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November 18, 2011

Because of my job, I have read a LOT of books this year.  I read a lot of books every year, but now it’s getting ridiculous.  I read every new children’s book that comes into the library, whether it was published last week or it’s a replacement copy of a book from 1965.  Fortunately, these are quick and easy reads, for the most part.  I don’t think any of them have more than 50 pages.

But yeah, I’m over 900 right now, according to Goodreads, and I’ve only reviewed a handful of them for the book blog.  This makes sense, sort of, considering my schedule and all.  But I should probably get in the habit of reading and reviewing at the same time.  Doing a look-back, who knows what I’ll remember.

To help me out, I’m going to cross-post some reviews from an online book community I frequent, with some of my bffs and my bbfs (book best friends).  These reviews will be expanded from the original post in some cases, and left as they are with others.

From February, the books I read to meet my “read more new books” goal:

Alice in Charge by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

The latest of the Alice books takes Alice into preachy territory again (Alice vs. the Neo-Nazis), but Naylor’s been getting better at writing “issue” books since the series began. The Alice books, which I eventually thought would horrify me, have been a comfort to me at the start of these teen years with my daughter. Despite all the stupid things that kids do, the books remind me that I too was stupid once (once?) and got through it okay.

Sand Chronicles 8 and 9 by Hinako Ashihara (and the rest)

Extra stories tacked on to the end of this series don’t help that it felt unstructured from the middle onward. It was a good series, but it could’ve been tighter, better, and had slightly more depth. Ann is terrified she’s going to fall into the same cycle of depression and suicide that her mother did, and pushes away the people she loves. A good therapist could’ve fixed her long before the series ends.  As always, a series with great promise that ends with mild disappointment.

A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan

Pretentious and depressing, but probably a good book. What seems like it would be the most gimmicky aspect of the book–a chapter in Power Point slides–is actually the most effective, and affecting. I see why it made some top-ten lists, but only in that “LOOK IT’S SO HEAVY IT MUST BE GOOD” way.

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

I’ve actually seen this down as published at the very end of 2009 or the very beginning of 2010, so IDK. Either way, this is the story of slave mistresses of white men at a resort in a free state. Do they try to escape? I actually thought this book would be a heavier read than it was, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hit all its marks. Even when it’s violent and horrible, we have the distance of the narrator to buffer us.

Room by Emma Donague

My pick for best book of last year, hands-down. It’s moving, it’s scary, it’s triggering, it’s heart-warming, it’s heart-breaking. I TOTALLY LOVED IT. Read it in one sitting. I don’t want to talk about it too much, because the less you know, the better it is, but omg, it’s brilliant. Read it now.

Teen Titans Volume 12: Child’s Play and Ravager: Fresh Hell by Sean McKeever et al

I ❤ Teen Titans, and I really do like McKeever even though he couldn’t recapture what Simone did on BoP. I’ve stuck with this book through a lot of changes, and enjoyed it the whole time. The Ravager book is a bit rushed, but whatever.

Jackpot by…um…Marc Guggenheim et al

I wanted to know who Jackpot was, and I found out in this. It was a decent set-up, but I guess I was hoping for something a little lighter. My bad for not keeping up enough to know there was no way it could be.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

I’m not the first to say it, but everyone who’s read it said it on their own and then probably found out someone else said it first on Goodreads: Groundhog Day + Mean Girls. It took me a while to care about the main character, because her high school experience was so different than mine (no one was a “Mean Girl” by senior year; that would be too immature; plus I was pretty straight-edge), but after a while, it got to me. I blew through it, enjoyed it, can see why others liked it but don’t feel it has the punch to be the best YA novel of the year (that’s how I found it–on a list).

From May:

Orfe by Cynthia Voight

A beautiful, modern retelling of Orpheus with the lead a female singer-songwriter.  This book continues to impress me more with each reread.

Vox by Nicholson Baker

A compelling, if pornographic, look into sexual desire presented as one telephone call between strangers on a sex line.  I wonder how this book would read to a younger modern reader, one who has always had access to the internet.  I read it when I was probably fifteen, and found it utterly bizarre.  As porn, it’s a failure compared to the “trash” (aka romance) I read growing up.  As a human study, it’s fascinating how much we want to tell, how much of ourselves we want to reveal, but I wasn’t ready for that when I was a teen.  I’m sure this is a book I’ll pick up again in another ten years, but I cannot guess at how I’ll feel about it then.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Volume 7: Twilight by Brad Meltzer et al (addition: all the ones before it I reread when I got this one)

A confusing and disappointing reveal for a previously fascinating Big Bad, followed by…nudity. Lots of nudity.  What a trainwreck.  I desperately hope that this makes more sense upon rereading, but I have no desire to reread it any time soon.

The thing is, the series had been going so well up until that point.  The characters were drawn well and their voices really translated well off the screen and onto the page.  Everyone was sensible.  It was great that they got to use characters that they couldn’t on the show because of actors’ schedules or monetary demands.  It was great to catch up with the characters after all this time.  And then, along comes this…this…I mean, even my kid, who will defend the most craptacular of Buffy novels by the most unknown of talentless hacks, could not defend this volume.

The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

A great supernatural mystery for older kids and tweens.  I’ve loved this one since I can remember going to the library.  It was a book I read and reread during my paranormal phase, which I guess never went away but at least at that time included a lot of non-fiction reading.  As an adult, I find there’s a lot more going on than I did as a child, unsurprisingly.  Certain things were more obvious, and ultimately frustrating.  Characterization in some cases were fantastically subtle.  But of course the real shock is how often the kids were left alone with a pre-teen to guide them.  If nothing else, THERE’s your real book-dater.

Junior High #2: Class Crush by Kate Kenyon

A surprisingly readable ’80s tween series.  I will always remember this series as the one where the names of the bands were REAL: no made-up punk for these kids!  The punk kids especially adore the Meat Puppets.  And you really can’t blame me; who’d ever believe that was a real name?  I found this book to have just enough characterization and realism to be a good fluff series.  The girls’ interest in boys over the boys’ interest in girls plays out really well here.  I kind of miss the days where all the tweens weren’t “dating” already.

 Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien

A dark, post-apocalyptic novel that tweens and teens may love, although the main character’s lack of murderous instinct might be confusing to them.  I felt weird about the end and then found out that the author had died while writing it, and that the end was put in by his family.  Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, so you don’t look for where the change begins, but it says it on the book description, so you may have known going in anyway.  If you read this, let me know what you think.

I Stay Near You by M.E. Kerr

Another book that I dismissed as “good but kinda boring” when I was a kid that knocks me over now.  Three generations of class issues.  M.E. Kerr is so awesome.

This Place Has No Atmosphere by Paula Danziger

Hilarious look at the future (from the ’80s perspective).  Paula Danziger was the best at what she did, and what she did was write about children and teen insecurities in a way that never makes you want to smack the kid, no matter how whiny they get.  You feel for Aurora, whose family is moving to an experimental colony on the moon, whose choices are taken away from her, whose friends are so very far away.  You completely understand that she needs time to sulk, rebel, and adjust (in that order), and that after being surrounded by kids who share her interests she has to learn to socialize despite commonality.  The book is a breeze to read, and I would suggest it to this day for young readers.

Also, it’s the first time I ever heard about Rocky Horror.  Awesome.

Daughter of Deceit by Victoria Holt

Utterly predictable, even by Holt’s standards.  I used to love Holt, but this book was like “Are you kidding me?”

Nancy Drew Files #2: Deadly Intent by “Carolyn Keene”

Godawful.

Nancy Drew Files #3: Murder on Ice by “Carolyn Keene”

Worse.

River Heights #2: Guilty Secrets by Who Cares?

Ugh. (To add to my original review, this is just a waste of a book.  The characters are as flat as me my freshman year of high school and everything that’s going on can be solved with about two seconds of actual communication.)

 A Stranger’s Glance by Jessica Marchant

BLECH. (Harlequins will be discussed after I finish Dark Reunion.)

Sweet Valley High #24: Memories by Ghostwriter

SO TERRIBLE. (Really.  I hate ghostwriters.)

Unavailable by Angela Kelly

Interesting memoir but lacking something for sure.  My Goodreads review: Read this because I got it from one of the Goodreads giveaways. I went into it thinking it was a novel, but that’s my own fault. It’s actually one hundred pages exactly of essay-like chapters on various relationships the writer has had with women who fall somewhere along the bisexual spectrum–from “bisexual enough to sleep with a lesbian who’s attracted to me” to “bisexual enough to treat a friendship like a relationship but never let it get off the ground.”

Kelly’s stories are more compelling when they’re intertwined with her struggles with other addictions, but she keeps her focus on the relationships–or “relationships”–at times. She states early in the book that she is self-centered, and this is apparent even when she’s writing in a present-day perspective. Even post-recovery and post-therapy and post-drama, that egocentrism makes the writer Kelly less sympathetic than any of her stories of stalking and pushing boundaries ever could.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, although I think 100 pages is just enough for its focus.

*

The author was displeased with my review (isn’t the first rule of writing to not look at online reviews? or any reviews?) and I still am not crazy about the word “egocentrism” here, but I still haven’t come up with better phrasing to describe it.  Ah well.

*

Okay, so that took, like, six hours altogether, with me being on the desk and being at lunch and helping people at the computers and at the catalog and…and…

And here I thought it’d be easy because I was just copying and pasting a lot of it.  Pffft.

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