April 22nd, 2010

El Corazon

135 to 152

Middlesex
by Jeffrey Eugenides

Started:
March 30, 2010
Finished: April 8, 2010

Despite all the praise it had received, I put off reading this book for years because the subject matter just didn't sound that interesting to me. Boy was I wrong. What a touching, superbly written family history. 529 pages. Grade: A+
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Ramona Quimby, Age 8
by Beverly Cleary

Started: April 8, 2010
Finished: April 9, 2010

Cleary did a great job of showing the tension and stress that even a mostly happy family can feel at times. Ramona may no longer be a pest but by this book she was a very well-rounded character. 190 pages. Grade: A-
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
by J.K. Rowling

Started: March 30, 2010
Finished: April 1, 2010

A satsfying ending. Yes, there are some slow parts in the middle and the epilogue was kind of lame, but the good parts outweighed the bad by quite a bit. I especially liked the early chapters with Harry leaving the Dursley's and the Snape memories chapter. 759 pages. Grade: A-
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Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary

Started/Finished: April 1, 2010

This is going to sound like a silly criticism for a Ramona Quimby book, but this book was too childish. It wasn't horrible, but it just didn't grab me. 176 pages. Grade: B-
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The Mexican Tree Duck
by James Crumley

Started: March 31, 2010
Finished: April 2, 2010

This book was a disappointment. The story itself was fairly entertaining but the writing was nowhere near as good as the earlier Crumley novels. Too much macho, not enough poetry. 247 pages. Grade: B-
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Playback
by Raymond Chandler

Started: April 2, 2010
Finished: April 3 2010

I'd heard this was the weakest of the Phillip Marlowe novels, but I didn't really think so. The story was a little more straight forward than usual, but the writing was still strong. I enjoyed it. 151 pages. Grade: A-
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Ramona and Her Father
by Beverly Cleary

Started/Finished: April 4, 2010

In my old age, I've decided I like best the Ramona Quimby books where she is being more of a pain in the butt. Still, this was an OK quick read. 165 pages. Grade: B-
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Bordersnakes
by James Crumley

Started: April 4, 2010
Finished: April 10, 2010

Started out decent, had a way over-complicated mess of a plot with far too many characters introduced and then killed off in macho plot twists during the middle hundred pages, and then was a decent read again at the end. An OK book but nowhere near as good as Crumley's first three detective novels. 320 pages. Grade: C
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Ramona and Her Mother
by Beverly Cleary

Started/Finished: April 10, 2010

I accidentally read the last two Ramona Quimby books out of order, not that continuity is a huge deal with this series but my OCD tendencies don't like that. This was a decent read. Nothibg special but nothing awful either. 208 pages. Grade: B
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The Remains of the Day
by Kazuo Ishiguro

Started: April 10, 2010
Finished: April 13, 2010

Just a perfect novel. Not a wasted word or sentence in it. By the end of the book, Stevens was a perfectly-formed character who I cared about deeply. 245 pages. Grade: A+
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The Final Country
by James Crumley

Started: April 10, 2010
Finished: April 13, 2010

A huge improvement over the last couple of Crumley novels. Crumley no longer was a great poet, the words in this novel don't sing, but the story is well-told and the characters are interesting. 310 pages. Grade: A-
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Ramona Forever
by Beverly Cleary

Started/Finished: April 13, 2010

I know Cleary wrote one more Ramona book in the nineties, but this is the last one I read as a kid so it seems the fitting conclusion of the series to me with the wedding and the new baby and Ramona realizing she's growing up. The cat dying chapter is still especially memorable. 191 pages. Grade: A-
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I Am Legend
by Richard Matheson

Started/Finished: April 14, 2010

My favorite vampire novel ever, despite having to read a copy with Will Smith's corny visage on the cover this time. Holds up to repeat readings very well. 170 pages. Grade: A+
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The Right Madness
by James Crumley

Started/Finished: April 14, 2010

Much like The Final Country, this isn't a particularly poetic book but it is a darn good story at heart with some interesting characters moving the plot forward. 289 pages. Grade: B+
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Ramona's World
by Beverly Cleary

Started/Finished: April 14, 2010

Not written until 1999, I don't have any fond childhood memories of this book. It was OK overall but kind of boring since Ramona had lost most of her 'pest' attitude by this point. 240 pages. Grade: C+
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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream
by Hunter S. Thompson

Started: April 14, 2010
Finished: April 19, 2010

Thompson is best read in long stretches where his style and logic can take over your mind. A great book that holds up well to repeated readings. 204 pages. Grade: A
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Midnight's Children
by Salman Rushdie

Started: April 14, 2010
Finished: April 20, 2010.

Got fairly bored with this book at about page 400, or at about the point where Saleem loses his powers. The long-winded sentences became almost gibberish to me, and I just wanted the book to be over. All that being said, I pretty much enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book. The language was pretty. 533 pages. Grade: B-
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Revolutionary Road
by Richard Yates

Started: April 18, 2010
Finished: April 21, 2010

The first third of this novel is a surefire A+, a great look at the monotony of early suburban life. The rest of this book is still good, but I imagine it was better in 1961 before every other book, movie, and television show had touched on adultery and abortion. 355 pages. Grade: A-
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Total # of Books Read in 2010: 152
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 38,584
R;Ned's toes, TE reading

Terrier, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Courtney Crumrin's Monstrous Holiday

1. Photobucket
Terrier, by Tamora Pierce
Finished, April 17

The first book in Tamora Pierce's new series, it's lighter and a quicker read than many of her earlier ones. She also uses a journal format, which I found a little too twee for my taste, but I enjoyed the mystery, and read the book in about 24 hours.
Stars: 4/5

2. Photobucket
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, by John Perkins
Finished, April 20

I may be jaded and over-educated, but I didn't feel this book told me anything I didn't already know – the US uses international loans to leverage developing countries, private companies are in on it, etc etc. Perhaps it's been long enough since publication for this book to be truly groundbreaking.
Stars: 3/5

3. Photobucket
Courtney Crumrin's Monstrous Holiday, by Ted Naifeh

At last, another Courtney Crumrin book! This one has Courtney and her uncle Aloysius taking a vacation through Eastern Europe, encountering various beasties, and being as witty and fun as ever. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Stars: 5/5

Date started: April 15
Books: 3/50
book fail, black books

Book 38: Life as we knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Book 38: Life as we knew it
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer, 2006.
Genre: Speculative Fiction. Post-Cataclysm. YA.
Other Details: Paperback. 339 pages.

The Moon gets smacked by an asteroid and like a billiard ball ends up being knocked closer to Earth, causing havoc with tides, volcanoes, and triggers extreme climate change. Sixteen year-year old Miranda lives in a small town in Pennsylvania and begins her journal detailing the usual teen concerns. Miranda is more annoyed that all this Moon business is generating extra homework than thinking what might happen to the Moon or Earth. However, after the event, her journal becomes a record of her family's response to the escalating natural disasters and their struggle for survival.

I cannot bring myself to label this novel as science-fiction as the scientific aspects were so appallingly bad they made my brain hurt. Collapse ) /end of rant.

On the upside, it did actually made me reconsider my response to The Road, which I had criticised for the author's unwillingness to identify the nature of the disaster that had destroyed the environment and civilisation. I realised that if you haven't the necessary scientific background background that it is far far wiser to skirt around the issue than to stuff your book full of bad science that may end up misleading readers, no matter what their age. Many reviews cited how scary the book was but I did not find it so because of the implausibility of the book's central premise.

The other aspect of the novel that bothered me was its message in terms of community. Although there are obviously people off-stage working hard to restore services and ensure that people don't starve, the attitude expressed by Miranda's mum and passed on to her children is one of entitlement and greed. I found her an appalling character even if Miranda herself was sweet and the journal format offered quite an authentic feel. I am not going to bother with further books in this series.
books

(no subject)

 The Last Apprentice:  Clash of the Demons - Joseph Delaney

Being a Spook's apprentice is never an easy row to hoe, but for Thomas Ward it has been living Hell, sometimes literally.  Nothing he has faced, however, could prepare him for this adventure.  His mother, a lamia witch, is determined to return to Greece to face and defeat her ancient enemy, the Ordeen.  Knowing that the task cannot be accomplished alone, Mam has recruited a motley crew of allies, including a spook from the northern end of the county and the Pembleton Witches.  But Mam's choice of allies opens a rift between Thomas and his master, when Mam asks the two to accompany her and join her in her fight.  

I could go further, but I don't want to throw too many spoilers out there.

Now, this isn't great literature . . . not by any stretch of the imagination, but The Last Apprentice series is one of the best young adult fantasy series out there right now.  Frankly, I think this series is vastly superior to the Harry Potter books.  Delaney challenges his readers more, posing more complex and troubling moral dilemmas to his audience than Rowling would ever dare.  

And this latest installment does not disappoint.  Perhaps the most impressive part of the series is the manner in which Delaney maintains the quality of his writing.  One of the most disappointing things about the Harry Potter series was the fashion in which the quality of the writing fell off (with the seventh book being the very worst); Delaney avoids this curse with convincing deftness.

If you have a young reader in your life, I highly recommend the series.  My only caution is that it should be saved for middle school, unless your later elementary school reader is unusually sophisticated.

Books Read:  6 / 50

Pages Read:  3,115 / 15,000
books

(no subject)

Sixty Days and Counting - Kim Stanley Robinson

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In fairness, any review I make of this book should be taken with a rather large grain of salt.  I wasn't paying close enough attention to publication dates, and I ended up reading the third book in the trilogy before I read the first two books.

That caveat out of the way . . . this was not a book that I enjoyed enough to re-read, much less recommend.  This is a real disappointment for me, as Robinson's Days of Rice and Salt is one of my favorite books.  Nothing else he has written has even come close to matching that work, however, and this book isn't even in the same galaxy.  Yes, Robinson's writing is clean and tight.  His characters are three-dimensional.  And he displays a refreshing combination of scientific knowledge and capacity to avoid jargon.

Nonetheless, the flaws overcome this book's other fine qualities.  

First, the book is far too preachy.  Now, I have been reading about and studying climate change issues since the late 1980's, so if I find the sermons irksome you know he's gone overboard with the preaching.  

Second, Frank Vanderwaal is more neurotic and Woody Allen, and that starts to grate after about fifty pages.

Third, the plot is too leisurely.  Now, I've read (and loved) enough Tolstoy to be well-adapted to the deliberative unfolding of a plot-line, so if it's going too slow for me . . . well, that's pretty, bloody slow.

Finally, while I understand that there is a certain sense of "wrapping up" that is an integral part of the final book in any series, but this book really does take that too far.  The whole thing reads like nothing but one long coda.  

So, no, I cannot recommend this book, though I still highly recommend Kim Stanley Robinson as an author.  

Books Read:  7 / 50

Pages Read:  3,675 / 15,000 
amy poehler

(no subject)

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17. Spellbound by Beauty by Spoto - I liked this one better than TDSOG. It was shorter and less about everything and more about interesting stuff. Juicy. Alfred Hitchock was bizarre.

18. The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw - Didn't like it. Too romancy and I couldn't connect with any of the main characters, they just didn't have any nice qualities about them. Weird romance too. Just too much, didn't like it.