Monday, December 12, 2011

Still Catching Up

I'm nearing the home stretch. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can catch up by the end of the week.

'The Invisible Tower' by Nils Johnson Shelton--Another good but not great book for younger readers. And I had such high hopes. I mean, any book where Merlin is still alive and is the proprietor of a comic book shop is going to pique my interest. Sadly, it felt like it was trying to hard to be nerd-cool at the expense of being fun. Of course, I'm far outside it's target audience and there are probably hordes of ten-year-olds who will really get into it.

'The Garden Intrigue' by Lauren Willig--Another charming installment in her Pink Carnation series. I keep waiting for there to be a clunker in this series (it seems to happen to even the best authors), but there has yet to be one. I dread the day when she decides to tell Jane's story because I'm pretty sure she's holding that one back for the very last. Until then, I look forward to every new book.

'Bloodrose' by Andrea Cremer--This is the final volume of her Nightshade trilogy and it was an excellent ending. The action never let up, there were a couple of heartbreaking deaths, and the resolution was one that I should have suspected might be coming, but didn't. And, although it left me wanting to read more from this author, I am perfectly satisfied to leave this world she created just as it is.

'Unclaimed' by Courtney Milan--A really, really lovely historical romance which will join the list of those titles to be placed in the hands of those who claim the genre is nothing but fluff. If reading novels like this one doesn't change their minds, then they're just stubborn.

'Sex, Gossip, and Rock & Roll' by Nicola Marsh--A contemporary series romance, which I rarely read mostly because they're too short. I quite enjoyed it, but wished it had a few more pages to further develop some of the supporting characters and their stories.

'Night Hawk' by Beverly Jenkins--I used to read Beverly Jenkins fairly regularly, but haven't read any of her books for a few years and I'm not sure why. Reading this one reminded me of all the things I enjoyed about her work and I've since picked up a couple of her older titles to add to my TBR pile. I love not just that she writes about non-white heroes and heroines (which is huge), but that her research is thorough and exposes me to historical events that I probably wouldn't otherwise have learned about.

'The Snow Child' by Eowyn Ivey--Oh, how I loved this book. It's just simply beautiful. I picked it up because I love fairy tale re-tellings and grew up reading books about frontier days. This is a re-telling of a Russian folktale set in Alaska in the '20s and it was just so, so wonderful. I think this is likely to make my Best of 2012 list, even though it will publish in February and there are ten months more of books that may knock it from its perch. Oh, just, wow. Read this. Please.

'Pure' by Julianna Baggott--This is being marketed as an adult book, but is clearly YA dystopic fiction. It's true that there is a segment of the adult reading audience who misses out on a lot of great fiction because it's shelved in the "Kids" section, but this maybe isn't the book to try crossing over. It's okay, and to an adult reader who hasn't read a lot of YA dystopic fiction it'll probably seem fresh and unique. I just don't think it's worth the extra seven or eight dollars the publisher is going to be able to charge by marketing it to an adult audience.

'Fever' by Lauren DeStefano--This is the second volume in her Chemical Garden trilogy and I think I liked it ever better than the first volume. Usually, the middle books in trilogies feel like "bridge" books and are weaker than the first and third volumes. This one bucked the trend. It's still very much a bridge book, but it also added new elements to the story and has gotten me really excited for the third volume.

'The Mirage' by Matt Ruff--I really liked this topsy-turvy look at the events of 9/11. In Ruff's world, the attacks take place on 11/9 and it's American extremists who take down the twin towers in Baghdad. It's clever and smart and has an interesting take on who some of the central players would have become if things had played out differently. Oh, and Rummy got his, so extra super bonus points to Ruff for pulling that off.

'Incarnate' by Jodi Meadows--Another book that I absolutely loved. It's a YA paranormal, but there's not a werewolf or vampire or fallen angel to be found. It has a wholly unique mythology and a heroine who is so broken that you can't help but ache for her. An absolutely wonderful book.

'Cinder' by Marissa Meyer--Another fairy tale re-telling, this being a Cinderella (natch) story set in the future and featuring a cyborg Cinderella. It took me a while to get into, but, as soon as it started clicking with me, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.

The rest of the catch-up list is now less than 20 titles, so I feel like I've made some progress. I probably won't be able to post tomorrow, but I won't have a lot of time for reading either, so I shouldn't get myself further behind.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Next Batch

Okay. So, here's the next twenty or so in my catch-up marathon.

'Animal Attraction' by Jill Shalvis--Jill Shalvis + hunky vet + cuddly animals = The Grilled Cheese Sandwich of reading. Perfect rainy day comfort food.

'The Silent Oligarch' by Chris Morgan Jones--Reminded me of the spy novels that were being written during the Cold War, including the Russian bad guys. Quieter and more cerebral than I usually go for, with a lower body count and not nearly enough shit blowing up, but quite good all the same.

'Love? Maybe' by Heather Hepler--It's on my list, so I know I read it, but I can't really remember it. Which means it wasn't a standout, but it also didn't totally suck.

'Why We Broke Up' by Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman--This was awesome. It was also a difficult read in some ways because I could just see every mistake that Min was making and why this relationship was doomed. I mean, yeah, you know it's going to end because it's a breakup book, but watching each and every mistake get made is like watching a train wreck in slow motion--you know it's going to be ugly but there isn't a damned thing you can do to stop it.

'Treasure Island!!!' by Sara Levine--I really wanted to like this one because it had such an interesting premise:  a twentysomething slacker gets inspired by Robert Louis Stevens's classic and decides to be more adventurous. Unfortunately, she's so utterly unpleasant and so completely oblivious to the effects of her actions on those around her that I wanted to set her on fire. And that was before she killed the parrot she bought with money she stole from her employer. There's a line between eccentric and asshole and she crossed it and never looked back.

'The Anatomist's Apprentice' by Tessa Harris--An okay historical mystery that occasionally got bogged down in trying to show off the author's extensive research.

'The Litigators' by John Grisham--It's been years since I've read a Grisham and I had forgotten how entertaining he can  be. The man knows how to tell a story.

'Seven Nights to Forever'--Older woman, younger man. A woman forced into prostitution by financial difficulties. A miserable marriage and guilt over "cheating" on the horrible spouse. All kinds of things that I love in an historical romance and all in one well-written package. Collins has cemented her place on my must-read list.

'11/22/63' by Stephen King--If you haven't already read about a hundred raves about this book, you've probably been living under a rock or possibly you were in a coma. There's no need for me to repeat what others have already said. I'll only say that the 800+ pages flew by and I would have read it in one sitting if I hadn't had to sleep.

'Dragonswood' by Janet Lee Carey--Dragons! Witches! Forbidden Forests! Doomed Love! An excellent YA fairy tale filled with references to historical witch hunts, the Inquisition, and Arthurian legend.

'The Cabinet of Earths' by Anne Nesbet--An okay middle-reader with a premise that reminded me too much of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials for me to not compare the two and find this one wanting.

'The Dispatcher' by Ryan David Jahn--Contemporary noir about a father who would do anything to find and rescue his kidnapped daughter. Lots of bullets and blood and a villain all the more disturbing because he really thinks he's doing the right thing for his "family".

'The Catastrophic History of You and Me' by Jess Rothenberg--Teen romance with ghosts as hero and heroine, which is not half as disturbing as when only one of the lovers is dead. It's actually a very sweet book with a strong emotional core.

'The Spellman Files' by Lisa Lutz--Okay. I admit it. I don't get the love that so many people have for this series. It was good and had some funny moments, but I don't feel the need to read any more. Oh, well. I'm sure there are plenty of authors I enjoy who other people just don't get.

'The Next Always' by Nora Roberts--It's the first book in a new trilogy from LaNora and I quite liked it, even with the ghost. And, okay, bonus points for making her heroine a bookstore owner.

'The Katerina Trilogy Book 1: The Gathering Storm' by Robin Bridges--A YA paranormal set in czarist Russia and incorporating many elements of Russian folklore. Sadly, there are still vampires and zombies, but the unique setting and strong heroine more than compensate.

'Shadow Heir' by Richelle Mead--I love Richelle Mead, but I have to admit to being disappointed with the endings she's written for both of her adult series. This, like the final Georgina Kincaid novel, felt like the actual ending--the tying up of the series mythology--was rushed and too full of coincidence.

'Scrumptious' by Amanda Usen--A decent romance, but I wish that the foodie bits had been stronger. if you're going to write a culinary romance in this day and age, you probably need to describe the food in as much drool-worthy detail as the hero's abs.

'Winterling' by Sarah Prineas--A charming Middle Reader story about a girl who finds out that it is her destiny to save Faerie and then has to make a choice between that world and this one.

'Secrets' by Freya North--I love British "chick lit" because it doesn't all take place in urban settings and the heroines aren't all dressed in couture (or wishing they were) and there's almost always a scene where the heroine gets caught outdoors in next to nothing, which is usually a pair of manky knickers, a dressing gown, and wellies. The heroines, in other words, are more like women I actually might know. This isn't a glamorous book, but it does have a happy ending, which is all I wanted.

'The Invisible Ones' by Stef Penney--A really good detective novel set in the world of English Gypsies in a time before cell phones and computers were ubiquitous. The time period meant that conversation and legwork were the most important tools a detective had, which created relationships that probably wouldn't have developed in the digital age. It took me a couple of chapters to get into it, but once it grabbed me, I didn't want to stop.

'Under the Never Sky' by Veronica Rossi--More YA dystopia and this one was really very "meh." It had some good moments, but there was nothing unique or compelling enough to set it apart from the rest of the crowd.

One or two more posts and I'll be caught up. And then I'll most likely slack off for a few weeks again, no matter how good my intentions.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Two Months Later...

I really, really need to update this more often. It's been lying fallow for nearly two months and I now have a list of more than seventy titles that I've read since then. So, here we go, in order of reading:

'Revealed', 'Follow My Lead', and 'Compromised' by Kate Noble--I did to a Noble-centric post, it just wasn't here. A new must-read author.

'Too Hot to Touch' by Louisa Edwards--It was really good, but it just didn't grab me like the books in her previous trilogy did, and I'm not sure why.

'The Fault in Our Stars' by John Green--Have tissues handy. Sad, but stunningly lovely.

'The School for Brides' by Cheryl Ann Smith--Yay! Prostitutes reforming their lives and settling down in matrimony. It's a cheesy trope, but I love it like crazy.

'Tithe' by Holly Black--I love dark fairy stories and wish I had read this one when it came out years ago.

'A Million Suns' by Beth Revis--Not sure why I read this, considering that I was fairly "meh" about 'Across the Universe'. It was more interesting to me than its predecessor and I'll probably read the sequel because that story looks to be interesting.

'Clockwork Prince' by Cassandra Clare--It was exactly what I wanted and expected it to be.

'Agent 6' by Tom Rob Smith--I think this is maybe my favorite of the trilogy, and this is from someone who still thinks 'Child 44' is one of her favorite crime novels of at least the past decade.

'The Demi-Monde: Winter' by Rod Rees--I would have liked this a lot more if it weren't so full of "clever" naming conventions. But, the premise was good and the heroine was awesome, so I just rolled my eyes a lot at the names of things.

'May B' by Caroline Starr Rose--A Middle Reader book in verse, which I would normally avoid like the plague. However, it was a Little House-ish story and not very long, so I read it and was quite impressed. Nine-year-old me would have loved it.

'The Book of Blood & Shadow' by Robin Wasserman--Absolutely one of the best 'DaVinci Code'-esque YA novels that I've read.

'The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen' by Thomas Caplan--This could easily have been cheesy and over-the-top (Hollywood superstar is also a spy), but Caplan pulled it off and wrote a highly entertaining spy novel, and I love a good spy novel.

'There Is No Dog' by Meg Rosoff--This one has people's panties in a bunch because it imagines God as a petulant, horny teenage boy (which would explain sooo much). I hope the controversy means that readers who may have otherwise overlooked this will pick it up because it's really good and worth a read.

'Good Girls Don't', 'Bad Boys Do', and 'Real Men Will' by Victoria Dahl--Solid contemporary romance trilogy about three siblings who own a brewpub, with the third installment, about the eldest brother, being my favorite.

'Hellbent' by Cherie Priest--The second installment in her vampire detective series, which isn't, to my mind, as good as her Clockwork Century novels, but it has some truly great supporting characters who will keep me coming back.

'The Kitchen Counter Cooking School' by Kathleen Flinn--Hey, look, non-fiction! It wasn't awful, but it did feel condescending at times, which tainted the parts that I did like.

'Daughter of the Centaurs' by K.K. Ross--With a title like that, I wanted to love it. I liked it okay, but it didn't live up to the promise of its title or premise.

'77 Shadow Street' by Dean Koontz--There was a time when I devoured Koontz like candy and this book reminded me of why that was. He's a damned fine storyteller who can completely suck you into the worlds he creates, whether they're places you want to visit or not. And this was definitely Not.

'The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae' by Stephanie Laurens--I devoured the first two installments in this series  and was really looking forward to this third and final volume. Sadly, it was lacking the excitement of the preceding volumes and ended the trilogy on a low note.

'The Family Fang' by Kevin Wilson'--This is not the sort of thing I would normally pick up on my own, but I'd heard good things from readers I trust, so decided to give it a go and discovered it to be excellent. Quirky and odd and funny and melancholy and I'm very glad that I read it.

'Irma Voth' by Miriam Toews--Also very good and very much off my normal reading path. I'm glad I read it, but I don't know that I'll be recommending it to others like I will the Wilson.

Okay. That covers about a third of the catch-up list, so I'll take a break and continue this later. And by "later" I mean hours, not months. I hope.