Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Couple Years of Books

So I have been completely MIA on this blog as well as my other book blog.  I feel so bad!  But reviewing books in the level of detail I wanted to took too much time that I just didn't have, especially once I started my illustration blog, Bah Humpug.  So instead I decided to do a post here of the books I've read in the past couple years, with a very simple rating system:
  • Awesome [A] - My top rating.  I loved it and you might too!
  • Pretty good [P] - Most books fall in this category.  Enjoyable reads but nothing outstanding or memorable.
  • Meh [M] - Ok.  A solid C/D grade.
  • Don't waste your time [D] - This was a waste of my time and brain space.  Hated it.
  • Hmm, can't remember [H] - Because I read a lot, sometimes I just forget books.  Could've been good or bad, but not awesome because I would remember an awesome book.
Now quick disclaimer: I have pretty eclectic tastes in books but because I view reading as a form of entertainment and escape I read a lot of YA/children's.  I generally don't read chick lit, shopoholic-y, Steven King, Tom Grisham, Charlaine Harris, Jason Bourne books.  And the ratings below are simply my view of hte books.  My friends/family disagree with a lot of them, and I'm sure you will too.  I tried to group these together in fairly specific categories so if you're looking for like books you can check out some of the other books in the same category.  And if you have any questions on any of these just leave a comment!

Adult Magic Realism

  1. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke) [A]
  2. The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern) [A]
  3. Rose Garden (Susanna Kearsley) [P]
  4. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs) [A]
  5. The Girl with No Shadow (Joanne Harris) [M]
  6. Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman) [A]
  7. The Stolen Child (Keith Donohue) [M]
  8. Sleep, Pale Sister (Joanne Harris) [H]
  9. Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon) [A]
  10. The Angel’s Game (Carlos Ruiz Zafon) [A]
  11. Of Bees and Mist (Erick Setiawan) [A]
  12. The Third Angel (Alice Hoffman) [D]
  13. The Ice Queen (Alice Hoffman) [D]
  14. Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven (Fannie Flagg) [M]
  15. A Redbird Christmas (Fannie Flagg) [P]
  16. Garden Spells (Sarah Addison Allen) [P]
  17. The Girl Who Chased the Moon (Sarah Addison Allen) [P]
  18. The Sugar Queen (Sarah Addison Allen) [P]
  19. The Peach Keeper (Sarah Addison Allen) [P]
  20. The Witch’s Daughter (Paula Brackston) [M]
  21. A Discovery of Witches (Deborah Harkness) [P]
  22. I Still Dream About You (Fannie Flagg) [M]

Adult General Literature
  1. The Hangman’s Daughter (Oliver Potzsch) [H]
  2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night (Mark Haddon) [P]
  3. Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides) [A]
  4. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) [A]
  5. Out (Natsuo Kirino) [P]
  6. Little Children (Tom Perrotta) [D]
  7. Straight Man (Richard Russo) [A]
  8. The Thirteenth Tale (Siane Setterfield) [A]
  9. Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen) [M]
  10. Suite Francaise (Irene Nemirovsky) [P]
  11. The Madonnas of Leningrad (Debra Dean) [H]
  12. Crow Lake (Mary Lawson) [H]
  13. The Risk Pool (Richard Russo) [H]
  14. The Electric Michelangelo (Sarah Hall) [P]
  15. The Boleyn Inheritance (Philippa Gregory) [D]
  16. In the Company of the Courtesan (Sarah Dunant) [P]
  17. Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn) [D]
  18. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett) [M]
  19. The Meaning of Night (Michael Cox) [P]
  20. Veronika Decides to Die (Paulo Coelho) [D]
  21. The Savage Garden (Mark Mills) [P]
  22. The House at Riverton (Kate Morton) [P]
  23. The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz) [M]
  24. The Forgotten Garden (Kate Morton) [P]
  25. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series (Stieg Larsson) [P]
    1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
    2. The Girl Who Played with Fire
    3. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
  26. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Jamie Ford) [P]
  27. State of Wonder (Ann Patchett) [P]
  28. Clara and Mr. Tiffany (Susan Vreeland) [P]
  29. The Weird Sisters (Eleanor Brown) [P]
  30. The Book Thief (Markus Zusak) [A]
  31. The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood) [M]

Adult SciFi/Fantasy
  1. Elantris (Brandon Sanderson) [P]
  2. Mistborn series (Brandon Sanderson) [A]
    1. Mistborn
    2. The Well of Ascension
    3. The Hero of Ages
  3. Warbreaker (Brandon Sanderson) [P]
  4. The Name of the Wind series (Patrick Rothfuss) [P]
    1. The Name of the Wind
    2. A Wise Man’s Fear
  5. Good Omens (Neil Gaiman) [P]
  6. Stardust (Neil Gaiman) [A]
  7. The Way of Kings (Brandon Sanderson) [P]
  8. Wheel of Time series (Robert Jordan) [M]
    1. Fires of Heaven
    2. The Shadow Rising
    3. The Dragon Reborn
    4. The Great Hunt
    5. The Eye of the World
  9. The Magicians (Lev Grossman) [P]
  10. Ready Player One (Cline Ernest) [P]
  11. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (Gregory Maguire) [M]
  12. The Road (Cormac McCarthy) [M]
  13. The Brief History of the Dead (Kevin Brockmeier) [H]

  1. Monster of God (David Quammen) [A]
  2. Wild Thoughts from Wild Places (David Quammen) [P]
  3. The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Michael Pollan) [A]
  4. The Third Chimpanzee (Jared Diamond) [M]
  5. An Anthropologist on Mars (Oliver Sacks) [A]
  6. Phantoms in the Brain (V.S. Ramachandran) [H]
  7. The Code Book (Simon Singh) [P]
  8. Monsters of the Sea (Richard Ellis) [P]
  9. The World Without Us (Alan Weisman) [P]
  10. 1491 (Charles Mann) [P]
  11. A History of the World in 6 Glasses (Tom Standage) [P]
  12. Leviathan (Eric Jay Dolin) [A]
  13. Born To Run (Christopher McDougall) [A]


  1. Me Talk Pretty One Day (David Sedaris) [A]
  2. When You Are Engulfed in Flames (David Sedaris) [P]
  3. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (David Sedaris) [P]
  4. Naked (David Sedaris) [P]
  5. Dry (Augusten Burroughs) [A]
  6. Running with Scissors: A Memoir (Augusten Burroughs) [P]
  7. Possible Side Effects (Augusten Burroughs) [M]
  8. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (Mindy Kaling) [A]
  9. Bossypants (Tina Fey) [A]
  10. Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner (Dean Karnazes) [P]
  11. Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger’s (John Elder Robison) [M]

YA SciFi/Fantasy
  1. The Book of Lost Things (John Connolly) [A]
  2. The Alchemyst series (Michael Scott) [P]
    1. The Alchemyst
    2. The Sorceress
    3. The Magician
    4. The Necromancer
    5. The Warlock
  3. The Lost Hero (Rick Riordan) [M]
  4. Percy Jackson and The Olympians series (Rick Riordan) [P]
    1. The Lightning Thief
    2. The Sea of Monsters
    3. The Titan’s Curse
    4. The Battle of the Labyrith
    5. The Last Olympian
  5. Gifts (Ursula Le Guin) [M]
  6. Forest Born (Shannon Hale) [M]
  7. Princess Academy (Shannon Hale) [P]
  8. The Book of a Thousand Days (Shannon Hale) [P]
  9. Enna Burning (Shannon Hale) [P]
  10. River Secrets (Shannon Hale) [M]
  11. The Goose Girl (Shannon Hale) [P]

YA Futuristic/Dystopia

  1. The Giver (Lois Lowry) [M]
  2. The Hunger Games series (Suzanne Collins) [A]
    1. The Hunger Games
    2. Catching Fire
    3. Mockingjay
  3. The Maze Runner series (James Dashner) [P]
    1. The Maze Runner
    2. The Scorch Trials
    3. The Death Cure
  4. The Book Without Words (Avi) [D]
  5. The Time of the Ghost (Diana Wynne Jones) [H]

YA General

  1. The Flavia de Luce Mysteries series - Alan Bradley [P]
    1. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
    2. A Red Herring Without Mustard
    3. The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag
    4. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows
  2. Cat's Eye (Margaret Atwood) [M]
  3. The Westing Game (Ellen Raskin) [P]

Children’s SciFi/Fantasy
  1. Castle in the Air (Diana Wynne Jones) [P]
  2. Dark Lord of Derkholm (Diana Wynne Jones) [P]
  3. Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones) [A]
  4. Year of the Griffin (Diana Wynne Jones) [P]
  5. Coraline (Neil Gaiman) [A]
  6. The Golden Compass serie (Philip Pullman) [A]
    1. The Golden Compass
    2. The Subtle Knife
    3. The Amber Spyglass
  7. House of Many Ways (Diana Wynne Jones) [P]
  8. The Chronicles of Chrestomanci series (Diana Wynne Jones) [P]
    1. Charmed Life
    2. The Magicians of Caprona
    3. Witch Week
    4. The Lives of Christopher Chant
    5. Mixed Magics
    6. Conrad’s Fate
    7. The Pinhoe Egg
  9. The Merlin Conspiracy (Diana Wynne Jones) [H]
  10. Deep Secret (Diana Wynne Jones) [M]
  11. Fire & Hemlock (Diana Wynne Jones) [P]
  12. Dogsbody (Diana Wynne Jones) [A]
  13. A Tale of Time City (Diana Wynne Jones) [P]
  14. The Dalemark Quartet (Diana Wynne Jones) [M]
  15. The Power of Three (Diana Wynne Jones) [M]
  16. Eight Days of Luke (Diana Wynne Jones) [H]
  17. Hexwood (Diana Wynne Jones) [H]
  18. Underland Chronicles (Suzanne Collins) [A]
    1. Gregor The Overlander
    2. Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane
    3. Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods
    4. Gregor and the Marks of Secret
    5. Gregor and the Code of Claw
  19. A Series of Unfortunate Events series (Lemony Snicket) [M]
    1. The Bad Beginning
    2. The Reptile Room
    3. The Wide Window
    4. The Miserable Mill
    5. The Austere Academy
  20. Fablehaven series (Brandon Mull) [M]
    1. Fablehaven
    2. Rise of the Evening Star
    3. Grip of the Shadow Plague
    4. Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary
    5. Keys to the Demon Prison
  21. Secret series (Pseudonymous Bosch) [P]
    1. The Name of this Book is Secret
    2. If You're Reading This, It's Too Late
    3. This Book Is Not Good For You
    4. This Isn’t What It Looks Like
    5. You Have To Stop This
  22. The Tale of Desperaux (Kate DiCamillo) [M]
  23. Un Lun Dun (China Mieville) [P]
  24. The Secret Zoo (Bryan Chick) [M]
  25. The Mysterious Benedict Society series (Trenton Lee Stewart) [P]
    1. The Mysterious Benedict Society
    2. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey
    3. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma
    4. Tuesdays at the Castle (Jessica Day George)
  26. Liesl & Po (Lauren Oliver) [P]
  27. The Aviary (Kathleen O’Dell) [P]

Children’s General
  1. The Penderwicks series (Jeanne Birdsall) [P]
    1. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, And A Very Interesting Boy
    2. The Penderwicks on Gardam Street
    3. The Penderwicks at Point Mousette

So there it is. I'll add to this list going forward in spurts or maybe I'll do a yearly update. And if you have any good book recommendations please let me know! I'm always searching for a good book and adding to my wish list.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Gregor the Overlander (by Suzanne Collins)

Title:  Gregor the Overlander
Author:  Suzanne Collins
Blurber Blabber Review:  Buy it now!
Blurb:  An even better and more creative series by Suzanne Collins, author of the popular Hunger Games trilogy, about an 11 year-old boy named Gregor who falls from the laundry room of his New York apartment building into a secret underground world with his 2 year-old sister.  This strange place is populated by humans and talking bats, roaches, spiders, and rats, who have created some good and bad, but always interesting, relationships.  And of course no good fantasy series is complete without a mysterious prophecy that has already sucked in its willing and unwilling participants into a quest.  While Collins fell short for me at times in the creation of an annoying and distant Katniss in the Hunger Games, she's done a much better job in my opinion with Gregor, a temperamental but good-hearted and courageous young boy.  And if she can make me feel emotional about bats and roaches (ugh, shudder), then you know she's done a good job.  If you liked the Hunger Games and are looking for more, or if you liked other fantasy series like Percy Jackson, Nicholas Flamel, and Chronicles of Narnia, then I highly recommend the Underland Chronicles.  Hell, I recommend it to any reader.  I must admit that I like the Underland Chronicles better than the Hunger Games, and my second rereading of both books confirmed this.  My friend calls this blasphemy, but I just call it the truth!
Series: First book in a completed five (woohoo!) part series.  
Language/Writing Style:  Third person narrative.  Mix of dialogue and internal thoughts of the main character Gregor.  Lots of descriptive sections to present the underground world and the strange creatures.  
Adult Content:  There are a few deaths throughout the book, although most are animals and insects (doesn't make it any less sad or disturbing though!), and discussions about death.  Also some references to battles and war casualties, oh and a slightly gross scene involving cannibalism among some bugs.
Rereadability:  This is a very fast read and is a great one to reread many times as there is so much going on in this book you can find new details you may have missed the first time around.  Also, it was great for me to go back and read this after I had finished the series because I already know what happens in the end and can catch some hints and foreshadowing.  I finished my rereading of this book in one day - it was that fast and that good!
Published: 2004
Length:  320 pages

(Read on for the more detailed and SPOILER-filled "blabber" review)

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Thirteenth Tale (by Dianne Setterfield)

Title:  The Thirteenth Tale
Author:  Dianne Setterfield
Blurber Blabber Review:  Buy it used or on sale!
Blurb:  The Thirteenth Tale is a debut novel by Diane Setterfield that pays respect to predecessor gothic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca.  Contrary to some misleading descriptions, this book is not a true ghost story.  Metaphors people!  After a lifetime of lies and mysteries, a famous author named Vida Winter tells her “true” life story to Margaret, a random bookstore owner’s daughter.  The book is interspersed with some present day sections following Margaret’s own less interesting story.  Vida Winter’s tale, on the other hand, contains oh so dysfunctional family members, sociopathic twins, ghostly mysteries, warped love, suspicious deaths and surprising twists.  What more can you ask for?  Savor some well written moments as Setterfield manages to capture various small emotions perfectly with words.  Some flaws are that Setterfield’s language may be a bit overdramatic at times (especially for audiobook people) and sometimes her unique and strange characters kind of disappear and fall flat at the end.  Book lovers will enjoy immersing themselves in the world of boutique bookstores and dilapidated mansions and will appreciate the nods to classic literary pieces.
Series: Nope - standalone.  
Language/Writing Style:  Margaret's story is in the third person while Vida Winter tells her story in the third, and then first, person.  Setterfield's writing style is reminiscent of gothic classics like Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and The Turn of the Screw, and while very descriptive and eloquent at times, there is still a lack of overall polish compared to the classic precedents. 
Adult Content: There are deaths, rapes, self-mutilation (think of it as extreme self tattoo-ing), and hints of incest.  
Rereadability:  This is sooo rereadable!  I read it a few years ago and then reread it recently for a book club after I'd forgotten most of the plot.  Even once I started remembering things, I still enjoyed seeing the twists and turns unfold.  I also like the way Setterfield writes - it can be a bit overdramatic at times, but that fits the whole quasi gothic theme, and she really makes you feel like you're there in that moment.  Ideally you want to reread it a couple years later after you've forgotten some plot points so that you can rediscover the surprises. 
Published: 2006 
Length:  416 pages

(Read on for the more detailed and SPOILER-filled "blabber" review)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Mockingjay (by Suzanne Collins)

Title:  Mockingjay
Author:  Suzanne Collins
Blurber Blabber Review:  Buy it used or on sale!
Blurb:  The third and last book in the Hunger Games trilogy takes an unexpected turn in the stories.  See my reviews for the first and second book here (book one) and here (book two).  We follow Katniss, now in District 13, as she accepts the role of the mockingjay of the rebellion and war rages on with a lot at stake (Peeta!).  But all is not what it seems and morals are all subjective.  I was still disappointed in the lack of development in Katniss' character, but have come to terms with what this series is really about.  It's not about Katniss' personal growth and development; it's about war.  Mockingjay is as well paced and suspenseful as the first two books in the series and you'll certainly be staying up late to finish this one to see an end to the Hunger Games trilogy.  
Series: Third and last book in the trilogy.  
Language/Writing Style:  Third person narrative.  Mix of dialogue and internal thoughts/memories of the main character, Katniss.
Adult Content:  There is quite a good amount of violence and death in this book, as to be expected with this series.  There is also some references to torture and depictions of the brutalities of war on civilians and soldiers.  
Rereadability:  As with the previous two books, this is a fast and engrossing read.  I think that it's more rereadable than the second one but not as much as the first one since the first one is still the best and could almost be a stand alone.  Also, this last book is a bit heavier emotionally. 
Published: 2010
Length:  400 pages

(Read on for the more detailed and SPOILER-filled "blabber" review)  

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Catching Fire (by Suzanne Collins)

Title:  Catching Fire 
Author:  Suzanne Collins 
Blurber Blabber Review:  Buy it used or on sale! 
Blurb:  This is the second book of a trilogy, so see my review of the first book The Hunger Games here or if you're ready for it, check out the third book here.  Catching Fire picks up 6 months after the first book ended and we learn more about what happens after you've won The Hunger Games and pissed off the Capitol.  We rejoin Katniss and crew just before the Victory Tour through the districts and await the start of the Quarter Quell Games, an extra special version of the Games held every 25 years.  After the cliffhanger at the end of book one, be prepared to enter back into the story slowly in book two.  It can seem almost a bit too slow if you're jumping into book two immediately after finishing book one, but it’s still an interesting read as we continue to learn more about Katniss, the people in her life, and the crazy dynamics of Panem and the districts.  While Katniss was the star in book one, I found her to be least interesting element of book two because there's not much new to Katniss here as she flits between indecision and survival mode.  Instead, the real focus in book two is the growing force moving Katniss to the forefront of the rebellion.  The stage is being set for the third and final book where real changes can shake things up and Katniss will be tested as to whether she's simply a good survivor, or capable of more.  And I hope so because she was pretty pffft in this one.   
Series: Second book in a completed trilogy.   
Language/Writing Style:  Third person narrative.  Mix of dialogue and internal thoughts/memories of the main character, Katniss. 
Adult Content:  There is some violence and disturbing imagery (blood rain - ew) similar to, but not as bad as, the first book.  Deaths galore of course. 
Rereadability:  This is a fast read, maybe faster than the first one, but I wouldn't say this is as rereadable.  I think if you haven't read this recently before starting the third one, you'll want to reread it of course, but I won't go back to this book just for the hell of it on its own. 
Published: 2009 
Length:  391 pages 

(Read on for the more detailed and SPOILER-filled "blabber" review) 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Hunger Games (by Suzanne Collins)

Title:  The Hunger Games
Author:  Suzanne Collins
Blurber Blabber Review:  Buy it now!
Blurb:  YA post-apocalyptic world where kids are forced to fight each other to the death in amped up Gladiator-like games with better technology.  Need I say more?  Oh wait, there's also great writing, well-paced suspense, and endearing characters who show room for growth and development.  Collins takes us to some point in the dark future or alternate reality where North America is instead known as Panem with a Capitol and 13 districts.  The districts eventually rebelled until the Capitol squashed them and completely destroyed District 13.  After the rebellion the Capitol established the Hunger Games, a sick and twisted annual “game” where each of the remaining 12 districts hold “reapings” to randomly select 1 boy and 1 girl (the “tributes”) to fight to the death, televised in a huge outdoor arena, until 1 tribute remains.  The Capitol cruelly forces everyone to celebrate the Games as a festivity to add further humiliation and to remind all of the districts how they are totally at the mercy of the Capitol.  When you pick up Hunger Games, be sure to do it when you have free time over the next few days because as soon as you finish it you will be on to the next one, and then the one after that, and then you'll be sad that the series is over but glad to not have to wait on a cliffhanger for a year as you wait for the next book (Bah - I'm looking at you Alchemyst series!).  If you want to see my reviews for the rest of the trilogy, check out here (book two) and here (book three).
Series: First book in a completed trilogy.  
Language/Writing Style:  Third person narrative.  Mix of dialogue and internal thoughts/memories of the main character, Katniss.
Adult Content:  The only adult content in this book is the violence and disturbing imagery from the setting of kids forced to kill each other.  Some of the deaths are described in gruesome detail.
Rereadability:  This is a fast read and engrossing.  And since it's part of a trilogy I went back to it a lot as I was reading the second and third books.  I reread this recently wondering if it would be as good as the first time around, and I ended up staying up very late that night trying to finish it. 
Published: 2008 
Length:  384 pages

(Read on for the more detailed and SPOILER-filled "blabber" review)