56. Housekeeping vs. the Dirt by Nick Hornby (153 pages) The third collection I've read of one of my favorite authors' columns about his monthly reading. Of course, Hornby is both hilarious and thought-provoking. Though I've added a few of his recommendations to my wish list, the important part of Hornby's criticism is the thoughts he expresses on the act of reading itself. He cuts through the snobbery and pretension of art and artifice and hits on the pure enjoyment of reading and having a friendly conversation with our books. He makes me want to read more, as well as to add more books to the insane pile in my closet. Grade: A
"The tone suggested that death was too good for cat haters."
"…who had eighteen different words for snow. All of them, unfortunately, unprintable."
"Nanny believed that a bit of thrilling and pointless terror was an essential ingredient of the magic of childhood."
"Ninety percent of true love acute, ear-burning embarrassment."
"I was walking along the ground. A lot of people do, you know. I mean, I know it's been done before. It's not original. It probably lacks imagination, but, well, it’s always been good enough for me."
"Only in our dreams are we free. The rest of the time we need wages."
"Meat is extremely bad for the digestive system," said Magrat. "If you could see the inside of your colon, you'd be horrified." "I think I would," muttered Hwel.
"They thought they wanted to be taken out of themselves, and every art humans dreamt up took them further in."
57. Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett (233 pages) Discworld's take on Shakespeare (sort of a blend of King Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet, and Shakespeare himself) is my new favorite Terry Pratchett novel. Three witches decide that it might be best if they meddled in the affairs of the kingdom by saving the heir to the usurped throne. They have to deal with a sad Fool, the crazed Duke, an annoying ghost, and a tortured playwright who wants to rewrite history. The characters are brilliantly portrayed, the plot is delightfully twisted, and Pratchett's prose is both mind-bendingly clever and absolutely hilarious. I don't think I've laughed so hard at a book this year. Pratchett remains a master of the genre, comically bending it in order to wring more truth from it. And I personally always love a book that features a cat. Grade: A+
58. Mississippi Jack by L.A. Meyer (611 pages) There's nothing like jumping on a ship with Jacky Faber for a great romantic, comedic, stirringly adventurous summer read. Meyer never falls to keep the pages flying by with his masterful, daring, and brilliant writing of one of the most loveable, daring, charming, and passionate heroines of all literature, Jacky Faber. In this addition to the fantastic set at the early 19th century series, Jacky Faber journeys down the American rivers towards New Orleans on a riverboat, finding adventure and danger among the Native Americans, backwoods men, revivals, trappers, slavers, entertainers, and British soldiers. Refreshingly, her beloved Jaimy Fletcher finally gets his own adventure as he runs after her. Though the book is really episodic and does not stand alone, it doesn't really matter. This series, which never shies away from adult and historically accurate issues, is both hilarious and stirring, exciting and deeply refreshing. The heroine is as flawed as she is enchanting, and though she gets plenty of comeuppance, the reader is always glad she escapes and the adventures continue. A brilliant, refreshing, engaging read for late teenagers as well as adults. Grade: A
59. Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli (210 pages) Sirena is a mermaid, born of Eros and a rainbow fish, and, along with her forty nine sisters, she is mortal unless she can gain the love of a mortal man. Sirena, though, is horrified by her song's ability to kill and destroy. Then she saves the life of Philoctetes and gains his love, but will it be enough? Napoli brings a beautiful, sad, and lively voice to mythological characters and story. A well-written, engaging fairy tale about love gained and lost. Grade: A-
60. Haunted Waters by Mary Pope Osborne (147 pages) Osborne retells the love story between the mysterious and magical free spirited Undine and the knight that marries her and brings her into his civilized world, with powerful pathos and enchanting imagery (particularly that longing for the sea and freedom set against the longing for love and acceptance). The fairy tale is full of original and powerful imagination, but never forgetting the human characters full of soul, or the very real meaning of the tale. Perfect. Grade: A