Sunday, March 25, 2012

Game of Thrones!

Yesterday, I finally finished Game of Thrones, so that can finally be crossed off the list of books lingering from last year. I really enjoyed it, so I have no particularly good excuse for why I kept putting it down. The motivation that finally got me to finish was that season 2 of the show starts next week; now that I've finished the book, I've started watching season 1, and I'm hoping to read the second book this week.

I've also decided to take The Warden off the list, because it's been so long since I made real progress on it that my memory is getting hazy and I'll probably just start it over some point. So, new goal: Finish those other two in April.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

REVIEW: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

I heard people rave about The Thief for years, and I kept meaning to read it, really. But I got it out of the library once or twice, read the first few pages, and just wasn't feeling it. I finally decided that that was ridiculous, that this time I was pushing through no matter what - it's just over 200 pages! - and let me tell you, I am so glad I did. Its slightly slow beginning notwithstanding, this is an astounding novel. It's about a thief named Gen who is taken out of prison to go on an Epic Quest with the king's magus to steal something on behalf of the king . . . and actually, I'm going to stop there. I thought the book had slightly less of an impact than it otherwise might have just because of some things I'd read in reviews, so I don't want to risk ruining that for anyone else. Let me just say that the writing was lovely, the plot was impressively well-constructed, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

First Thoughts: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

As is my usual practice, I will be waiting until closer to Unspoken's release date in September to post my full review, but I read the ARC from NetGalley this week, so I thought I'd mention. This book was completely delightful. I laughed, I cried, I sent the author irrational emails in the middle of the night calling her horrible names . . . but in a good way! Because she created these characters and made me care about them so much and then messed up their lives in such deviously brilliant, awful, perfect ways . . .

Well, let me back up. In case you have not heard, Unspoken is the first in the Lynburn Legacy series about an awesome girl reporter, her imaginary friend who just might be a real boy, and their friends(...ish), banding together to figure out what they heck is happening in their sleepy little British village and how they and their families are involved in it. There's mystery and suspense and magic and romance and family secrets and friendship and a Gothic manor and creepy woods and a no-nonsense heroine and a hero with All The Feelings and basically everything you could want in a book. September 11! Order it now! Or, really, don't worry, I will remind you!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Still alive! Still reading!

Hello! Sorry for the radio silence. Here's what happened...

I was concentrating almost exclusively on The Game of Thrones, because the second season starts soon and I need to catch up. And I'm really enjoying it, and making slow but steady progress.

But then it looked like someone might have a hold on Why We Broke Up that wouldn't let me renew it, so I decided to read that first. But then renewing it worked. So I'm reading both.

But then I needed something to read on the train, and both of those were way too heavy to carry around the city all day, so I started Robin McKinley's Sunshine. And now I'm kind of more into that than the others, at least for the moment.

And I still have bookmarks in the books listed in the sidebar, too.

I will finish at least two of these books by this weekend. I promise.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

REVIEW: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

When you hear that Jennifer Castle's The Beginning of After is about a girl whose parents and little brother die in a car crash, you might think that it sounds a lot like If I Stay. But let me clear that up - though a few very basic facts of the premise are similar, this is a completely different book, both in tone and content. This one is focused on how Laurel starts to pick up the pieces and figure out what she can and should do with her life once her family is gone, and how her relationships change with the people who are left, including her best friend, her grandmother, her crush, and the bad-boy neighbor whose family is also involved in the tragedy. Castle also does a great job of showing how people's attitudes toward Laurel change, both individually and as a community, as she becomes instantly notorious as The Girl Whose Family Died. There was a little less romance than I expected based on some reviews I'd read, but that was actually completely fine, as it made sense for that to be on a back burner for Laurel given the circumstances. And the ending was satisfying and hopeful without being too sentimental or pat. This was an absorbing, haunting read. Highly recommended.

Monday, February 13, 2012

REVIEW: Tris and Izzie

I picked up Mette Ivie Harrison's Tris and Izzie because I'm a sucker for anything Arthurian, but honestly, this one didn't really do it for me. As the title implies, it's a retelling of Tristan and Isolde, which has never really been one of my favorites, I guess. But in this version, I didn't like EITHER of the main characters - Izzie was pretty obnoxious, and Tristan just didn't have any discernible personality. So it made it hard to be particularly invested in their story. The descriptions were good, and there was a lot of action, but the dialogue was stilted and didn't sound like any teenager I've ever met. And I wasn't wild about how drastically the ending was changed, but I guess, as Harrison mentions in her afterword, today's market demanded it. All in all, if you're looking for an Arthurian story set at a modern American high school, I'd go with Meg Cabot's Avalon High instead.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Book of Blood & Shadow

Robin Wasserman's The Book of Blood and Shadow isn't out in the States yet, so I'm saving my full review for release week, but in the interest of recording each book I finish this year, let me just say: Oh my gosh I loved this book. And I loved it even aside from the fact that translating Latin played a big role in the plot, and really, I'm the sort of person who would happily read a novel that was just about translating Latin. But this also had mystery (which I always want more of in YA) and romance and centuries-old secrets and an extremely good portrayal of grief. I can't wait for you all to read it.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

REVIEW: I Broke My Trunk!

I Broke My Trunk! is a book for beginning readers, so I'm not counting it toward my 100 for the year, but since I read it I thought I'd tell you what I thought. (I got it from the library because it's a Geisel honor book this year.) It's part of Mo Willems's Elephant and Piggie series. The story is simple but very cute and genuinely funny; the illustrations reminded me of an old comic strip. Overall, I thought the book was cute, but it didn't necessarily strike me as a stand-out. But then, I've never been as big a Willems fan as a lot of people are. Again - nothing against him! And the book was fine! But I feel like I'm just not seeing whatever element it is that makes this one of the best books of the year.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A perspective on the library issues...

My friend Caitlin, who also happens to be a librarian in my area (though not my city), left this comment on one of the library posts, and I wanted to put it in a post so all of you involved in the original discussion would see it:
"As a librarian and a manager of circulation staff, this is exactly the sort of thing I would want to know about. If he did just take the book from you for no good reason, I would want to discuss this with him. It's entirely possible that he didn't realize that patrons could keep books longer than the renewal limit, in which case other patrons will suffer as well. I had a similar situation occur with one of my staff members, and it was only because I was at the desk at the same time as the transaction occurred that I was able to correct her and discuss it with her. I'm always upset when a patron doesn't receive good service, but even more so when I don't find out about it for a long time. If you don't mention this sort of thing to the managers, then things won't ever improve at this library.

Also, as far as the "no adults allowed" policy, it is generally in place to protect kids and teens from predators and cover the library in case they have to ask someone to leave. If there's no policy to point to and no signs posted, the library can get in serious trouble. Generally speaking, as long as you are looking at the books and not at children (even if you are browsing and not looking for anything in particular), no one will say anything to you. And if they do, I would ask to speak to the director. You do pay taxes that support this library, and you have the same rights as other taxpayers to access all of the materials."
Thanks, Caitlin! You make very good points. I don't know the name of the circulation worker in question, but if it happens again, I will figure it out and contact someone in management. And you're completely right about the children's section policy, and of course protecting children should be the priority. In most libraries, I wouldn't really worry about it because I'm sure it's always clear that I'm looking for books, but I tend to get stressed out (and probably overreact) about any interaction with the staff at this library because of several unpleasant conversations in the past. My general strategy is to smile and be super-polite and convince them to like me eventually. :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

REVIEW: Imaginary Girls

Chloe has always had her big sister Ruby to take care of her - and Ruby has never had any trouble making Chloe and everyone else in town do exactly what she wants. But after Chloe finds a girl's body in the reservoir in their town, she's sent away for a while, and when she returns, she starts trying to figure out exactly what's going on with Ruby, the maybe-dead girl, and everyone else. It's twisty and turny and haunting and beautifully written.

But honestly, Imaginary Girls was one of those books that I admire but never quite warmed up to. For one thing, everything was really mysterious, and while I do like books that deliberately confuse me for a while (see also: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer), I get frustrated if things aren't explained to my satisfaction eventually. We do get some answers in this book, but not enough for me. This is an issue I always have with magical realism, and though I haven't seen this book classified that way, that's probably what I'd call it. I hated Ruby, which was probably intended but made it harder to keep reading, and I spent most of the book wanting to shake Chloe. By the end, the reasons why Chloe was acting in infuriating ways are explained, so I don't hate her in retrospect, but it still made for a frustrating reading experience.

On the other hand, the mysteries were compelling and kept me turning pages. There's a drowned city, which is an element I always like. And, as I mentioned, Nova Ren Suma's writing is completely gorgeous, so even though this book wasn't my favorite, I will definitely read her next book.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Oh, my library...

Yes, as you've all noticed, my library has some Issues. About that children's/YA policy, here's the official line:
"Adults unaccompanied by a child who do not require immediate materials from the Children's area shall be asked to relocate to other areas of the library."
There are signs up that have it worded a little differently - I forget exactly how, but they're where I got the "Looking for a specific book is okay but browsing is not" idea. And they're posted in the YA area as well, so I assume that's included. I assume the basic idea is to protect children from predators. They've never challenged me - it probably helps that I'm female and young-looking - but I'm always ready with an "I was looking for xyz book" answer just in case.

And yes, I do know this library is "backwards" (as a commenter put it) in many ways. As someone who trained as a librarian (though I don't currently work in a library), it drives me completely crazy. Making it worse: I am in the second-largest city in the state. Not that tiny towns don't need good libraries too, of course, but for some reason I expect this sort of thing less in cities. But here, actually, I've lived in two nearby much-smaller towns that had great libraries - and were part of a system, so it was actually easier to get specific materials than in this plays-well-with-no-one city library - and the city's is much much worse. Sigh.

I did just get an email that they're holding Saving Francesca for me again finally, so I'll go retrieve that over the weekend. Still working on Imaginary Girls - the writing is good but I really dislike pretty much all of the characters so far so I'm having a hard time.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


A few of you asked about the renewal issue, so: The library has no published policy of a renewal limit. They do have a limit of two renewals online, but usually, if you bring the book into the library they just check that you haven't destroyed it or anything and go ahead and renew it. (As long as no one has it on hold, of course.) This time, the guy* said "No, that has to come back," so I just assumed someone had put it on hold. But when I got home and went to the online catalog to put myself back on the list for it, the status was - and still is - "Shelving Cart" rather than "On hold for someone," which is what it has always otherwise said when a book is, you know, on hold for someone. So . . . maybe there was something else going on I couldn't see from the patron view of the catalog? Maybe he just decided I had too many books out and he would take that one back? No idea.

I'm not going to make an issue of it with management, for two reasons: 1) The librarians** at this library are known, both in my own experience and in general reputation, for being unfriendly and unhelpful, and 2) I try to keep a low profile there, because this library does have a policy against adults browsing the YA or children's sections, and I semi-blatantly ignore that. (I do always have a title in mind I can tell them I'm looking for if they challenge me.) So I don't want to complain about this incident if it will result in that guy and/or other library staff looking for an excuse to bar me from YA and children's. Because I love those sections!

* Not sure if he's a professional librarian or not.
** Here I do mean professional librarians; the teens who work circulation are delightful.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I am enjoying Saving Francesca but didn't finish it, planning to renew it at the library today - but they wouldn't let me. I assumed that meant someone else had requested it, but no, I just checked the catalog and it isn't on hold. They were just being mean, apparently. Sigh. (Some of the people who work at this library are mean to everyone, all the time. It makes me sad.) So I've requested it again, and in the meantime I will continue with Imaginary Girls and start the Steve Jobs biography, which is due on Monday. I'm going to have to make a point of carving out reading time for the next month, because the Oscar nominations were announced today, so I am embarking on my mad struggle to see as many of the nominated movies as humanly possible. So we'll see how that goes.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

REVIEW: Anna Dressed in Blood

Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed in Blood was either the sweetest horror novel I've ever read, or the most graphically violent sweet romance I've ever read, or, probably, both, and more than that. I had heard a lot about this story of a ghost hunter who falls for a violent, deadly ghost, and yet I was still surprised by just how good it was. It reminded me a little of Supernatural, except set in a world in which women are equal characters. And it pulls no punches - people (and animals) are dying all over the place, and the main character, Cas, knows from long experience that he has to be pretty callous about using people. If he's trying to save the city from a ghost, does it matter whether he hurts some feelings along the way? Not really, and so he's trained himself to never care. Except this city is different: this time he starts caring about his schoolmates, and the ghost, so all bets are off. It's scary and beautiful and heartbreaking and I can't wait for the sequel. (August!)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Bad Week

This was one of those weeks that wasn't bad because some huge awful thing happened, but rather because of a progression of small things, plus my general mood and the fact that I haven't slept through the night since November. The fact that I also haven't gotten much reading done this week plays into this from both ends. On the one hand, having a bad week means I've been too distracted to have much time for reading, and have had trouble getting into books when I do have time. But on the other hand, I know perfectly well that the very fact that I'm not reading much brings my mood down and contributes to the bad-week stuff. So it's a very bad cycle.

So! It is Friday night! The work week is over! I am starting fresh! I'm going to finish Anna Dressed in Blood tonight, really, this time, I swear. And maybe make some progress in Game of Thrones. And/or start another library book. But I will read! And I will feel better!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


As a gesture of support for SOPA Strike, I will not be posting tomorrow. I will return Thursday and hopefully have a review of Anna Dressed in Blood by then! I'm really enjoying it so far and just need to find a decent block of time to make some serious progress.

Book buying report: I couldn't resist preordering Elmore Leonard's Raylan, which arrived today. But there are two earlier books about the character that I want to read (from the library) before diving in.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

REVIEW: Small Town Sinners

Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker is the compelling story of Lacey Anne Byer, a pastor's daughter who begins to question the worldview she's grown up with as she grows up. It features complex religious characters, a main character who undergoes significant but believable development over the course of the book, and a seriously swoony - but not perfect - love interest. You may be sensing a theme: Yes, the characters were much more well-rounded than I expected from a novel dealing with religion, as far too often either religious characters are all-good or all-bad. Here they're just people, which is refreshing. I found a few of the plot twists predictable, but it didn't take anything away from the book, because just because I had an idea of something that might happen didn't mean I had any idea how it would play out. And Walker maintains a wonderful amount of tension: I couldn't put this down. Bonus feature: a Hell House!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

REVIEW: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Where to begin? This books has had an almost mystical position in my life - my dad loves it, and the BBC miniseries, and somehow I always accepted that it was a great book without ever thinking to read it. When I heard the new movie was coming out, I decided it was time, and I was a little worried that it wouldn't be as good as I'd always heard, but that worry was completely unfounded. It was amazing. I've been slowly working through Le Carre's novels, and I've enjoyed the other three (his first three) a great deal, but this one displayed a whole other level of complexity and skill. It was dense, and took a very long time for me to read, and I already want to reread it to pick up on the things I missed the first time, but that came across as a deficiency in me, not the book. I am not as smart as Smiley. I accept this.

A quick word on plot, for those of you who haven't seen the miniseries or the new movie* yet: George Smiley, retired spy, is secretly brought in to find out the identity of a mole that the Russians have placed in the British secret service. The story has several layers and puzzles and knots, and some amazing characters, and the writing is exquisite. If you haven't read Le Carre, you might want to try his first, Call for the Dead, as a kind of warm-up, but if you like spy stories, you must read this at some point.

* The miniseries and new movie are both extremely good and I highly recommend them!

Friday, January 13, 2012


Sorry things got so boring around here, but I have finally finished Tinker Tailor! But please don't take my relief at being done as a sign that it wasn't AMAZING. It just took me way longer to read than I expected, because it was so complex. I will sleep on it and post my review tomorrow.

Next up: finishing Small Town Sinnners.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

This is taking much longer than planned.

I'm still reading Tinker Tailor! And loving it! But it's taking forever! I don't know what my problem is. I only have about 50 pages left now. I will finish it soon. I swear. I have a whole stack of library and other books I am excited to get to as soon as possible.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


(I see I have used this subject line before, already, and it's only January. Double oops.)

Well, I still haven't finished Tinker, Tailor. I did get caught up on a bunch of non-reading things this weekend, so that's something. And even though, as I said, it's not that slow of a read, I did realize that the labyrinthine plot meant that I had to be really awake to read it, so the past two nights I didn't read as long as I'd planned because I got too sleepy to follow it properly. Oh well. I did go ahead and see the movie yesterday - it was really good! - because I didn't want to risk missing it in case it doesn't stay in theaters here for long. But anyway, I have less than 100 pages left in the book, and I swear I will finish tomorrow!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Movie prep

The new Tinker Tailor movie is finally in my area, so now I'm trying to finish the book before going to see a matinee tomorrow! I'm only a little past page 100 (of about 350) but it's a quicker read than I expected. I'm hoping to get to 200 tonight, and then I can finish up in the morning. Off to read!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

REVIEW: Ten Miles Past Normal

You know that stage you go through when you read the Little House books or Anne of Green Gables and decide you want to live on a farm, but your parents say "That's nice, dear, but no way," and eventually you grow out of it? Well, in Frances O'Roark Dowell's Ten Miles Past Normal, Janie Gorman's parents actually went for it. Except then she eventually grew out of it, and they didn't, so now she's stuck on a farm as she starts high school and tries to have a normal life. My favorite thing about this book was how it recognized both that it's fine to be different AND that it's fine to want to fit in sometimes.

Other good things it had: a very different-than-usual love interest and a perfect (and unusual) resolution to that part of the story. A painfully realistic portrayal of the way it suddenly gets difficult to deal with your family and friends when you're about 14. A look at what happens when all those adorable kids of mommy bloggers start growing up. There are some unconventional role models and some interesting Civil Rights history thrown in. And there's a character who says this:
"I watch the History Channel while I knit. It's World War I week. I've decided that to truly understand World War II, you must have all the facts about World War I. And by tonight at ten o'clock, I shall."
So, basically, I HAD to love this book. It's a quick read, just over 200 pages, and makes for a lovely evening or - in my case - afternoon home sick from work, reading and wearing pajamas and drinking tea.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

REVIEW: Claire de Lune

I finished Christine Johnson's Claire de Lune on New Year's Eve, and it was a really pleasant surprise! It's not that I expected it to be bad or anything, but werewolves just aren't my thing. I don't actively dislike them the way some people do, but I don't seek them out, either. But Christine and I had started chatting on Twitter, so I wanted to try her books. I didn't tell her when I had started the book so that if it wasn't my thing, I could just pretend the whole thing never happened . . .

But I wound up really liking it! Her heroine, Claire, felt very real, and though of course I always identify with unpopular YA heroines who read a lot, it was sort of refreshing having one who cared about boys and makeup and wanted to be normal. There are some very sweet dating scenes that lead to an awesome forbidden romance, and while often these romances with life-or-death stakes seem contrived or exaggerated, in this case, all of the conflict in the book grew organically from the rules of the universe that Johnson had created, so it worked. This didn't convert me into a werewolf fan in general, but I'll definitely be reading the sequel!

Monday, January 2, 2012

First Finish of 2012: Team Human!

(Well, technically my first finish was Secrets of a Summer Night, last night, but this was the first I both started and finished in 2012...)

I stayed up way too late last night reading, and then hurried home from my parents' house today, all so I could finish reading Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan. It's a vampire novel, but it's unlike any vampire story you've read or seen. It was hilarious and touching and romantic and serious and . . . just everything. I loved it. Its tagline is "Friends don't let friends date vampires." What more do you need to know? There are Wuthering Heights jokes and awesome kissing scenes and a girl sleuth with her trusty sidekick and very real-feeling sibling and friend relationships. Unfortunately (well, for you) it's not actually out until July, so I'm going to save my full review until closer to the release date, but don't worry: I will NOT let you forget about this book.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Good evening! It's January first, so my project can finally officially begin. A recap: in 2012 I'm trying to read at least 100 books from start to finish. I have a bad habit of starting things and never finishing, even if I like them perfectly well, so I'm hoping that reporting on my progress here will keep me accountable. I will post at least short reviews of all 100 books, and will post progress updates most other days. (I'm not pledging a post every day, because that's just dooming myself to failure, but I'll manage as close to that as I can.)

I'm only counting books that I started in 2012, so first on the list is the one I started shortly after midnight: Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier. I've only read a few chapters so far, because my family has a big annual New Year's Day party that's taken up all my time today, but I love it already. I'll probably finish it by tomorrow; next on my list to start are Catherine the Great by Robert Massie (a Christmas gift) and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre, because I'm planning to see the movie next weekend.

I had a list of ten unfinished or abandoned books I was trying to finish before starting this project, and I got through five of them, which isn't too bad. I finished Claire de Lune last night and will have a review for you soon. I'm about 100 pages from the end of Secrets of a Summer Night, and I'm planning to finish it as soon as I'm through writing this. I'll try to finish the others soon as well, but they won't count toward my 100 since I started them before 2012.

Hope everyone had a great holiday!