elizalavelle: (I am a part of all that I have read)
[personal profile] elizalavelle
A list of the books I've read this year...

Also you can check out my lists from 2009: part one and part two
and 2008: part one and part two

Onwards to 2010!


1. Heat Wave by Richard Castle
Rating 8/10
I wanted to read this book entirely for it's gimmicky fun. Any show that has jokes about grammar usage and then releases a book as it's promotional tool is okay by me. This book wasn't great but it was fun for this genre. I liked how closely it was tied to the world of Castle, the only character missing was Alexis I think. So it reads mostly like a Castle fanfic with the names switched around - and as those who've seen Season Two so far know (SPOILER!) there's a little more actual hooking up in this one. The plot itself was good, there were lots of twists and when it all falls into place I was surprised at the solution to the crimes. I love it when I can't easily guess a twist. It played out enough like a Castle episode that I wonder if one of the script writers didn't pen this one...? All in all it's a fun read and definitely worth it for Castle fans.

2.The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Search for His Disabled Son by Ian Brown
Rating 10/10
In truth I've been reading this book for months. It's not that it's difficult to read in a technical sense or that it was a slow read at all but it was hard to read as I nannied for Walker (whom the novel is about) and he breaks my heart in a very real way. I think that he's taught me a lot even though I have spent very little time with him in comparison with others in this book but he's a touching kid and I'm glad he liked me and I was able to spend time with him at all. I did have to stop taking this book to work with me (much of my reading is often done commuting or during lunch) as I cried repeatedly while reading about the struggles of this family. I never knew how tough it was for them. I think this is a book that everyone really should read if only to get a glimmer of understanding about what the families of differently abled people go through and how little we really know if we are not a part of that family unit.

3. The Pact: A Love Story by Jodi Picoult
Rating 9/10
I know her books are formulaic but I still greatly enjoy the journey she takes the reader on. In this one I was actually predicting a plot twist that thankfully didn't come. I really liked where she took the story instead. I do like the plot device of telling the story from many different points of view. The defence attorney in this book keeps coming back to there being no real truth in the world just different versions of events and that's how Picoult tells her stories, there are many different sides and it's not as though any one person is more right than the others. I think she perfectly described the all consuming first teenage love and how strong that can be tied in with that person already being your best friend. It's tough to see stories like that about teenagers and not roll ones eyes and say "they'll be over that in a few years" thus dampening the effect of the story. In this case their mindsets are clearly explained and I could see why they were making the choices they were without being able to shrug it off as the usual teenage dramas.

4. Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald
Rating 9/10
This is one of those sweeping books that takes you through generations of a family's life and shows how things fall apart and come back together in strange ways in the end. I liked it a lot but I did not like that there was at times so little time spent with some characters. I almost would have preferred this to be a series so we could see more of each person as they grew up and became so interesting. I did like the slow reveal of all that had happened in the past surrounding both James and Kathleen, it was a well plotted revelation of their past actions creating the circumstances today. Well worth reading.

5. The Summoning (Darkest Powers series) by Kelley Armstrong
Rating 6.5/10
My main issue with this book is how much it is clearly the first part of a series. It doesn't stand alone at all. Much of the story is just building up to a sequel. I am interested in reading what comes next so that worked in a sense but it's not a particularly strong start. I felt like all of the drama that filled the lines of this book could have been condensed so that some more actual plot could have occurred. On the flip side of the coin I do like the premise that the story is built around, there's something neat there but it's just not been fully uncovered yet.

6. The Girls by Lori Lansens
Rating 7.5/10
I liked reading this one but I wasn't totally swept away in their story. It's a great idea, writing the story of conjoined twins with both of them offering their various perspectives. The thing that kept nagging at me was that the girls both have the perspective of not wanting their lives to be gimmicky and not wanting people to read their story just because they're conjoined and yet that's exactly what the author has done, taken a great gimmick and used it to get a book deal. It's not that the story is badly told at all, the writing is good and the plot flows well but I just kept getting bothered by the dichotomy of writing a book using conjoined twins as a hook and then having the aforementioned twins spend their lives trying to get recognized as individuals and not get special treatment because of their situation.

7. Those Who Went Remain There Still by Cherie Priest
Rating 7.5/10
This one was a book I expected to be a story that was aimed at an older audience but it turned out to be more of a boy's adventure story. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it but it just surprised me. I did like the way the story was organized showing the journey of Daniel Boone in the past juxtaposed against the present day people and the journey they have to take. I didn't find the monster part too scary though, I felt like it was supposed to be more scary but that type of monster doesn't get my all goosefleshed. Although I suspect it would should I ever meet one in person ;)

8. Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy edited by Jason T. Eberl
Rating 8/10
I should preface this by saying I did not love my intro to philosophy course that I took way back in first year but I was interested in the moral questions that BSG raised so I thought I'd give this one a shot. I am really glad that I did. I think this was a second chance at the intro to philosophy course. There was a lot of basic information from philosophers I recognized but with their theories being applied to BSG which made me pay more attention. There still were essays I found to be more dry than others but on the whole reading this book was great for my brain. I shall have lots of new things to think about when pondering the BSG world.

9. First Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton
10. Second Form at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton
11. Third Year at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton
12. Upper Fourth at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton
13. In the Fifth at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton
14. Last Term at Malory Towers by Enid Blyton

Rating: 9/10
I really do adore this whole series. I've been reading and rereading it since I was a kid and it made me want to go to boarding school so badly! I can remember begging to go when I was in high school. Alas that was not to be. But I liked having these boarding school adventures to sneak away to and they're still fun to read over even now. There are a few bits where the continuity doesn't flow between book to book, one character who totally disappears in the later books without any explanation etc. But on the whole these are good sturdy books that don't get too preachy and still talk about lessons that would be great for young readers today to learn.


15.Skins: the novel by Ali Cronin
Rating 5/10
Such a terrible book. Often novelizations aren't the best but this was just horrible. Firstly it felt as though the author had never watched the show. She knew the key details she was writing around but she never quite got the feeling of the show or the characterization right at all. For the most part the characters were horrible stereotypes of themselves, and it's not as though these are the deepest most complex characters to begin with. The "adult situations" were hyped on on the cover of the book with the "explicit content" "18+" warnings. Yeah, most of those were awkwardly written and not really explicit at all. I've seen way better things in fan fiction, this was akin to the really bad fic that's out there where you know the author has experienced none of the situations but they're writing about what they think sex and drugs might be like and it always turns out to be awkward and inaccurate. Also, from the first episode of the third season it's already clear that Cronin didn't write Thomas' part very correctly. He really is concerned and respectful of women right? Fail. The only reason this one got even 50% is because it was legible, and if it was about random kids instead of already existent characters it might have been a bit better. Not by much though.

16.Private: Invitation Only by Kate Brian
Rating 5.5/10
Yeah... this is not a good one. I remember being moderately amused by the first one in this series so when I saw the second I figured I'd give it a try. This one is a much meaner little story that tries to come off as being about tolerance and loyalty but is just about nasty rich kids picking on the scholarship girl and her being pretty thick for a smart kid and never really getting wise to how much she's being used. Then the ending is okay and of course has a cliff-hanger that makes me want to know what comes next but I won't be rushing to the store to pick up the next in the series These are strictly second hand books.

17. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Rating 9.5/10
I struggle with McKinley's writing style a lot of the time. I've tried two other books by her: 'Spindle's End' which I really didn't like very much and 'The Hero and the Crown' which I liked a lot but which was a struggle to get into. This is the first time I've loved one of her books from the first page through to the end. Excellent topic, really neat reality, interesting characters. I don't want to spoil things for anyone else but I will say that I love how she introduces the history of the place she's writing about. Also I enjoyed how well baking and vampires went together, Amber Benson was right when she said she'd not realized "that blood and dessert could go together so well." They really really do! I still have moments where McKinley's writing style didn't gel with my brain... and other moments when I realized she and I have similar writing styles at times... make of that what you will. I am so glad that I keep trying her writing despite a disappointing start. She's an author who is worth it when you find the good ones.

18. Belle De Jour: The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl by Belle de Jour
Rating 8/10
I greatly enjoyed reading this book. I got even greater enjoyment out of reading it on the subway and watching people's eyes bug out once they realized what I was reading. That was great fun. I had watched the series before picking up this book so I was biased that way but I think it's clear that the series gets the tone pretty much spot on. They've made things a little more tame which I think saves them from alienating their viewers, but the wit is still there. This book is unapologetic which makes it stronger. She has no shame in her job, and no reason to have shame in it, and that comes through and makes the book more interesting than a "woe is me" type of story. She loves what she does and is good at it. Yes there are struggles and she doesn't hide those to idealize the career but she doesn't dwell on the negative either.

19. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
Rating 10/10
This is the teenage experience spot on. I was amazed at how accurate the voice was in this book. The experiences are heightened simply by setting the story at a boarding school which allows for far less parental interference and far more escalation of situations and emotions. Then again for teenagers everything feels like life or death in the moment. This is a book that makes me even more thankful that my parents pulled me out of the schools in the Beaches here and thus I wasn't the middle class kid trying to cut it with a bunch of far wealthier classmates. I had that experience until grade 8 though and it's a tough place to be. I can definitely see how in high school it would be even more tough and being away from home trying to find a place to belong would be turbulent to say the least. Also, I have a huge appreciation of the fact that Sittenfeld wrote a truthful first time sexual experience. I was talking recently to a friend about how teenaged girls are rarely ever told the truth about the fact that sex is going to hurt, usually for more than just a second. In this case the book stays honest, it's not over the top with drama but it actually sheds some light on the facts that most people skirt around. I greatly enjoyed reading this entire book, it reminds me why I wouldn't want to experience being a teenager again. Those are tough years.

20.Blindness by Jose Saramago
Rating 8.5/10
I think the story and the metaphor here are brilliant. I did get stuck on the writing style a bit. He uses run on sentences that can go for a page or more at times and I found that while it did create a neat effect for certain points of the book, it created a murkiness for other points. I think that had he used the technique more sparingly and with purpose it might have had more impact. I also am willing to guess that some of the poetry of the words was lost in the translation of the book from Spanish to English. I have nowhere near to enough Spanish though to attempt the original text. Beyond the technicalities I think the story is beautiful. I know that the movie took a lot of flak from organizations that support the blind because they felt it was a commentary on blind people and made them seem less than human. I think they missed the point entirely. I think instead this book actually shows how impressive it is that blind people function in a world that's set up for the sighted as well as they do. As a whole, much of our society couldn't function nearly as well and that's proven in this story.

21. Seeing by Jose Saramago
Rating 7.5/10
What was a neat writing style for the prequel to this book, Blindness, is somewhat out of place for this one. That stream of consciousness writing fit well for describing the experiences of people who were blind and experiencing the world in a new way but for this book it didn't make as much sense at all. I also didn't like the breaking of the fourth wall so the narrator could point things out. Once again in the novel Blindness this worked because it was the woman who could see who was making the observations. This book read like one of someone who wrote something fantastic, got cocky, and tried to recreate the experience again. I liked parts of it and I did think the base idea was a really interesting one but I felt it wasn't nearly as well executed as it could have been.

22. Dark Summer by Iris Johansen
Rating 8/10
Her books are formula writing in that you know from the get go who is going to end up sleeping with who and that the good guys will beat the bad terrorist-like organization and there will be at least one double cross, or apparent double cross at some point. But I found this one touched on some neat ideas and went in an entirely different direction than I had expected. I'd previously read the stories with Sarah and her rescue dog Monty in them and thought this one would be along those same lines but it took a neat twist and I really enjoyed reading it cover to cover. I also quite enjoy that now that Johansen has written so many books she's twisted the stories together so main characters from previous books appear as background players in her newer ones. I'm a fan of that kind of skill when reading so many books by the same author.

23. The Purple Prince of Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson
Rating 7.5/10
I always have fun reading a new-to-me Oz story. This was no exception. It was a cute read and featured some old favourite characters while introducing new ones. I often do have more trouble fully getting absorbed by an Oz story in which Dorothy isn't a main character though and that's the case with this one. Also, there's just a sort of magic about the original 14 Baum books that isn't always carried out at the same level by other writers and I've found that, in this story at least, Thompson doesn't quite reach Baum's level of writing for children. However there were bits that jumped out as very Ozian and I am glad I've added this book to my collection.


24. Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Rating 7.5/10
I liked this book. It was a good page turner, it keep me creeped out and a little off balance throughout the book right until the last few pages. It's not a spoiler to say there is a twist in this story, I expected as much when I read the back cover. This story is neat in that all of the clues for the twist are in the story, it doesn't come out of the blue. Yet, until the reveal actually happens it's not quite clear what direction the twist is going to go. But on the other hand this book didn't ring out as something hugely special to me. I've read books and seen films with similar ideas that are played out equally as well before. This doesn't make this one any worse but I didn't feel like I was having a unique reading experience. I'm glad I read the book and I would try other by Lehane. He does a great job at creating suspense in this one and I'd like to read one of his books that doesn't use a setting that gives me the wiggins to begin with to see if that suspense is still there.

25. Gone by Lisa McMann
Rating 8.5/10
This is a really solid ending to her trilogy. I actually was expecting the story to go in an entirely different way from the preview I'd read so the plot came out of left field for me. I still liked where it went though. There are enough loose ends that should McMann decide to revisit this idea in a few years it's doable but the story has a really strong ending and things are tied up in a way that provides a lot of reader satisfaction. I really loved that throughout this series there's a character with a superpower type of ability and it's shown to have such real and direct consequences. That's a rarity and I love that it's not a story of "oh, she has a special power, therefore everything will work out in the end." This is much more interesting to read.

26. Faces of Fear by John Saul
Rating 7/10
I enjoy his writing as formulaic as it is. Some of his newer stuff I've found too gory and more about the shock value than the plot but this one was a neat concept and is pretty well executed. One thing he missed though was using MySpace as the online social network... it probably was when he was writing this a few years back but it dates the book immediately because it so quickly was replaced by Facebook which got only one quick mention in passing in this book. Oops. Other than that this book has the right amount of creepy factored in with a decent plot. There are a few twists but the main one isn't a surprise at all (I'm not even sure that it was really meant to be) but there were others that surprised me.

27. Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris
Rating 6.5/10
I had more trouble getting into this instalment of the series than I did with the previous four. Mostly because before the story picked up and I could just drown myself in the plot I kept picking out grammar errors (beyond her trying to set the Southern tone of speech) and moments where she used one word when she clearly meant another. Better editing please! Aside from that I did enjoy the vampire lore and the world that Harris continues to create with these books, she does write fun stuff. I did get jarred out of the story a few times because apparently every man within 100 miles of Sookie now is in love with her... Bella much? I'm all for a little romance but this was just a bit beyond being fun.

28. The Waking Dead volume 1: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore
Rating 8/10
There is a really neat concept here and I am itching to stop typing this and pick up the next trade issue and see what's going to keep happening. The stark reality is refreshing and I'm told it will continue to get darker as time passes in the series. I'm really excited to read a character driven story about a zombie apocalypse.

And now I'm going to lump the next ones in the Walking Dead series all together because I didn't pause in reading them long enough to write a review for each one.

29. The Walking Dead 2: Miles Behind Us
30. The Walking Dead 3: Safety Behind Bars
31. The Walking Dead 4: The Heart's Desire
32. The Walking Dead 5: The Best Defense
33. The Walking Dead 6: This Sorrowful Life
34. The Walking Dead 7: The Calm Before
35. The Walking Dead 8: Made to Suffer
36. The Walking Dead 9: Here We Remain
37. The Walking Dead 10: What We Become

Rating 8.5/10
I enjoy the graphic novel format but I far prefer books which is what probably kept my rating from going to a 9 or 10, I want more words and less pictures. However, the art in these is stunning and flows in a really neat way with the story. In the earlier volumes it's lighter and the lines are neat and crisp. While bad things are happening the visual tone isn't overwhelmingly dark. Yet as our group of survivors encounter horrific event upon horrific event the artwork gets darker. It's not sloppy by any means but it looks a little more rough around the edges. The mood gets progressively darker as the story continues. The story itself is a neat one. It's very character driven as opposed to "ooh look scary zombie monsters, let's see how gruesome we can make this." The characters aren't static, the group we're following changes at least once in every trade issue. No one is safe. I like the realistic aspect of these stories. It makes one think "what would I do in this situation." There is no right answer, it's a struggle and often the choices mean that someone is going to die one way or another. Sad and hard to read but brilliantly thought out and executed.

38. Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris
Rating 7/10
I am enjoying the new blood (so to speak) that's getting injected into these stories. The new characters are carefully introduced as are elements of the supernatural world and elements of Sookie's life. Everything is plotted out with enough care that it all leads into each other and fits quite nicely. The new guy, Quinn, is not my type at all which quenches some of the fantasy romance fun of it for me but this book brought up some huge plot points that were an ample distraction. I really dislike the Bill character, I don't see how people love him so much. This book pushed that further. So cliched and just boring at times. Macho and walking the emotionally abusive line at others. Give me Eric any day. If one has eternal life they may as well have fun with it says I. But the mythology surrounding the vampire clans is a neat one. It keeps building and the view of this entirely different society is quite interesting.

39. The Grin of the Dark by Ramsey Campbell
Rating 6/10
I went into this one a bit apprehensive about reading it because clowns freak me out and this centres on a freaky clown. The story sets an eerie mood right from the start and for the first little while of reading I was a bit on edge. But then as the main character, Simon, begins to mentally come undone I got more and more annoyed and bothered by reading the book. I finished as a matter of principal, I could already see much of the twist that was coming and I didn't much care about the rest. Every review I read about this book hailed it as being a masterful example of the horror genre... to me it fell far short of that.

40. The Lottery by Beth Goobie
Rating 10/10
Fantastic! I now know why so many of my high school students had read this one. The story does a great job at showcasing the extremes in social hierarchy in high school. The idea that "everyone loves a victim" is entirely true and doesn't just stop with high school for some people. But high school is when this is probably the strongest. If you're not the outcast you (unless you are a very strong person indeed) are the one picking on the outcast hoping that you're not noticed and singled out to be the outcast the next week. It's also a neat commentary on how this reality only really exists because people choose for things to carry on that way. I really enjoyed that this story went beyond that and showcased more how actual big events in real life are more defining than any of the imagined social games in high school.

41. Gone Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane
Rating 8/10
Now, had I read this book before I read Shutter Island I'd have realized that Lehane is a mystery writer and not so much about the scary stories. Regardless I think this book is constructed a lot more effectively than Shutter Island and I really enjoyed reading it. I suspect this is in part because (as I learned from the blurb in the book) this is part of a series of books with the same characters in them so the characters felt more developed right from the start here. I understood them and identified with them. I really liked how some of the choices that were morally wrong were legally right, it's an interesting theme. The horrors in this book are of the real life variety and were sad and sickening in parts but not so much to shock but to build the plot of the story and the world that these characters inhabit. I'm interested in watching the film of this one so that I can see how they dealt with the material.


42. Half Magic by Edward Eager
Rating 10/10
I really love Eager's books, every last one of them. They're simple enough stories which allow younger readers to enjoy them but they've also got a lot of classic book references and little in jokes that reveal themselves as one becomes more and more well read. In this case there is a direct link between these books and the E. Nesbit classics both in them featuring normal children who have normal adventures and in the fact that Eager makes no secret that he's trying to tell the same sort of story. The children are real and the setting is an every day ordinary neighbourhood during the 1920's (I think that's the right timing.) There are morals in the story of course but it really doesn't get too preachy.

43. Magic by the Lake by Edward Eager
Rating 10/10
This story features the same children from the Half Magic story and also introduces the idea that there are other children who are having similar magical adventures all around the world... and throughout time ;) I really like how this is tied back in later. I also really like that in the midst of all of the magical adventures the real world stuff is tied in either though the children reading newspaper articles about expeditions they were actually involved in or through their new step father's business struggles. The magic world and the real world blend in a very pleasant way.

44.The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Rating 10/10
Wow. This one was recommended to me by a student who I met when I was volunteering in the R.C.I library last year and I've kept it on my radar and I'm so glad that I listened to her. This is quite an intense story and has all kinds of underlying themes of rebellion, conformity, government power and responsibility, friendship, love, loyalty... this is the first part in what will be a trilogy and I believe the second one is out now or is coming out soon... I shall buy it. I didn't want to stop reading this one once I'd started. I was actually happy to have my lunch plans cancelled the day I was reading the book so that I could read through my lunch break instead of being social. I can't wait to see how this world develops in the next book!

45. The Knight's Castle by Edward Eager
Rating 10/10
When I was a kid I think this one was my favourite out of all of the Edward Eager books. I just loved the idea of your toys coming to life in such a magical way. Who wouldn't want to get to go see the inside of their toy castle or dollhouse? I still think the idea holds up and as an older reader now I also see more of the humour in the retelling and fracturing of the Ivanhoe story. I also like the little throwback to the first two Eager books letting us know that the mother's in this story are actually two of the children from the earlier books. These wove together really well.

46. The Time Garden by Edward Eager
Rating 10/10
I really love how history and fiction blended together in this one. I especially love how that line is really blurred with the visit to Louisa May Alcott's time... or rather to see the Little Women story... I thought it was really well done and explained. I also like the final blending of seeing how these children were the ones who ultimately saved their parents in Magic By The Lake. I also thought this book spoke to the idea of growing out of believing in magic, and just because you don't believe doesn't mean it's not there.

47. The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L.J. Smith
Rating 5.5/10
I'm greatly enjoying the television show The Vampire Diaries so I thought the books might be fun. I also had a friend tell me they were better than the Twilight books. Not so much. I actually rated the Twilight series really high because I enjoyed reading them a lot at the time. It's only when you put some thought into them that they really get offensive and frankly I think a little dangerous as well. This book didn't cross that line but it was just such typical bad fiction for teenagers. The main characters fall in love almost instantly the minute they touch and know they can never be apart again. The supporting characters are not well developed and the main character is akin to Joss Whedon's Cordelia without the wit. I hate being forced to root for the popular girl who is spoiled and demands that everyone love her or they're the enemy. I don't find that relatable or at all sympathetic.

48. The Vampire Diaries: The Struggle by L.J. Smith
Rating 6/10
I did read the second of these books... only because they were packaged in the same volume so I just kept reading it through. I gave this one a slighly higher rating because since the characters were aleady as established as Smith was going to make them there was a bit more room for plot. It still was dreadful. The romance between the main characters lacked any spark. Even introducing Damon and having that fun sort of bad guy character running amuck didn't help improve things. The television series is working these stories so much better. One thing that's neat to notice is that these were written when Buffy was really popular. The characters I think are quite reflective of the Buffy characters, Elena (the main character) is the blond popular girl etc. But on the show the casting is turned around and reflects the popularity of Twilight with a dark haired heroine. An interesting cultural shift. Make no mistake though, even though these were written during the Buffy era they don't come anywhere near to being as good as that series was either.

49. Carving the Light by Sue Maynard
* This is the hardest book for me to rate and review because I'm friends with the author. So I'm sticking with my usual blurb about things I liked/disliked in the book but no rating.

I had a tough time with some of this book because the subject matter is heavy and there is a lot of personal stuff in this story that blends with the fiction. There's probably a lot more that I don't know about but the overlap I did see made it harder for me as a reader to seperate myself from the book. It's definitely one that will make you tear up if you're anything of a cryer. I think the ritual that the sisters have for Halloween and the reveal of the meaning of the title is fabulous and moving and an idea that is going to stay with me from here on out. This book also is the one that really brought the reality of self publishing to me and it's neat to see how easy it can be. I think I'll go this route myself once I get a finished book that I enjoy that is edited by someone who is not myself. I would love to get published the regular way BUT that industry misses so many great stories and I think it would just be neat to see a book finished and bound properly regardless of how it gets there.

50. The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint
Rating 7/10
I struggle with putting a number on how much I liked/disliked this book. There was a lot of push and pull there. It's a well written young adult book. The fantasy is fun and engaging. The rules of the fairies that de Lint has concocted are interesting and well thought out... but there are bits that just threw off the story. The over understanding parents for one. I don't care how "cool" your parents are. If even a fraction of the things that happened in this story happened to real kids the parents would not be able to just take things as well as they did in this story. The main character is mostly true to being a teenager but has moments where she's suddenly clearly a teenager being narrated by an adult. The turnaround from being a screw up of a kid to a great one is too fast, it's an adult's dream, not a reality. Also I have a feeling that de Lint wrote himself into this story as the kindly author who volunteers time at the library to talk with kids who are aspiring authors. That character could have been cut without much alteration to the story as could a couple of the secondary ones. Plot lines were thrown in that went nowhere. More editing was definitely needed. BUT that being said I enjoyed myself while I was reading the book and that's important. The story was fun to get lost in and the characters were certainly vibrant. The mixture of a ghost story and the fairy world was also appealing to me. I'm definitely curious to read more books from Charles de Lint in the future.

51. Valor's Trial: A Confederation Novel by Tanya Huff
Rating 8/10
I greatly enjoy Tanya Huff's writing so much so that even though the world of marines is not one I choose to read about from a lot of authors I did give it a go from her. It helps that these stories have a huge element of science fiction to them which keeps me going when the marine jargon gets to be a bit overwhelming for me. I like the characters she's created and I really like how these stories have evolved and how the universe she's created is being explained and explored. I do have moments where it gets a bit technical for me but the story is strong enough that I can work through the tougher bits.

52. The Grounding of Group 6 by Julian F. Thompson
Rating 7.5/10
The actual writing of this story wasn't strong but the idea was really interesting. A friend of mine made me borrow her copy of this because it was one of her favourite young adult books. So it was pitched to me as the story of these kids who are sent away to a boarding school but their parents have actually sent them there to be killed. Which I thought was a neat story premise and I figured that would be the bulk of the story. Not so, that part of the plot is covered in the first chapter and then it gets into a rather intersting social experiment and while the falling in love parts are pretty typical teenage drivel the rest actually is sort of interesting.


53. Cherubs by Timothy D. Rideout
This is another book written by a friend ergo no rating.
I really liked reading this story. It started out very scary and gently moved from being terrifying to being something beautiful with nothing being lost in the transition. It was very much like one of the John Saul type of books that I enjoy reading from time to time but there was a bit of added depth. I thought the characters were neat. I did have fleeting issues with the daughter. She needed to be young for most of the plot to work but there were times when she had to be called on to say older things to move the plot along and that didn't mesh with what a 6 year old would would typically be like. But like I say, those were fleeting moments and for the rest of the time the story ran smoothly along.

54. The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult
Rating 8/10
I do enjoy her writing. I know it's formula, I know there will always be similar twists, but I still enjoy reading her books. I really love that the point of view changes to keep the story moving along and everyone sort of gets a turn which keeps the line blurred between there being distinct wrong and right. This book was different in that there was a graphic novel being woven in with the text. The father in the story is a graphic novelist and so the story plays out in a reworking of Dante's Inferno as a graphic novel between the chapters. That was a really neat way to show how he was processing the events that were happening in the book. I was bothered by one moment where a minor character goes to talk to the mother in this story and you know that whatever was said at that moment was a turning point of sorts but you don't find out until the end what happened. I get it because if you knew what was said then the rest of the story would have been easy to guess but it was still frustrating to have such an obvious hint dangled in front of me and then having to wait so long to find out what the follow through would be. Beyond that I liked this story and I think that the issues it explores are relevant and complex and are things that people should talk about more. The sex games that teenagers play at parties are sometimes horrific and parents just think "that's not my kid" and ignore them when really it is the good kids just as much as it is the typical screw up type of kids.

55. The Last Vampire by Christopher Pike
56. Black Blood by Christopher Pike
57. Red Dice by Christopher Pike
58. Phantom by Christopher Pike
59. Evil Thirst by Christopher Pike
60. Creatures of Forever by Christopher Pike

Rating 7/10
Since these are all part of the same series I'm reviewing them all together. This series is like pretty much all of Pike's work, really neat idea that's poorly written. I hadn't reread this series since I was quite young, probably my early teens and I loved it then. I still like it now and I think that this time around I got more from the historical ideas he was playing with. I know more of the mythology and beliefs that are mentioned and so I think I understood more of where this story was trying to go. But there's clearly a formula in all of these books: the vampire remembers something about her past, we get a neat story about what she's remembering that of course ties into the present day action and someone from the past is always alive in some way in the future and she's consistently surprised by that. It wears a little thin as the books go on. But the last book twists in a slightly different way and I quite liked how it ended the series. I just wish that Pike could have written his stories with more realistic dialogue, I think that's what pulls me out of them the most. It's more than the fact that these stories are somewhat dated now (as they were written in the early 90's I believe) but there's an issue where the characters often speak without contractions and their voices aren't distinct. Sometimes it was smooth but often it jarred me out of the story. I did see that there's a 7th part of this series being released in the fall, The Eternal Dawn and I'm definitely interested in seeing how this story is continued as I really liked the ending and in seeing if maybe his writing style has improved with time. Could be promising.


61. Deadlock by Iris Johansen
Rating 7.5/10
Her books are entirely just for fun reading, nothing heavy about them
but I do enjoy reading them. These are essentially romance novels set
in an adventure setting. In this case we had treasure hunting, Russian
history, torture, murder, treason... And two hot protagonists who you
know are going to hook up usually somewhere in the second half of the
book. Fun stuff. While some things are predictable I still like that
Johansen comes up with plot twists that are surprising but not
completely random and clearly does a decent amount of research about the
historical settings she's using and blends some fiction in with the
facts without making it seem totally outlandish. Plus her
characterization is quite strong. I get a good sense of the characters
she's created and enjoy getting to know their quirks. A fun read all

62. Real Murders by Charlaine Haris
Rating 6.5/10
I find her writing to be enjoyable but very light reading. I also found with this one, as opposed to her True Blood series, enough hints were given to make a good guess at who the killer was going to be at the end. I also don't really love her theme of small town girl who suddenly has all of the boys in town fall in love with her. It's a little too Mary Sue for me. That said I enjoy a light fun read from time to time and I have the third book in this series as well (this is the first) as I nabbed these two from a second hand store. I'll likely read the third one sometime soon, I tried to find the second one but couldn't find it new anywhere but I'm sure I'll be able to keep up with the plot as I go.

63. The Asbo Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Asbosen
Rating 7/10
Fractured fairytales written about British druggies, drunks and other ne're-do-wells. A fun read for sure but a very light (intentionally) take on the tales. It would have been really neat to see these same ideas applied but have them taken seriously and let the stories get really dark. I still had moments of giggling while reading this one and there were little twists along the way that were quite clever indeed. I do enjoy fractured fairy tales in all forms and this book came as a gift from a friend while I was working on a huge fractured take on Rapunzel for NaNoWriMo, hugely thoughtful gift :)

64. Tunnels by Roderick Gordon
Rating 6/10
I really did not enjoy reading this book which surprised me a lot. I remember when it was released there were reviewiers saying that it was the next Harry Potter. I found the entire thing quite horrid actually. The story idea is great, it's an idea that I've read in other wonderful books and always enjoy but is original enough to be it's own story. So that was a good start. The bad was the all but a very small handful of the characters in this book were dispicable. This includes the main character which pretty much soured me on the story the whole way through. Everyone thinks only of themselves. Parents abandon the children, children abandon friends, loyalty is never a constant.... I just wanted to throw pretty much everyone down a tunnel and seal them in. Even when the main character says he's trying to help his friend for the most part his actions betray that. These are not the next generation of Gryffendor students by far. Not only that but this is one of those books that is very much the first part in a series so that there isn't really a feeling of finishing a story when the end of the book is reached. There's just the "oh I guess I have to read the rest now" feeling. I dislike that. A book in a series should be able to stand on it's own and be good enough to make someone want to read the next one even when the first one has an ending. The Harry Potter books had this done perfectly. Every book ended the school year. The bad guy was defeated and while there was the knowledge that there was more to come the reader still got to have that sense of something being completed in each book. In comparison Tunnels just sort of ends randomly and I'm sure will pick up in the next book exactly where this one left off just like the end of one chapter and onto the next. I'm definitely passing on the next.

65. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Rating 10/10
This is a really hard book subject wise to read but it's compelling and I couldn't stop reading it once I'd started. I think this did a great job at looking at why a kidnapped and abused child wouldn't try to get help and how twisted their allegiance to their abuser could become. The characterization was strong but simple. Not too much had to be written about them in order to get to the core of the characters in this story. One thing that I thought was really neat was the ability of daytime television to really dull out someone's senses and their own perceptions of reality. I thought that was an interesting thing to have mentioned in such a short story. That wasn't talked about specifically but it was definitely something that was taking place.

66. I, Coriander by Sally Gardner
Rating 9/10
I loved this book. Even the edition that I have is just a beautiful book (Orion paperback 2006.) I found at times things got a bit muddled but the story was a beautiful one and I really love the blending of a brand new fairytale with actual history. I also really liked how the linear time worked. The main character went from being 6 years old to being grown up without her story seeming rushed or awkward. I would have loved to have read more about the fairytale world that was running alongside ours and even more I'd have loved to learn more of the rules about how time was working in the two different places. But a book that leaves you wanting more in a really positive way and leaves you thinking things like that out is always brilliant.

67. Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult
Rating: 7/10
I liked this story but it wasn't one of her strongest. She got a little too creative with the narrative styles. The daughter tells the events backwards and the rest of the characters tell the story in sequence. I can see that the effect is an interesting one, but it didn't really work for me. Knowing how the story was going to end made me less invested in most of it as the story developed. I did like seeing the events from the teenager's point of view and then getting the adult rationalizations afterwards. I think that I really didn't like this set of characters as much as I've liked characters in her other stories. Here I sort of felt that the parents both pretty much sucked as people in their committment to each other and I wasn't inclined to feel sympathy for either of them as they tried to find themselves. That said the story was neat and I enjoyed the road trip feeling that came from this one. That once in a lifetime summer adventure. It was an interesting read but I've liked her other books better thus far. I think this one is one of those stories that if I were to analyze it for an essay, I'd end up tearing the characters to shreds. But, that does mean I was involved enough in the story to actually care that these people were all ones I'd not like to meet in reality.

68. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Rating 10/10
This book was stunning! The writing is just beautiful and the way the plot unfolds is an artform. Without spoiling anything (and I advise readers to not browse this title on Amazon because there's a huge spoiler in the blurb about the book, I hate that, and the book reads just as well with that knowledge but it still shouldn't be spoiled) there's a theme in this book about people being told information without really being told. The children at boarding school are always told what their futures will entail but never told plainly. It's always twisted in with other information or inferred so they all go "well we all know that of course" but don't really grasp what it is that they know. The book moves along in the same way for the reader which I think is brilliant. You pretty much know what it is that the children know and the reality is in the back of your mind so it's not a shock when things are said plainly but you realize that you didn't really know what it is you felt you knew. The characters broke my heart again and again and I'm looking forward to the film even more now since the book was so amazing and the trailer for the movie looks just right.

69. Lost by Joy Fielding
Rating 5.5/10
This book just kept getting more and more painful to read. The main character was so unsympathetic and made the wrong choices right through to the end of the story. She behaved much like her spoilt daughter did and then managed to somehow believe all of her daughter's negative traits came from her father and washed her hands of the whole situation instead of taking any initiative to help her daughter. Parenting fail. I felt as though this book was aimed at women who are having a hard time relating to their teenaged or early twenties children and need to find a way to blame that on someone else entirely. I wanted to see the solution to the mystery and I hate not finishing a book so I got through this one but was disappointed at every turn. There was no redemption for any of the characters.

70. Good-bye Pink Pig by C.S. Adler
Rating 10/10
I had very fond memories of this story from when I was a kid and had been searching for a copy of my very own for years. Not only did I finally find it but it had the same cover and everything! I think I was a dark kid, this is a really sad story. It continues so now I need to pick up the second book but this one does stand on it's own fairly well. What I think really comes across in this book is the feelings from childhood. Amanda (the main character) is very easy to relate to. I don't relate to her as much now but I can remember feeling much like her at times when I was a kid. The imaginative parts of this story were lovely too. As a kid I totally believed them, as an adult I think I take it a little differently but I still enjoyed the way they interlocked with the real events that were going on in the book. Simply beautiful. I don't know why Adler's books aren't still readily available. I think that her stories would still hold a great appeal to children.

71. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Rating 7.5/10
I am a very bad geek and hadn't read this yet so I'm giving it a go now. I enjoyed the first story in the collection but as I already knew all of the punchlines I found myself waiting for the bits that I knew were coming. The story itself is witty and fast paced and enjoyable even knowing some of the things that were coming. I enjoyed it enough to continue on with the series and we shall see how much I like it now that the main quoted lines have passed and it's a fresh new story for me.

72. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
Rating 8.5/10
I liked this story more than the first one because it moved away from all of the snappy lines that I knew before I’d read the book and let me just read the story and see what it was all about. I love how time travel was played with for this story and the backstory of the earth is brilliant! I really like how Adams lays out the clues for each upcoming joke so that the reader had a chance to reach the “aha!” moment before the characters quite get there.

73. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Rating 10/10
This is one of the most haunting and beautiful books I've ever read. I lost my copy of it years ago and just picked up a new one so had to reread it. Last summer I watched the movie and liked it and now after rereading the book I see that the film really did get most things right. A lot was edited out to make the story fit into the time contraints but it told the main story in a beautiful way. I love the view of a girl watching her friends and family grow up without her. It's sad but because she's never fixated on them in a jealous way it just stays lovely. I think it was especially powerful to see her younger sister growing up through her eyes and having all of the first experiences that Susie herself never got to have. A hard book to read subject wise but once one can get past the brutality of it the story becomes much deeper than just a tragedy. It celebrates life much more than mourning death.

Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams
Rating 7/10
I do enjoy his wit but I found the plot of this one felt a little bit like "okay we've both been here and done this now." I do like the settings that Adams creates and the situations his characters find themselves in are always amusing but it also gets played out over three books... I'm still reading onwards but I am not finding these books to be hugely compelling. I've put down my huge omnibus of all of the novels and while I will pick it up and finish it I'm not feeling rushed to do so.

75. Sorcery and Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
Rating 8.5/10
For all of those who enjoyed books like Pride and Prejeduce and Zombies and the multitude of books that have similar themes this book is an actual orginal in that same vein. The setting is remarkably like a typical Jane Austin novel although the language is more modern and not quite as difficult to work through. Here we have two cousins, one having her coming out in London while the other has been left at home in the countryside. They correspond through letters and so we get their stories in that back and forth manner. It's not my favourite style but these authors made it work really well. The twist comes in as we learn that wizards and magic are common place in this world and add yet another stepping stone to the social ladder. The magic is a central part to the story of course but it's not dwelled upon as being unusual, it's just there in the background until it's needed. I loved the pacing of this book. Every time I put it down it took me a bit to get back into but once I was reading it I didn't want to stop. Great fun and I'm glad the authors have tried their hand at another joint novel about the cousins. It should be interesting to see how they do it now that it's gone from being a writing exercise for them to an actual series of books.

76. Everlost by Neal Shusterman
Rating 10/10
A different kind of afterlife story from The Lovely Bones which I just recently read but delightfully brilliant on it's own merits. This is aimed at a younger audience and is a Burton-esque tale of the afterlife for children who don't quite make it through to the light at the end of the tunnel and remain on earth in a sort of limbo. The story is crafted as a different sort of fairy tale with monsters and princesses who are all a little different than they appear (but not in the usual predictable ways.) I didn't want to put this one down once I'd started it and rushed home to curl up in bed and read through to the end as soon as work was done. I loved how even though this was a younger young adult book nothing felt over simplified or dumbed down.

77. Still Summer by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Rating 6.5/10
I had trouble getting into this story. It started out in one direction and while it was clear that it was going to change it took a while to get there. I was about a third of the way in before I was actually interested in what was going on. Then the action sort of flew by in a blur. As a writing technique it worked because I think it felt much like how the characters were experiencing things. But I didn't love reading it, even when I was engaged in what was happening I wasn't totally hooked. The twists were foreseeable so there weren't surprises. I did like the ending because everything wasn't perfect at the end which kept a hint of realism to the story. The unfinished ending style worked here. Interesting to read, I'm likely not going to seek out other books by Mitchard on purpose.

78. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
Rating 9/10
This one was a much darker story than I'd expected from a Y/A book. By the time I was less than 30 pages in I was already re-evaluating my own reluctance to let the fractured fairytale that I wrote last year get as dark as it needed to be. I think in my edit I now feel freer to take it to the place where it may need to be for the story to get told. But back to this book, beyond being dark it's also brilliant. It uses one of my favourite fairytales, Snow White and Rose Red, as a gentle inspiration and then takes off as it's own brilliant story. I think this is one that's not really for the younger Y/A readers but it's complex enough that it's not likely to have people who aren't ready to read it picking it up and reading it through. The only fault I found with it was that there were several end points and I kept thinking it was the end and no there were chapters and chapters more to go. They weren't bad chapters, I quite liked that there was more to read but it felt like there was some struggle with the decision about where the end point was going to be. I am so thrilled that I picked this story up to read. Bakka for the win :)

79. The Secret of Grim Hill by Linda DeMulemeester
Rating 7/10
This was a really cute story. The intended audience is readers who are probably around 10-12 I'd guess and it doesn't transcend ages as well as some other Y/A books do but it was still fun. I am certain that my 10 year old self would have been entirely enchanted by it. There actually was a bit of a twist to the story that I didn't see coming which was lovely. Most of the twists were easy to see if you're used to the Y/A style of storytelling but there was a good bit of originality in this book. It's very much the first part in a series but the story does wrap up at the end of this book so readers aren't left stranded if they don't move on to the next part right away.

80. Wishing for Tomorrow: The Sequel to A Little Princess by Hilary McKay
Rating 7.5/10
I did like this one much more than I expected to but it definitely does not have that special spark that makes A Little Princess a timeless story. This one goes back in to wrap up the loose ends and it's clear that the author thought a lot about the secondary characters but never really nailed down Sara which meant her character just didn't feel right in this story. I also felt that the main set up of the story relied on falling back on a previous character conflict that I felt was resolved in Burnett's original story. Bringing it up again just weakened the bond between two characters and didn't make sense. That part felt like fanfiction for sure instead of a properly thought out story. I did like how the other girls come into their own a bit more and we get some explanation as to why they all are they way they are. I think that part of the reason this book worked as well as it did was that the world was already created for McKay to write in. She added very little in the way of description but if you already have Miss Minchin's school in your mind it will be very easy to visit it again.


81. Beasts of Burden: Animal Rights by Evan Dorkin illustrated by Jill Thompson
Rating 8/10
I really enjoyed this graphic novel. The illustrations are striking and all of the stories are interesting. I have trouble figuring out an age group for this one though. It should be kid friendly but some of the illustrations get a little graphic (in a rotting dog corpse way, not in an adult way) yet the stories are suitable for an elementary school age kid. I guess it's a call for individual readers. I'm very glad that I received this one as a gift though because usually I don't go in for animal stories and I'd have missed out on this one had it not been given to me with a strong recommendation.

82. Somebody Elses Summer by Jean Little
Rating 8/10
Jean Little writes wonderful books for children that I think adults will still enjoy enough to read to their kids. This is the story of two ten year olds who end up flying from Vancouver to Ontario together. They were strangers before the flight but as they are both unaccompanied minors they are sat together and realize that they're each being sent away to what sounds like a dream vacation to the other. To make the story work they are both being sent to stay with people who have never met them before and the girls decide to switch and enjoy the summer of their choice rather than being stuck somewhere they won't enjoy. It's a story idea that isn't new but Jean Little adds her own twists on the idea of switching places and saves the story from becoming a cliche and instead weaves it into a splendid summer adventure that should spark the imagination of most children. These girls get to act out a "what if" type of scenario and Little shows how it can go well, and what can go wrong, without getting too preachy at all.

83. The Summerhouse by Jude Deveraux
Rating 7.5/10
I think I might have liked this better had it followed just one character as she got to rewrite her past instead of three. With three we just got tastes of each woman's experiences and I kept feeling like I was missing things. Then, because so much was left out, there had to be huge plot points that were just expositioned later in the story even though we didn't see them happening. It felt a little haphazard. However I had fun with the idea of getting to go back and relive 3 weeks in the past in order to change the future. It's an interesting idea to play with. I thought that the way it was done was well thought out and I liked the choice about rewriting the past entirely or keeping the memories from what happened before. Neat concepts. Her writing isn't bad although I've found Deveraux's stories to be hit or miss. This one was quite entertaining, so I'll call it a hit.

84. In Ecstasy by Kate McCaffrey
Rating 8/10
This is a bit like an after school special but I also enjoyed reading it. I think that it showed a pretty realistic look at how some teenagers fall into becoming regular drug users and addicts without being too much of a fear mongering book. The story is told from the point of view of two best friends, Mia and Sophie and is told in alternating chapters. Sophie is known as the more wild party girl and so I thought it was neat that it's Mia who ends up using a lot more drugs(not really a spoiler, it happens pretty quickly and obviously.) It broke the stereotype in that way. It also I think showed how easily a pretty good kid could end up using a lot of drugs without meaning to. I hope that it also makes people think when they say "I know where my drugs come from, I trust my source." Most times people mean that a friend who they trust gave them the drugs but they don't actually know the dealer or where the dealer is getting his/her product. These are all good things to think about if you're taking drugs. There was some stereotypical stuff in this story but I think it stays gritty enough and real enough to actually hold people's attention and let them know that just because they're fine when they take pills doesn't mean that everyone is always fine or that they always will be fine.

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Elizabeth Jamieson

January 2013


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