yet fun (if inexplicably over-hyped) YA book about the unhealthy relationship between two high school boys- the ludicrously wealthy and jaded Elliot Allagash (think Gossip Girl's Chuck Bass crossed with the absurd Genius of Unspeakable Evil ) and the hapless Seymour Herson, who Elliot picks from obscurity to make into the most popular and successful of his classmates.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cum Laude, by Cecily von Ziegesar

Can't seem to find an image of the cover (why?) but the one above labeled NOT FINAL is, in fact, the FINAL cover. Great cover, yes. Great book? No.
Von Zeigesar did not strike gold twice. I was kind of excited and curious to see what she'd do, unconstrained by the YA sereis format- Sara Shepard from Pretty Little Liars has well-received adult fiction, and YA author Gabrielle Sevin's This Hole We're In was absolutely fantastic, but this really didn't do anythin beyond what I'd seen before in Gossip Girl- a fast, funny, and surprisingly honest representation of late teen life.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil, by Peter Maass

Well, what with the oil spill devastating the Gulf, this felt like a timely an horribly appropriate book to be reading. All the usual warnings about diminished supply, overstated reserves, political tensions, peak oil predictions, the requisite cheery end chapter talking hopefully about alternative energy, and some horrible, ominous quotes that I feel compelled to share.

"In 2005, a BP refinery in Texas suffered a massive explosion that killed fifteen workers and injured hundreds. Investigations revealed that BP had cut the refinery's capital budget by 25 percent. Broken or outdated equipemnt had not been replaced, while worker training and safety had been ignored. Months before the explosion, the refinery had commissioned an indepentent report that had warned, prophetically, of "a series of catastrophic events."...A BP official admitted that the disaster had been caused by "incompetence, high tolerance of non-compliance, inadequate maintenance and investments...
This was not the end. A year later, a BP pipeline dumped more than 200,000 gallons onto the North Slope region of Alaska's coast- the largest spill ever on that slope...As one newspaper wryly noted, "For a company that claims to have moved 'beyond petroleum', BP has managed to spill an awful lot of it onto the tundra in Alaska."

They had no idea.

Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi

Intense and chilling near-future YA book. Bacigalupi's dark vision of an overheated, flooded world (as in his incredible, mesmerizing The Windup Girl) is especially disturbing when applied to the Gulf Coast.
Teenage Nailer works as a ship breaker, scavenging grounded oil tankers for copper, wire, scrap, dodging his drug addicted brutal father and trying to stay alive, when a storm brings him the scavenge opportunity that changes his life.
The story wasn't as strong as The Windup Girl, but for teens it seems everything is watered down or given a grain of hope, but some scenes were shudderingly well done:

"The great drowned city of New Orleans didn't come all at once, it came in portions: the sagging backs of shacks ripped open by banyan trees and cypress. Crumbling edges of concrete and brick undermined by sinkholes. Kudzu-swamped clusters of old abandoned buildings shadowed under the loom of swamp trees.
...A whole waterlogged world of optimism, torn down by the patient work of changing nature... if Nailer scrutinized the jungle carefully, he could make out the boulevards that had been, before trees punctured their medians and encroached. Now, the roads were more like flat fern and moss-choked paths. You had to imagine none of the trees sprouting up in the center, but they were there.
"Where did they get the petrol?" he asked,
"They got it from everywhere." Nita laughed. "From the far side of the world. From the bottom of the sea." She waved at the drowned ruins, and a flash of ocean. "They used to drill out there, too, in the Gulf. Cut up the islands. It's why the city killers are so bad. There used to be barrier islands, but they cut them up for their drilling."
"Yeah?" Nailer challenged. "How do you know?"
Nita laughed again. "If you went to school, you'd know it too. Orleans city killers are famous."


Wonderful movie, about the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Fantastic performances from Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.

St. Trinian's

Very funny English boarding school movie, with some really bizarre performances.

Touch Me I'm Sick: The 52 Creepiest Love Songs, by Tom Reynolds

Very funny collection of some truly horrific love songs, with analysis of lyrics and some laugh out loud bits.

Keep Sweet, by Michele Dominguez Greene

Yet another look at polygamy (why? this is like the killer-tree-trend I had going for a while) in the Southwest US. In this, 14 year old Alva Jane, much like Kyra in The Chosen One, resists marriage to a 50 year old man, and escapes, at the risk of her life. This book, while very similar to The Chosen One, read as weak, compared to the richly layered adult novel The Lonely Polygamist.

The Racketty Packetty House, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I don't know how I missed this book when I was small! I adored The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, and I was so happy to find and read this now. Much shorter and younger than those other two, this was still a delightful story of dolls who loved their shabby dollhouse, and of a little princess who had the sense to love them best.

Freeze Frame, by Peter May

Atmospheric and well plotted mystery, set on an isolated island off the coast of Brittany. Inspector Enzo McLeod investigates a long cold case, and brings to light a streak of darkness tracing back to WWII.

Beautiful People, by Wendy Holden

FANTASTIC chick lit. This was so much fun. A serious theatrical English actress, a Hollywood starlet struggling for a come-back, an outrageous Don Juan of a movie star/hunk, and a trip to Italy- this read like chocolate- sweet, addictive, and gone sooner than I wanted it to be. Delicious.

Beach Week, by Susan Coll

Very well done take on how a rite of passage can mean so much for an entire family. The stress of having to decide whether their only child, daughter Jordan, will accompany her friends to a rental house on the Virginia shore, in the local tradition of letting the kids celebrate high school graduation with a week of debauchery nearly tears her parents apart. Interestingly, this book focused almost exclusively on the parents, which made it much more layered than if it had focused on the cipher-like Jordan. Funny, satirical, and serious in turns, this was a pretty great and enjoyable read.

The Witch's Guide to Cooking With Children, by Keith McGowan

Very funny and clever childrens' book. When Sol and Connie move to a new neighborhood, a series of clues suggest that Fay Holaderry might be a very unusual older neighbor, one who may, in fact, be responsible for disappearances of children from all over town. This was quick, fun, and very quirky.

Flowers Chic and Cheap, by Carlos Mota

As visually lovely as this book is, it is misleading about the cheapness and the longevity of many of the arrangements he creates in the book. Peonies are both pricey and short-lived, and many dozens of roses will cost many many dozens of dollars. I do realize that he's addressing NYC readers, but please, people, you are not the world.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Death at Wentwater Court, by Carola Dunn

Charming 1920's set cosy mystery, the first in Dunn's series featuring intrepid flapper/journalist Honourable Daisy Dalrymple. Character and great clothes more than made up for plot holes.

The Stand: American Nightmares, by Stephen King et al

Exceptionally graphically gory graphic novel. Since I've started the graphic novel collection, I'm finding that much of what I've been ordering is somewhat different than what most graphic novel collections have. I have been loving Leanne Shapton, just got in Obsessive Consumption by Kate Bingaman-Burke, Diary of A Mosquito Abatement Man by John Porcellino, a lovely looking book by Rob Ryan, but when I go to catalog something and find that the nearest copies are at Pratt or something, I realize I've gone awry somewhere along the way, at least in terms of determining what is 'popular'. This one, however, was in enough collections that I realized that I had at last found a 'normal' graphic novel, so I gave it a go.
I think the art well suited the story, but I felt that so much was left out. Rather than enhancing and telling the story itself, I did feel like it dumbed down The Stand, which is a shame.

Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time, by David Goodwillie

Fantastic struggling-years nonfiction from the trancendentally talented David Goodwillie. I've said it before and I'll say it again, his American Subversive was (and remains) the best book I've read this year, and I was so excited to read this.
It was wonderful, and I loved it, but I have to say it did kind of leave me in a terrible funk- not about the book but about the courage and the talent it took to live and write it. Made me feel ten million miles from NYC, rather than the usual 300, and reminded me very much that I spend my days ordering, reading, pushing, and thinking about books other people write.
But if that's how it is, how glad I am that some of them are this good.

This World We Live In, by Susan Beth Pfeffer

The third and last of Pfeffer's Last Survivors series, this book brought together Miranda from Life As We Knew It and Alex from The Dead and The Gone, in Miranda's ruined suburbs. Alex, still protecting his little sister Julie, is a much more likable character in this book, and his insistance on getting Julie to a convent makes more sense in this book than in the last. Still, neither of the sequels came close to the fantastic horror of the first, making me wish rather that Pfeffer had left Life As We Knew It as a stand-alone novel.