Tuesday, February 1, 2011

January Reads

As my year-end list shows, I read a lot. A lot, a lot. So I'm going to try to post a monthly list here of the books that I've read and some descriptions and maybe some short thoughts. Let's begin with January:

Allende, Isabel Zorro

Allende fleshes out the childhood and early years of Diego de La Vega, who later became Zorro. It's an interesting character study, and the narrative voice is fun, but overall, it's rather slight.

Beamer, Amelia The Loving Dead

Zombieism is here, and it's a sexually transmitted disease. Beamer rides the metaphor of our failure to make human connections making us inhuman.

Bender, Aimee The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

A 9-year old girl discovers the ability to read the emotions of the person who prepared any food she eats. This distances her further from a family that is already pretty distant. Her mother tries to hard to connect eventually finds a kind of happiness in a long-term affair. Her father is clueless and detached, and her brother eventually disappears completely.

Casares, Oscar Amigoland

Two brothers who haven't spoken in years (one in his 90's and one in his 70's) reconnect at the request of the younger brother's housekeeper/lover and go on a road trip to Mexico to find the truth behind a family legend.

Collins, Suzanne Gregor & the Marks of Secret

Gregor's mom is still in the Underland recovering from the plague, but while Gregor is visiting her, a new problem crops up: the Nibblers send for Luxa's help, but neither she nor anyone else can find them. The Bane has grown into a huge threat, and there's some new prophecy that no one will tell Gregor about that promises dire things for his family. Awesome story marred by utter non-ending. Clearly book 4 & book 5 are one story split in two.

Cox, Michael The Meaning of Night

An admirable attempt at a Shadow of the Wind-style bookish mystery that just falls short. I don't know if my expectations were too high (I kept waiting to find out that the narrator could not be trusted) or what, but it just didn't sing.

DiCamillo, Kate Bink & Gollie

Bink & Gollie are best friends who are very different. These three short tales celebrate the value of compromise and friendship. DiCamillo remains utterly awesome.

Fantaskey, Beth Jessica's GT Dating on the Dark Side

Jess is a somewhat-sheltered teen living on her adoptive vegan parent's organic farm when she a mysterious stranger appears who knows her real name. He is Lucius Vladescu, and he claims to be a vampire. Worse, he tells Jess that she's one, too. There's a love triangle (well, quadrangle, really), cultural difference, impending vampire wars, and the perils of high school. Some really terrific lines, but kind of plodding overall.

Franklin, Tom Hell At the Breech

If Jim Thompson wrote historical fiction, this is what it would be like: spare, bleak, hopeless, and full of shades of gray.

Hunt, Stephen The Court of the Air

Intrigue, adventure, heroes, scoundrels, living metal men, insect gods, and magic pistols that can sense evil are all part and parcel of the wonderful world that Hunt has created. A young girl from the slums is being stalked and wants to find out why. A boy who is feared and despised for powers he may or may not have goes on the run when his uncle and guardian is killed. The resolution involves all of the elements mentioned above and much, much more. Fantastic!

Jones, Shane Light Boxes

Tantalizing fable about a town enslaved by February.

Kadrey, Richard Kill the Dead

Sandman Slim returns and LA is literally going to Hell. Lucifer is topside making a movie, the Golden Vigil is acting shady, and zombies are running amok. Stark seems to be the only one who cares about any of this, but he's been bitten by a zombie and may not survive the next few days. Brutal action, funny dialogue, and a main character you can't help but root for.

Kent, Jasper Twelve

Napolean's troops march towards Moscow and someone invites a troop of twelve foreigners with a deadly reputation to fight on their behalf. The twelve are odd, but efficient. However, it soon becomes clear that all is not as it seems, and the twelve are something more (or less) than human.

Larsson, Steig The Girl Who Played With Fire

This sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo focuses on Lisbeth Salander: she's accused of murdering 3 people (1 of whom was her sexually abusive legal guardian). She disappears as her friends try to figure out what happened. We finally learn the events of When All the Evil Happened, and why Salander mistrusts authority so much. A real rocket-ride of a finish is somewhat marred by a very slow open, but ultimately, Lisbeth Salander is utterly irresistible.

Leicht, Stina Of Blood and Honey

Northern Ireland in the 70s is a war zone between protestant and catholic. Liam, in the wrong place at the wrong time, is caught up in the fight, and soon learns that there's another battle going on, too—this one between the fey and the fallen angels. The Catholic Church, having decided that anything supernatural is a demon, has spent years killing the fey, who have been trying to drive the fallen from Ireland.

Mauro, James Twilight at the World of Tomorrow

A history of the 1939 World's Fair in New York City. Just after the Depression and just before WWII New York City spent billions to host The World of Tomorrow. Fascinating personalities, huge world events, and a bomb which killed 2 policemen and seriously injured 2 more. A neat story, but overall a bit thin.

Moore, Terry Strangers in Paradise: Brave New World

Moore explores alternate endings to Katchoo & Francine's story, one where Francine chooses Brad and a normal life and one where she chooses Katchoo.

Palfrey, John Born Digital

Sociological treatise on the generation that has grown up plugged into the digital world and how the rest of us should see and deal with them. Not a scintillating read.

Perez-Reverte, Arturo The Queen of the South

Perez-Reverte's lyrical narcocorrido about a Sinaloan drug-runner's girl who has to go on the run when he's killed and ends up a powerful drug transporter in southern Spain & Morocco.

Rutkoski, Marie The Cabinet of Wonders

This fabulous blend of history and imagination introduces us to Petra, a young girl who goes on a quest to recover her father's eyes, which have been stolen by the prince. Action, adventure, subtlety, and a main character you won't be able to forget. Fabulous!

The Celestial Globe

Part two of Petra's story has Petra rescued from an attack by Dr. John Dee, who spirits her away to England. While she tries to escape Dee, she becomes involved in a murder investigation. Unbeknownst to Petra, two old friends are searching for her on a gypsy pirate ship which is searching for the Celestial Globe, a device which would allow its user to find and use secret shortcuts around the globe. Equally as fun and equally as compelling as the first.

Selfors, Suzanne Mad Love

Alice is the daughter of Belinda Amorous: The Queen of Romance. Life should be easy. But Alice has a secret: her mother is not in Europe doing research; she's in a local mental hospital and most days can't even recognize her daughter. Now the publisher wants a new book or they're going to take back her advance, the hospital wants to be paid or they're going to kick Belinda out, Alice has an unrequited crush on Skateboard Guy, and some lunatic named Errol is claming to be Cupid—the actual Cupid—and wants Alice to write the story of his life with Psyche. Fun, but somehow not as fun as I expected.

Snows, Alan Here Be Monsters!

Snows creates a charming world of boxtrolls, cabbageheads, and sentient cheese in this fun adventure chick-full of drawings by the author.

VanderMeer, Jeff Predator: South China Sea

At an island hunting resort run by former Khmer Rouge the hunters become the hunted when a predator arrives.

Viorst, Judith Lulu and the Brontosaurus

Utterly awesome story (illustrated by Lane Smith) of a spoiled little girl who wants a brontosaurus for a pet.