Thursday, June 21, 2012

The I Can't Believe I Didn't Give It Five Stars post

Just last week, I was going to mention that I was worried blogger (or whatever they call themselves), would take away our so perfectly named blog for inactivity. Not wanting that to happen, I thought I'd toss in a couple old goodreads reviews now and then. The ever elusive five stars? I couldn't decide. I've never had more than 7 in one year (so far!). So, I thought I'd start with this Louise Penny, because Julianne echoed my appreciation of her as such a great author. This one, The Brutal Telling, is the first one I read, which is actually the fifth in the series.
Reviewed Oct. 2009. Three Pines, a small village near Quebec, seems to be your basic rustic, perfect, getaway place. However, when bistro owners Olivier and Gabriel discover a dead body inside their dining area, that peacefulness is shattered. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate the murder. I would call this a sort of procedural cozy, as Gamache’s team can be high tech when they need to be, but Gamache certainly believes in following the clues and old fashioned footwork. I didn’t realize there are other Gamache stories, and this was not his first visit to the supposedly tranquil Three Pines. The story and mystery stood alone quite well. From the townspeople’s distrust of the nearby spa opening to the gradually more terrifying area legends, I found this to be a very gripping mystery.
Gave it four stars. Hereby upped to five in my mind!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

It's that time!

I stopped getting the Powell's emails for a while and had to re-subscribe. Don't want any of you to miss out on this when thinking over our faves from 2011.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Julie's scant top 10 in 2010

Well, as I mentioned before, 2010 seems to have been a year of poor book choices: although I read 90-some books by my Goodreads count, I am including only 7 on my end-of-year list. There were a number of books that I enjoyed that get honorable mentions for being fun reads, but they don't make the cut; however, taken all together, I have 9 books plus a three-book series.

In no particular order, here are my seven books, with a one-line summary of each:

1. When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead

Newbery winner, with a Madeleine L’Engle-like story. I can’t come up with higher praise.

2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

A non-fiction account of the woman behind the cells used in research, and the journalist’s search for her.

3. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

A powerful story about life in a small German town during WWII, and the importance of reading.

4. Going Bovine, Libba Bray

A hallucinatory road trip involving a hypochondriac dwarf, a punk angel, and a boy with mad-cow disease.

6. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins

A satisfying conclusion to the best series I’ve read in a long time.

7. The Lost Books of the Odyssey, Zachary Mason

Supposedly a translation of 44 short texts that offer variant versions of the Trojan War myth, many of them melancholy musings about heroism, love, and home.

Honorable mentions:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Magicians, Lev Grossman

City of Bones series, Cassanda Clare

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Not Quite 10 in 2010: Shana's take

Thank goodness for Goodreads - I'd never remember what I read. But 2010 was a lean year, in terms of really really good books I'd recommend -- or like Jenny, books that just stopped me cold that I couldn't put down. So here goes, Shana's list 4, plus two series....

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Beautiful story of love and idiots. While you always know how the story will turn out, it was a lovely journey getting to the end, and a joy to urge on the righteous while watching the idiots fall.

The Cello Suites by Eric Siblin
An engaging history of the Bach Cello Suites, which are a cellists rite of passage. I actually learned to play one of them – but am much better at listening to Pablo Casalas or Mistlav Rostopovich play them. Siblin’s book follows three paths: the career of Pablo Casalas, the history of the Cello Suites, and Siblin’s attempt to learn to play cello (he is a reporter for Rolling Stone….) I find it totally amazing that no one really knows the source of the Suites, and that they were virtually unknown before Casalas found an old, old copy of them in a music store in Spain. How can that be? What other incredible music has been lost to history?

Betsy Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace
What can I say? I haven’t read these since I was a kid, so totally enjoyed reading them again from an adult perspective.

Miracle Life of Edgar Mint by Brady Udall
OK, I thought Udall was Indian until, duh, I realized he was of the political Udall family, and actually a Mormon. Still, this was an amazing book. Painful, uncomfortable, difficult, violent, cruel. Yet completely compelling. I couldn’t put it down.

Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
I’ve heard about this book for years, and finally picked it up. The story is sad- a young Hmong girl has epilepsy, and the miscommunication between the medical establishment and the family is heartbreaking. It was frustrating to read the book and try to understand WHY the American medical establishment was so incredibly myopic in how they treated the family. I certainly hope things have improved. Fadiman’s concept of Western medicine as a culture is compelling.

• Mary Russell series by Laurie King
I’m telling myself that one reason I don’t seem to have many books on my list this year is because I reread the first 4 books in the Mary Russell series. I love these books more every time I read them…. You’d think after reading them 4 or 5 times I’d tire of them, but each time I read them I find more and more to love. Perhaps the fact that I’ve read more of the “Canon” – the real Holmes stories, or the fact that King, like J.K. Rowling, has planted things in early books that become clear in later ones. How do they do that? Oh well- I’ll just enjoy it.

10 in 2010: Jenny's Version

Here is a quick list of my top 10 reads this last year in no particular order. These were the books that made me want to sit on my couch, turn off the phone, and ignore my to-do list.

1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Betty Smith
This book really surprised me because though the setting is Brooklyn in the early 1900's right before World War 1, the writing and the approach to the topics seem surprisingly contemporary. Betty Smith's fairly autobiographical look at poverty and hope in a Brooklyn neighborhood is frank in its approach to love, sex, relationships, and issues of class. Though told in third person, this novel's main focus is Francie Nolan, who loves the library and school and sees education as a way out of her circumstances.

2. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer: Lish McBride
I had high hopes for this book based on the title (and the Sherman Alexie shout out on the cover) and I wasn't disapointed. This was a fun, funny, and addictive beginning to a series set in Seattle (but a Seattle teaming with supernatural folks).

3. One Day: David Nicholls
This novel plays out in some ways you might guess and in other ways you might not, but perhaps because I'm about the same age as Dex and Em, the main characters, this story evoked a lot of nostalgia, some out-and-out belly laughs, and a few tears.

4. I Capture the Castle: Dodie Smith
I can't tell you exactly why I found this book so charming and compellingly readable but I did. Though it was written in 1948 (and it's definitely set between the wars), the voice of the main character, Cassandra, is shockingly contemporary. Though the novel is filled with a vast array of eccentric characters including the castle that Cassandra and her family live in, it's the character of Cassandra and her mix of savvy and innocence that really kept me reading.

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie's wonderful novel is just one more example of young adult fiction kicking the a** out of most adult fiction these days. This is the story of Junior, who decides to leave the Rez and his only friend, Rowdy, to attend an all white school 22 miles away.

6. The Shadow Catcher: Mariane Wiggins
Woven in and out of two narratives (one present/one past) are Wiggin's reflections on the call of wanderlust, of wide open American spaces, of the power and limitations of photography, and the effects of absent fathers.

7. The Kind One: Tom Epperson
I picked this novel up from a bargain table at Border's because the author, Tom Epperson, had co-written the script for One False Move, a movie that still haunts me to this day. According to the back of the book, this novel is "soon to be a major motion picture" but it's already quite cinematic . . . in a good way, not in a film script-y kind of way (where you hear the plot creaking)

8. Boneshaker: Cherie Priest
In this steampunk novel (my first), there are zombies (or rotters), airships, and lots of fascinating weapons as well as a mother and son who are both brave but flawed.

9. Garnethill: Denise Mina
A gritty Scottish thriller that was hard to put down. After a night of drinking, Maureen O'Donnell stumbles home to her apartment in a tough neighborhood in Glasgow, passes out, and wakes up to find her boyfriend Douglas tied to a chair in the living room with his throat slashed. Things just go downhill from there.

10. She Got Off the Couch: Haven Kimmel
More tales from Mooreland, Indiana . . . population 320 (or so).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ten in 2010

I will start us off with my quick post of top reads from 2010. I've tried to pick books we didn't all read anyway--titles you may not have picked up on my enthusiasm via goodreads on a less than articulate day! So, in no particular order, here we go:

1. Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny
It's the sixth in a series, but I only read #5 before this and was wowed by Penny's magnificent, twisting plot.
2. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Was the 2010 Newbery winner.
3. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
Seems like I read it longer ago...The Help was on everyone's list, but I liked this Southern tale.
4. The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley
Flavia, her bike, her lab and her sisters continue to make these fabulous.
5. The Cardturner by Louis Sachar.
He did it again, this time involving bridge.
6. Scout, Atticus and Boo by Mary M. Murphy
Happy 50th Scout.
7. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Giving the vamps a run for the money and bringing back Southern gothic.
8. Stay by Allie Larkin
Great way to pass the time.
9. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Still find myself thinking about various aspects of the French Revolution.
10. The Poacher's Son by Paul Dioron
I don't see my goodreads review...could I have missed one? This was a great story set in a remote part of Maine about a son and his father, a very complex relationship.

And of course, I can't forget my foray into Scandinavian crime thrillers! It looks like it will continue this year. I have a new one called Three Seconds and a new (to us) Harry Hole already on reserve at the library!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Best of...

Here it is, the end of January, and none of us have posted our "best of" list for 2010. What are we, slackers or something? I'm working on the technique of knitting-and-reading, but I'm not quite ready for the knitting-and-posting yet.