You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘year in books’ tag.

75. Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire – While I didn’t enjoy Son of a Witch as much as Wicked, it was an interesting sequel for those who want more of the story. And a PSA: if you’ve only seen the musical of Wicked and haven’t read the book, you’ve missed out. The well-developed plot and strong, strange characters pulled me into the book but were largely missing from the show.

76. Firebird by Mercedes Lackey – More of Lackey’s fairy tale/fantasy world.

77. Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop – The best thing I can say about this book is that it reminded me why I’ve always been skeptical of book recommendations. I think lovely book bloggers have lulled me into a feeling of trust lately because your recommendations introduce me to so many awesome books. Daughter of the Blood (first book in the Black Jewels series) was recommended to me by someone who shared my enjoyment of Lackey’s fantasy books, but our opinions on Bishop’s writing differed sharply because, well, I hated it. My issue was not necessarily the violence or perversion, but the writing itself. The Black Jewels series is wildly popular, so if you’re a fan of paranormal romance, go ahead and give them a try. I’ll file this under “I am most definitely not the target audience.”

78. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld – This is the first book of the Uglies trilogy, and I would highly recommend it to fans of the Hunger Games books. While Uglies is not as well-developed or entrancing as The Hunger Games, the story is still interesting and worth a read. I loved that the trilogy is set in a dystopian world that believes it’s a utopia.

79. The English American by Alison Larkin – This is the story of an adopted girl who grew up in a British family who finally meets her birth family from the American south. It was a quick, enjoyable read that I would recommend to others who are curious about the stories of people who were adopted, even if parts of the novel are a bit ridiculous.

68. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – Yes, I’m a couple of years behind on this one. I enjoyed the story, though the reviews were so glowing that the book struggled to live up to them at times. This is the story of a Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey, a “ghetto nerd” who doesn’t fit in anywhere. The book is in turns funny and sad, and I would certainly recommend it.

69. One Good Knight by Mercedes Lackey – I’ve written plenty about Lackey this year, so I won’t ramble too much on this one. Her 500 Kingdoms books have been hit and miss, but I would recommend this one to fans of fantasy lit with (surprise, surprise) strong, smart female characters.

70. Fortune’s Fool by Mercedes Lackey – Oh look! More Lackey. Her books make such good mid-semester easy reading. Fortune’s Fool is another of the better books from the 500 Kingdoms collection.

71. Adam and Eve by Sena Jeter Naslund – Oh dear. I don’t want to give this one a bad review because I enjoyed Naslund’s earlier books so much, but it just wasn’t good. In Adam and Eve, Naslund tells the story of the widow of an astronomer who has made a discovery that will change how we view religion and the origin of the universe. Sounds interesting, right? Instead Naslund creates a modern day Adam (mentally ill former soldier) and Eve (astronomer’s widow) and devotes much of the book to their time stranded in the middle of nowhere. Meh. To see how lovely Naslund can be, pick up Ahab’s Wife or Four Spirits instead.

72. The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey – You know how I said the 500 Kingdoms books were hit and miss? This would be a miss. She jumped between too many stories in the first half of the book, which left me struggling to get attached to the story or the characters.

73. The Serpent’s Shadow by Mercedes Lackey – This is the first of Lackey’s Elemental Masters books, all of which I have enjoyed. The stories are very loosely based on fairy tales, and it’s interesting to see the elements of the original tale pop up in the narrative. The Serpent’s Shadow is based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but in this version the “Snow White” character is a doctor struggling in turn-of-the-century London society because she’s a female doctor and part Indian, not to mention a mage with a mysterious enemy.

74. Un Lun Dun by China Mieville – Un Lun Dun was a sleeper success for me. I struggled to get into this YA book as I read the first 1/3, but the alternate version of London (ahem: un-London)  ended up hooking me in with its quirky take on language. Recommended for YA as well as not so young adults interested in a fun adventure with a not too preachy environmental message.

Have an incredibly good New Year’s Eve!

58.White Teeth by Zadie Smith – This book wasn’t as good as I had expected it to be based on all of the buzz, but it was an incredibly good first novel. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the mingling (and crashing) of different cultures.

59. Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold – Read this one based on a strong recommendation and wasn’t disappointed. This is the sequel to The Curse of Chalion, but I read it without reading the first book and didn’t feel that I missed anything (though I will go back and read it eventually).  Recommended for those who like fantasy but prefer their queens to be able to think for themselves.

60. This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson – A hit and miss book recommended for future librarians. I nearly threw it out the window because of the incredibly long chapter on Second Life (book was pub’d in 2010, and Second Life became old news circa 2007), but otherwise I found it interesting and informative.

61. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – More than enough articles and blog posts have already been written about this lovely trilogy, so I will just say: believe them! I loved these books (as has everyone I’ve talked to about them), and the story was so compelling and easy to read that I raced through the series at full speed. There are rumors of a movie, and I hope they do the characters justice.

62. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – Hunger Games book 2

63. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – Hunger Games book 3

64. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami – Enjoyable memoir by the author of Kafka on the Shore and Norwegian Wood that talks about far more than just running. Though it will be of particular interest to the niche group of  runners who love literature (like me!), it would also appeal to those who only match half of that group (either readers of Murakami or people who enjoy thoughtful books on running).

65. Hello Kitty Must Die by Angela Choi – I’m trying unsuccessfully to come up with something positive to say about this book. Here’s all I can manage: if you like Chuck Palahniuk or the Dexter books, you may enjoy this. I like Palahniuk’s books and some other darker stories, but I am obviously not the target audience for this book. When I finished it, I felt like my brain needed a bath. I expected girl power and got sociopaths instead.

66. Kick Ass by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr – This is the graphic novel behind the recent movie. I saw the movie first, but still enjoyed this quick read.

67. The Organization of Information by Arlene Taylor and Daniel Joudrey – Yes, this is a textbook, but if I read an entire textbook, it gets to go on my book list! The partial reads (like my reference textbook) are relegated to an end of the year addendum in my reading notebook.

45. Scott Pilgrim Vol. 2: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Bryan Lee O’Malley – I’m not going to review every single one of these. See the review for Vol. 1 for all the details. Short version: good nerdcore fun. Read the books. Watch the movie.

46. The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall – This! This has been my favorite book of 2010. I was afraid it would fall into my least favorite genre: self-indulgent middle-aged white men. But despite sharing some traits with those “my small troubles are so important” books, it was incredibly good.  If you’re curious about plyg culture (well, a fictional depiction of it) or just enjoy a quirky story about interior crises, I recommend this book. The narration moved between the husband/father of the title, his wives, and one of his many children, and these varied perspectives on a complicated family life were fascinating.

47. You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers – Meh. I’ve enjoyed everything else I read by Eggers, but this book didn’t do much for me. The whiny 20-something guys in this book would some day become the self-indulgent, middle-aged white men I mentioned before.

48. Scott Pilgrim Vol. 3: Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness by Bryan Lee O’Malley

49. Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets it Together by Bryan Lee O’Malley

50. Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O’Malley

51. Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O’Malley

52. West with the Night by Beryl Markham – I bought this book for my mother because she loves stories of strong women who travel the world. In West with the Night, Markham tells the story of her life as one of the first female pilots in Africa. Her writing style was far better than I expected from someone who claimed not to be a writer. Recommended for readers interested in women’s history or travel in Africa.

32. Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner – Why did I not read this book years ago? Several of my college roommates read it, but I assumed it was a romance novel and ignored it. I was stupid. If you have also been under a rock for the past 8 years, climb out and get this book. I really adored what she had to say about body image and relationships, even if the plot turns were a bit much at times.

33. Memoir: A History by Ben Yagoda – I was drawn to this book because of the memoir controversies in recent years (James Frey, anyone?). It is somewhat academic, but definitely accessible.

34. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth – This is an alternate history looking at what America might have been like if Charles Lindbergh had won the 1940 presidential election instead of FDR. The story focuses on a Jewish family in New Jersey dealing with burgeoning Antisemitism. If you like the idea of exploring other possible histories, I would recommend this book.

35. The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Great Texas Oil Fortunes by Bryan Burrough – As a non-Texan living in Texas, I found this book fascinating. Burrough gives the history of the big Texas oil men and how they changed the state, and in the process shares a lot of fascinating historical bits about Texas in general. I particularly enjoyed learning about local Dallas history along the way (though for most of the time period this book covers, my neighborhood was an empty field). This is a big ol’ book, but if you’re at all interested in  Texas history or the crazy, corrupt power structure of oil money and politics, read it.

36. Love, Cajun Style by Diane Les Becquets – This is a YA novel I picked up at the local library book sale solely based on the title. And yes, Cajun husband laughed at me for getting it. If you’re into YA books, this is a quick, fun read that includes all the teen crises – friendships, relationships, and family. The Cajun flavor isn’t particularly strong, but it is woven into the details.

37. The Ship Who Searched by Anne McCaffery and Mercedes Lackey – One of the many sequels to The Ship Who Sang that I read in July, and I won’t go into descriptions for each of them. Each of these books tells the story of a ship inhabited by the brain of a person whose body couldn’t support them. Depending on when the person lost their body (many were infants), they either think they’re far superior to humans or they miss human connection. These are quick, interesting sci-fi reads about space exploration and the relationship between the brainship and its “brawn” – the ship’s human partner.

38. The City Who Fought by Anne McCaffery and SM Stirling

39. The Ship Who Won by Anne McCaffery and Jody Lynn Nye

40. The Ship Avenged by Jody Lynn Nye

41. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson – Book three in Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. I enjoyed this one and zipped through it more quickly than the first two, but I still think these three huge books could have been consolidated into ONE novel. But they’re all international best-sellers, so what do I know? I found the first volume a bit tedious, especially in the first half as it set up the story. The second volume really got into the meat of the story and made me appreciate the series more. Some reviewers have complained that this third volume is set after all the real action has taken place, but Larsson still worked a lot of action and twists into the story.

42. Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner – This sequel to Good in Bed is set years later, and the narration alternates between Cannie and her rebellious pre-teen daughter. I understand that motherhood can change someone, but I found many of the changes (and the extent of the changes) in Cannie unrealistic. The central plot line appealed to me as they dealt with the delayed aftermath of the novel Cannie wrote about the experiences described in Good in Bed, and I would recommend this sequel to Weiner fans. Definitely don’t read it without checking out Good in Bed first!

43. The Ship Errant by Jody Lynn Nye

44. Scott Pilgrim Vol. 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley – Between the combined influential forces of Cajun husband and lovely book bloggers, I finally gave in and read the SP books. This was the first graphic novel I’ve read, and I enjoyed it enough to speed through all the sequels and watch the movie. Hubs was afraid I wouldn’t understand all the video game references, but I’ve spent enough time around him and his sister soaking up video game jokes and terms to enjoy the books and movie. You don’t have to be a comic book or video game expert to get into these, but an appreciation of geek culture would be good.

29. Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby –  Not my favorite Hornby, but still full of his signature quirk. Hornby leaves behind his usual 20- or 30-something boys in the city for an aging reclusive rock star, his biggest fan, and his biggest fan’s frustrated girlfriend. While parts of it frustrated me (the obnoxious fan character is, well, obnoxious), I enjoyed the story.

30. South of Broad by Pat Conroy – Apparently this was lesser books by good writers month. I loved Prince of Tides and several of Conroy’s other earlier works, but his past couple just haven’t been as good. I actually picked this book up, read the first two pages, and sat it down for a week because I was drowning in the saccharine ode to Charleston. Conroy’s one of those who sells enough books by being over the top that his editors will never rein him in. (Or perhaps they DO rein him in and he’s actually even MORE excessive? ::gasp::) He weaves in many of his usual elements (Charleston as central character, lead male with woman issues, dangerous figure that haunts the good guys…), and I suppose he’s successful at it. Just… ehh… When an author writes the same thing over and over again, eventually you stop reading even if you loved that thing the first few times.

31. Dixie Lullaby by Mark Kemp – This is a must read for fans of southern rock, but it’s also more. Kemp digs into his complex feelings about the South and its messy past (and present), making this as much a history of the author and southern society as of the music.  Yes, I know I’ve knocked other books for being unsure of their identity, but in my opinion Kemp balanced it well.   I’ve already waxed poetic a bit about this one when I wrote about my trip home because Kemp stirred up my own issues with my southern heritage.

(My June reading list is short, but just wait until you see July… I more than made up for it once I went on my unemployment vacation!)

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18. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson – So much better than the first book! Dragon Tattoo was soooo slow to get started that I had decided I wouldn’t pick up this one. Then I got stranded in a podunk middle of nowhere Texas airport and picked it up in the airport bookstore (the other options were BAD). I really got hooked on this one, and I’m anxious to read the final book of the trilogy, though the reviews haven’t been wonderful.

19. Elvenbane by Mercedes Lackey – More fantasy fun. I enjoyed this one, but haven’t been able to continue the series because book 2 has gone missing from my husband’s collection (which I finally organized so that I could steal his books without going crazy!).

20. The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffery – And more sci fi fun.

21. PartnerShip by Anne McCaffery and Margaret Ball – And the sequel to more sci fi fun. Not as good as the first.

22. The Librarian’s Career Guidebook by Presicilla Shontz  – Excellent guide! I read this as I was applying to library schools, and greatly appreciated all of the advice about applying, planning your career, choosing courses, etc. This collection of essays is divided into sections for each part of a librarian’s career, so I intently read the early stage sections and skimmed more and more as I got to the discussions of avoiding late career burnout at the end. Highly recommended.

(photo is author’s own ridiculously cute kitten when he was younger and hadn’t acquired a massive milk gut yet)

10. Superfreakonomics by Levitt & Dubner (audiobook) – The Freakonomics guys are controversial but always interesting. This sequel has interesting studies on doctors and hand-washing, altruism versus selfishness, and prostitution.

11.  The Robin and the Kestrel by Mercedes Lackey – Book 2 of a trilogy on gypsy bards. A decent fantasy read, but not one of Lackey’s best.

12.  So What Are You Going to Do with That? by Susan Basalla & Maggie Debelius – Excellent book for academics who want to find a job in the “real world.” Look for a review here in the near future!

13.  The Eagle and the Nightingales by Mercedes Lackey – Book 3 of the bardic trilogy.

14.  The Room-Mating Season by Rona Jaffe (audiobook) – Retro-feel chick lit centered on a group of girls who were roommates in the 60s and the tragedy that affected them for the rest of their lives. The narration alternates between the girls over the span of decades, replete with “hey remember the 80s” culture flashbacks for each time period. The characters didn’t feel real to me, and the plot points were a bit forced.

15.  In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan – Excellent book! This was the first I’ve read by Pollan, and I have the rest of his books on my (far too lengthy) to be read list now. If you’re interested in eating natural food, the reasons why our food culture has evolved to its current over-processed state, and the health benefits of avoiding “fake” foods, this is a must read.

16.  First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival by Ken Wheaton – The story of a young, conflicted priest in middle-of-nowhere Louisiana who decides to hold a festival to keep his parishioners from leaving for the lively new evangelical church being built down the road. It’s a very funny story, but not recommended for those who are easily offended (particularly if you’re uncomfortable with depictions of drunk, unhappy priests). I picked this one up because my  husband is from this neck of the bayou, but I don’t think I’ll be passing it along to his parents…

17.  A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg – Finally read this lovely Christmas present! Wizenberg’s book is a quick read, and you can certainly feel the blogginess of it (though not in a bad way). Chapters are about the length of a long blog posts, and each one culminates with a mouth-watering recipe.

5. The Lark and the Wren by Mercedes Lackey – Do I have to admit to reading this? Oh dear. I blame any fantasy or sci fi selections on my husband. Last summer as the wedding was fast approaching my brain could no longer handle any books that required much of me, so my then-fiance went to his bookshelves and handed me some of Lackey’s fairy tale books and then her Heralds of Valdemar trilogy. I’ve never been a fantasy reader, but I was completely hooked. He was sneaky though! He didn’t tell me at the time that the Valdemar trilogy had evolved into dozens of books set in this world. I think I’ve read all of them now — every time I’ve thought I was done, another trilogy would appear in the depths of his bookshelves. (Now that we’re married, I have alphabetized his shelves. I couldn’t help it.)

As for The Lark and the Wren… Hrm. Not as good as the Valdemar books, but interesting enough. This  trilogy (Bardic Voices) is about traveling bards – some magical, some gypsy – and each book focuses on a different pair of bards, though the three stories do build an overall story arc.

6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (large print. Yes, I said large print.) – I’m not sure there’s much left to say about this international bestseller. I did feel that it took a LONG time to get to the meat of the story, but once Larsson gets to the action, you realize it was worth the wait. Some of the more gruesome scenes were too much for me, but I liked that the lurid parts were empowering instead of demeaning to women, as is so often the case. I would not recommend this book to anyone sensitive to detailed depictions of violence, but if you can handle those parts, it’s a great read. Several people have also recommended the movie, which recently came to our local indie theater. If I can convince my husband to sit through three hours of subtitles, we’ll be seeing it soon!

As for the large print? Well, the library’s hold list for the regular version of the book had at least 100 people on it, so I put my name down on the large print list instead. This saved me months of waiting, but I think that the large print contributed to the feeling that the book was at times overly long or slow. It also made me feel either very old (like my Grandma reading the large print Reader’s Digest) or very young (like a kid with her first large print chapter book).

7. Something Blue by Emily Giffin (audiobook) –  This was one of those books you pick up because you need desperately an audiobook for your commute and the library selection is slim. I hated the protagonist. HATED. Perhaps it’s unsophisticated of me to feel this way, but it’s human nature, yall: I prefer books with sympathetic, compelling narrators. Giffin’s lead does eventually show some degree of character development, but it was too little, too late.

8.  The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs – Apparently February was chick lit month… Not my genre, but it was a stressful month. This was a quick read with a collection of predictable plot twists. The story is primarily about a single mother who owns an NYC knitting store and her daughter, but the narration alternates between the various ladies of the knitting club, giving you a glimpse into the tangential stories of a quirky and diverse group (though fairly stereotyped). Recommended if you’re crafty and looking for an easy read.

9.  An Arsonist’s Guide to the Writer’s Homes of New England by Brock Clarke (audiobook) –  Welcome back to the land of unsympathetic narrators! This was an odd one. The more I read (or listened), the more I realized how strange and unreliable the narrator was. Unless you’re prepared to descend into a sad, dark, confusing, mentally ill world, I would not recommend the Arsonist’s Guide. It certainly didn’t meet my strict audiobook criteria, which I will tell you about some time soon.

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