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21 March 2010 @ 12:10 am
18) The Finishing Touches by Hester Browne (Chick-Lit, 416 pages)
Wonderful! Delightful! Charming! I enjoyed this just as much as I had her Little Lady Agency books. I had loads of fun reading how Betsy revitalized the school and trying to solve the mystery of her parentage at the same time. 4/5

19) The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Mystery, 297 pages)
This was the first Christie I've ever read, and overall, I liked it. My brain loved the story and the plot twists throughout that made me keep questioning my assumptions. Nicely done mystery. However, I was annoyed by John Hasting, who I thought was arrogant, impulsive, and useless... Too bad he was the narrator. I'll keep reading through the Poirot series and hope that Hastings becomes less tiresome. 3.5/5

20) Soulless by Gail Carriger (Steampunk Fantasy, 357 pages)
Amazingly quirky romantic steampunk fluff! This was a very fun read with some original musings on what makes the supernatural supernatural. Amusing characters, great descriptions, and a charming heroine with plenty of spunk. The only thing that I didn't like was the schizophrenic POV shifts, but easily ignored after a while in favor of the story. Kudos! 4/5

21) Walking Dead by C.E. Murphy (Urban Fantasy, 416 pages)
This is the fourth and latest book in Murphy's Walker Papers series, about a reluctant half-Native American, half-Irish shaman cop. I honestly would I probably liked this better if I had read this in larger chunks. Instead, I set this aside for days at a time, and had trouble remembering who characters were when they reappeared. Though the fact that I was able to put this book down and not think about it for days does say something about it, I guess.

This book was par for the course for this series. Fun and entertaining urban fantasy; nothing too special, but good commuting book. While I like the background characters more than Joanne, who honestly needs to be fleshed out a lot more, I appreciate that Murphy doesn't make Joanne into this all-powerful uberchick (like some other urban fantasy authors have down with their heroines) that save the day singlehandedly. 3.5/5

22) Parade of Shadows by Gloria Whelan (Young Adult/Historical Fiction, 304 pages)
This was a bit if a disappointment. I had expected more of an adventure/quest story given the description. Instead, I had a coming of age story -- which I have no objections to, per se. I've read another book by Whalen before and liked it. But I had a hard time getting into Parade of Shadows. I didn't like the narrator much, and found her to be childish, impractical, and whiny -- which, I guess, is what a teenager is, so I can't fault Whalen too much for that characterization. The narrative also dragged in spots. I think I might have enjoyed the book better if I had a better sense of what it was supposed to be. 3.5/5

23) The Lost Slayer by Christopher Golden (Media Tie-In/Fantasy, 573 pages)
A Buffy: the Vampire Slayer novelization. Christopher Golden is one of the better media tie-in authors out there. Good story, good grasp of the characters. But it seemed like I was getting hit over the head with the message of the book. 3.5/5
 
 
25 January 2010 @ 03:31 pm
6) Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers (General Fiction, 224 pages)
A story told in notes between a mom and her daughter.
Fast read. Bittersweet in its shortness, though I wanted to reach through and shake the two characters for never stopping to TALK to one another. 3/5

7) Anyone But You by Jennifer Crusie (Romance, 283 pages)
Very sweet and cute romance. I'm glad that Fred was on the cover; I might have never picked it up otherwise! Fun, quirky characters. 3.5/5

8) Playground: A Childhood Lost Inside the Playboy Mansion by Jennifer Saginor (Memoirs, 288 pages)
This book made me incredibly sad. The book follows the author's train wreck of a life, and like a train wreck, you can't look away. I really wished that the author had found something more substantive in life, and I wanted to reach through and shake her when at the end, she didn't show she had. 3/5

9) Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit by Mercedes Lackey (Historical Fantasy, 400 pages)
It was with some trepidation that I started this book. I had not liked Lackey's recent stuff, and thought this would be more of the same not-well plotted, shown not told, cliched, soapboxing stuff she has churned out in recent years. I originally was not going to read it but the library had it. So it is with real amazement that I conclude: Gwenhwyfar did not suck. The story was fresh, the main character was complexly developed, the narrative was compelling, and I could not put the book down. Whatever the reason for this upturn, I can't say, but welcome it. And nary a "blame the parent" plot point in sight.

She could have fleshed out some of the supporting characters better, and she does rely too much on the internal monologue to move the story along, but this is still lightyears better than the last few books of hers I picked up. 4/5
 
 
13 January 2010 @ 09:08 pm
1) Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy (Urban Fantasy, 416 pages)
Better than a lot of recent urban fantasy books. Interesting plotline but things felt a little discombobulated (not least of which the main character). I think Joanne could have been characterized a lot better than she was, and Murphy needed to flesh out her background more. The series has a lot of potential, though, and I'll keep reading. 3.5/5

2) Thunderbird Falls by C.E. Murphy (Urban Fantasy, 416 pages)
Liked this one much better than Urban Shaman. Murphy seemed to have a better handle on Joanne's character, though I do wish she had fleshed out more of the back characters. 4/5

3) Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan (Health/Nutrition, 140 pages)
My main issue with this book was the price: $11 list price. How can the publisher justify slapping such a ridiculous number on such a small book?
Overall, a good set of rules on what to eat (and not eat), but not very substantive past that. This is essentially In Defense of Food boiled down into some guidelines for eating. Nothing really new here, but good to have it reiterated. 3.5/5

4) Coyote Dreams by C.E. Murphy (Urban Fantasy, 416 pages)
I'm glad I kept with this series, if only for this book. Joanne has become more of a character and less of an urban fantasy cliche, becoming more rounded and with more backstory. 4/5

5) The Wild Things by Dave Eggers (YA Fantasy, 288 pages)
This was a fun quick read and probably would have ranked higher except that as an adult, I found the story less enjoyable than I had when I was a child. First, Max was not a likable character and I wanted to reach through the book and smack him. Second, there was no real resolution to anything at the end of the book. While this is true to Where the Wild Things Are, it really nagged me.

However, there were some subtle things in the story that I really did like. Carol was essentially Max, something which I missed until right at the very end, and which added an extra layer of depth to the entire book. I only hope that Eggers Max learned something from watching Carol in action. 3.5/5
 
 
30 December 2009 @ 12:02 pm
119) SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes And Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (Non-fiction/Economics, 320 pages)
I really like pop-economics books. They allow me to drag up from the dregs of my brain the little tidbits I learned back in my econ classes. Levitt and Dubner focus on microeconomics and behavioral economics to explain why certain things are they way they are.
This book has a different feel than Freakonomics - I think because they based this largely on blog entries. I still found it extremely interesting. The global warming chapter had me rethinking a lot of things I've held true, and I will probably be rereading it in the near future to fully digest it. The epilogue was worth the price of admission alone. I was in stitches at the thought of monkey prostitution! 4/5

120) The Gates by John Connolly (Young Adult Fantasy, 304 pages)
Really really fun. I didn't like this as much as The Book of Lost Things but still very good. It reminded me a lot of Good Omens, only less complex. I read this in one sitting at the bookstore -- I started it to see if I would like it and looked up four hours later after finishing the last page. 4/5

121) Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris (Humor, 166 pages)
I liked the first story the best, and after that, I was kind of ambivalent to the rest of the book. The humor seemed mean-spirited at times, too. Sedaris was recommended highly to me by a number of people, but I really should remember I don't "get" humor writing. Interesting collection, though, even if I didn't think it was laugh-out-loud funny. 3/5

122) Miracle and Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis (Fantasy&SF/Short Stories, 336 pages)
I don't normally like short stories and it is very rare that I find an anthology I enjoy. With that in mind, this book was a delight. I liked every single story in here and would heartily recommend the anthology for a speculative fiction holiday read. 4/5