snugglekitty: (genius)
I finished Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks while on my way to New Year's Eve dinner. (Yay, subway.) Now, most of you know that I read a lot of YA and children's literature. I've read books with this premise, but none executed so brilliantly. Artemis Fowl prays every night that a miracle will occur and he'll become half as cool as Cabel Piggot. This is the junior version of Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible, or Mysterious Benedict Society from the other side of the mirror. This book is not funny or hopeful, but despite the surreal cast of characters and crazy plot developments, it is very real. If you are or have ever been a teenage geek, you'll love it. Five stars.

One complaint, though - the book ends with a number code, and I can't crack it. I'm a geek, but I'm a book geek - numbers scare me in large doses. Does 53 178.5 73 12.01 92 mean anything to anybody? Or do you see where on the Internet I can find the answer?
snugglekitty: (Default)
This was a good year for books. I read 216 books as of 1st to Die books this year, and 20 of them were five-star - almost ten percent! For those who aren't familiar with my rating series, four stars means "I would read this book over and over," and five stars means that the book changed my life or its genre in some way. Also, "of 2007" means that I read it in 2007 - it may not have been published then.

In front of the cut is a list of the books with links to my full-length reviews, written shortly after I read them. Behind the cut you will find an annotated list with shorter descriptions of each book. You'll also find some 'read-alikes' to try if you've already read the book and the list of four-and-a-half star books. (The read-alikes aren't in the long reviews, since I've only just come up with them.)

Five-Star Fiction of 2007

Blood Song: A Wordless Ballad by Erik Drooker
Soon I Will Be Invincible: A Novel by Austin Grossman
Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
Strangers in Paradise: I Dream of You by Terry Moore
Buffy Season Eight by Joss Whedon et al
Parrotfish by Ellen Whittlinger

Read more... )
snugglekitty: (genius)
For the past few months, [livejournal.com profile] 7j and I have been watching the show Women's Murder Club, which is based on Patterson's series of novels. 1st to Die is the first of those. (I like a series where it's easy to tell which book is next!) [livejournal.com profile] 7j picked it up to read herself, and then was kind enough to pass it on to me. This mystery features four strong, confident women who solve murders together (although the fourth woman is not introduced until halfway through the book). It is a quick, fast-paced read - the pages seem to almost turn themselves - and there are many interesting twists and turns. I had an idea of the whodunit, but I didn't figure out everything! If you like mysteries with strong female leads, you should definitely give this one a try. Three stars, and I'm planning to continue with the series.
snugglekitty: (fall)
It is hard for me to say whether I actually read this book. It contained four novellas. I read three of them. I started the fourth and found it clear that I wasn't going to like it, so I didn't read the rest of it. [livejournal.com profile] srl would probably say, "Did you get the idea of the book? Could you explain it to someone?" and the answer to that is definitely yes, so I guess I did read it. The Sharon Shinn story, "Bargain With the Wind," was my favorite. Three stars. If you like romantic fantasy, well, I recommend To Weave a Web of Magic instead.
snugglekitty: (Default)
Friends, this is what a one-star book looks like. I had been eagerly awaiting the chance to read this book once the library had it for me, but I only got up to page 63. Ms. Kingsolver's extended carping on how dumb it is to eat out-of-season food from far away, how tasteless it is, and how little most people know about where their food comes from and how it was made, might only be tedious to someone who had no clue when they started the book. However, to someone who already knows about corn monoculture, food miles, uncontainable GMOs, and the importance of heirloom varietals, it was nearly intolerable. In general I really like Kingsolver's work, but she seems so smug, entitled, and self-congratulatory in this book that I couldn't stand it. I support local sustainable farming in my area, and I think more people should do the same. But not everyone has the economic resources or knowledge to do so, and not everyone lives in an area where this is even possible, and that doesn't mean they deserve to be mocked. I liked the parts where she was writing about how exciting it is to eat your own vegetables, and details of the life cycle of various plants, but the carping on and on was just too much. It's going back to the library, unfinished.
snugglekitty: (hermione)
This afternoon, I finished reading Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye, which was a present from my girlfriend. The first in a series, this book about a watchmaking mouse who gets involved in a mystery was incredibly charming. The small illustrations at the beginning of each chapter are adorable. It's sweet without being cloying, and the plot is not predictable. The mouse characters are somewhat human but still retain their essential nature. The main character has a ladybug as a pet. If you enjoyed Basil of Baker Street, you'll love this book. I am happy to discover that it has several sequels. (As a side note, both [livejournal.com profile] 7j and [livejournal.com profile] omnia_mutantur commented that they really liked the unusual typeface, and I did as well.) This book was self-published - thank you again, Mr. Hoeye! Four stars, solidly. If you'd like to borrow it (or Wicked Lovely) and you're local, please drop me a line.

In another YA note, I also reread Wise Child by Monica Furlong and discovered that there is a now a third book in the series which I have never read. I will reread the second and then forge on to new territory. If you like YA and have a positive view of witches, you'll love this book.
snugglekitty: (fairies)
I love it when fantasy authors start a second series. Why? A few reasons - first, the first book in a series is quite often the best of the bunch. Second, it can give you more of a sense of what themes the author is really interested in. Third, some authors get better over time, and their subsequent series are better than their initial series (though this is hardly true of everyone). A second series can give you an idea if an author will become a favorite author, lose your affection, or simply continue to be someone that you like to read books by.

Comparing The Negotiator with Walker Papers )

I thought that Heart of Stone was great. It is definitely accessible even if you have not read anything by Murphy before. It has a strong sense of place, which I enjoyed. The settings seem very real compared with her other books. I really liked that the main character is a lawyer, and spends a lot of her time playing to her strengths (ie, trying to negotiate rather than fight). It is so much more interesting than just another book with a female private investigator/police officer/librarian/bookstore owner... you know what I mean. The book is fast-paced and will keep you guessing up to the end. Murphy left a lot of room for a sequel, and I know I'm looking forward to it. Four stars.

A quick note about books in the New Year - I am instituting new tags to make my journal easier to search. In the future, in addition to "books" and "books 20XX," you will also get to benefit from tags that say "fiction," "nonfiction," and "five star."
snugglekitty: (fairies)
I picked up Galileo's Daughter on a whim from paperbackswap. Wow. It was really, really good. The story is the story of the life of Galileo, and especially of his relationship with his older daughter, who is a nun with the convent name of Maria Celeste. The time period featured here is not one that I've ever been especially interested in. Nor did I know anything about Galileo, (beyond that Indigo Girls song and a conspiracy theory that someone told me when I was a teenager, that the Church actually knew already that the earth went around the sun, they just weren't ready for the public to know) or think that it was a lack in my life not to, but this book was riveting. Sobel did a great job of keeping you interested with the narrative and the letters from Maria Celeste to her father, without neglecting contextual information about the politics and church doctrine of the time. This book transformed my understanding of this period of Italian history. The idea of being arrested, tortured, or even executed for disagreeing with church doctrine is chilling. If you are interested in science, history, or the relationship between church and state, run, do not walk, to your nearest local bookstore to pick up Galileo's Daughter. Dava Sobel also wrote a similar book which I plan to investigate: Longitude:The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. (If you have read her new, and apparently different book The Planets, what did you think of it?) Five stars.

ETA: Here are the read-alikes I suggested for this book in my newly edited "Best Nonfiction of 2007" post: "For a similar setting in fantasy fiction, try The Spirit Ring by Lois McMaster Bujold. For an anecdotal treatement of another oft-neglected subject, try Outwitting History by Aaron Lansky."
snugglekitty: (genius)
The Mysterious Benedict Society was recommended in one of the many Life After Potter reading lists I have recently perused. It follows the exploits of four unusual children as they take a strange test, meet a reclusive benefactor, and undertake together a dangerous mission uniquely suited to their skills and talents. This book is not fantasy. There are no magical spells or mystical beings to be found. You could call it a sort of science fiction - the villain uses a diabolical invention to bring the world almost to its knees. Fans of Roald Dahl will enjoy the illustrations, the eccentric characters, the wickedness of the villains, and the resourcefulness of the heroes. Fans of Rowling might miss the magic, while enjoying the young people working together in the face of peril. Myself, I'm happy to give it four stars, and I look forward to the sequel, The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, due out in May 2008.
snugglekitty: (aliens against racism)
This is the second volume in the Hellflower omnibus I got through Inter-library Loan a few weeks back. It was not quite as good as Hellflower, but still it was very good indeed. The plot made twists and turns that I didn't at all expect. I am eager to see what happens in the third book (which I must finish by January 4th). I have already ordered Hellflower through paperbackswap. Once I have read all three books, I will decide whether I need the omnibus as well. I really wish there were more than three books. Four stars.
snugglekitty: (Default)
I haven't read any studies, but my guess is that more Americans read fiction than read nonfiction every year. Nonfiction tends to be inaccessible by its nature. Qualities that I like in nonfiction are readability, accuracy, and a writing style that keeps you turning pages. I also like to learn something that I didn't know before.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
Birth as an American Rite of Passage by Robbie Davis-Floyd
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss -- and the Myths and Realities of Dieting by Gina Kolata
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart
Whores and Other Feminists edited by Jill Nagle
Polio: An American Story by David Oshinsky
Line Drawings of Picasso by Picasso
A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan
Don't Shoot the Dog! by Karen Pryor
Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel

Read more... )
snugglekitty: (fairies)
This week I finished two books featuring teenage girls encountering the realms of faerie. One was set in Scotland in the 12th century, one was set in a modern American city.

An Earthly Knight by Janet McNaughton. I'm not an enormous fan of the twelfth century. It's kind of... well... run by the church in most places. An example of that from the book is that one of the characters is being held back from moving on with her life because she refuses to confess to something others have decided she is guilty of. Sigh. To me, that seems like such a corruption of the whole concept of confession. The main character also has a tendency to be mean to people when she's feeling uncertain, which is frustrating. The fantasy element of the book was pretty limited. Three stars. I won't read it again, and probably won't seek out other works by McNaughton.

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. If I'm not an enormous fan of medieval fantasy, I AM an enormous fan of urban fantasy, and this was that. I thought it was very original. The characters were quite believable, and the ending was startling in a great way, and the view of faery was unique. Not everything was explained at the end, and I don't know if I liked that or not. Usually I do, but not everything made sense to me at the end about the stuff that had happened before the book started to set things in motion. But that's my only beef. I loved the way the main character stood up for herself and the life she wanted even when at great disadvantage. Four stars. I hope we'll see more from Ms. Marr.

The two books actually made pretty good companion pieces. The main characters, settings, and plots were different enough that I didn't feel like I was reading the same book twice at once.
snugglekitty: (seer)
I ran across this book in Concord Bookshop (which I think has the best displays of any bookstore I've ever been in, since they made me want to buy ALL the displayed books) and was compelled to buy it. Three Cups of Tea describes the saga of an American, Greg Mortenson, who gets lost and injured while climbing K2 and wanders into a remote village in Baltistan. The villagers take care of him, and before he leaves, he promises to come back and build them a school. Over the next ten years, he encounters many obstacles, including lack of funding, corrupt officials, condemnatory fatwas, and war. In the end, though, he fulfills his vision and builds not just one, but more than fifty schools throughout Pakistan.

This book has been publicly acclaimed. It was easy to read and I was eager to see how things would turn out. However, I didn't find it compelling page by page. I stopped midway through the book for about a month, and didn't really think about it or miss it during that time. I decided to finish it just to be done. The story is heartwarming, yes, but it could have been riveting. I feel the book also gets a bit sidetracked when it discusses 9/11 and the events that precede and follow it. Three stars out of five - I liked it, but I won't read it again. Especially if accompanied by a donation to the Central Asia Institute, Mortenson's foundation, this could make a good holiday gift.
snugglekitty: (evilbook)
I enjoyed this anthology very much. I feel it shows some of the breadth of Nix's skills. I like that not all of the stories were fantasy or had similar settings. The title bugs me, though, since the Abhorsen wasn't in the title story, only the Abhorsen-in-waiting, and her only for a minute. (Note: if you have not read the Old Kingdom series, you should read that first - it happens after the events of Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen. For that reason, I'm not convinced it's a good introduction to Nix.) My favorite stories were "Over the Wall," "Hope Chest" (which I had read in the Firebirds anthology a few years ago), and "The Lightning Bringer." The two fantasy parody pieces in the book were hysterically funny. I'd give it three stars out of five.
snugglekitty: (evilbook)
Kaleidoscope is the second Madame Karitska book, sequel to The Clairvoyant Countess. In each book, Madame Karitska tries to help bother her clients and the police, while dealing with poverty, modern cultural standards, and being poor. This is more like a series of linked short stories than it is like a novel. I enjoyed it and would give it three stars.
snugglekitty: (pentacle)
Last night I finished reading The Faith Club, a book by three women who started a group to talk about their different beliefs. One was Muslim, one Christian, and one Jewish. I'm thinking that I would feel really good about being part of a group like that, especially now that I am out of my teens and early twenties and no longer think that other spiritual paths from mine are oppressive and inauthentic. At the same time, it seems like it could be hard(er) to find common ground, since paganism is neither a religion of the book nor a form of monotheism, at least as practiced by me. (One could even argue that it's a group of religions, not one religion at all.) I also wonder how I would be received by members of more mainstream religions, if I would be taken seriously as someone who doesn't have a holy book to refer to, a priest I can ask my questions of, or even a weekly religious community I draw strength from. My answer to a lot of theological questions would probably be, "I don't know, I never really thought about that." I've told a lot of new pagans asking me questions like that, "I'm a carpenter, not an architect... I want to know that it works and how to do it right, why it works isn't as important to me." Which may be denigrating to carpenters but that's how it goes.

Read more... )

I would have liked to give the book five stars, since it did change the way I think about some things and made me consider joining or starting an interfaith group. Unfortunately, I feel like there are places where the writing is awkward. Meeting transcript excerpts are in between the written passages, and they often don't fit well, and describe events that happen after the text you're about to read... I find that problematic. I think this book needed a better editor. Also, in some ways, the book felt too easy to me. These three women have their disagreements, yes... but really, they're a lot alike - all married with kids, all living in New York City - and, despite historical enmity, so are their religions. Maybe that's the point, but still - some of it seemed a little too pat. Four stars. If you have a hard time understanding people of other faiths, or wonder what you could find to talk about, this is the book for you. It would also make a good accompaniment to The Year of Living Biblically or Eat, Pray, Love.

Hellflower

Dec. 14th, 2007 12:29 pm
snugglekitty: (genius)
I patiently waited for the library to get me a book through Interlibrary Loan. The book was Hellflower by Rosemary Edghill writing as Eluki Bes Shahar. Why was I so interested in it? Read more... )

The book was picked up for me a few days ago, and it did not disappoint. It could very well have, with my hopes so high, but it did not. Really really excellent space opera, an unusual and believable world, and characters I felt like I knew. I highly recommend it to fans of space opera and especially fans of Liad. Four and a half stars - it was so good I want to give it five, but it didn't change my life. I am now in an agony of hope, wondering if the two sequels in the omnibus from the library can possibly be as good.
snugglekitty: (genius)
In this post, I review Hello, Gorgeous! by MaryJanice Davidson, Family Skeletons by Rett McPherson, Out of Time by Lynn Abbey, and All My Patients are Under the Bed by Louis Camuti.

These are plane books, essentially. I chose them not because I thought that they would be good (although I was hopeful about that) but because I thought they would be distracting and fun.

Read more... )
snugglekitty: (Default)
Many Bloody Returns is an anthology. The theme is "vampires and birthdays," which I think is a lovely juxtaposition. I enjoyed the anthology well enough, although a surprising number of its stories were bleak. My favorites were "The Mournful Cry of Owls" by Christopher Golden, "It's My Birthday, Too" by Jim Butcher, and "Grave-Robbed" by PN Elrod. Three stars.

Spin State by Chris Moriarty is a hard sci fi novel that is based around a future where quantum physics has become the technology of choice. Unfortunately, it was about 80% as confusing as nonfiction on quantum theory. It was a little hard to keep track of good guys, bad guys, and what everything was supposed to mean. Three stars. There is a recent sequel to this book that's getting great reviews, so I may try it in a few months.
snugglekitty: (evilbook)
Solstice Wood is a modern-day sequel to Winter Rose. I enjoyed the book - it had moments of poetry, and I liked the Fiber Guild and the way the book ended. Unfortunately, it had too many viewpoint characters, perhaps six or eight. That made things kind of confusing unless you ignored the viewpoint and just tried to follow the story, which is its own sort of confusing. If you really liked the first book, you might want to skip it - it waters it down a bit, in my opinion. It would probably be better read out of order. Three stars.

The new book The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible was oustanding. This book is by the author of Know-It-All, which I have not read but may need to give a try. Mr. Jacobs tries to spend a year following all of the rules in the Bible to the best of his ability. This book is very, very funny, and easier and faster to read than you might think. I also enjoyed my first exposure to the concept of Red-Letter Christians, who like to focus on, well, what Jesus actually said rather than homosexuality and abortion. Faaaascinating. If you're the sort who likes watching the Morgan Sporlock show Thirty Days, or wondering what it would be like to have a completely different life than the one you have, this is the book for you. If you find religion odd, funny, intriguing, or compelling, you should definitely read it. Four stars.

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