Monday, December 17, 2012

Reached, Allie Condie

Last one in the Matched series. good wrap up.

Ashen Winter, Mike Mullin

Post apocalyptic survival story- Yellowstone.

Wolves of the Beyond, Kathryn Lasky

Talking, surfing wolves. WTF?

All The Right Stuff, Walter Dean Myers

Preachy urban YA.

Dead To You, Lisa McMann

YA abduction trauma drama.

Darkwater, Catherine Fisher

Soul selling nonsense.

Shadows Cast By Stars, Catherine Knutson

Paranormal YA with First People legends and lots of blood harvesting.

Call The Shots, Don Calame

Wonderful, funny YA about making a low low low budget zombie movie.

Dangerous Boy, Mandy Hubbard

Evil twins!!! Stupid girl!!!

Boy 21, Matthew Quick

Mental illness, YA, basketball.

Jersey Angel, Beth Ann Baumann

Young girl on Jersey Shore, lots of sex.

Quarantine, Lex Thomas

Teens trapped in an X, with diseases.

The Chaos, Nalo Hopkinson

??? Surreal apocalyptic paranormal GLBQT YA.

Changeling, Philippa Gregory

Hist fic, paranormal YA.

Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff that Made Me Famous, Kathryn Williams

Reality TV cooking show, father issues, romance.

The Whisper, Emma Clayton

Post-apocalyptic scifi with psi-powers.

Flirting in Italian, Lauren Henderson

Daft YA romance.

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life, Tara Altebrando

Fun YA scavenger hunt.

Red Heart Tattoo, Lurlene McDaniel

School shooting, trauma drama.

My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan, Seth Rudetsky

Devine Intervention, Martha Brockenbrough

Paranormal YA.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, Elizabeth Cline

Fantastic non-fiction examining the decline in quality of clothing, and the ethical and environmental damages wrought by disposable fashion. Really incisive, and although she was preaching to the choir here, I am newly resolved to stay away from poorly made garments, and will try even harder to buy American/Canadian/English or vintage clothing.

The Dog Stars, Peter Heller

Hauntingly beautiful post-apocalyptic adult fiction. Hig is a pilot who survived the flu that killed off most of the population, and he and his neighbor and his beloved dog Jasper have been fighting for survival for some time. When Hig falls apart, he sets out to find more people, and finds redemption and faith in humanity.

Hide and Seek, Sara Shepard

Another absurdly enjoyable book in Shepard's increasingly absurd series. The Lying Game is no Pretty Little Liars, but it's still a delicious guilty pleasure.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lionel Asbo, by Martin Amis

Dark and bitter Amis, again mocking the "feral underclass" of England. Shooting fish in a barrell. Wish he'd attack his own milieu for once. Remincent of Money and London Fields, but perhaps uglier.

Anastasia's Chosen Career, by Lois Lowry

Adorable Anastasia book! Somehow I don't remember this one from my major love of Anastasia Krupnik, so had to give it a read. I love how Anastasia is so happy for Henry, and it was just lovely to revisit an old friend.

A Wanted Man, Lee Child

Another fantastic entry into the Jack Reacher thriller series. Everything blows up, Reacher kicks ass, incredibly satisfying.

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

Excellent dark psychological thriller. Worst. Marriage. Ever.
Flynn's elegant style and endless twists make her one of the most interesting thriller writers around, and this (for me) tied with Dark Places as her best.

Some Like It Hawk, by Donna Andrews

Another funny and sweet entry into the Meg Langslow Caerphilly series.

Handmade Chic, by Laura Bennett

Disappointing book from Project Runway star Laura Bennett. Too many of the projects were simply adaptations of each other, and as leather and fur are notoriously hard to sew, I don't think these would be possible on a home machine.

And When She Was Good, by Laura Lippman

Decent mystery about a suburban madam. Good but not striking.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Seating Arrangements, by Maggie Shipstead

Set over the course of a 3 day WASPY New England island wedding, Seating Arrangements perectly depicts and skewers the faux-genteel world of the cashless pedigreed, where shabby rugs are a sign not of being in the red, but of being blue-blooded. Daphne, the bride, is pregnant- a disappointment to her parents to be sure, but marrying Greyson Duff makes up for her indescretion. Livia, her passionate and depressed younger sister, is reeling from being dumped by Teddy Fenn after making a very public scene, and their parents, Biddy and Winn, are dealing with their own choices in this story that spares no one.
Daphne's bridesmaids, temptress Agatha, silly Piper, and self-determined Donimique, and Greyson's groomsmen, his brothers Sterling and Francis only add more tension to the party, and sexual and social tensions escalate to an almost farcical level- almost, because the writing is so strong that the escalations feel inevitable, and even Winn's desperate attack on a gaudy neighbor's weathervane can be taken as a serious rejection of a world that has passed him and 'his kind' by.
Pitch-perfect, with memorable characters and Fitzgeraldian lyricism, Seating Arrangements is a book I will be recommending to many, many readers, and I will be eagerly anticipating Maggie Shipstead's next book!

The Muffin Tin Cookbook: 200 Fast, Delicious Mini-Pies, Pasta Cups, Gourmet Pockets, Veggie Cakes, and More, by Brette Sember

I have to say, I do prefer cookbooks with lots of photos of the finished product, but in this case, I was almost glad not to see images of Grown-Up Bologna Sandwiches made in muffin tins, or CornDog Cups.
I was impressed by the calorie and nutritional breakdowns of each recipe, but the dishes seemed to be aimed to please someone who would be craving different things than I would.
The few images provided of some dishes reinforced my impression that the Muffin Tin stunt is really about portion control, rather than to improve a meal by making it in a muffin tin, and were frankly unappetizing.
The best recipes seemed to be the most traditional, muffin-y/breakfast-y dishes, and some seemed like they would be great for a Sunday brunch, like maybe the eggs and lox, or the French Bread French Toast- the book really comes into it's own when suggesting recipes that would be easy to cook up a dozen at a time!
Some neat ideas, but would need a lot of tinkering to really be to my taste.

Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation, James Howard Kunstler

I have been a long term fan and reader of Kunstler, and felt that this was sadly his weakest book yet.
He covers much of the same territory as he covers in The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, which is a wonderful and eye-opening book, but Too Much Magic is very much a rehash of those same topics.
Kunstler's blog, [...] has long been an interesting read, but I can't help but feel he has lost his way somewhere.

In The Long Emergency, Kunstler neatly and concisely brought together a number of themes- unsupported development, unsustainable lifestyles, crumbling infrastructure, climate change, and so on, and predicted a future that will resort to a kind of agrarian feudalism in many areas. In his novels, World Made By Hand and The Witch of Hebron, he takes those themes and creates a bleak future scenario, with some very dark scenes, and some disturbing twists- in his novels, women are relegated to a status of breeders, and men control the society. In his novels, that is one thing, but in Too Much Magic, he starts to respond to criticism about that issue, and then trails off into ranting, without fully explaining his view of the roles of women in his imagined "long emergency".

He also left this reader worried, when he started talking about how the Moon landing left him terrified and suspicious of technology- it is one thing to be aware of and alarmed by the limitations of technology, and to be worried about energy supply, but it is quite another to come across as a frightened luddite, cringing from images of mankind's achievements.

Another source of MAJOR frustration is that for Kunstler, there is apparently no middle ground- he writes about trying to live with a smaller footprint, but admits that he is (as are most Westerners) responsible for much of the damage and destruction he discusses, but then contrasts that with living with the Kalahari bushmen, as a solar-society transplant, and concludes he would be useless in the Kalahari. I feel like his (understandable) addiction to his own creature comforts is hindering him from seeing a less dichotomous choice- and that by positing the Kalahari bush-men experience as the guilt-free option, he is deliberately being obtuse and ignoring the many more accessable ways we can lessen our own impact on the world.

Truly disappointed in this book, and unfortunately, this bad experience has left me questioning the validity and worth of his previous works.

12.21, by Dustin Thomason

Very much in the tradition of Michael Crichton, 12.21 is a rollicking, fast paced thriller. Chel Manu, a Guatemalan American artifact researcher at the Getty Museum, recieves a copy of a smuggled ancient Mayan codex- an invaluable find that she knows was illegally looted, yet she can't resist trying to find out what it says.
At the same time, in a charity hospital in East LA, an intelligent and perceptive resident, Michaela Thane, begins to suspect that the disease a John Doe is suffering from might be prion-based, and contacts Gabe Stanton, a CDC investigator and expert on prion diseases.
This is a stuffed-to-bursting book, with ancient history, speculation, high-tech labs and old-school potions, hints of romance, lots of action, and an ending that ties it all together and leaves the reader wanting more. For fans of Dan Brown, Michael Crighton, or Richard Preston.

Visit Sunny Chernobyl, by Andrew Blackwell

Excellent and interesting disaster tourism. Blackwell visits some of the world's most polluted areas, and tries to figure out what kind of legacy and meaning the idea  of "unspoiled nature" still has- given that it is ALL SPOILED, jesus christ, so let's look at the really bad things and see what beauty or meaning can be salvaged.
From the fishing in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, to sightseeing in Alberta's oil sands to the foul sounding Yamuna River in India, he hits some amazing little-seen sights, and although his own personal heartbreak takes his writing off course, still a great read.

Broken Harbor, Tana French

Excellent 4th book in French's Dublin Murder Squad series. Set in a lonely, half-built "luxury estate" on the coast, Detective "Scorcher' Kennedy is faced with a gruesome crime in a place that has it's own harrowing memories for him.
So well done- the mix of psychological thriller and police procedural is brilliantly done, and her in-depth characterizations are wonderful.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

After the Snow, by S.D. Crockett

Post-apocalyptic ice age neo-feudalism in the woods, with a corrupt government dystopia in the cities. Well done. Willo's outsider skills and Mary's city knowlege were nice touches.

The Gathering Storm, by Robin Bridges

ABSURD YA. Set among the Russian aristocracy in the 1890s, I thought this had promise, but the inclusion of vampires, zombies, witches and so on was a bit much.

In-Flight Entertainment, by Helen Simpson

Wonderful and heartfelt collection of short stories.
My favorite is the title story, but there were many stong ones among the 13 stories.
Each story is a snapshot of how removed we are in the western world from what is changing the planet, even as they soar above it. Turbulence ahead.

In Search of The Rose Notes, by Emily Arsenault

Wonderful thoughtful mystery. Charlotte and Nora were 11 when their teenage babysitter dissapeared, and they tried to 'solve' the case using seances and oujji boards and such, but as adults, when they get together again, they realize they knew more than they thought.

The Next One to Fall, by Hilary Davidson

Absorbing sequel to The Damage Done, set in and around Macchu Pichu.

The Damage Done, by Hilary Davidson

Excellent mystery with a powerful protagonist. one to follow.

Dust & Decay, by Jonathan Maberry

Great sequel to Rot & Ruin. Zombies, etc.

Rot & Ruin, by Jonathan Maberry

Excellent YA zombie novel.

The Art of Creative Pruning, by Jake Hobson

Phenomenal and inspiring book. Breathtaking.

Bad Intentions, by Karin Fossum

Another positively miserable Nordic Noir, from the relentlessly depressing Karin Fossum. Bleak and unpleasant.

Midnight Movie, by Tobe Hooper

Very meta B-Book based on a fictional B-movie that has the power to turn viewers into zombies. Fast paced and fun horror, if that's not too much of an oxymoron.

Pompeii, by Robert Harris

Wonderfully detailed historical fiction set in the days leading up to the eruption of Pompeii.

World War Z, by Max Brooks

Pretty much my favorite zombie book, and I read A LOT of zombie books.

Gone West, by Carola Dunn

Another enjoyable Daisy Dalrymple mystery. Solid series, growing nicely.

I Brake for Yard Sales, by Lara Spencer

Eh. She has some great finds, but obviously is in a large urban market, with a taste for midcentury, neither of which is true of me, so not a lot for me in this.

Enlightened Polymer Clay: Artisan Jewelery Inspired By Nature, by Rie Nagumo

Beautiful and inspiring pieces. So many great ideas and techniques in this, this is one I'd like to own.

Sugarhouse, by Matthew Batt

expected a funny take on home renovation, similar in tone to The House on First Street , but despite the fun looking cover and title, the book really turned into a kind of depressing family story.
Even the parts about the home renovation tasks that the author and his wife took on were not terrifically funny or interesting, and the smug satisfaction kind of reeked.
Yes, it is very cool that they laid a slate floor- but seriously, every person who has laid tile of any kind has that same exact story, and manage to not sound like Smug McSmuggery about it.
There was hardly any mention of any amusing/frightening/interesting encounters with neighbors or ex-users of the crack house (which, honestly, it didn't seem to have been one) and the home repair parts were dull, the smugness clouded everything, and if I had wanted to read a book about a gold-digger named Tonya fleecing a guy's grandad out of his money, I would have chosen a book that didn't pretend to be a funny book about renovating a house.
Misleading and not funny. Depressing and smug.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ladies in Waiting, by Laura Sullivan

Wildly unrealistic historical fiction set at the court of King Charles II.
3 Elizabeths, outspoken island girl Zabby, wealthy but bourgois Eliza, and impoverished but noble Beth are maids of honor to the King's bride Catherine...
This was so outlandish that it was almost funny, but in the end, it was just depressing- badly written, ludicrous, and stale.

Beauty, by Lisa Daily

Cute but predictable and many-times-told story.
After making a wish with a mysterious gypsy, Molly wakes up beautiful (seriously) and her life changes, but, yadda yadda yadda.

Article 5, by Kristen Simmons

This was a weird one. Felt like a cross between Hillary Jordan's When She Woke and Twilight, if you can grok it- near future right-wing religious America continuing to cut away women's rights (and many civil rights), but the main character, Ember, was a bit of a Bella, and despite the book focusing on oppression of women, there was a lot of weird psycho-sexual dynamics

Enigma, by Robert Harris

Excellent tense thriller set at Bletchley Park during WWII.

Gilt, by Katherine Longshore

Great lusty bodice-y hist fic!
I loved this for it's vitality and the realness of the characters as written- I don't know enough about the Tudor period to have any idea how realistic some parts were (the maidens' midnight parties, for example), but the book was a blast to read, and actually left me really interested in finding out more.
I bet this might be an adult-crossover title, as it would be right at home next to Phillipa Gregory/Michelle Moran et al.

Erebos, by Ursula Poznanski

Wow- well, this was one I've been so excited to read, but I can't help but wonder if something was (literally) lost in translation from the German...
While the plot was intricate and solid for a techno-thriller, many of the colloquialisms rang wrong to my ears- I know it is set in London, but still, it was very hard to make the dialogue sound natural in my head, and some other things I found jarring- on p. 11, even, Nick was eating lukewarm ravioli from a can, and it was like, hm??? He doesn't seem to have a problem with money- his computer is state of the art and he goes to a 'public' school, so why would he have heated a can in a pan of water instead of nuking it???

It's a shame when something comes from Europe and you just get the sense it's been mangled... I felt very much the same way about Ruby Red by Kiersten Gier, that I was fated to miss the great appeal of the book because of clunky translation.

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls, by Julie Schumacher

I was expecting something much more like The Mother Daughter Book Club series, but this had a bit of a darker side.
Some really solid writing here, and the Adrienne, CeeCee and Jill were well drawn, as were a couple of their mothers. Really nice writing style here- will be looking for more from this author.

Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink, by Kate Strohm

Cute summer romance, set in a historical re-enactment settlement in Maine.
Awfully close in plot to Past Perfect, by Leila Sales.

A Voyage Long and Strange, by Tony Horowitz

Fantastic history of pre-Plymouth European contact with the Americas.

Damned, by Chuck Palahniuk

I still can't stand Palahniuk. This was loathsome.

Chelsea Mansions, by Barry Maitland

Decent mystery with a huge red herring and a LOT of characters, but it was nicely done, set around the Chelsea flower show.

Momentum, by Saci Lloyd

I LOVED both of the Carbon Diaries books, and had really high expectations for this one, but it felt like Lloyd, rather than keeping on writing visionary, very realistic near-future fiction, instead jumped on the far-out dystopian train, and fell off of it.
Splat. Much like the many falling parkourists through the book - and why the heck didn't she just call it parkour???? Like, people know what that is, Saci! You don't need to describe it at great length and then call it jumping.

Kill Switch, by Chris Lynch

Danny has always been close to his grandfather, Da, and during the summer after his senior year, Danny wants to spend as much time as possible with Da before leaving for college. Da, however, is rapidly losing his memory, and keeps telling the family stories that don't seem to fit in with his life as an agricultural department systems analyst. As Da becomes more loose-tongued, and ex-colleagues of his start coming around, Danny realizes that Da's wild stories about assassinations and so on are true, and he takes Da and his stoner cousin Jarrod on the run, in an attempt to keep them all safe.

The Night She Dissapeared, by April Henry

This was a fast paced mystery, and a decent read, but the police were painted as being such obstructionist dolts that it was ridiculous, and the ending was daft, they had cell phones, so ???

The Supergirl Mixtapes, by Meagan Brothers

Maria, desperate to leave the small Southern town she lives in, persuades her father and grandmother to let her go stay with her mother in NYC, who abandoned Maria as a child.
Getting to NYC, Maria finds her mother is still a wildly irresponsible person, with a boyfriend Traviss who is only 6 years older than Maria, and with questionable jobs and habits.
I did like Maria, and her relationships felt believable, but I felt like there was just too much CBGBs/Patti Smith/ etc shoved in as background, and too little character development, there was really no resolution, as the end felt very rushed and sudden.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Ghost, by Robert Harris

Phenomenal thriller.
When a ghostwriter is offered the chance to write the autobiography of a former Prime Minister, he jumps at the chance, but as he starts reaching back into the past, he learns more than is safe to know.
This was just exceptional in every way- a perfect tense thriller with teasing hints of veiled reality, no gore, but a lucid and wonderfully written book.
So freaking good.

Guy Langman: Crime Scene Procrastinator, by Josh Berk

This was a really enjoyable, entertaining and moving novel.
When Guy's best friend Anoop convinces him to join the school Forensics Club (to meet girls), they have no idea that they will encounter some real mysteries.
Guy's voice was clear and distinct, and his relationships and world felt very real. Anoop, Maureen, and other supporting characters were drawn with grace and humor.