Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker

Breathtakingly good book.
11 year old Julia lives in Southern California, hanging out with her best friend Hanna and avoiding getting teased on the school bus when the earth starts spinning more slowly.
This was just hauntingly good- brilliant writing, a startlingly original voice, and one of the most moving coming of age stories I have ever read.

Killer Stuff and Tons of Money : Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-Market America, by Maureen Stanton

Fascinating look at the life of a middle-rung antiques dealer- waking at 4 am, driving from state to state to fairs and flea markets, always searching for the one killer find, the lottery ticket, the magic piece. Great and thought provoking in the age of IKEA and crap.

The Butterfly Clues, by Kate Ellison

This was an excellent and tense thriller. Penelope, a troubled teen with obsessive compulsive issues and kelptomania, gets involved in the murder of a stripper named Sapphire. Penelope becomes obsessed with the case, and keeps going to Neverland, an area of Cleveland where runaway teens and homeless adults squat in abandoned buildings, an area her parents would never let her visit, if they were paying more attention.
In Neverland, she meets and falls for a runaway named Flynt, and keeps prying into Sapphire's murder, going so far as to try to work at the same strip club.
This was a really good read, but I felt like there were too many issues - like, dead sibling, check, drugged out mom, check, OCD, check, prom problems, of course. There were also some side plots that hardly added to the story, and it ended unconvincingly.

The Selection, by Keira Cass

Fun but predictable near-future dystopian YA.
It is time for Prince Maxon to marry, and 35 girls are chosen to compete for his hand in marriage. 16 year old America Singer is one, and despite her many reservations, blah blah blah.
Fun, but I am not sure why it's getting such huge buzz.

Winning Mars, by Jason Stoddard

Clever and fast paced near future sci-fi. After the Chinese have gone to the moon and taken the US flag down and taken the rover back to Shanghai as a souvenir, entertainment producer Jere decides to create a reality show based on winning a race on Mars. Securing funding and sponsorship is one thing, finding the perfect "cast" is another, and governmental interference threatens to shut down the show, but Jere and his girlfriend Patrice- aka Yvette Zero, one of the world's biggest interactive media stars- boldly go ahead with Winning Mars.
Fun read!!!

The Academie, by Susanne Dunlap

YA hist fic, set at a boarding school in Saint Germain where Hortense de Beauharnaise (Josephine Bonaparte's daughter), Caroline Bonaparte (Napoleon's daughter), and Eliza Monroe (daughter of the future US president all actually attended.
The writer changed their ages a bit, and of course they went to masked balls and all sorts of silliness, but it was a fun and quick read.

Running With Trains, by Michael Rosen

Novel in poetry about cows and running and Vietnam or something.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Love and Haight, by Susan Carlton

Uneven but good YA set in 1971, in San Francisco. Wanna-be hippie Chloe and her best friend MJ go to visit Chloe's free spirit aunt Kiki, but Chloe has another reason to be there- she needs an abortion. Interesting look at womens rights and the hippie scene.

The Crazy Things Girls Do For Love, by Dyan Sheldon

Charming, fun, and better-than-it's-cover YA book about what happens after a new hottie student turns the environment club into the hottest club at high school. I really enjoyed this, but did wish that the girls had had more self-respect.

Blueprints of the Afterlife, by Ryan Boudinot

Extraordinary post-apocalyptic novel. In the years after the FUS (Fucked Up Shit), residents of the Pacific Northwest are creating New York Alki on Bainbridge Island, using newman (essentially cyborg) labor, people are hooked into Bionet, which can be hacked by DJs who control them, the climate is fucked, polar bears (ACK) are gone, a rogue glacier has hunted down cities...
Overwhelming, epic stew of ideas and words, brilliantly done, but not super focused.
I loved it, it read like Bacigalupi in some ways, but I do wish it was a tiny bit tighter. So good though, and wildly different from Boudinot's first novel, Misconception, which I also thought was insanely good.

Flatscreen, by Adam Wilson

This was so much less than I was hoping for. For a book to be praised the way this one was, I hoped for a lot more than the usual mopey rich white Jewish boy on drugs in the suburbs shit that every other 'slacker' novel has as an antihero.

In fact, this was such a letdown, it deserves a whole new tag: dissapointing, for all the books that come with so much hype that I feel cheated by the blurbs and reviewers.

In The Merde For Love, by Stephen Clarke

Very funny continuation of the story started in A Year In The Merde, but this time focusing more on his ludicrous (but very frisky!) love life.

Defending Jacob, by William Landay

Fantastic, dark legal/family thriller with excellent style and a haunting end.
This reminded me in some ways of Lionel Shriver's agonizing We Need To Talk About Kevin, but with more of a thriller tone. Wonderful.

White Girl Problems, by Babe Walker

UGH. One of the worst books I've read in a long time- I can't believe I finished this shallow foul cesspit of a book.Waste of paper.

I Am J, by Cris Beam

Interesting book about a teenage transgender person. Jenifer has always wanted to be a boy, and starts looking into how to actually make that happen. Testosterone shots and surgery and all that- it was interesting, but not to me relatable.

Pretty Little Secrets, by Sara Shepard

Filler in the Pretty Little Liars series. Fun, but didn't really add to the plot.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Fear Index, by Robert Harris

Fantastic sci-fi/financial thriller. Hedge fund genius Alex and his parter Hugo are pitching a new product to client that Alex has created to run on algorithms he has created around an AI called VIXAL 4. The AI makes trades based on the fear index and on news it gathers from thousands of sources, and the book is a great and truly chilling ride.

The Odds: A Love Story, by Stewart O'Nan

Beautifully written yet ultimately unsatifying novel from one of my favorite writers, O'Nan.  Art and Marion have lost almost everything- their marriage is fractured from infidelities and they are on the verge of losing their home. In a last desperate weekend, they revisit Niagara Falls, the site of their honeymoon, and bet their last remaining assets on a roulette wheel.

These Days Are Ours, by Michelle Haimhoff

Repellent post 9/11 novel about underachieving spoiled rich kids in NYC. From the vain and narcissistic protagonist who wants another terrorist attack to happen so she wont be under pressure to get a job to the trust fund kid who walks around with holes in his sweaters, every character was unpleasant except Adrian, a 'poor kid' who went to Brown on scholarship, and doesn't need to hang out with this pack of losers.

Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James

Yet ANOTHER sequel to Pride and Prejudice, this time in the form of a mystery byt the usually talented P.D. James, but as with almost every Austen adaptation/sequel/whatever, it was pretty awful.

The A-Circuit, by Georgina Bloomberg

Pretty terrible YA about riding on a competitive level. Usual rich girl/working girl nonsense with lots of horsey stuff mixed in.

172 Hours on the Moon, by Johan Harstad

Flawed YA sci-fi. NASA in a wildly improbably decision, decides to hold a worldwide lottery for 3 teens to travel to a secret moonbase (with a trained adult astronaut crew, at least) but of course everything goes wrong.
Required too much suspension of disbelief to work.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Getting Somewhere, by Beth Neff

4 teens are offered the choice between juvenile detention, or working on a CSA farm. Each girl has different reasons for being there-  as the back of the jacket says, there's
The Junkie
The Dealer
The Thief
The Recluse
and they all have terrible secrets, and they all blah blah blah.

Was actually an absorbing read, but I feel like I've read it 8 times before.

Chopsticks, by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

Haunting and absorbing YA graphic. Piano prodigy Glory Fleming is missing- but the events that lead up to her dissapearance are as unclear as her fate. Passionate romance, intense pressure, and  a serious obsession with playing the childrens' waltz Chopsticks add up to a dizzying, twisting graphic novel that I want to read over and over. This was one of those books where the format is so perfect for the story, and the questions that linger after the last page just make you want to start over again, focusing on every single perfectly chosen image and painting.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Various Positions, by Martha Schabas

Dark and disturbing YA about a young ballerina whose obsession with sex ruins lives. Very much Black Swan but younger.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo

Intense and depressing and heartbreaking and illuminating look at life in an airport slum in Mumbai. This was a harrowing read. The whole book left me wanting to hide from the world, but was certainly one of the best nonfiction books I've read in a long time.

People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman, by Richard Parry

Intense and disturbing non-fiction account of the disappearance, search for, and ultimately, the trial of the killer of Lucie Blackman, an English girl who went to Tokyo to work as a club hostess.
Parry, who had spent a decade in Japan before Blackman's disappearance made headlines, followed the case from the start, and kept at it through the 6 year trial of the unusual Korean-minority killer who never did admit to killing Lucie, although he did admit to multiple rapes and one "accidental" death of another gaijin bar girl.
A deep look at the Japanese justice system and it's failures, but also a searching portrayal of a family when a member of that family disappears...
Great non-fiction read, for true crime fans. Would recommend to anyone who enjoyed The Devil in the White City, or similar.

Arctic Rising, by Tobias Buckell

Wow! Straight out awesome climate disaster scifi thriller. Not as well written as Bacigalupi, but a hell of a plot, and out-of-the-box refreshing protagonists made this an un-put-down-able read. Futuristic Arctic cities, climate modification schemes, chase scenes, I want this to be a movie.

Anne of Hollywood, by Carol Wolper

Well adapted take off on Anne Boleyn's story. In this adaptation, Henry Tudor is the head of a major studio, Anne and Mary are establishment party girls, Theresa Cromwell is a scheming executive who can't force Anne into her own plans, and Jane Seymore is a vapid San Fransisco socialite.
Except for beheadings, this was pretty faithful to history- and maybe in Hollywood, divorce after an airtight prenup feels like a beheading?
Fun, but not what I hoped for.

1222: A Hanne Wilhelmsen novel, by Anne Holt

Excellent Scandinavian locked door mystery, with a train derailment, and a strong, prickly, hard-to-like protagonist in Hanne Wilhelmesen, a paralysed ex-detective.

Belles, by Jen Calonita

Well written, enjoyable YA. Wrong-side-of the-tracks Isabelle's world is shattered when her Alzheimer's suffering grandmother is deemed no longer capable to care for her, and she is sent to live with wealthy relatives she has never known. Pampered Mirabelle, nearly the same age, is supposed to help Isabelle fit into this new world of prep schools and country clubs, but Mira's friends are mean girls. Solid characterizations and believable personal growth lifted this out of standard chick-lit, despite the misleading cover, which I hope changes before it's April pub date. I really liked this.

A Year in The Merde, by Stephen Clarke

SO funny, and so out of control, this was a re-read that I enjoyed and will look for his next book, In The Merde For Love, right now. Ludicous fictionalized look at trying to start a chain of English style tea rooms in France.

My Not So Terrible Time and The Hippie Hotel, by Rosemary Graham

Well done but predictable divorced families issue YA. Really not a lot to say about this. Cute. Charming.

How To Ruin a Summer Vacation, by Simone Elkeles

Not very good YA about a Chicago girl being sent to the Golan Heights to spend the summer with her estranged father and unknown extended family. The culture clash didn't excuse Amy's ignorance, and the buildup to her changing from a silly and spoiled girl into a brave and devoted Zionist was predictable and rather unpleasant.

The Final Crumpet, by Ron and Janet Benrey

Strange and pretty terrible mystery that left me boggled that it got published. Not only was the mystery weak, uninteristing, and unsolvable in fair-play terms, God kept popping in the most unexpected and inappropriate of ways.

The Agency: The Traitor in the Tunnel, by Y.S. Lee

Fun and fast paced YA historical mystery, with a unique heroine with guts and wits to spare. This was so enjoyable, and I want to read the other books in the series.

Trafficked, by Kim Purcell

Thought provoking book about human trafficking out of Moldova. 17 year old Hannah thinks she will be a nanny in Los Angeles, earning $400 a week, which she would use to send home to pay for her grandmother's cataract operation, but upon arrival, she realizes how naive she was.
This could have (and more realistically, should have) been much darker, but aimed at a YA audience, maybe the author didn't want to take it as dark as it really might have been.
Well done, but with some weak spots.

A Million Suns, by Beth Revis

Fantastic follow up to the awesome YA sci-fi Across The Universe. This was a great continuation, much more than a "middle book". Elder and Amy continue to grow as characters, and the ethical conflicts aboard the space ship continue to introduce ideas about the nature of leadership, and the value of freedom. Just a great read, and I can't wait for the next.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Third Gate, by Lincoln Child

Ludicrous adventure thriller filled with psychics, billionaire eccentrics, Egyptian tombs and curses, and even a nice episode of possession. Quick read? Yes. Good read? If you are into ludicrous adventure thrillers filled with psychics, billionaire eccentrics, Egyptian tombs and curses, and even a nice episode of possession, then this is your book!

Missed Connections: Love Lost and Found, by Sophie Blackall

A little too whimsical for my taste- very Miranda July. I was hoping for more like Leanne Shapton's slightly more edgy Was She Pretty? which is one of my favorite graphic novels. This read like some kind of hipster cupcake.

This Is Not A Test, by Courtney Summers

FANTASTIC zombie apocalypse novel, with an intense protagonist and wonderful writing. This was just so well done, and the ethical conflicts of Sloane, the suicidal heroine of the book, as she is forced into a fight for survival, added an incredible new twist to a well trod road- I really found this to be a special book. Better even than Zone One, which I LOVED. I really liked her mean-girls issue book, Some Girls Are, but this was on a whole new level of awesome.

The Darlings, by Christina Alger

Well written and involved story of a family caught up in a financial Ponzi scheme, and the ramifications of losing all they thought they had. Ethical crisis + family ties = great, dramatic, timely novel.

I've Got Your Number, by Sophie Kinsella

Delightful, light and funny romance from the uneven Kinsella. This one is a winner, though. When her phone is stolen, Poppy steals another phone for reasons already complicated. Through the new phone, she and Sam begin an exchange of messages that are just really well done. One of the better romance/text message books I've read.

Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm, by Juliet Nicolson

Interesting but fragmented social history of pre-WWI England. Nicolson, as the grand-daughter of Vita Sackville-West, has so many anecdotes thrust into the book that it was hard to follow as a cohesive whole, but some bits were certainly memorable.

Desert Wind, by Betty Webb

Excellent topical Betty Webb mystery set in the desert Southwest, this time dealing with the aftereffects of nuclear testing on Downwinders- people whose lives have been ruined by cancer and governmental neglect.

Wake Up, Sir! , by Jonathan Ames

Funny yet wierdly depressing novel about a failed writer/alcoholic who hires a butler named Jeeves to basically run his life, using up settlement money from an accident.

The Little Victim, by R.T. Raichev

Decent Raichev mystery, but this one set in Goa in India wasn't as enjoyable for me as the ones set in traditional English Country House settings.

Rumors, by Anna Godberson

Sadly, as with the first book in the Luxe series, the cover was the best part. Sold as Edith Wharton meets Gossip Girl, it reads more like Danielle Steel got hit on the head and traveled back in time.

Willow Weaving, by Truss Stol

Pretty lovely but short how to book on making sculptures with woven willow, which was lovely, but I was looking for a book on how to work with live willow to make structures, not sculptures.

Deader Homes and Gardens, by Joan Hess

Pretty good for a Claire Malloy series mystery, pretty weak for Joan Hess. I wish she would drop the Claire Malloy books and write more of the Maggody series.