lunamysticmirror: (Reading)
[personal profile] lunamysticmirror
Here we go again! I'm determined to do better than last year.

[Note to self: Self, you should really wait awhile after finishing a book to write anything about it. You tend to be overly effusive and fond of books you've just read; sometimes because they were truly that good, sometimes because you liked 'hanging out' in the universe and sometimes because you're just glad to be done. However, little (or not so little) details soon start coming back to annoy you and you realize you didn't like it nearly as much as you said. To avoid editing, just wait a few days and let it settle!]

1) The Magicians of Caprona, by Diana Wynne Jones. Book three of the Chrestomanci series, and a fairly entertaining one at that. Two households, both alike in magic dignity, in fair Caprona where we lay our scene; yeah, I see what you did there, right down to the plague on both their houses. For the record, nothing will ever be as creepy as people stuck inside puppet bodies and forced to act out a Punch and Judy show. It's downright unsettling.

2) Witch Week, by Diana Wynne Jones. Chrestomanci book four. In this world, witchcraft is illegal and witches are burned at the stake, so when an anonymous note says a student in 6B is a witch, everyone gets nervous and magic starts popping up everywhere. Several of the characters made me laugh out loud, and the depth and uniqueness of each is what makes this story strong.

3) Plum Spooky, by Janet Evanovich. Spooky is her first full-length between-the-numbers novel, and it benefited from the extra attention. I loved it. It was a nice break from the Morelli-Ranger dilemma. Several laugh out loud moments, as usual, and the development of Stephanie and Diesel's friendship is hilarious and sweet. Lula's sneezes, the nail gun incident, the monkeys: I approve.

4) Personal Demon, by Kelley Armstrong. The Women of the Otherworld books continue to be my preferred vacation reading. Chaos demons, supernatural gangs and the almighty Cortez Cabal are the focus here, and I like Hope well enough, though I think the Hope/Karl dynamic would benefit from reading Territorial and Chaotic first, which I didn't. Lucas is one of my favorite characters, but his narrative turns were sometimes distracting and left the story's end an unexpected downer. Of course now I want to run out and pick up the next one because: Lucas! Cabal! Ack!

5) Northern Lights, by Nora Roberts. This book made me want to go to Alaska. Seriously, I'm all ready to book a trip, even though I'm certain I'd freeze to death seconds after stepping off the plane. I'm not much of a Roberts fan anymore (I totally went through a romance novel phase), but my aunt gave this one to me and [ profile] r_becca seconded the recommendation, so I gave it a shot. The plot isn't original but it's fairly well done: disillusioned cop guilty over his partner's death escapes to a tiny town to fade away and winds up finding love, friendship, acceptance and a twenty year old murder to solve. The characters and setting make it work, and I like that it's told from Nate's perspective.

6) Labyrinth, by Kate Mosse. My mother pestered me about this book until I finally gave in and read it. The story follows two women, Alais and Alice, as they each slowly unravel the path to the true Grail. Alais struggles to complete her father's quest as protector of the secret during the Catholic crusade against the Cathars in what is now Southern France. Alice, in 2005, unearths part of that secret in the same mountains and finds herself running for her life because of what she's seen, what she comes to discover and the role she ultimately plays in the larger tragic tale. Mosse's take on the Grail is... interesting. I liked the book well enough (Mosse certainly outshines Dan Brown, to whom she and the story are inevitably compared), but I'm not sure I'll read the sequel. Mom says it's really just more of the same.

7) The Wordy Shipmates, by Sarah Vowell. Wait, that's it? I want more. This reaction to finishing Vowell's latest book has been brought to you by things I never expected to say about the Puritans. Who knew they -- and John Winthrop, in particular -- could be so entertaining? Vowell ignores the Plymouth bunch to focus on the lesser known (or, as she puts it, not as prone to being made part of an episode of The Simpsons or The Brady Bunch) nonseparatist Massachusetts Bay colony: what made them leave England; what they expected to find and endure when they reached America; their relationships with each other, the land and Native Americans; and, of course, what (not to mention why and how) they believed. She does a great job of bringing Winthrop, Hutchinson, Cotton and Williams to life, and draws her usual intelligent parallels to modern events.

8) Blood Lite, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. Okay, so I keep picking up these anthologies for the Dresden Files and Women of the Otherworld stories (by Butcher and Armstrong, respectively) and then end up reading the whole thing because of my completist OCD tick. Usually I don't have a problem with that and have even found other authors I like that way. This set of short stories, however, was pretty bad. The selections are mainly pulled from the horror genre rather than sci-fi/fantasy, and while some were moderately humorous, a greater number were flat out gross. Ick.

9) Watchmen, by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons. Typically I don't count graphic novels toward my total, but I'll make an exception for this one. What a complex, disturbing, enlightening and good story. The characters are well-formed and believably, hopelessly flawed. Everything ties together in an interesting way. The psychology contained within is fascinating, in that way where you're not sure whether you want to read it again or go find something incredibly fluffy with which to distract yourself. I definitely recommend reading it before seeing the movie.

10) Nation, by Terry Pratchett. At first I was grumpy that this wasn't a Discworld novel, simply because I didn't want to fall in love with another PTerry universe. By the time I finished the story, however, I couldn't help appreciating it for what it is or loving the characters as much as I do any of his others. There's so much to think about in this book, from society to religion to the British Empire's cunning use of flags. Mau and Daphne's situation and characters could very easily have been handled badly, but they are written with care and thought. The ending is bittersweet and yet perfect, and I know I'll definitely be rereading this one in the future, along with my favorites from the Discworld series.

11) Turn Coat, by Jim Butcher. Morgan's on the run from the White Council and a murder he claims he didn't commit, so he turns to the last person anyone would expect him to ask for help proving his innocence: Harry Dresden. I kind of love this book, and particularly Harry. Much more than I expected, after my ambivalent feelings toward Small Favor, and in spite of some stuff that bugs me here. Maybe it's because it feels like things are coming to a head. Anyway, there are a lot of surprises contained within. Admittedly, there are also some non-surprises.

12) Men of the Otherworld, by Kelley Armstrong. A solid collection of Pack stories, focusing on Clay and Jeremy. One was previously posted on her website; the rest are new. Background details and events are filled in, which is nice, and the secret to Jeremy's past is revealed. As a character, Clay makes more sense now. However I couldn't get the image of the Alec Baldwin!lion from Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa out of my head whenever older Malcolm was around. No idea why.

13) My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding, edited by P.N. Elrod. I read the 'sequel' last year, so I had to read this anthology. Look, I have a thing about completing series. We know this. To my surprise, it was a lot better than I expected, or at least in comparison to the aforementioned Blood Lite.

14) The Somnambulist, by Jonathan Barnes. I see what Barnes meant to do, but I'm not convinced he succeeded as beautifully as the many accolades printed on the covers and within suggest. His story is alternately cheeky, absurd, disturbingly dark and occasionally humorous. There's a lot going on and certain aspects of the plot, usually the bits I found most interesting, were run over as the characters raced for the denouement. Barnes lists Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, Bleak House, The Picture of Dorian Gray and even Doctor Who among his influences and inspirations; it's easy to see a little of each (and a whole lot of Lovecraft) in the story. I didn't really enjoy the book enough for a future re-read or recommendation, but I'm glad I read it.

15) Vision in White, by Nora Roberts. I expected pure fluff and it delivered, though I liked it more than I thought I would. The male protagonist is kind of adorable.

16) The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith. Quiet, thoughtful, compassionate and just plain lovely, much like Mma. Ramotswe herself. I adore her. She's proud of who she is, proud to be a work in progress. She doesn't want to stop learning, growing and teaching, and has made peace with her regrets. I think that's what I took away from this book: peace. The show (which gets two thumbs up from me) has spoiled me for a lot of the mysteries, but I'm ok with that.

17) The Summoning, by Kelley Armstrong. Um, I devoured this book. It's like Girl: Interrupted with supernaturals. Chloe, the main character, sees ghosts. After freaking out at school, she gets put in a home for troubled teens and told she has a mental illness. She starts to buy into that theory, but strange things are afoot and she soon realizes that maybe she really can communicate with ghosts; what does that mean for her future, the other teens in Lyle House and everything she thought to be true? The plot involves copious amounts of zombies! Chloe is a bit of a Mary Sue, but what cracks me up is that every other character essentially points that out at least once. Good times.

18) The Awakening, by Kelley Armstrong. Chloe and her friends are on the run and attempting to deal with what's been forced upon them. I like the relationships that develop. I like how unapologetically annoying Tori is, and where Chloe's head is at the end. But, seriously. The third book doesn't come out for how long? Oof. (Incidentally, Chloe has her own livejournal, which appears to be an e-serial set before the first book. :D )

19) Finger Lickin' Fifteen, by Janet Evanovich. Fifteen is frickin' forgettable. It's been a few weeks since I read it, and I remember it had something to do with a barbecue competition? Stephanie and Morelli have broken up yet again, which brings back the painfully unresolved Ranger issue, and even Lula and Grandma Mazur feel stale. I think I might have to break up with Stephanie Plum myself. This is especially disappointing after how good Plum Spooky was, but Evanovich seems hopelessly stuck in her favorite love triangle. Two words: Plum Wedding. Even just a slight turn in that direction! Seriously, let Stephanie have fun with Ranger for a few chapters, then agree to marry Joe already. That'll bring me back.

20) What Happens in London, by Julia Quinn. I fear that nothing she writes will ever be as entertaining as the early Bridgerton books, but I still love Quinn's work. Her characters are intelligent but flawed. They are intriguing, in that way that makes you understand why they fall in love. I think that is especially obvious here, with Harry and Olivia, because they start out detesting each other and then, gasp, start to get over it as they spend time together. Physical attraction is not the driving force.

21) Princeps' Fury, by Jim Butcher. I love the world and most of the characters Butcher has created in his Codex Alera. LOVE them. That said, I can not stand the Vord. They are too evil, too powerful, too adaptive and too overwhelming. Add that all up and you get boring. There are only so many times even the best of heroes can triumph against Impossible Odds (impossible even by high fantasy standards), and I am both excited and worried for the final book in the series. I enjoyed this one because of Tavi, Max, Kitai and all the other characters I adore, but I think it would have been MUCH better without one half of the Vord and with a heck of a lot more Canim.

22) I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak. I'm a fan of Zusak's The Book Thief, but this novel doesn't live up to the same standard. It's interesting, thought provoking and occasionally very funny, but it doesn't have the same heart. I felt disconnected from most of the characters and the message is a little heavy handed, so to speak.

23) The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan. Fun! Very good at filling that small Harry Potter shaped void in my reading list. I'll definitely read the rest. Soon.

24) The Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan. Soon = next, apparently. There were parts of this book I loved. The pacing felt better than the first, and C.C. cracked me up. However, it was a little too faithful to The Odyssey in places. Some of Annabeth's great ideas (and not the ones actually attributed to others)... weren't really hers? The throwaway reference to Joshua Chamberlin made me grin.

25) Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, by Mary Roach. The best thing about this book is the way people look at you when you're reading it on the metro. Or the way people sitting behind you let out a stray "ew" when they read over your shoulder. I never expected to enjoy a book about dead bodies, but Roach's look at the various ways cadavers have been used in scientific inquiries through the years is interesting, funny and very informative. That said, I probably shouldn't have read the chapter on airplane crashes.

26) The Titan's Curse, by Rick Riordan. Two thumbs up. I like the quest; I like Artemis, her Hunters and Athena; I like Thalia; and I like Percy, even if he can be very thick at times. Brain candy!

27) Living with the Dead, by Kelley Armstrong. This might be my least favorite of the Otherworld books. Some parts felt tight while others felt half-assed, and a great deal about this book made me wildly uncomfortable. Pretty much anything to do with the kumpania, really. Hope and Karl's dynamic could also be offputting, though that's dealt with eventually. I get why the multiple points of view was necessary here, but I'm looking forward to a return to Elena next book.

28) The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown. I finished this book a week ago and still don't know what to say. I just... GOD. There must have been a somewhat cohesive plot in all that exposition, but I think I was too caught up in the inaccurate (and so easy to fix) descriptions of DC, the LIGHTNING STRIKE OF METAPHORICAL OVERKILL ("Right now, with his eyes facing the heavens like all the blind men who preceded him, Robert Langdon suddenly saw the light. It hit him like a bolt from above. In a flash he understood.") and the way Brown responded to past accusations of misogyny by having "a member of the university's women's center" stridently point out to Langdon that no, the Masons aren't all-inclusive (because the average run-of-the-mill Harvard student wouldn't pick up on that distinction) to care. See, I liked The Da Vinci Code well enough despite its MANY problems, but I think the difference is that I was and am very interested in the subject matter. And while I do find the Masons and some of the ideas behind the big secret (not to mention everything to do with DC) rather interesting, they aren't interesting enough to sustain 509 pages of weak plot, confused scientists, batshit insane murderers and bad writing. Also, we know his full name by now. You can just call him Robert. Oy.

29) Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?, by Louise Rennison. The FINAL Confessions of Georgia Nicholson. As much as I enjoyed it (and most of the series), I'm so happy she wrapped up Georgia's story. It was time. Now, aspects of the series finale feel seriously contrived while others don't get enough attention, but there was enough to leave me grinning as I read the last page. The production of Rom and Jul rivals MacUseless for sheer hilarity, and Georgia's complete cluelessness about her feelings was vair vair amusing. Sweet and heartwarming, in between the laughter. And snogging. Ooooooer. Ciao, Georgia!

30) Odd and the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman. Short. Simple. Utterly delightful. Norse myth plus Gaiman's imagination and skill? WIN.

31) Gettysburg, by Stephen W. Sears. An excellent, very readable history of the campaign. Sears begins with Lee arguing for a push north over sending reinforcements to embattled Vicksburg and other points west, and takes the reader right through to the Gettysburg Address. He pulls a great deal from soldiers' letters and personal accounts, as well as those higher up the ranks, and does a good job painting a cohesive picture of what went so badly wrong. He doesn't pull his punches, either, from Lee's strop with Stuart and his lack of communication with his generals to Sickles' inexplicable advance from the Union lines on July 2nd. Detailed descriptions of troop movements on July 3rd prior and during Pickett's Charge can be a bit thick at times, but that's to be expected. I highly recommend reading this book and visiting Gettysburg National Military Park. Or possibly taking Sears' book with you and reading it on Little Round Top. Talk about impact.

32) Bed of Roses, by Nora Roberts. Meh. I liked the first one. I wanted to like this one because the main character is ADORABLE. The story, however, just wasn't there. Things happened, but the why seemed to be missing a lot and I just didn't care. Swine flu might have had something to do with that.

33) Match Me If You Can, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Did I mention the swine flu? Yeah.

34) Natural Born Charmer, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Again: swine flu. And Kindle app. DANGEROUS COMBO. Actually, I really liked this one, but I'm a sucker for stories about a bunch of misfits and/or estranged family members finally finding a home with each other.

35) First Lady, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Lather, rinse, repeat. Piggy sniffles made it hard to focus on much, but yeah, this book actually made me gag in parts. I kept reading for the kids. They were cute.

36) Unseen Academicals, by Terry Pratchett. I missed Discworld! As someone for whom football is an annual aggravation, the premise of this book has cracked me up ever since I found out about it; I wasn't disappointed. Pratchett's latest has the usual laugh out loud moments (though the number of jokes about balls kind of threw me off, as appropriate as they might have been), but what really struck me was the heart of the book and the way the four main (non-wizard)characters interacted and grew. Their relationships were written particularly well.

37) The Crystal Skull, by Manda Scott. A strange mystery about the crystal skulls of legend. The narrative flips back and forth between a 16th century man destined to protect one of the skulls and a woman who finds it in the 21st century, along with the clues he left to prevent the end of days. I was dissatisfied with the ending, but the story was still better than that of Indiana Jones and his crystal skull.

38) Going Bovine, by Libba Bray. Maybe it's the fact that I'm not allowed to give blood due to my mad cow disease exposure, but I really liked this book. Cameron, a disaffected teenager in Texas, is diagnosed with CJ disease and next thing he knows he's visited by a punk rock angel who sends him on a quest before his brain turns to mush. There aren't many surprises, but Cameron's journey -- literal and figurative -- is worth a read. Bray seems much more comfortable here than she did in her Victorian boarding school series. And apparently I'm not alone in thinking this! Going Bovine just won the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in YA Literature! (Yes I am writing this in January, shhhhh.)

39) Seeking Spirits: the Lost Cases of The Atlantic Paranormal Society, by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, with Michael Jan Friedman. I'm a fan of the show. I like and appreciate that they go into situations as skeptics and attempt to prove there isn't anything supernatural going on, because when they do find something? It's that much more incredible. This is their second book, and while I haven't read the first one, I enjoyed it. They are clearly not professional storytellers and are, it seemed at times, a little in love with touting their methods, but some of these cases are truly amazing.


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January 2015


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