elizalavelle: (Edward Eager books)
[personal profile] elizalavelle
The list from 2008 can be found split between two posts here and here.

Onwards to 2009!



* = text not counted in tally because of length. If it's a picture book or a single issue comic I am not using it toward my tally of books read.

1. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling
Rating 8/10
This one isn't astounding but it's a great little collection of fairytales. I would for sure encoporate these stories into my regular bedtime fare for my kids. They're fun and the morals are pretty universal. I did like being able to read Dumbledore's notes on each story. I thought that was a great touch. I am still looking forward to seeing what else J.K. Rowling can write when she gets away from this world she's created. This book is sort of a stepping stone away from her well known characters, here's hoping she keeps going in this direction.

2. A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire
Rating 8.5/10
I enjoyed reading this one more than I enjoyed Son of a Witch which seems to be the opposite reaction than what a lot of other readers had. I liked following the Lion around and getting his story and the origins of the Glass Cat and Yackle. Maguire is always a pleasure to read and this one was no exception. I felt that this story was more of a return to Wicked in that there was a bit more reliance on the Oz books again with the Glass Cat and the explanation of the Scarecrow as Emperor of Oz and so forth.

3. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Rating 9/10
While this is written for teens and the writing style is a bit light at times the subject matter is heavy and really close to home. The set up of the war is close to the times we live in now. I think that Rosoff got the reaction of the children exactly right, I could see any kid making the same choices as the ones in the story did. I also really love that she addressed an eating disorder without making it the focal point and really did a great job of keeping that up in the background. There were actually a lot of serious topics in this story but they were woven together so well and the war always held the focus.

4. House of Stairs by William Sleater
Rating 8/10
Again not the best writing in the world but the idea is compelling. This focuses on learned behaviours and psychological experiments and gets quite dark as those types of things tend to do. Again it's a good commentary on our society today. This book is set further in the future but I could see some of what happens here as something that could be happening today in some capacity. Disturbing idea.

5. Perfect Gentle Knight by Kit Pearson
Rating 10/10
I adore Pearson's writing. I've been reading her since I was a kid and the books were amazing then but really hold up well as an adult reader. I really like that she's pretty realistic about the amazing things kids can accomplish and what their limits might be. This story also plays with the King Arthur legends which I particularly enjoy so that was a great bonus.

6. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Rating 8/10
I had no idea until the epilogue of this book that there was actual truth to some of the story. The bulk of the plot is fiction but it was woven around the true story of a murder from 1908. I want to read more of Donnelly's writing now to see what other parts of history she plays with. I did like the fiction part of this story as well. It is written in two strands of time which are a couple of months apart so you know where the main character (Mattie) is and then go back a bit to find out how she got there. This worked together very well and didn't get confused which was nice. There is actually a lot happening in all parts of this story and a lot of big themes are touched on.

7. Among the Hidden (Shadow Children #1)by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Rating 7/10
I read one of the latter ones from this series last year and enjoyed it and found the first and last part a while ago. This is the beginning of the series. I like the set up but it's also sort of like Ender's Game light. The idea is that there's been a population surge, creating a food shortage so now people are limited to only having two children. Third children are illegal. There are some different ideas here and some good observations on rules and fairness in the world.


8. Among the Free (Shadow Children #7)by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Rating 8/10
These books have some really big ideas in them. This one had probably enough story to make two more books but it all came together really well. I've missed some of the books in this series so a few of the characters from earlier books were new to me but I could still follow the story. The examination of what it means to be free would be excellent in a classroom although assigning all 7 books would probably not work so well. However, I liked the things that this story examined and the various shades of grey that humanity can be. There were a lot of people here who aren't bad but who have done some bad things and that's not always the case in children's literature.

9. Blankets by Craig Thompson
Rating 10/10
This is one of the most beautiful graphic novels I've ever seen. The art is great, the story is better. It's got so many layers that it can be read on and gets better with time. I read it for the first time a couple of years ago and nabbed it again as it rotated through my friends so I could reread it. Still beautiful.

10. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Rating 10/10
One of my all time favourite books! I tend to reread this one almost yearly. I cry every time and always find some new piece of wisdom that suits me at the moment. I am in love with all of the characters... some more than others ;) and just feel like I'm visiting with dear old friends every time I read this book.

11. Downsiders by Neal Shusterman
Rating 8/10
This book played with some historical fact and very neatly wove it into a fictional story dividing the world into the people who live above ground "Topsiders" and the people who live below "Downsiders." There's a neat sociological aspect to this book when it comes to the relationship between the two communities. This actually was a lot deeper of a story than I thought it was going to be. I would definitely teach this to upper elementary grades.

* A Christmas Treasury - A Golden Book
* The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
* Peabody by Rosemary Wells

February

12. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Rating 9/10
Some of the foreshadowing in this one gets a bit clunky but I really love his style of writing. There are some fantastic twists and neat plays on classic characters that make this very much worth reading. The idea of living in a graveyard and the logistics of it were really neat and Gaiman dealt really well with the idea of the human growing up while the ghosts stayed the same ages.

13.Deogratias, A Tale of Rwanda by J.P. Stassen
Rating 9/10
I'll have to reread this one eventually because it seemed a bit jumpy in places between the past and the present, not all of the transitions were clear for me. However, it is a really well done work of art about a truly tragic event and I think the graphic novel format really got some of the horrific imagery across better than text on its own would have done in this case. The back storyline that's being built in the aftermath of the genocide was really well constructed and the pacing was brilliant.

14. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Rating 9/10
Again some of the foreshadowing was a bit much, but in all fairness this is a book for kids so perhaps it's not so heavy handed if you're just seeing tricks like the ones in this book for the first time. I really liked the imagery that was used in the other house and was creeped out enough by it that the other mother popped into one of my dreams the night after I finished reading. The story is great and I'm sure the movie shall be wonderful as well.

15. The New Girl by R.L. Stein
16. The Surprise Party by R.L. Stein
17. The Overnight by R.L. Stein

Rating 6/10

I'm rating and reviewing these together because there's not a lot that differentiates these books. What I did like was that there was some continuity in characters in that background characters in one story became main characters in the next. While the main characters from the first story still get mentioned in passing in the next one. That's a neat technique. I did also like that the explanations for the drama the characters get into were all grounded in reality rather that just being mystically explained. However, the writing is garbage. I read these from time to time if I find them just to keep current with what some of my students are/will be reading. I really must encourage them off of these types of books as quickly as possible. They're alright in passing but these ones were always the bottom of the barrel in this genre of writing.

March

18. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Rating 8/10
While there were parts of this one that I didn't love it's a very well crafted story. I found that the more time I could spend consistently reading it the more I got into the momentum of the story and enjoyed everything more. I really liked the technique of having various articles, diary entries, interviews etc. between the chapters. It was a great way to keep switching up the format. I'm very glad I've read this one before seeing the movie.

19. Quicksand by Iris Johansen
Rating 7.5/10
I liked where she went with this one. The story was fast paced and highly readable and I loved having more of her characters from different books interacting with Eve and Joe. That's always neat. Also, this book very much went to a place where part of the overarching plot needed to get to and I'm interested to see what will happen in her next Eve Duncan story.

20.Lost Souls by Lisa Jackson
Rating 7.5/10
Typical trade paperback suspense fiction. This one delved into vampire lore a bit and that was neat. The details were all pretty superficial though. Not a lot of research or depth to the vampire legends that Jackson used. This is a book that is a part in a series which I've not read any other books in. However, it stands on its own quite well. I found the writing wasn't that strong though and often that was hidden behind random sexual descriptions. I had far more literary appreciation for her more interesting creations like the Shakespearian diner or the spot on description of some of the university classes. All in all it was an enjoyable read but not something that makes me really want to seek out more of Jackson's novels. I wouldn't avoid her work but I'm not drawn into her writing style yet.

21. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Rating 8.5/10
Highly readable book! I was hooked from page one and could not stop reading until the end... and even then it was just a pause to pick up the next one in the series. This book is a fantastic introduction to the world that Westerfeld has created and most of the main characters and ideas for the next few books are layed out cleverly. The character's stories start out pretty simple but as the book goes on they get more and more complex and the ideas that are introduced are really interesting. What is really neat is that the ideas aren't totally one sided. The people who are the "bad guys" also have a point. You can see how this futuristic world has created the rules that it has.

22. Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
Rating 9/10
The immediate pay off of this book is finally getting to see what New Pretty Town is like from the inside. It's neat to see how things run there and how the truth is continually hidden from the Pretties who live there. The world of perfection and endless surgeries brought Repo the Genetic Rock Opera to my mind. However, this world is a lot more colourful and happy, at least it appears that way. There is still a huge world of corruption lurking under the surface. Also the characters keep having their stories get deeper and more entwined. I like how the back stories don't just fade away as the characters grow up. There is the theme of the past coming back to haunt them that continues to resurface in all parts of this series.

23. Specials by Scott Westerfeld
Rating 8/10
The main character in this one has become so cruelly perfect that the only reason she remains likable at all in the beginning is because she was so enjoyable in the other books. Because of this I found this one much harder to immerse myself in. I still really enjoy the world that Westerfeld has created and the way that world is evolving and I will definitely pick up the next book. There is a lot of stuff that goes on in this book that is just hard to read but it's worthwhile and I am looking foward to seeing how the story of this world is concluded in the next book as I believe there are only 4 in this series.

24. Am I Blue? Coming Out from the Silence edited by Marion Dane Bauer
Rating 10/10
This is a beautiful collection of stories about young people coming to recognize and embrace their own sexuality and the reactions of their loved ones. Some of my absolutely favourite authors contributed to this collection and it is full of stories that made me smile and that made me cry. There's a lot of honest beauty in this book. In the introduction the editor quotes one of their friends who said "I have never met a bigot who was a reader as a child." I think that's a truth we need to recognize in society and we need to keep making sure our childrend read. This is a book that I know I want to have in my own classroom library. I'd also like to push to teach at least one of the pieces from this book in a short story unit. I would love to be able to use a book like this to bring a little more tolerance to my students.

April

25. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
Rating 7.5/10
I have True Blood waiting for me to watch and it's been so tempting. However, I like to read the books before watching a show/movie and my friend Sue was reading this one and finding it to be really amusing so I went out and picked up a copy. The writing style feels a bit simplistic at times but on the whole I like the story that's being told. There should be a warning that there is the typical romance book tripe scene of the secret virgin heroine having that magical first time where the guy is super sweet to her and has the "you should have told me" line and then of course it's really good and they both come at the same time. Because that's how first times work don't you know ;) There also are a few moments where the continuity isn't so great. I'm going to hope that as the series goes on Harris' editor gets better. However the book was a lot of fun and I didn't know how the mystery was going to turn out which is always fun. I will be continuing on with the series to see how it goes. I also want to start on the True Blood series ASAP because I can see how the events from this book will translate really well into film.

26. Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
Rating 7.5/10
I liked this one more than the first one. The vampire mythology is being deepened which I like. We've also moved passed the romance cliche of the virgin being the perfect lover. There are two mysteries in this one and I did find that the telling of them got a little fractured. They are totally separate events so one starts and then is put on hold so that the second mystery can play itself out and then we bounce back to the first one with very little to tie them together beyond some of the same characters being involved in both places. However the stories were both enjoyable and I have a feeling that these stories are going to continue to improve as they go on.

27. Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfast by Jane Yolen
Rating 8/10
I didn't love this collection at first but upon reading the bit at the end about how each story came about I rethought about each story and liked them better. There were still a few that really didn't grab me at all. I was surprised that the Alice in Wonderland fractured fairytale didn't hook me because I usually adore all Wonderland stories. However there was a charming Peter Pan fractured fairytale that was just about perfect. There is a lot of heart in these stories. I don't find them as ageless as some of her other writing but these are quite good.

28. Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
Rating 7.5/10
I'm finding that I'm quite enjoying this series. The vampire and supernatural world lore is being developed nicely. The romance is hot and while the overall plots aren't super deep they do make for fun reading. The characters are getting a lot more fun as well. However, I do find that there's a bit of a Twilight Bella/Edward thing going on with Sookie and Bill. Not Sookie so much but I'm having less and less patience for Bill. He's not a dream guy by any means and I don't like that he's held up there with the romance novel heroes like one because really he's inconsiderate, occasionally abusive, neglectful... yeah, just not the best guy ever. I always worry worry when I hear about younger readers seeing men like this presented as an ideal. They aren't. They come with settling for what you can get and that's not a cool lesson to present. I am hoping that these books pull away from that quickly.

29. Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris
Rating 8/10
Still a fun series that gets more and more enjoyable with every book. I am enjoying how the existing supernatural lore is developed a little more with each novel. You know that everything hasn't been given away just yet but there's just enough added to keep the story going. I also like that there are new characters who are being thoughtfully added to create a really interesting world. PLUS this book is a departure from the not so healthy relationship that was going on in the first three books. There was a bit more of a message of having to face the truth in the people around you and actually acting on that truth in a positive way for one's own good. I like it.

May


30. Tweaked by Katherine Holubitsky
Rating: 9/10
This book did just what it intended to do. A very vivid picture was painted of a family and how having one junkie in the family can tear the whole unit apart. It's told from the point of view of Gordie, the younger brother, who is not a drug user. His older brother Chase has been using for a couple of years when we land into the story and is at the end of a downward spiral. This was a book that I just didn't want to stop reading once I started, I wanted to see how it was going to end and what could be done to help this family out. The one thing that I think would have added more depth to this book would have been to have the story start two years earlier. Or at least before Chase was totally out of control. That way the reader could see what the family was like before the real destruction set in and I think that would have created a deeper connection to them all when things started to go badly for them.

31. Shattered by Eric Walters
Rating 8/10
Not a bad look at how a teenager can start to see the world around him and realize that it's not all good. I did think that there was a bit too much of a happily ever after feel to such a dark story in the end. There was an attempt made to say that things wouldn't be easy or fixable for everyone but then they sort of were for the main characters who we met. I did like the depth to this story. It could have been very superficial but there was a lot of back story added about the main character Ian's life and that gave him a little more personality. I think some of the stuff about his housekeeper's past was a little heavy handed. A reader already had the point of the story by then but it was given to us twice. Both were good means to the end but I think that only one would have gotten the message across.

32. Gravity Journal by Gail Sidonie Sobat
Rating 9/10
This one doesn't get wrapped up in a neat little package and I liked that a lot. I developed an interest in reading about eating disorders when I was a teenager, thinking for a while that maybe I'd like to be a therapist for people with them. I figured out that I couldn't do that, I'd be too involved in every patient and in wanting them all to get well and would feel every set back as though it were my own. So I gave up that job idea but I never stopped being interested in the diseases. This book I think did a great job of capturing eating disorders, and cutting as well, without glamorizing them. There were interesting survival strategies and some non conventional solutions mixed in with the typical ones. Definitely worth reading.

33. Mountain Girl River Girl by Ting-Xing Ye
Rating 8.5/10
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I did find that towards the end things started to get wrapped up in a neat little package as though the author wasn't entirely sure about how she was going to end the story arcs she'd begun. However the story was a really interesting coming of age journey. I'm not overly familiar with Chinese culture and found it interesting. I kept feeling as though this was a book set 50 years or so in the past but it turns out that it is actually supposed to be a more contemporary setting. Definitly an eye opener about some of the conditions that are still present there today.

34. Gotcha! by Shelley Hrdlitschka
Rating 10/10
I think this book hit just about every angle that works in a young adult book. This book, like 'Tweaked' involved a family which was disintegrating but the reader wasn't dropped into that at the end so there was some build to the destruction. I liked the technique of having the reader learn along with the protagonist. As she figured out more and more about what was happening in her family we found out about it as well. I thought this book was just going to be a fun fluffy piece of fiction about the end of high school and instead it went a lot deeper than I expected it to. I definitely shed a few tears towards the end. I also found this one to be quite the page turner. I started it this afternoon and got home and couldn't stop reading.

35. Little Brother by Cory Doctrow
Rating 10/10
This was absolutely amazing. I have been trying to explain it to other people and think it's most like a modernized version of 1984 (hence the title I guess.) But it doesn't feel like a rip off or a watered down version of the same story. There are a lot of new elements but it's showing the reality of what Wells wrote about. This book is set just a bit in the future but not too far. A lot of it is based around computers and the world of hacking and I found that I actually learned a lot about computers and how code works. This book keeps up a great pace and the suspense does not drop at all. I couldn't put it down once I started.

36. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Rating 8.5/10
I quite liked this one. I enjoy Picoult's style of telling a story from many points of view. This story revolves around a school shooting that lasted for 19 minutes. The timeline of the novel bounces back and forth between the years leading up to the shooting and the aftermath of it. There is a twist that is set up early on and I didn't really enjoy it because it was pretty predictable. However the characters are written in a very realistic way and I found that I felt compassion for them. Their lives keep intertwining through the years and in the space of one book a lifetime of stories are told.

37. Daughter of War by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Rating 7.5/10
I liked this story quite a lot by the end BUT I found the beginning to be very disjointed until I got to know all of the characters. Their introductions are a little bumpy. I also thought that parts of this story tied up far too neatly for the subject matter. I think there was a real push to make this one a happily after all type of story for young adult readers. Had it been aimed at an older audience the whole thing would have gone down differently. But I did learn a lot about a part of history that I knew almost nothing about.

38. Shattering Glass by Gail Giles
Rating 6.5/10
This book did a neat job building suspense by having each chapter beginning with an excerpt from a fictional newspaper type of source detailing the aftermath of the event that we don't find out about until the end of the story. I think the voices of the teenagers were quite well done but some of them got a little stereotypical. This was a very real look at teenaged cruelty though.

39. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Rating 8.5/10
I really liked how this story builds. The narrator, Melinda, is a very upset grade 9 student who is an outcast from the first day of school. As the story grows it is slowly revealed why the other students all hate her and what really happened to make her so damaged. Her parents are disconnected from each other and from Melinda which creates a believable circumstance in which she feels unable to tell them what she is going through. I found the end to be a bit contrived but everything isn't suddenly fixed either so I don't find a lot of fault there. I loved Anderson's writing style and I think she did an excellent job at getting into the mind of a teenager.

40. The Same Place But Different by Perry Nodelman
Rating 9.5/10
I really love this book. It's a great tale of an adventure that crosses between Canada and the land of Faerie. I felt like this one was well researched and so the story was delivered in a really interesting way. It's not a typical faerie story. The only fault I really pull with it is that the details were so good but there wasn't a lot of depth here. It could have remained a young adult book but with maybe another 50-100 pages just to give some more of the rich back story that exists here.

41. Jade Green: A Ghost Story by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Rating 7.5/10
I had fun reading this book. I really enjoy her witch series (which I do need to reread soon) and so I keep an eye out for her other stories. This is a neat little ghost story. The reason for the haunting is pretty obvious to readers who are familiar with the genre but the story is well told. I think this one would translate to film really really well. I did find myself wanting this one to be set in historical England as opposed to in the Southern United States. I'm not sure why my brain kept going there but the historical elements I guess weren't strong enough to tie me to the proper location.

42. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Rating 9/10
This is by the same author who wrote Speak. I read that one earlier this month and quite enjoyed it but I think this one is the better written of the two. I'm sure teens will generally like Speak better because it is more modern but I think the characters in this one were strong enough to be relatable. I loved the historal elements of this story, one could tell that a lot of research had gone into the idea and there are some really interesting historical notes at the end of the novel. This is an event in American History that I knew nothing about and I found it really interesting to learn about it.


June

43. Truly Grim Tales by Priscilla Galloway
Rating 7.5/10
Firstly this one was shelved in the horror section so I did go into it expecting truly scary twisted versions of classic fairy tales. So that did alter my expectations somewhat. I found this one fun enough but it wasn't overly engaging. I was easily able to put it down between stories to do other things. The stories here are different takes on classic stories and I liked some of the ideas that Galloway had for changing the point of view of the stories. The Jack and the Beanstalk and Hansel And Gretel retellings were two of the ones that I thought stood out the most. This one is worth reading but isn't a "must read" book.

44. Y: The Last Man Vol. 8: Kimono Dragons by Brian K. Vaughan
Rating 8/10
It took me a while to get back into this series with this one because I'd read issues one through seven so long ago but the story is just so interesting. The ideas that are still being explored are really interesting and provoke questions about the values of our society today.

45. Y: The Last Man, Volume 10: Whys and Wherefores by Brian Vaughan
Rating 8.5/10
The explanations of a lot of what's gone on in the previous issues are coming fast and thick in this one. I really like how much thought has gone into these and how three dimensional the characters are. There so so much back story and it's neat to see how it all fits together to bring the characters to where they are. I also like how the characters from earlier issues of the graphic novel are coming together in the end. Great planning.

46. Extras by Scott Westerfeld
Rating 10/10
Wow, I'm impressed with this. I read the first three in this series earlier this year and was waiting for this one. I love it! When I saw that Tally was not the main character in this one I was a little sceptical about how well it was really going to fit with the ideas in the rest of the series. I need not have worried. This one was so full of story and action and I did not want to put it down. This book is another one that brings up a lot of unsettling thoughts about how we are living now and what we are doing to our planet and what the repercussions may be. However it's not a preachy book, it's very much something that just lets you take things as you will but I think there's hope that we can see how some of the things we're doing today could lead to scary things later on. I also really like the technology ideas that Westerfeld has. I would love to try out some of the gadgets that he has thought up.

47. The Watcher in the Woods by Florence Engel Randall
Rating 7/10
I watched the movie of this book a while ago and don't remember it a lot but I think it actually flushed out the suspense and the story in a much different way. There is a lot of internal thought and feeling what the Watcher in the Woods feels that is described and I guess that wouldn't really translate well to film hence the difference in book and movie. I felt like this book was actually a little short for the story it wanted to tell, there could have been more build up of time passing before it suddenly was time for everything to happen at the end. However, that being said, it's a neat story idea and has that really good creepy feeling that is scary to those with vivid imaginations.


July

48. Y The Last Man volume 10 Whys and Wherefores
Rating 10/10
I liked the wrap up to this series quite a bit. It's not happy but the story was never a happy one and giving everyone a happily after all wouldn't have felt right. I cried at parts, was shocked at other parts and was happy at some parts too. It was a great mix of all emotions and a really nice end to the journey. Not nice in a all is well kind of way but nice in that it was the right way to end things.

49. Beauty and the Beast by Barbara Hambly
Rating 7.5/10
This is a novelization of the television show from the '80s. I don't have strong memories of the show (although now I kind of want to do a rewatch) so the story in the book was pretty much new to me. I like the concept of it and lord knows I do love my fractured fairy tales but it was not a hugely original tale. However, I do think it would translate rather well to television and I do believe that this book came after the show so that makes sense.

50.Tales of Beauty and Cruelty by Kate Petty and Caroline Castle
Rating 9/10
The basis of this book was to take classic fairy tales and modernize them for teenagers because the themes that we like as children are still appealing for teenagers. This book definitely suceeds in translating children's stories into and adolescent world. I actually really liked the twists that were given to the stories. The Steadfast Tin Soldier one was still sad but lovely in a dark way. The Ugly Duckling story was neat and told from the point of view of the the "swan" which gave it a neat spin. I actually really liked all of the stories in this. Not all of them were amazing but I'd consider bringing it into the classroom if I ever get to work a fractured fairytale unit again with teenagers.

51. Angel After The Fall by Bryan Lynch (hard cover)
Rating 7.5/10
I'd heard that this series both was better than the Buffy season 8 comics and fell far short of them so I had no idea what to expect when I finally got to reading it. I really liked it. I don't think it was better than the Buffy series but I do think it holds it's own quite nicely. I am going to keep reading on with this series as well.

52. My Booky Wook by Russell Brand
Rating 8.5/10
This was a really interesting read. Brand grew up in a much different world than mine but one that he made instantly accessible to his readers. He is a great story teller and is able to now look back at his life with humour and distance and is brilliant as he recounts his formative moments. He fought through his battle with addictions and I'm glad to know that he's doing much better now.


August

53. The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks
Rating 9/10
Wow, I wasn't sure if I'd like this story as much as I loved World War Z but this one held up quite well. There are some short stories of survival and zombie spottings throughout history that worked for me and I even found myself really interested in the basic survival skills and descriptions of zombies. In case of a zombie outbreak I am now informed.

54. Diamond of Drury Lane: (Cat Royal) by Julia Golding
Rating 9/10
This was absolutely charming. I loved the author's voice in this story. I think she has a great grasp on childhood and made sure that while her characters were capable they were not adults in children's bodies. The story was a really neat mystery and not entirely predictable. Always good things in children's lit. I would seek out more of the Cat Royal books for sure, she's a charming character.

55. Story Time by Edward Bloor
Rating 7/10
This was disappointing to me. The idea for the story was good but it was not well executed. I felt like there was a lot of exposition and not so much follow through. I also wasn't thrilled with the ending, things came together in an oddly convenient way. I really did have parts of this story that I liked a great deal but there were just a good deal of opposing things that did not click.

56. Faefever by Karen Marie Moning
Rating 7.5/10
Hot! Yes these are fluff but boy are they fun. The writing and editing isn't entirely tight. I get tripped up when in one chapter something is said to be happening at 5:30 and there's a whole bunch of explanation about that time and then in the next chapter a character says it's happening sometime after 6. Continuity fail! But I am enjoying the mythology here and I like that this series is tying into her other series. These stories are less romance and more rough and tumble. I like both from this author but it's neat to not know what to expect entirely in these stories.

September

57. Private (book 1) by Kate Brian
Rating 7/10
Not stellar at all but I was looking for some mindless entertainment and this book fit the bill. I did think that the behaviour of the characters was pretty spot on for the age group. A bit mature maybe but then again the kids are mostly extremely wealthy kids in a boarding school, they mature faster usually. A couple of times something almost supernatural is hinted at so I'm wondering if this series of books turns in that direction or if that's just an empty plot device... At any rate, a fun read, I'd pick up more if I found then secondhand.

58. Not the End of the World by Geraldine McCaughrean
Rating 9/10
A bit of a different take on the Noah's Ark story. I like this one being fractured, it's just a really neat idea. This one got a little heavy on the feminism at the very end but throughout the story things were balanced nicely and there were some interesting plot twists.

59. Witch's Sister by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Rating 8/10
I'm rereading this series again and I love it a lot. The novels are not hugely long or over complicated but they never read as being over simplified stories. The family is believable and I like the reaction to the idea of witchcraft. There are reasonable explanations as to why the girls are going through the adventure on their own and why their parent's aren't just fixing things for them.


60. Witch Water by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
61. The Witch Herself by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
62. The Witch's Eye by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
63. Witch Weed by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
64. The Witch Returns by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
series rating 8/10

I'm clumping these all together because I won't have a lot that's different to say about each book. There are small inconsistencies in this series but nothing huge. Just a bit of the witch mythology getting twisted around from the beginning to the end. I still really like this series. I like the slow involvement of the girl's families first as victims, then as allies. It was a well thought out story idea rather than suddenly having the parent's have all the answers and solve everything OR having the kids go it on their own unrealistically. I really like how the different approaches to Mrs. Tuggle taking things over were thought out and executed. Each book had something different and added to the over arching mythology. I think I first started reading this series when I was 12 (starting with Witch Weed because the cover was purple lol) and it still reads well as an adult. Differently for sure, not nearly as suspenseful or scary but it's a well written work of fiction.

65.The Muppet Show Comic Book: Meet The Muppets by Roger Langridge
Rating 10/10
The Muppets work exceptionally well in comic book form. Langridge has their voices down and really got that variety show feel with his work. I liked that each volume in this comic had the main focus on a different character (Fozzie, Kermit, Gonzo) etc. but wove their story in with the various variety acts, and had a good healthy dose of nonsense as well. Very fun to read.

66. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Rating 8/10
Some of this is trite writing that will appeal just to teenage girls but there is a great deal of heart to this story and some really important commentary on life. I loved how the family unit interacted and how Annabel learns to see the various roles in her family and how they all can, and do, change. I really liked the idea that almost counted in this case. There's an almost rape and it changes a character drastically but she takes a long time to give herself permission to have had a reaction to it. I was really impressed with that storyline instead of just going for the "she was raped and now has to heal" idea this was a bit more subtle and possibly will be something that more people can relate to. There doesn't always have to be the huge tragedy in order for there to be a reaction.

67. School for Dangerous Girls by Eliot Schrefer
Rating 7.5/10
An interesting read for sure. I liked how far this book pushed the system and how out of control that type of boarding school system could get. Sadly I don't think it's entirely unrealistic. Near the end maybe but it is one of those things that you could see suddenly popping up as a news story. It also brings to mind lots of things about class systems and how we are all separated and what that might mean for how we function as a society.

October

68. The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory
Rating 8.5/10
I really love how Gregory tells her stories from many different points of view to give a more in depth picture of what she thought could have been going on in that time of History. I liked how with this book one could debate as to what the Boleyn Inheritance actually was. Much like how in 'The Other Boleyn Girl' one could debate about who the "other" girl was. I quite like her take on the Tudor History.

69. Courtney Crumrin Vol. 2: Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics by Ted Naifeh
Rating 9/10
These are highly enjoyable stories. I love the characters, I think he has written a wonderfully stubborn girl in Courtney. The Night Things are as always fun, scary, heart breaking... just a great mix of fantasy.

70. Nightmares and Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time by Serena Valentino
Rating 10/10
This is one of my favourite comic series. I like her blend of fractured fairy tales and her own stories. Everything is wonderfully dark and a bit twisted but still has that fairy tale beauty and innocence. She also tells a good variety of stories in this series. One doesn't know exactly what to expect because at any turn of the page there could be something absolutely adorable or absolutely horrific. Very fun reads.

71. Harriet Spies Again by Helen Ericson
Rating 8/10
I don't know how I didn't know there were other Harriet the Spy books when I was a kid but I was utterly charmed to find one of them now. Some of the plot of this one was trite but some was surprising. I think most older readers will be able to guess what Ole Golly's secret is but what had happened in Montreal before she came back, that was a neat twist. I love Harriet's tenacity, it was great to read another story about her.

November

72. Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe
Rating 7.5/10
I went to school with Megan actually. She was a year ahead of me and one of those very smart kids who often seems a bit out of touch with high school, but not in the same way that I was so we really never got to know each other. She reminded me of a friend of mine in my year who worked very hard to upkeep the image of how smart she was and turned out to be a bit of a snot. So that's how I approached this book. It's very much a first novel, it's a good first novel but I think the next ones she writes will be better. The high school setting that she creates is still one that feels more like she's getting her own sort of revenge rather than letting the book evolve naturally. The idea that I felt was supposed to surface was that the girl who is able to talk to ghosts and thus has lots of dirt on the other students with which to bother them would learn that actually that makes her as bad as the mean popular kids and she should learn to just move on. That almost hit a few times but often it was dropped somewhat so that there could still be a bit of the popular kids getting slammed because they were jerks. Meh. So for some of this book I just wanted to say "LET IT GO!" Then again, perhaps I don't let it go because I've got my own high school preceptions going on with this book. I must lend it out to a few people and see what they think.

However, I liked the idea of someone being able to talk to ghosts and being able to use it as a positive thing. I also really liked the bond that the sisters (one living one ghost) had and how that started the whole talking to ghosts thing. It's good mythology. There is also plenty of room for a sequel or two with these characters as there's a lot that's still unresolved and there is a good foundation that's been built. I would definitely read more from Megan Crewe as I suspect her novels are going to keep getting better.

73. The Ghost in the Mirror John Bellairs/Brad Strickland
Rating 9/10
I adore a good John Bellairs story. I think I've read all of the ones that are his alone and now I keep unearthing the ones that have been finished by Brad Strickland. I'm still a fan. The characters are charming and familiar and the story was a good one. This story centered on Rose Rita and Mrs. Zimmerman and the adventure they have while Lewis is in Europe with his Uncle having his own adventure. I think I've actually already read the book with Lewis's story in it so it was nice to cap that off with this one. I really like how these stories have perfectly ordinary characters who are able to do the extraordinary without it being unrealistic. Rose Rita doesn't have a special power but she still manages to overcome a lot. I also enjoy that Rose Rita thinks she's a skilled liar and yet she's so easily caught. That's a great representation of a childhood trait.

75. Daughters of Eve by Lois Duncan
Rating 7/10
I enjoy most Lois Duncan books. The stories and the exicution aren't fabulous but the base ideas are interesting and they're fun reads. I enjoy how she works in a hint of the supernatural into this story but really it's a very every day ordinary story about normal girls being led astray. It's an interesting look into the woman's liberation ideas and I think feels a bit dated now but then again I do have friends who grew up being told they had to do the dishes and the girl type of chores and their brothers took out the trash and such. I'm glad I never had to deal with that but I can see that it still does happen in some families. I did like that this book did add the "where are they now" feature to the end so you can see what happened to all of the characters and how the events of the story changed their lives.

76. The Whispering Knights by Penelope Lively
Rating 10/10
I can still remember my dad introducing me to this book as one of his favourites from when he was younger. I went into it predisposed to liking it. But that's not really a bad thing I don't think as it's a wonderful story. I generally love most anything that plays with the Arthurian myths and even moreso the ones that touch on the Morgan Le Fay character, this does both. I really liked Lively's interpretation of Morgan Le Fay and how she changed and kept reappearing throughout the years. Neat idea! This is also one of those classically great stories about children encountering magic when you get a normal group of kids who are dropped into an extraordinary circumstance. I'd place this one in with the E. Nesbitt or Edward Eager type of stories. Lovely to read.

77. Feed by M.T. Anderson
Rating 7/10
I like the base idea for this story, the idea that technology can evolve so far that suddenly we find ourselves unable to function without it. In this society almost everyone has been hooked up to the Feed - like having a computer stream right in your head. The good - anything you could possibly want to know you can find out in seconds or less. The bad - the ability to think and reason indipendantly is pretty much gone and there's a constant stream of advertising that is pumped right into your brain. It's a neat concept to look and and I think would make a great book to start discussions with in a classroom about advertising and how invasive it already is and how much do we really notice? I did find that the style of writing for this book made it harder for me to enjoy it. I understood what was going on but it was just a little jarring for me. I also thought the ideas that were presented could have been pushed farther than they were but that the trap of seeing events though the eyes of a teenager who was raised on the feed (and thus was pretty shallow much of the time) made for a story that was just a bit more shallow than it should have been.

78. Prairie Tale: A Memoir by Melissa Gilbert
Rating 8.5/10
Not the best writing ever but highly enjoyable and really interesting to read. I grew up on Little House on the Prarie (the books and the show) and thus am always happy to see Melissa Gilbert getting work although I've not followed her career I will watch whenever I realize she's in a show or movie. Thus I was interested to read what her life had been like and how she got to where she was today. She didn't hold a lot back which impressed me. She talked about the things she's done that she's not proud of as well as the great things she has accomplished and really showed a full picture of herself. I also finally learned what had gone on with Shannon Doherty and herself which was something my parents had joked about when I was a kid but I was totally oblivious to - mystery solved.

79. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
Rating 10/10
This is a fantastic book by a fantastic author. He's probably more known for his novel 'The Book Thief' but that is not his only great book. 'I Am The Messanger' impresses me greatly. The story that's told is complex and there are a lot of characters to keep straight by the end and yet it's never confusing to do so. This story is heartbreaking and heartwarming all at once and is really inspirational. I would love to teach this book (probably at the grade 12 level) and I am always happy to pass copies of it along to my friends.

December

80. Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Rating 8/10
This is the story that the movie 'The Village' allegedly ripped off. I'm going to go with - yep the idea could very well have stemmed from here BUT even more importantly if he'd stolen the whole idea the movie would have been much better! This book is far better exicuted with an actual explanation about how people in the modern day would be allowed to live like this and explores a bit more of the psyche of those who chose to do so. I felt that the main character adaped too quickly when her situation changed (avoiding spoilers!) but it's also a kids book so there's not enough length in it to give enough time for a realistic transition. Skip the movie 'The Village' and read this instead. It does a far better job with the same concept.

81. Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card
Rating 9/10
I adore the entire Ender series. I know that Orson Scott Card is not the nicest most tolerant person and my brother and I were discussing him the other day after my brother read an interview about what Card felt the Ender books were about and said it was nothing like what he or I got from the books. To me these books are about tolerance which Card in his life away from books is not about at all. I think he's writing something with these that he really needs to learn from but he's not able to do so. Poor man, that's sad for him. This book fills in the years between 'Ender's Game' and 'Speaker for the Dead' and highlights how Valentine got to come along on the voyage with Ender and how the IF started to settle other planets. Much of this is inferred in 'Speaker for the Dead' but it's nice to have the official version of what happened.

82. A War of Gifts: An Ender Story by Orson Scott Card
Rating 9/10
This one was actually not what I thought it was going to be and turned out to be really interesting. I liked this look at Battle School and how that idea of religion was not allowed there and why and how people found ways around it anyway. It's an interesting concept to think about and I think it would make a really interesting thing to debate. I also like how some characters who were very much in the background in 'Ender's Game' get a little more time to shine here.

83. Leaping Beauty: And Other Animal Fairy Tales by Gregory Maguire
Rating 8/10
A very fun book. I liked the idea of not only changing human characters for animals but the modernization of the stories and the neat little twists that Maguire added. He really is a great author and took what could have been a simple cute collection of animal stories and added a little more depth and humour to it. Kudos to him.

84. The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
Rating 7.5/10
I've finally tried another McKinley book after trying and not really enjoying Spindle's End. I really felt that I should love her books, they're just the sort of thing I usually like, but I am not a huge fan of her writing style and I can't put my finger on exactly why that is. This book I found had a very confusing start. Were I not a determined reader I would have just put it down and forgot about it. One antagonist who turns out to be an older cousin to the main character was so poorly introduced that I felt she must be filling the wicked step mother type of role for the first couple of chapters until it is plainly stated what her relationship is to Aerin (the main character.) Also the time line jumps around a bit at the start and it takes a while for the jumps to be clear. There wasn't enough established plot before the jumping around started so this book starts as kind of a mess. But if you can push though that it's worth it. The story does pick up immensely and becomes a great unique fairy tale and apparently there is a sequel set farther into the land's future which I think I'll read whenever I happen to pick it up. So this one turns out to be quite a great story but you do have to be determined to get to that part.

85. The Pictish Child: Tartan Magic, Book Two by Jane Yolen
Rating 8.5/10
I've not read the first (or any other) book in this series yet but this one worked as a stand-alone just as well. The characters are well introduced and the story is utterly charming. Again this is one of those normal children who encounter magic type of stories that I enjoy. It takes place in Scotland and plays with the mythology there which is something I also greatly enjoy. I absolutely would seek out more in this series. One thing that I really liked was that this series is taking place during these children's summer vacation with their grandparents BUT the events in the story only take a day, there is a lot of room for more stories to be told about these children because things aren't dragged out to fill in weeks and weeks of time.

86. The Watch House by Robert Westall
Rating 7.5/10
This one reminded me of a John Bellairs type of story somewhat but it fizzled a bit here and there. The pacing wasn't spot on and there were moments where one could feel the lag in the story and I just wanted to shout "get on with it" at the characters. I enjoyed how the setting was created and the slow build to the ghost story. It took a bit to get into and then suddenly I found myself wrapped up in the spooky tale. There were just a few moments where the main character seemed to totally be distant from the main story for a bit while some exposition was built in with the priests in town or the B plot with her mother (which was good but just dropped into place here and there instead of having the same sort of slow and steady build that the main plot had) and those moments jarred me out of the story for a bit. I'm glad I picked this book up though and if I see more by Westall I'd give them a try.

87. Wake by Lisa McMann
Rating 8/10
I so enjoyed this book. The writing style was okay but a little jarring at times but I appreciate the effect that McMann was going for with it and often that dream feeling was achieved. I really liked the base concept for this story, spying on people through their dreams but having it be unintentional. A cursed superpower type of thing. I also found that this story got a lot more intense than I thought it was going to. That was impressive.

88. Fade by Lisa McMann
Rating 9/10
I'd like the third part now! This book got a lot more intense and dealt with a much tougher case but I think really highlighted how dangerous date rape drugs at parties can be and I think that's something that really people don't get unless they've seen it themselves and I think it cannot be emphasized enough so I'm glad this book didn't shy away from a tough issue. I also really liked how the dream catching curse is further explained and how it actually is shown to be a curse of sorts and that there are very real consequences to having that ability. I am so glad that the author went that way instead of just having it turn into this cool thing the main character could do. Gone (part three) is out in a few months, I'm absolutely buying it right away!

89. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Rating 9/10
I really liked this book. It came highly recommended and has several awards so I figured it would be quite good and it didn't disappoint. The issues and ideas this book explores are heavy ones and yet they're presented in a book that I think would make excellent grade 9 teaching material. Older kids and adults will take a lot from it for sure but I think it's a great book to start to get the younger teens thinking about the larger world around them. The idea of clones and of altering people with computer chips are not that far away from our technology and Farmer does a great job at pushing things just a little farther and using some socio-economic details to create a not unbelievable future. I was quite impressed. Not only does this book touch on those ideas but it also focuses on the ideas of cults and enclosed societies and how people who live in them can have their world views altered. Very heavy ideas in a very readable book.

90. Women of the Night compiled/edited by Martin H. Greenberg
Rating 7.5/10
As with most books of short stories by multiple authors there are some stories in this book that I adored and some that didn't click with me at all. I was very happy to see stories by Tanya Huff, Neil Gaiman and Jane Yolen in amongst the offerings here. I also found some new authors whose stories were highly creepy and wonderful. There were a few duds (for me) but I found there to be more good than bad here. The idea of this anthology was to highlight stories about female vampires. There were a few authors who really did that, and some whose stories were mainly about male characters and vampires and then there suddenly was a female vampire just thrown in randomly. Some of them weren't bad stories but I still found them to be odd choices for this particular anthology.

91. Break and Enter: A Chloe and Levesque Mystery by Norah McClintock
Rating 6.5/10
Enjoyable enough of a read to keep me interested. This is the fifth one in this series of books and I suspect if I read more than one the formula would begin to drive me a little bit batty. The good thing was that I wasn't entirely sure how the mysteries were going to be wrapped up in this book, I enjoy a good surprise. I had a couple of ideas but the solutions weren't entirely black and white so until you got there it was impossible to guess everything and the motivation behind the actions. But the characters were fairly one dimensional and there's nothing really complex here. A fun quick read yes, not too deep or meaningful.

92. Ransom by Lois Duncan
Rating 5.5/10
Not one of her best, I'm guessing this one may have been one of her first novels. I was driven crazy by the lack of contractions. No one speaks the way these characters spoke. A group of teenagers (even in the late 60's when this was written) would have used some contractions in their speech. More noteably the Mexican hitman bad guy in the story spoke with perfect upper class English - again, no contractions. The same with the woman who was holding the kidnapped children hostage. She expositions that she'd only recieved a grade five education and yet once again she speaks with no contractions. I was reminded of that NaNoWriMo trick that people use to reach 50 thousand words, using no contractions makes your word count go way up, but it makes your writing, especially the dialogue, sound very uncomfortable. The story here was not highly original and the characters were really one dimensional. There were a few moments of decent story and hints at an interesting backstory for a couple of characters. One can see hints of a good storyteller in here but she definitely evolved as a writer.

93.V: The Original Miniseries by Kenneth Johnson & A. C Crispin
Rating 7.5/10
I've come backwards to the V fandom so instead of watching the new series and seeing how they've updated it from the old one I've read the old one and now see how the updates were done. It's neat to see how the approach that the Visitors take with Earth is different and how the gender roles have been updated. The original version is much less subtle but some of the suspence, such as the Visitors appearances, is built up much more than it was in the current series. It was definitely neat to see the changes which have been made and I'm looking forward to seeing where the new series goes in contrast.

94. The Ringmaster's Daughter by Jostein Gaarder
Rating 8.5/10
This was an entirely different book than I thought it was going to be. The blurb on the back focuses more on a story that the main character in the book tells than on the actual plot of the novel so I thought I was diving into a young adult story and it is definitely not that. I could see teaching this maybe to grade 12s but not to a much younger audience. I liked this though, the narrative is a slow build and I found myself entirely drawn into the story and wondering how things were all going to come together in the end. This is really well constructed and has so many interesting stories in it. This is by the same author who wrote 'Sophie's World' which I believe I own (or at least owned) but have not yet read. I really should get to that sometime. I loved the author's stories within the story, as someone who is just starting to write I can see how tempting it would be to be gifted with something like that...

95. Peppermints in the Parlor by Barbara Brooks Wallace
Rating 9.5/10
I adore this book and read this year that there is a sequel which I'm absolutely going to have to find! This is a gothic mystery for children that's set in San Fransisco around the turn of the century (probably just before because there's still mention of gas lighting and such.) I remember picking this book up at one of those discount booths with my Mom when I was a kid and thinking it looked cute but I didn't actually think it was going to be as good as it is. I was totally taken in by all of the plot twists at that age. Now as an older reader I'd have loved to see a little more plot development. There was room for more interaction between the characters without the fast pace dropping. Totally a great book, and I think this is one that boys may like reading as much as girls would despite the main character being a girl (those things are more important when you're young.) All in all it's utterly charming and I'm glad that I picked it out on a whim.

96. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Rating 9/10
Once again an entirely different sort of book from what I was expecting from the description on the back cover. I thought this was going to be a sort of fluffy bording school book with secret societies and the like and have the girl break into the all boys society tra la la and there will be some happy and probably humourous ending... Which turned out to be not so true. That was all in there in a way but this book took a much more serious turn and became heavily about women being discriminated against because of their sex. At times it was a bit heavy handed but it's a thought provoking book and there are some excellent points that are made. Not only that but the English geek in me enjoyed the games of word play that went on in the text.

97. Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston
Rating 7/10
I liked this story in that I enjoyed the ideas in it and liked the setting (NYC) and that there was a nice dose of Shakespearian lore within the story. All good things. But wow was the main character ever a Mary Sue! Red hair, green eyes, clumsy and awkward but has a secret that makes her glamorous beyond belief... yeah okay. Oh and a perfect man who falls madly in love with her instantly along with the mention of other guys who are also asking her out... hello Bella Swan, I'm not thrilled to continue meeting you in different books. So while I enjoyed the read I really am over the whole two dimensional Mary Sue character archetype. I like a little complexity and a little more moral ambiguity in my characters.

Book list is continued here: post two

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Elizabeth Jamieson

January 2013

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