elizalavelle: (Library fun!)
[personal profile] elizalavelle
Continuing the list of the books I've read this year...

You can see part one of 2010 (books 1-84) here: part one

My older posts are here, 2009: part one and part two
and 2008: part one and part two



August continued...

85. The Child Thief: A Novel by Brom
Rating 8/10
I loved the ideas behind this story. Peter Pan is already a fairly dark story but this modernizes it and takes it to a much darker place. The "Lost Boys" are now "The Devils", boys and girls alike who have been extracted from horrific situations at home to come live in Neverland, or in this case, Avalon. I did greatly enjoy how the story of Peter Pan was meshed with the myths of Avalon to create a vivid tapestry of setting and of the creatures that dwelled within. Peter remains charming only this version has a harder edge, he's clearly a sociopath and yet has the charm that makes every child he takes want to please him. The war scenes are grisley and I think it's only because we know that most of the children involved have come from backgrounds of sexual abuse and gang wars and other harsh realities that we can accept them being put into horric situations without being entirely repulsed. The main character Nick acts as the reader's moral compas for the book. He can see that something is not quite right about what's going on and he pushes through to point out the horrible things that Peter Pan is responsible for. I did find that this story almost felt like it had too many layers for the author to contain. It certainly could have been edited down and some characters could have been completely eliminated leaving the reader with a sharper story. This version works but the editor certainly could have been more brutal and that would have honed the story into something even better.

86. Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessin
Rating 9/10
I have found that I have a good appreciation of Dessin's writing. She writes about realistic teenage circumstances and yet doesn't fall on the side of being trite or contrived or condenscending whatsoever. When her characters are having conflict it's not because their world is terrible and everyone is out to get them. In this case the main character has a supportive mother and where the book could have fallen into the trap of having her body image being caught up in the fact that her mom is a health guru to the world and they've both dropped a lot of weight it stayed more real than that. The weight loss was still important but it didn't immediately go to her loosing weight for someone else, the reasons were more complex and felt more genuine. The supporting characters were well developed and provided real life problems for the protagonist to figure out. Yes it is a dramatic summer but not too far off from what teenage life feels like. I wish I'd had these books when I was a teenager. This one taught a lot about self esteem and it's spot on. Most of us don't really learn the lessons until we're older but I'd like to think that with books like these teenage girls (and boys if they read them) may have a better chance at standing a little straighter in the world.

87. e: A Novel by Matt Beaumont
Rating 6/10
I was lent this one by a co-worker and told that one person in the office loved it, one thought it was okay and one hated it. That fits with this book really. It is entirely composed out of emails flying back and forth in a British advertising office the first week after the millennium while they try to secure an ad campaign for Coke. The antics that are going on are definitely over the top for office politics but not entirely unreasonable. There are people hooking up, people stealing jobs, people stealing ideas, people selling one another out at every opportunity, firings and hirings and tech problems a plenty. Pretty much anything that could go wrong or crazy happens during this two weeks. What I found difficult with this one was that since it's only emails flying back and forth and most were short with no background it took a long time to get the characters into my brain and there were a lot of people involved so even figuring out who said what and why that was important took a while. I didn't really find myself enjoying the story until around the 1/2 way mark of the book. Because of the format the characters never really move beyond being stereotypes of office workers and at the end of the book while it was fun to find out who stayed, who was fired, and who was successful at their work I wasn't particularly moved by any of it.

88. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Rating 8/10
This book was a fun read. I've not seen her show of the same name but I suspect the book is quite a close transcript since it reads like a performance not like a narrative. I didn't grow up as a huge Star Wars fan nor did I follow much of Carrie Fisher's career so pretty much all of the information in here was new to me. It's clear that Fisher is bright and very witty. Her stories are captivating without turning into venues to cut other people down (sometimes a side effect of biographies) which I find much more entertaining to read. What I did find to be a bit frustrating is that some of the stories just sort of ended in unresolved ways, which is life afterall but still to read stories that just sort of stop being told as the author goes on to something else is not something I love. It's not unexpected from such a stream of conciousness style of work but there were times where I wanted to be able to say "go back to that other person now and say what happened with him."

89. The Walking Dead Volume 12: Life Amoung Them by Robert Kirkman
Rating 9/10
I love how the story flipped with this issue. Always our heroes have been in charge of situations. If they are part of a community they're the ones running it, now it's changed and they're able to join this little suburbian utopia except they now are the invaders and if everything there is on the up and up they're the ones risking it for everyone. I like how suddenly civilized life comes back into play and there's petty gossip and politics a plenty as well as the struggle to survive. Then comes the question. Do you stay and get soft like the others in the community or do you go out and fight or do you take them over? I can't wait to read issue 13 to find out what the story is behind the main players in the community since I'm sure not everyone is as good as they appear.

90. Tripping by Heather Waldorf
Rating 10/10
I loved this book. It's one of those perfect coming of age y/a books that is still enjoyable to an older reader because the experiences aren't super cliched. There's a lot of drama but I'd argue that any time you load 6 teenagers into a van for a summer you're bound to have drama. This was very neat to read because the kids were taking a cross Canada trip as a learning experience (school sponsored, with chaparones) and so there's a lot of neat Canadian landmarks pointed out. Even more fun for me was the fact that the places that they stopped in Northern ON happen to be where a friend of mine was visiting this summer and she posted her photos the day that I finished this book. I liked the author's grasp on the teenage voice and psyche. Some things came together a bit too neatly, I'd be doubtful that they'd work out that way in real life... then again stranger things have happened. I'm glad that I picked up this book on a whim and I'd definitely read more from her.

91. V: The Second Generation by Kenneth Johnson
Rating 7.5/10
I just got into V with the start of the new series this year and have only revisited the original series through Kenneth Johnson's novelization of the series. I liked seeing the comparison between the orginal series and how the new one has evolved. In this book we come back to the orginal Resistance group 20 years into the future. A lot has happened to them, most of it bad. The Visitor's have won for the most part and the Resistance struggles just to pull through day to day life. Meanwhile a second race of alien life has come to earth in response to the call for help they put out 20 years earlier... This plays out as typical science fiction fare but it's fun. It took me a while to get back into the character's lives, there are many new characters and in 20 years the original charcters had changed a lot. Still it's a fun ride and I liked seeing how the story ended in Johnson's mind. I'd be interested in seeing the current series do a time lapse thing like this. 20 years may be too much but even 5 could be interesting to play with and most of the actors could easily pull that off.


September

92. The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin
Rating 8.5/10
This is one I doubt I'd have chosen on my own but a co-worker dropped it on my desk and said it was good so I gave it a go. It is quite good so I'm glad he did. The same co-worker let me know that the sequel isn't very good at all and as it apparently gets more into the one part of this book that I thought was unneccesary I'm taking his word for it. The idea in this book is a very neat one, far into the future human kind has incorporated. At birth your parents get 20% of your shares and the government takes 5% the rest are up for you or others to purchase. Thus you bank on the earning potential of others and also make sure that you're doing your best so that your investors are rewarded. There are huge pros and cons for this and the authors have clearly thought it out from both sides of the issue. The entire system is jeopardized when a man is found in a cryogenic unit and it turns out he comes from a time before incorporation and sees it as slavery and refuses to incorporate and thus the entire system is thrown into disarray. The only part of this book that I didn't like was the development of the avatars that humans use to tap into the electronic world. It just seemed to be part of a different story altogether and I couldn't see that it would make much differerence if it were removed altogether. That said it was a neat read and reminded me that I really should keep looking to find more science fiction stories as I do like the ways they can look at our concepts of morals and justice and such in a different way.

93. Incantation by Alice Hoffman
Rating 7/10
Do not judge a book by it's cover or title I suppose is the lesson here. I liked the book but it was much different than I'd expected. The story got a little moral and preachy for my tastes but it also was a neat window into the humanity of the Spanish Inquisition for younger readers who might not be familiar with it. I liked how Hoffman sort of went the route of The Crucible in showing how in times of crisis and suspicion lies are immediately believed. All the evidence that was needed was a jealous teenage girl who wanted to get back at her friend and an entire family was destroyed. I like the more modern lesson there for younger readers about cause and effect and how lies can spin out of control very quickly once they've started and it's impossible to stop that ball once it's been put into motion. It would have been really neat if this were one of those stories told from alternating points of view so that one could see what pushed the betrayer over the edge from her point of view and what she felt about it when the reality of what she'd done sunk in.

94. Summon the Keeper by Tanya Huff
Rating 8.5/10
These books are such fun. I know I found them fun the first time I read them but I forgot just how fun they were. They’re light and silly but silly in a very smart and witty way. There’s also are elements of a romance novel but it doesn’t stray into “bodice ripper” territory, they just stay sweet and fun, and sometimes hot. Much like perfect relationships actually. I like how the characters are introduced in this first part of the trilogy. Everyone is well developed and I can picture them all. Also, I’d like a Dean please ;) A handsome man who cooks and cleans… that’s always awesome.

95. The Second Summoning by Tanya Huff
Rating 8.5/10
Again such fun. These characters are just great to spend time with. I think that Tanya Huff gets the relationships between family and partners just right. I also enjoyed reading the teenaged manifestations of good and evil, especially evil. If evil isn't a teenage girl I don't know what is? The story does wrap up rather smoothly in the end but leaves just enough room for a third story to finish off the journey for these characters. I really like the idea of a Keeper. The entire mythology is neat. I loved the idea of reaching into the "possibilities" to change reality. This is a well thought out idea that doesn't bog down the reader with lots of explanation. It just is what it is and that's all there is to it.

96. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney
Rating 8/10
I'd not read this one since I was very young but I forgot my Tanya Huff book at home and this was one of the lightweight back ups I'd left in my purse recently so I gave it a go... and now I want to buy the other three in the series right away. I always knew there was a sequel but I didn't know there were 4 books total in the series. I feel a bookstore trip coming on... and if they're not there then an Amazon ordering ;) I felt that Cooney really got into the teenage mindset well. Janie tries to figure things out alone and handle things alone and if she'd asked for help she wouldn't have been stuck with the weight of the world on her shoulders. But it's a typical teenager thing to try to solve things alone before realizing that the grownups in your life probably aren't entirely useless. I felt caught up in the drama of a girl who's been kidnapped but is in a complicated situation where she loves her current parents and the situation isn't entirely black and white, good biological family, bad kidnappers. It's an interesting idea and I'm looking forward to reading how it's resolved. The thing that irked me was the way I was left hanging at the end of this book. There's an emotional journey that just leaves you hanging instead of being resolved at all.

97. Long Hot Summoning by Tanya Huff
Rating 9/10
This is a great end to a trilogy. I've not mentioned my love of the random hotel guests in my last two reviews. I adore the fun (and sometimes not so fun) people who show up at the guest house, I feel as though many of them were added in with great glee on Tanya Huff's part. I also really love that some of her characters are straight and some are not and there's not a lot of drama about it. It's another thing that just is and doesn't require explanation which is as it should be. I love that it doesn't turn into a "OMG this book has a lesbian in it now it's hot, obligitory kissing scene here..." the way many tv shows play it right now. Yay Tanya! I was sad to leave these characters behind but I think this series wrapped up well. That said, if Tanya Huff were ever to revisit them I'd be pleased :)

98. A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Towes
Rating: 6.5/10
I think that this style of writing just doesn't sit well with me. The book is okay and I liked the characters and enjoyed seeing how their stories progressed but I was never really engrossed in what was happening. The skipping around from past to present and not telling a story in a linear way often seems like a cruch to make one's writing feel more sophisticated when telling a pretty simple straightforward story. I like flashbacks if they take a linear approach as well and really serve to inform what's happening in the present of a story but this one was off of that mark. This was more in the relm of Michael Ondaatje's style of writing and while he's a good poet his books are not great at all in my opinion. Anyway, while I liked the surface story here I don't think that Towes got into the meat of her story. Just having a teenager with attitude does not really provide a huge challange to how society at large views the Mennonite society. This story could have been set in any small town which might have been the point but it just seemed wasteful to put it into a Mennonite society and not really use that setting fully. It's a little exploitative as well. The hook is "this is a revealing story about a certain religion that many people don't know a lot about" and then it really never lives up to that. It's one that was an okay read but not spectacular.

99. The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Rating: 10/10
The last part in this trilogy was finally released in Canada so I'm re-reading the first two before reading the last part. I love this story, absolutely love it. Fractured fairytales are one of my favourite genres of storytelling and this one fractures the Alice story so well. I was reminded once again how much the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland movie stole from these books. Since there was no mention of that from Frank Bedoor I'm hoping he was paid nicely to not complain at least. I also hope the movie version of these stories is not hurt by that because I'd love to see this story told on film. I think the reinvention of Wonderland and the politics within is really interesting. Similar to how Wicked retold the politics of Oz but aimed at a younger audience. It's still a neat thing to see someone try to put together how a fantasy world might organize itself in a more adult way. Beddor is able to add that touch of realism without loosing the magic that was in Wonderland in the first place. I also like how he's linked Wonderland to Earth as a way to explain some of the inventions and toys and weaponry etc that we have here.

100. Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor
Rating 10/10
I think the first time I read this I really liked it but missed some of the politics that were going on. It's interesting how books can change depending on what the reader brings to them. Now being more familiar with politics I liked this story even more. I love how some of the action is still taking place on Earth and Charles Dodgeson is being dragged into it still. I also was more into the storyline with Hattar and Weaver and Mollly this time. I think I zoomed through the book last time and didn't let as much of that sink in. This Wonderland that Beddor has created has a lot of layers and social classes and rules. I like the exploration of that.

October

101. Arch Enemy by Frank Beddor
Rating 10/10
I loved how this series finished up. The tie between Wonderland and Earth was fleshed out some more and Dodgson was actually useful which was neat. I really liked how the major players had their stories completed. There was a great deal of character growth for them. I love that the imagination of these books didn't faulter. Wonderland still was filled with wonder even though there was more violence and brutality. I like that the wonder of Wonderland was never lost in this series. There are some interesting themes of women's rights and politics and what does the greatest good for the greatest amount of people really mean but it never felt preachy. I was quite amused by the role of the Caterpillars in this story. Their role was finally revealed. I'm glad it took until the end of the story to really show what they were up to because it would have ruined things to know earlier, this way they remained mysterious and interesting the whole way through.

102. Whatever Happened to Janie by Caroline B. Cooney
Rating 8/10
I quite like this series, the books aren't a hard read nor a lengthy one but the story is complelling. The first book ended in such a cliffhanger that I ran out and bought the rest. I liked how this one continued telling the story of Janie but also told things from the point of view of her new siblings who had the greater fallout from her kidnapping. Janie grew up in a great house with a great family and had no idea of what had happened. Where as her siblings grew up in a house where their parents were hugely over protective because they knew that their kids could be taken from them. I really like that this series continues to be morally grey. The key players aren't the good guys or the bad guys they just are victims of the cirucumstance trying to find a way to make things work. Her new parents are trying to gain back what they've lost but it's been too long to just have that happen quickly and that is something their whole family struggles with while Janie's old family and friends and boyfriend have to struggle with her being taken from them now.

103. The Voice on the Radio by Caroline B. Cooney
Rating 8/10
This series is definitely a lot stronger than I had anticipated. This part features more about Reeve and how he ends up dealing with Janie's past. I thought it was really realistic. He's had all of this dumped on him and didn't really feel he had anyone to lean on and suddenly he ends up pouring the story out over the radio. Free therapy. But of course it's hurtful too since neither family wanted their situation to be sensationalized. This one says a great deal about how people may find themselves telling incredibly personal things to an audience. I really enjoy how all of the characters are present as the two families become a more equal part of Janie's life and the other characters have more development as well as they all learn to deal with their shared past.

104. What Janie Found by Caroline B. Cooney
Rating 8/10
This series turned out to be a really interesting one. I liked the the entire way through the teenagers were coming of age through dealing with morally gray situations and learning that sometimes there really isn't a right and a wrong. I really liked the resolution this series came to. There's a definite feeling of the kidnapping stress being at it's end and now the families are going to have the chance to really continue to move forward and become who they are meant to be. Not everything is tied up in a neat little bow, there are unanswered questions that stay unanswered and I think it's a better story because of that. I know that will be what frustrates some of the readers of this series but I thought it was really the only way to wrap up this story while staying true to the themes that the first three books built up.

105. The Poison Apples by Lily Archer
Rating 7.5/10
This book was just fun to read. It's a little bit rushed at the end but I enjoyed myself the whole way through. It's not a complex story but I generally like stories that take place at boarding schools so that was already a win for me. In this book we follow three girls from very different lives whose fathers have remarried and the new stepmothers are horrible. The story is told in alternating chapters so we first get the set up for the stepmother for each girl, how the father's meet them and how they become a part of the family and how they are horrible and send their kid to boarding school, followed by much of the book being these three girls meeting each other at school and forming their club, 'The Poison Apples.' The rush happens at the end when they go home to ruin their stepmother's lives and quickly are taught the value of family and compassion. That section could have been at least 100 pages longer to fully flesh it out. I did like that there's an overall feeling of reclaiming your own destiny and not being controlled by your circumstances. Good message.

106. The Unloved by John Saul
Rating 7.5/10
I am re-reading some of the John Saul books because my novel idea for NaNoWriMo this year is a similar genre. Not sure if I can get as horrific as he does but we'll see. This one I reread because it's one I didn't read a lot when I was younger because the action felt like it centered around the adults more than the children. This time around I thought it was a lot more balanced but I can see where there were a lot of actual adult issues that the kids were in the midst of. The characters aren't hugely well developed but I can start to see the archetypes Saul enjoys using and how they're used repeatedly in his work. As for this particular story I thought the idea was creepy. There were bits of the past issues that weren't expanded on as fully as they could have been. It was clear what the story of Marguerite's tragic past was going to be but I think there was more there that could have been elaborated upon.

107. Hellfire by John Saul
Rating 7.5/10
Once again re-reading John Saul books to refresh my mind about the writing style. I don't want to mimic it but the nightmare I had that I'm turning into my Nano story best fits the same rough framework. The writing is very formula driven but I like the use of the history here. When looking at an Anglo-Saxon America where the only racially diverse characters seem to be the hired help it takes a bit of work to find historical tragedy. I like the reference to the child labour part of history as a way to invoke a horror from the past. One of the things that I like that Saul comes back to again and again is the cruelty of children. It's not so far fetched. Children are often cruel before they are taught to be kind. These types of stories take the cruelty to an extreme but most of the stuff leading up to the extreme isn't entirely uncommon.

108. My Life as an Experiment by A.J. Jacobs
Rating 8/10
I thought this was entirely fun to read. It's not an original idea to transform oneself to learn about how the other side lives for a while but Jacobs has made quite an interesting career of it. I liked each of the experiments even though I'm not likely to try any one of them myself. I actually think the one I liked the least though was the one where he spends a month doing everything his wife says. Both he and I had the thesis that she'd eventually get sick of having someone around who always agrees with her and she really doesn't. What I liked best overall were the codas on the end of each piece that summed up what came out of each experiment. What lessons were the ones that actually had an effect on Jacobs' life as opposed to the majority of each experiment which was interesting but didn't change how he lived hisl life. I'd definitely be interested in reading Jacobs' other books to learn about other experiments that he has done.

109. Thirst No. 3: The Eternal Dawn (Last Vampire Series) by Christopher Pike
Rating 7.5/10
I was wondering how on earth this series was going to be continued as after the six books that were written in the early 90's (I think that's about when they were published) the series had a definite ending that didn't really leave any loose ends hanging. I think that Pike went about re-opening his series in a pretty clever way. The character of Seymore who acts as a biographer for Sita in the first 6 books gets to lay claim to those and so it's said that he imagined the ending differently, and that he got a few key details wrong so that he can be revisited again. Some of this I liked. As a way to start the story again it worked. Some of the changes made little sense. I didn't see why there had to be a stress on Sita never meeting him and thus he never had his HIV cured in the first place. There was no reason to rewrite that part of the story as it didn't add anything to this new section but I guess it really was meant to be a second shot for Pike to revisit these characters so he's given a slightly different spin to all of them. What was neat is seeing how the quality of the writing has changed. Pike's improved a lot over time and this book was much more smooth than the previous six were. The only thing I found a bit clunky was the Olympics storyline. I know why it was there, I see the way the plot needed a huge event like that to kickstart a few threads of the story, but it seemed that the "daughter" figure in this story was a huge Mary Sue. Very smart, on the road to an early graduation from med. school, atheletic, pretty, rockstar boyfriend, oh and of course she's also an Olympic grade of athelete. Too much. She could have just been atheletic without the rest and I think that she'd have felt a little less forced. I'm not sure how the next parts in this series will flow. I like how they use Eastern religion as a backdrop and I find that I do learn interesting tidbits from them. I'm interested to see how the series keeps going. This book was longer than any of the first six and I suspect the next will be as well, hopefully Pike can keep up the momentum with these characters because I do enjoy reading about them.

110. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Rating 9/10
Such a great children's book. I hope it's not ruined by being a series because this first idea is just brilliant. This is very much a children's book but it was an enjoyable read from an adult perspective as well. I love the way the truth about the city of Ember is revealed. The time period is deliberately murkey and details are doled out bit by bit that finally allow the reader to figure out roughly what happened. My big nitpick is that the story clearly is the first part in a series and I do get hung up on those a bit. There are books that do this that I love (The Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman) but often it annoys me to read a book and have the story not be really complete at the end. I don't think everything needs a cliffhanger to make a reader want to read more. If the story is strong enough, and this one is, then regardless of how it ends the reader will go back to read the next part.

111. People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
Rating 9/10
I quite like this series. I think there are more books to it and I think that I'll seek them out. I like dystopia stories and the idea of rebuilding after a disaster and this story built on that idea and added two very different societies trying to make a life together. I think the characters are quite rich and the world that DuPrau has imagined is well thought out. It could be pretty much anywhere. They somewhere with a mild winter because snow isn't mentioned but that still leaves a lot of anywheres that this could be. The thing that I still find keeps this as very much a children's book is that once again the adults all seem to be just bumbling along while the children are the ones formulating and carrying out complex plans. I think there's a better balance that could be walked which would let the kids be doing important things without making the adults all into characters who just sit around waiting to be told what to do.

112. Like Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Rating 10/10
I loved this book! I picked it up on a complete whim because the title sounded familiar, maybe I had read a review of it or something... not sure. At any rate the story was great. It wasn't at all what I'd expected and I was swept up in the adventure from the first page onwards. There could be some parallels made to the book 'The Stone Angel' by Margaret Lawrence, in fact the author makes that reference herself in the interview that's at the end of my book. Had I read that first I'd have never touched this book. I found 'The Stone Angel' to be painfully hard to read. I didn't like it at all. But this story was so engaging. Yes the narrator is a 93 (or 90, he's forgotten) year old man who is starting to decline telling his life story but the story he tells is amazing. We focus in on when he's a young university student who has run away and happened to join a circus. The description of the day to day grind of working on a show is really well done and the world is so interesting that I didn't want to stop reading. Very enjoyable indeed!

113. Wanted! by Caroline B. Cooney
Rating 7/10
This was another book that I snagged on a whim. It wasn't bad. Not great but not bad. The set up is a little over the top and silly and for readers today I would bet it would be harder to relate to. This was set back in the days of computer discs and car phones but no cellphones and there was email but it sounds to be in the early days of people using the internet which would make it much harder for younger readers today to relate to. It's an interesting writing lesson about depending on current technology for a story, it changes so rapidly! In this story the main character is accuses of a crime she didn't commit and panics and runs away and spends a couple of days pretty much circling the city she lives in trying to figure out what information her father had that made him a target for a murderer. It was actually a pretty neat little story. Not entirely unpredictable but once I let my disbelief go and just enjoyed it the story was interesting and it is definitely a page turner.

November

114. Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam
Rating 7.5/10
I was doing my best to not read novels while I wrote my own first draft for NaNoWriMo but I did pick this one up to read here and there as it worked well for a collection of stories to read and put down until another pocket of spare time was found and there was little urgency to pick up the book again when it wasn't convienent. So it was good for November but not great as a book. What irked me was that there was an attempt to follow the main characters throughout their medical careers from applying to medical school through to becoming full fledged doctors but Lam couldn't quite maintain the story. Other characters came and went. Most of the chapters just ended rather than having conclusions. But some of the chapters really did conclude the story they were telling so there wasn't consistancy one way or another. I did like how these stories were clearly based on truth and they did feel real. I think this book paints a good example of what it takes to become a doctor. It's a tough job that often gets glamourized on television and this gave it a bit more reality. I think this one is worth a read but it's not worth all of the hype that it had when it won the Giller Prize though.


December

115. The Gates by John Connolly
Rating 9.5/10
Oh I do adore this man's writing. He just gets what childhood is and writes it so smoothly in a way that still appeals to adults and I hope also appeals to children as well. This is a great coming of age story... during a demonic apocalypse. The main character, Samuel, must learn to deal with his father's absence and finds his own way to become the man of the house. The characters are rich and well developed and the multiple storylines all work together seamlessly in the end. The only thing that threw me from giving this book a perfect ten was that there were a lot of very amusing footnotes. I loved them, I loved reading them, but I kept sort of dropping in and out of the story with them. It took me a while to get into the rythem of reading both the story and the notes without missing out on either one.

116. A Respectable Trade by Philippa Gregory
Rating 8.5/10
This was a tough book for me to get into at first because of the subject matter. Reading about slavery, especially when it's clearly been well researched, isn't easy to do. It's horrifying to know what was done to the people who were taken from Africa and how the slavers viewed their lives as worthless. However, because this book was so well researched it was interesting to see the history come to life. This book takes place in the late 1780's and I suspect the idea of the "Chain of Being" would have still been present although not so much strictly observed. But I still think it came into play in this book with both Frances trying to raise her station in life and become a lady of leisure and with Josiah trying to change from being a simple trader to one of the wealthy merchants. It seemed to be that a small step up the chain was viewed as okay and as natural progress but when one gets greedy the fall is all but inevitable. In that way this story had all of the elements of a classical morality story but has a bit of a shift as it's written and read in modern times and so the reader response to the material is different. I wasn't sure I'd enjoy this story but as it went along I got swept up in the history and as the direction which their ruin was going to come from I couldn't stop reading. I was fascinated by the history. I know the rough details about the slave trade in that era but the details were very compelling, sad, but still interesting to know.

117. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Rating 7.5/10
I'm back to not being in love with Robin McKinley's writing style. I really liked the prequel to this story (The Hero and the Crown) and I loved Sunshine but I struggled again with this story. Right away the story sets out to be a bit unclear. It takes pages and pages to even learn the main character's name let alone any description of her beyond the very general things. I guess this makes it easier for readers to 'Mary Sue' the character and put themselves into it but I like to know some detail about the characters of a story that I'm reading. I like this world that's been created but I still had trouble picturing parts of it and the Northern people remained pretty mysterious. I'm sure that was the idea but I don't think it takes from the story to describe things with a bit more detail unless you have no idea what the detail is. I got the feeling she just came up with "creepy inhuman threat from the north" and didn't really come back to add much more to the conflict than that. It's not all bad. I did like the bare bones of story that was in here and while there were going to be no surprises in the ending of this story I was still mostly enjoying reading through to the conclusion. So it's a decent read but I wouldn't recommend her writing to someone who wasn't a strong reader because it's often vague and unless you know how to read through that her books would be a struggle.

118. Generation Dead by Daniel Waters
Rating 8.5/10
I picked this book up expecting a one off piece of silly zombie storytelling. Instead I got a really good story. Definitely one I'd recommend in place of Twilight. It's as readable as Twilight and has the teenage love triangle storyline going on so I think it could nab the same type of audience BUT it has depth to the plot. There's a sparkle aspect in that the zombies aren't gross for the most part. Some who died in more horrific ways are scarred though and there is mention of a few of them having their ribs showing through their skin, or broken necks, or part of their face missing so all of their teeth are visible... so it's not all pretty. It's just not all rotting corpses either though, the dead are just dead so if they didn't die horrifically they just look like dead versions of themselves. The backdrop for these stories is one of the civil rights movement but this time it's the segregation of zombies (or differently biotic ;) ) that's providing the unrest of the population. I loved reading this book, zoomed right through it and ran out to buy the next two in the series the same day that I finished the first one. I loved that the main character had character. This was no Bella "my only character is that I'm uncoordinated and yet all of the boys love me" Swan. This character, Phoebe, goes beyond the teenage romance angle (although that's still present) and has friends of her own, a social life of her own and actually grows as a character outside of her romantic entaglements.

119. Kiss of Life (Generation Dead series) by Daniel Waters
Rating 9/10
I love this book series. They don't draw out the love triangle angle here, instead it gets resolved. Phoebe makes a decision and sticks with it and she really comes into her own here. This book starts to branch away from her a bit and we see more about the zombie subculture that's growing. Also we get more of the zombie experience from a new zombie's point of view. The civil rights comparison continues and we're shown a few different approaches to zombie rights. Some zombies want to go the political route and others are more about making statements which opens the door for anti-zombie groups to make violent statements and attribute them to the zombie population. We also follow Pete more as he becomes involved in a group that's leading the anti-zombie movement. What was really neat here was that every character seems to be getting a chance to develop as a character. Not just the main three having sidekicks who do nothing other than support the main characters being in a relationship. The secondary characters all get backstories and develop as this trilogy continues.

120. Passing Strange (Generation Dead series) by Daniel Waters.
Rating 10/10
I am impressed. This series is just a wonderful read. This one not only helps to resolve the zombie civil rights movement but it also gives one of the more wonderful secondary characters a storyline where she's the main character. Picture one of the Twilight series focusing on Alice and Jasper instead of on Bella and Edward - brilliance. The main couple are still present, none of the main characters from the first two books goes away but their drama has passed and rather than dragging it out they are the supporting characters here and we see more of Karen, one of the more life like zombies in appearance who starts passing as human. Fantastic potential for comparing this to the civil rights issues in the 1950s and earlier when some people who were very light skinned chose to try to pass as white for a variety of reasons. Not only does this book tie into the issue of rights and who should have them (which isn't only a historical issue but one we could still debate today) but it also gets into the not unexpected issues that come up when we learn one of the characters is coming to terms with being gay and how that has informed their actions. I loved this book, I cried at the losses and was filled with hope at the victories.

121. Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult
Rating 7/10
I found that I had issues with this one. I wasn't entirely comfortable with how they used the Wiccan religion. The girls start casting nasty spells and while we do see some of the rule of three come into play I think it might have been important to address that just wishing ill upon someone does not give them a sudden life threatening illness. That's the sort of thing that just gets more teenagers playing with the religion because they think they can cast spells on someone when they're angry and ruin their life and really the rule of three that was used didn't really come back to them that strongly so it's not really a cautionary thing. Also, the fact that the highly trained investigator had never heard of Wicca? Really? That's just pandering to an audience who the author is presuming is ignorant as well. Explain it sure because not everyone will know the religion, but don't pretend that it's an entirely obscure thing. Next up, the guy who is twice accused of sexual assault is just dumb. The first time should have taught him to never find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time again and if he did to then get away immediately rather than staying and trying to fix the problem. Plus he had many opportunities to report the first girl and as a teacher he should have known enough to do so. We are trained to be very careful when teenagers develop an attachment. That way if things go weird you've already reported it so there's nothing shrouded in secrecy. What I did like was that this one stayed morally grey in that you can tell there's something wrong with the girl who is accusing Jack of raping her. Pretty early on I was sure he didn't do it but I was just as certain that she'd been raped at some point because she wasn't reacting like a girl playing a game. I felt bad that her actual attacker isn't brought to justice but that is the way the world often works and I think it was brave to not give every character a happily after all at the end. I did find the story quite readable and once I got to the second half of the book I didn't want to stop reading because I wanted to see how the case was going to be resolved. This one was not one of my favourites of hers but it wasn't painful to read either (beyond the fact that it was difficult subject matter that is.)

122. Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult
Rating 6.5/10
I really didn't like this story much at all. She went for the morally ambiguous thing that she always does but for the most part I just disliked the characters we were supposed to side with. I get then that you're supposed to sway to the other side but those characters were awful too. Mostly I just felt sorry for the kid for having parents like these and for anyone who had to interact with the characters on either side of this morallity spectrum. There was some interesting science employed to drag out the crime and the trial. I get how that works well for a book but it pulled me out of the story a bit because of how unlikely it was.

123. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Rating 8/10
Scott Westerfeld is a master at creating an entire world. He's used the setting for World War I in this story but added a fantasy element to history and has created a slightly different setting for the war and changed the teams a bit so while they're divided by country those countries are also split into Darwinists (those who create new creatures by blending strands of DNA - hence the Leviathan) and Clankers (those who build machines of war instead of using animals. Neat concept. I'm not really into a lot of war stories or machinery etc and so I didn't feel that this was the book for me once I started reading. But I found it readable regardless of it not being my favourite type of fantasy story and if I stumble across the next one I'll likely give it a go as well.

124. Climbing A Monkey Puzzle Tree by Karen Wallace
Rating 9.5/10
I remember that I loved this book when I first read it, but I'd completely forgotten the story, so I've read it again. I really love stories about boarding schools and this one is a neat one. I wish it had gone on as a series like the Mallory Towers books but it does well as a stand alone as well. I felt that the situations were dramatic but realistic and that the author did a great job of getting into the mindset of a 12 year old girl to tell the story. The only downfall that I found was that at the end when all of the big reveals and twists happen the plot suddenly moves very quickly indeed. There was definitely some room for about a few more pages just for pacing.

125. The Shepherd's Tale by Joss Whedon and Zack Whedon, illustrated by Christ Samnee
Rating 7.5/10
I really wish that actual novelizations were popular in the way that graphic novels are because I think this story would do well drawn out into a novella at least, there's a lot of detail to it and the graphic novel format I don't think does it justice. I also wasn't a fan of the illustrator's style really, most of the characters looked like original creations instead of the characters I know. That said I loved the backwards format of telling the story. At first I thought they were going to do something like from the episode 'Out of Gas' and bounce between three timelines but instead they just kept dropping back and peeling back the layers so that we got to see some of the situations that made Book turn out the way he did. Well done overall.


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Elizabeth Jamieson

January 2013

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