elizalavelle: (Buffy - Spike reading)
[personal profile] elizalavelle
Here are my lists from the past few years:
2010:part one and part two.
2009: part one and part two.
and 2008: part one and part two.

Onwards to 2011!


1. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments trilogy)
Rating 8/10
I had this series recommended to me by a few people and finally have started reading it and after the first book I'm glad that I did. It's an urban fairy tale sort of story but I like it better than most I've read (and as I've got one I'm writing myself I do like the genre, I'm just picky about it.) This was well thought out and while the twists aren't entirely shocking by the time they're revealed they're still well plotted and well executed. Onward to the next part says I!

2. City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments trilogy)
Rating 8.5/10
The characters got a lot more depth to them in this story as we got a great deal of back story about both the mythology and the characters delivered in this volume. I'm still a little uncomfortable with the Clary/Jace pairing... as one is meant to be, but I'm also suspecting there's a truth there that will fix that by the end of the third part. I really like how they're using the character of Simon and how he's managed to not just be the best friend sidekick type but there's a niche for him as well. Not only that but I really am enjoying the story line with Alec's love life. It's fun when the secondary characters get some growth as well. I'm really liking how the mythological world is blended with New York City in such a way that I could believe it's all really there if you know how to look for it.

3. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments trilogy - which apparently has a fourth part coming out this Spring... )
Rating 8.5/10
I really did enjoy this whole series. I did not enjoy finding out at the end that there's a fourth part coming out to the trilogy. What the frell Cassandra Clare? Did no one teach you how many parts there are in a trilogy? There's also a prequel that should be out now, or very soon, and I'm happy to learn that but the Mortal Instruments trilogy really did come to a good ending, I don't think it needs continuation. There are loose ends in that the characters who lived through it are obviously going to go on living but I'm a little leery of the story getting worn thin if Clare keeps revisiting the same characters. However this last part in the trilogy was a lot of fun to read. I quite liked how the Jace/Clary relationship was worked out, especially as I was a little worried that she might go all V.C. Andrews for a moment there and the world does not need more of those books. I also really liked how the rune magic was used in the end and the explanation for why Jace and Clary turned out special. I think that every one of the secondary characters had grown a lot by the end of this book, I liked that everyone got to have a bit of story told about them while maintaining the two main characters star-crossed-lover's story line as well. I felt as though this was definitely a world that Clare had been thinking about for a long while and so many of the details were really thought out. The world that she's invented felt as real as her descriptions of New York City were. Kudos to her for having that ability.

4. What I Was by Meg Rosoff
Rating 9/10
I really like Rosoff's writing. I've only read one other book by her ('How I Live Now') but it was fantastic as well. This story gently pulls the reader into the relationship between the narrator (H) and Finn whom he meets while at boarding school. It's set in the late 1950's and so we can assume more innocence and more ability for the narrator to be able to leave school grounds without getting caught (no electronic attendance etc.) to go visit Finn who lives a life that's (to one "imprisoned" in school) full of freedom. The book ended in a way that I didn't predict at all, even though there are hints, it's so well written that I went along with the narrator on his journey as he saw things. I didn't love the very ending, I felt like I wanted more resolution but I think that's also what was intended with a story like this one.

5. The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson
Rating 10/10
This is very much like the classic books that I read as a child. It's charming and has a cast of bright, eccentric, characters. Ibbotson used her own experiences from boarding school to create the setting and if there is a school out there like this fictional one I wish that I'd gone to it! What really charmed me about this book was how much ground it covered. I thought it was going to be just about going away to school and that it was a coming of age story set during the second world war. I'm a fan of those and that already would have had my attention but then it just kept getting bigger and bigger and yet still remained a wonderful story at the core of it. Brilliant writing. I definitely will read more by this author.

6. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
Rating 7.5/10
I've read enough Picoult books that I know her formula. I also caught the end of the movie version of this book a few years back and so I knew there was a twist coming and I remembered it about half way through so I wasn't trying to figure out what was done. The neat part about that was that I saw the hints as they were dropped in. Some weren't subtle, I hope that I'd have caught them without knowing the ending, but it was still interesting to see how the ending was set up. I definitely enjoyed learning a bit more about the Amish culture, I don't know much about that way of life and while I know enough to know it's not for me I'm always interested in learning more. The story itself was interesting. Definitely a well thought out conflict as what can happen when the Amish interact with the modern world. Technology is advancing so quickly and people are changing so much in the "English" world that I would imagine it becomes tougher and tougher to spent those teenage years experimenting with modern life. Both in what it takes to catch up to the technology and in what it would take to give that up and go back to living without it. For some I guess the first would be tougher and for others the second.

7. The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
Rating 9/10
I'd actually never read this before nor had I seen the movie adaptations so I didn't actually know what the ending was going to be (and I won't spoil it here.) This made the book that much more fun to read and also that much creepier as it progressed and I knew something wasn't right but couldn't quite figure it out until the protagonist had got it. I'm actually glad that I came to this story a bit older because it is the sort of thing that likely would have really creeped me out in high school.

8. Untouchable by Kate Brian (book three in the Private series)
Rating 5.5/10
This is the third book I've read in this series and I really don't like them. But I keep reading because there's a mystery plot in them and I'm curious as to how it's going to end. I did note with this book that the entire plot fits on the back of the book minus a summary of the last 20 pages. I suspect I can read through these at a bookstore one day just by reading the back of each book and the last three chapters. So take what you will from that about the quality and depth of storytelling. My other issue with these is that the characters are all pretty dreadful. The protagonist never learns any lessons or changes her self destructive behaviour. She just whines about not being a part of things, then is bought off by expensive gifts, then whines more and only stands up for herself when it involves putting herself into a bad situation. She might be worse than Bella Swan. The other characters are typical rich kids who are beyond spoiled and act entitled to everything and really don't seem to suffer reprecussions for that behaviour. These books are pretty much an illustration of what's wrong with that part of society and while I think the author is trying to make the characters charming I find them to be repulsive.

9. Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff
Rating: 7/10
I think I have the unpopular opinion about this book but I didn't find it was her best work. I thought it sort of went back to some of the ideas from her Summoning series (which I've re-read fairly recently) and used the same sort of mystical family structure to set up the story and then the story that was created around it didn't grab me in at all the same way which was disappointing. I liked the characters enough and Huff is a good strong writer so it wasn't a bad read, I just have read better by her in the same theme. I think I'll be passing on the rest of this series and waiting for her to move onto something else.

10 . Shadows of the Emerald City edited by J.W. Schnarr
Rating 7.5/10
I struggled with these stories more than I thought that I would. I love things that are Oz related and I love things that are dark when I'm in the mood for dark stories. But now I've learned that I don't really like my Oz to be too dark. I like Gregory Maguire's version of it but he got dark and political but there was still magic there and some innocence. But some of these stories were just brutal. Not all of them. I really liked the one the book began with and the one about the China Dolls, they were dark and scary and sad but properly captured the spirit of the Oz stories as well. Some of the others were just not the Oz that I like to read about. That said some of the ones which were harder to read were still fantastic. I liked that a few of the authors really looked at the reality of people not being able to die in Oz and how that's likely not the best idea ever when you think about it. I also really liked the story about the Fuddles (the people who are made up out of puzzle pieces) because again they were fun as a child but when you get older and think of the reality of such a thing and the real life problems it could cause it can be a lot darker. I liked the stories that explored those aspects a lot as well. The ones that just set out to be shocking weren't nearly as good because they really could have been set anywhere, they weren't Oz specific but they cashed in by using the character names. As with pretty much any collection of short stories there were some in here that I'd rank a 10/10 and some that would score a 5/10. But on the whole I'm glad that I read all of them.

11. Jewels of the Sun by Nora Roberts
Rating 7.5/10
I'm not a huge romance reader but I do appreaciate a good bodice ripper now and again. I find that Nora Roberts writes good stories to to with her romance. I love the Irish village she's describing here. I could totally see myself visiting and being quite happy there. I also think she's done a good job of creating three female lead characters (one for each book of the trilogy) who pretty much encompass various Mary-Sue like traits that almost every woman can relate to. High literature these aren't but I like the mixture of romance with an Irish fantasy story. I think the ghost story that features in all three of the books is a sweet one and I like that the character in this one starts off researching traditional folklore as it's clear that there was similar research done for these books.


12. Tears of the Moon by Nora Roberts
Rating 7.5/10
This series is entirely effortless to read. I find that I've started to think in a bit of an Irish lilt which is fun as well. While I think that Brenna ought to be my favourite of the three I didn't find that her conflict at the end made me fret overly. Beyond knowing it would all work out okay it also wasn't really that much of a fight. The rest though was lovely. Hot and steamy in all of the right places with the appropriate magic and Irish charm woven in as needed.

13. The Silver Coach by C.S. Adler
Rating 9/10
I love how beautiful Adler's stories are. They're almost always sad but they tell such complete little stories in a very compact form. There was definitely room with this one to write more and I found that at times the jump of days from chapter to chapter was a bit jarring but I loved the journey this story took. The main character is a Daddy's girl who's family is going through a divorce and she blames it all on her mother and through this book comes to see that maybe even though her mom isn't the fun parent she might be the one who cares the most. I think as a kid I would have been blindsided when the revelation about the father finally comes about. As an adult reader I saw it coming but still felt so badly for the whole family as they realize that he's not the man they imagine him to be.

14. The Gravesavers by Sheree Fitch
Rating 8/10
This is a book that's hard to classify. It's part coming of age, part historical fiction, part family tragedy and part ghost story all at the same time. Even chapter to chapter it can feel as though you're reading a different book. I wasn't sure about it at the beginning but by the middle once I was wrapped up in all of the different stories I found that the book just came together and the flow of the story took hold. This was a story that by the end totally surprised me in how far they took the coming of age and family story lines. The ghost stuff also played a different role than I was expecting. I like a book that's written for kids but that can still surprise adults. I think this was an ambitious writing project and in the end I quite liked the result.

15. Percy Jackson and the Olympians book one: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Rating 8/10
I had fun reading this book but I felt like it just missed it's mark of being something great. It's a good kids book for sure and there's a lot of Greek mythology in it which I like to see. It's a good blend of the classics with the modern world making them more accessible to younger readers. What I found was that the foreshadowing was often heavy handed and I felt like the assumption was that the reader wasn't going to get any of the plot twists without them being spelled out entirely before they take place. I think younger readers are smarter than that and if they're not yet at that level a book can gently challenge them to get there. That said the author obviously was having fun with the Greek myths and I enjoyed reading how he updated the Gods for the modern world. I definitely will be trying more in this series as I find them. I'd also like to see the movie to see how they interpreted the visuals.

16. Touch by Francine Prose
Rating 8.5/10
I found this author a couple of years ago when I picked up her story 'After' and was blown away by how engrossed I became in that story (and now I'm thinking of re-reading it next.) This story has a different tone but the writing is still really engaging and it was one that I just wanted to read through to the end once I'd started it. You can't help but like the main character Maisie who clearly has had something bad happen to her but even she's not clear anymore on what it was. This book looks at how memory works and how events can be remembered differently without someone having the intention of lying. On top of that you have Maisie's unstable home life where her parents have both gotten remarried to less than desirable people and she's trying to figure out how to deal with that as well as working out whether or not she's a victim and how she feels about her friends now that things have changed entirely. I think Prose does an excellent job at capturing the teenage voice and making the issues realistic in that there isn't just one problem and nothing is exactly black and white. Maisie sounds very much like an authentic teenager just trying to sort out her life.

17. After by Francine Prose
Rating 10/10
I enjoyed re-reading this one. It was different knowing what the ending was going to be so I was less patient waiting for the tension to build, I already knew it was going to get worse and worse and exactly what was going to happen. But then as the downward spiral started I was entirely caught up in it again and was just chilled at how far it went. It wasn't as science fiction like as I remembered either. Our society often goes to excessive measures just to be protected and usually we're being protected when there isn't really a threat, or the protections don't actually eliminate any threat. This story just takes that idea and pushes it a little further. It's actually scary to realize how little has to be added to change real life events into a terrifying story idea and how realistic it actually seems.

18. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
Rating 6.5/10
I found myself really uncomfortable with the religious subject matter of this book. I know that was part of the point to make people examine their faith but I didn't like how it was done. It felt pushy to me as if there were rights and wrongs and then just before it got too pushy Picoult would take it all back by making the situation really uncertain again and suddenly everything that was shown might really have been a lie. Then there's a miracle which starts the whole things spinning again until it almost gets too preachy and is shut down again. It took me until about the halfway point to really get into the story at all. I really didn't like the female lawyer character who was the typical overweight girl with no self esteem who meets a handsome British Doctor who is calling her "sweetheart" after only one date... too much like trashy romance without any of the actual fun of a trashy romance. I felt like Picoult had something she wanted to say with this book but she was afraid to actually commit to it and she hid a lot of her message by surrounding it with inept two dimensional characters.

19. Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning
Rating 8.5/10
Surprisingly high rating for a romance novel. I like her stuff though, she's playing with really neat ideas about the Fae in Ireland and going to war with them. The romance is there certainly but there's a lot of plot happening alongside it. I really enjoyed that this book went really really dark. They weren't afraid to follow through with the situations the first two books set up and I think it's better for it. I especially loved how they swapped the typical romance formula and had the action at the beginning and then jumped into the plot and just teased at any romantic entanglements for the rest of the book. The Fae world here is rich and well researched and yet Moning has added her own details to it so that the places become unique to this story as well as familiar in the bigger picture. I like that we're seeing the consequence of war with the Unseelie Fae and how much our entire world would fall apart. I especially love that the consequences aren't all confined to Ireland. It's a world wide issue and while it's not dwelled upon we do hear that the rest of the world is suffering as well.

20. Bury Me Deep by Christopher Pike
Rating 7/10
I was clearing out my bookshelves and found this one tucked away and decided to give it a read before putting it into the yard sale pile. I'm often surprised by his books. I generally clump the Christopher Pike books in with the R.L. Stein Fear Street ones as when I was a kid those were the two I discovered together and I read a lot from both authors around the same time. But the Pike ones are far less supernatural. They play with ideas of being psychic or reincarnation and sometimes add in some mythology of vampires or witches but for the most part they're not out and out supernatural horror stories, they're more thrillers. I enjoyed the descriptions of scuba diving in this one. At times they got a bit much but they did provide the needed background to understand the danger the characters were in. I also liked the mystery as it unfolded. It wasn't hard to guess who was responsible for the crimes but it also came together neatly with tiny bits of foreshadowing done that spelled out the answers if you were looking for them.

21. Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
Rating 8.5/10
This was an odd one for me because in part it was entirely my kind of book, there are vampires, conspiracy theories, and the setting is New York City. On the flip side every other chapter details a different type of real life parasite. Interesting but disgusting at the same time. Not my best lunch break book ever. I think it will likely appeal more to male readers as they tend to be driven more towards factual texts (stereotypically, not always) and this blends information with fiction. I did like that the information parts were incorporated into the story so there was an actual reason for them to be there. The reimagining of how vampires work was really neat, I quite liked that part. It's a neat new mythology but for me there was a bit too much focus on the parasites and less on the mythology that was being built. I believe this book either is the sequel in a pair of books or it has a sequel. I'd still pick up the other book in the series regardless of the yuck factor of the informative text here. Westerfeld is a strong writer. I tend to enjoy his stuff even when the material is not typically my cup of tea.

22. The Children of Men by P.D. James
Rating 9/10
This is one of those stories that will stick with the reader for quite a while. It's a well thought out dystopia that differs from a lot of the typical end of the world ideas. The fact that the human race is dying out, there's no secret about that being kept from the masses and yet the population is being so controlled politically that they still function as a somewhat normal society is really different but interesting. I'm not sure that I believe things would happen that way but it's a neat view of one path the world could take. I was also interested by the descriptons of the last generation of chldren born and how they turned out to be almost inhuman in their own way.

23. Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts
Rating 6.5/10
For a romance book the romance aspect of this one kind of sucked. I was far more interested in the murder mystery. Although it is one that any one who's read a few mystery books can likely puzzle out. By the time it played out it wasn't a twist anymore, it was more of a "when is this going to happen already?" sort of reveal. I liked the initial mystery idea though and the characters were good. But the main romance felt forced. I far rather would have preferred it to wait until the end and have the mystery plot brought to the forefront even more.

24. Naked Pictures of Famous People by Jon Stewart
Rating 8/10
I love Jon Stewart's style of humour. He's cynical and smart and comes up with interesting commentary on the world. This book matched my expectation of it perfectly. There were a few of the essays that I was not as familiar with the souce material for (such as the Kennedy family or Gerald Ford - I know both but am not well versed in their histories) where I sort of got the humour but sort of didn't. The ones where I was more familiar with the source material entertained me a great deal more. Definitely a fun read.


25. The Wool Pack by Cynthia Harnett
Rating 9/10
Entirely enjoyable if you enjoy historical fiction and children's literature. This takes place just as Christopher Columbus has sucessfully discovered America and is well researched historically. The illustrations are there to be helpful as much as they are to entertain so that different items and clothing is shown as well as spoken about. I found it really helpful to see some of the things just to help me picture in my mind what the characters were doing. The story itself is a mystery involving smuggling and as a B plot we also find out about the main character's arranged future marriage which surprises him by not being a terrible idea after all. I was quite charmed by this story. It's written in the 1950's in England and it definitely has the style of a book from that time period about it but if that's your cup of tea this is a good one.

26. Dexter In The Dark by Jeff Lindsay
Rating 7/10
I've not read a Dexter book in at least two years so it took me a bit to get caught up with the backstory but once I was there I enjoyed that part. In this one I really didn't enjoy the way they tied old religions into the idea of Dexter's "Dark Passanger" and made it an entity that was seperate from Dexter. I liked when he was who he was because of a traumatic childhood that made him different from most people, which matches what's gone on with Rita's kids as well. Now suddenly it's that he has an ageless demon hitching a ride in his body? Not loving that idea in this series at all. It doesn't fit. What I did like the most here was how Rita's kids are growing up into being monsters of a kind as well and how Dexter deals with that situation. I was far more interested by their story than by the religious demonic possessions. I could have seen it if there were no demons, only religious worshippers who had psyched Dexter out so much that he believed he'd lost his connection but having it all be real was not inspired at all.

27. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Rating 9/10
I really liked how intense this book got and how it described the control and total lack of control invovled in having an eating disorder or self harming. They often start off as a way to take back some kind of control over one's own life. When other stuff is happening that's not controllable such as parents divorcing, puberty, friends changing etc. food is something that can be controlled but then as the disease develops it takes control and the person spins so far out of control it's scary. Self harming is that same way to control when and how something hurts and then it progresses from little cuts to life threatening ones. I think that Anderson really got her main character's voice and the rational behind her actions down in a very realistic way. The lighter she got as the story progressed the more her mind jumped around and her thought patterns became less logical. I didn't know how this one was going to end, this is a disease that kills and I couldn't predict if the main character was going to live or die at the end. You want her to live, you see how she is loved and needed by her family but how they also are running out of options. One really interesting this is that both Lia (the main character) and her friend Cassie (who has died from bullemia when we begin the book) are over the age of 18 and you see how helpless their families are/were when faced with someone who is legally an adult but who can't make the right decisions to stay alive. Having known someone who was in their early 20's who had bullemia/anorexia I was glad they took this approach. Once they're over 18 there's not as much that parents can do to save their kids and that's a horrible thing to face.

28.Dr. Dredd's Wagon of Wonders by Bill Brittain
Rating 7.5/10
This was quite enjoyable. I feel that I may have read one of the other Coven Tree books when I was a kid. Some of the style felt quite familiar to me and this is just the spooky type of book that I'd have terrified myself with. I liked the description of the town and the different voices and descriptions of the townspeople. This is a short book and is definitely written for younger readers but it also stayed interesting enough for me to be wrapped up in the story for an afternoon.

29. The Secret Under My Skin by Janet McNaughton
Rating 10/10
Amazing and totally not what I'd expected at all. This one is set in a dystopic Canada after humanity has pretty much destroyed the environment and has gone through a "Technocaust" and is now starting to rebuild under a dictatorship that began while there was a crisis. Only we're many years beyond the crisis now and this book speaks to how fear is used to control people and also how humanity rises to overcome oppression. I really liked how complex the characters were and how even the "bad guys" weren't all bad. I had compassion for everyone. I really liked the main character's discovery of her past, it was so well written that I didn't guess ahead, I just enjoyed the journey.

30. Identical by Ellen Hopkins
Rating 8/10
This is a 565 page book written entirely in poems. I think I'd have liked the story more if it was written as a novel BUT the poetry isn't really great poetry, it's more just a way of formatting the text so it looks like a poem but it's not really poetic language. I think this is a case where the author fancies herself to be a poet but really isn't there so much. Or maybe she's really good and is choosing to write poems similar to what teenagers write as a way to get them to read this. Either way as a concept book this doesn't work. BUT as a story I really liked it. I thought it was interesting to see how twins turn out so differently from one another and how they're always attached in some way. The horrific stuff that they go through, the abuse at home and then their reaction to it (eating disorders, cutting, substance abuse...) is heart breaking. Plus it gets interesting to see how their minds handle problems and how they each find a way to survive but are slowly spinning out of control. The style wasn't great for me at first but as I got pulled into the story I cared less about the poor formatting. I think the only way it really worked was to show how the girls were having mirrorred reactions that were so much about the same feelings but also about letting those feelings take them to entirely different places. By the time I got to the end of this book I couldn't stop reading until I found out what was going to happen to the characters. I hope the author continues to write but moves away from the bad teen angst poetry style of writing and focuses more on telling the stories.

31. Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
Rating 10/10
Cornelia Funke writes amazing children's books. Definitely modern classics for sure. I really liked the epic scope of this story. It's definitely an epic journey complete with mythical creatures both good and evil along the way. The only thing I found it tougher to believe was that adults got involved in the story and none of them insisted that the little boy stop his adventure because it wasn't safe and he's just a little kid on his own. But from a kid's point of view I think that would make the story that much more magical, that idea of being able to go on an adventure without anyone telling you that you can't go is a fun one. I loved the entire journey of this story, the scenery was well described and the characters were entertaining. A fantastic read!

32. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Rating 10/10
I think this was really well written and probably is pretty accurate to the amount a private school with corrupt leaders can sink to but boy was it depressing. One keeps hoping that the villans will get what's coming to them but they just don't. Which is close to what happens much of the time in life. People who have no morals can often go for years being horrible to others and not have any repercussions because they don't care about most of the social stigmas as long as they get what they want. I do believe that eventually people like this suffer but sadly it's not often at the high school level and when you mix in corrupt headmasters as well as bad leaders in the student body you do get a mess like what we see here. I'm told there's a sequel to this book which I would be interested in reading but I'm not in a rush to seek it out in case it's just as depressing as this one was.

33.One-Eyed Cat by Paula Fox
Rating 8/10
Another sad childhood book. I know that I tried to read this book when I was younger but never could really get into it. Even now I didn't find it hard to read the story and I cared about the characters but a lot of the goings on were just descriptions of the day to day activities and that sort of drags for me. I did like the conflict that was set up and how it realistically came to a close. I also really liked the description of childhood, that was the most powerful thing in this story. The things that Ned was described as doing were things that I'd forgotten doing myself until I read them here and remembered that I'd do the same sort of things sometimes. I think the story here is really deep and it's a great way to see how a child would look at serious adult events.

34. A Clue for the Puzzle Lady by Parnell Hall
Rating 6.5/10
This was an alright mystery but really quite formulaic. The moment that the killer appeared I guessed who it was and then watched almost every other character get made into a red herring. Many of the little plot details were also predictable. It didn't make it a bad book, I was still entertained and enjoyed how the mystery came together and how you could do a crossword afterwards (or before but it gives away the killer's identity) after reading. Of course my mother gave me this book and she'd done the crossword in pen already. Oops. I just read the clues and had my own fun guessing ;) So I liked the gimmick of the book but other than that it was no different from any one of hundreds of other murder mystery stories.

35. Oddly Enough by Bruce Coville
Rating 8/10
Like most short story volumes there were stories in here that I found to be just perfect and some that just didn't resonate with me. I did find that a few felt incomplete, Coville maintains that he's not a short story writer and while I think his short stories are fun I think he does much better when he allows himself more room to fully flesh out his ideas. But a few of his stories were just stunning. I think he has it right when he said that short stories from him are more accidents than anything else while his editors insist that he's a fantastic short story writer. This one is a good read, but I felt like I'd have loved to see many of these stories expanded into books of their own.

36.The Teacher's Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts by Richard Peck
Rating 8/10
I picked this up because I really like Peck's writing. Then when I started it I thought "hmm don't like this one at all" and then I made myself read more and got entirely into the setting and the story. It's good, but it did take a bit to get engrossed in the story. It's set around the turn of the century when school was still a one room school house and if I had to compare this to something I'd say it reads much like a Little House on the Prarie for boys.

37. Black Creek Crossing by John Saul
Rating 6.5/10
This one should have been right up my alley. It has the history of puritanical witch trials and a good ghost story to boot but I found the realistic part of the story to be so unrealistic that it made the fantasy aspect harder to buy into. There's no way that these kids are being so bullied and no one says anything and in fact every adult in their lives (teachers, parents, family friends) makes things worse. I do see that sometimes that happens from one teacher or from the parents but it was so out of control here that it was unbelievable. Also the rest of the town appeared to have raised budding psychopaths and no one had any control over their kids. Again, too unbelievable. A few bad kids sure, an entire small town full defies all odds. I did enjoy reading the historical aspect as it unfolded but I felt that while this story was based on a neat historical idea there wasn't enough plot put into the rest of it.

38. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Rating 8/10
I liked the mysteries that were woven here. The plot isn't a simple one and quite often little interactions from earlier in the story turned out to be important which meant one had to pay attention to all of the details. I like that. What I didn't like was the writing. I would guess that the translating was done fairly literally which means some phrases become really awkward and unlike anything that a person would actually say in conversation. I think the entire manuscript likely needed an edit as well just to tighten it up a bit. I liked the attention to detail but some of it was more than was needed. But from what I've read thus far this series is a fun one. It's definitely more complex than most mystery novels out there and thus more fun to read since the solutions aren't easily guessed.


39. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larsson
Rating: 8/10
I like this trilogy more and more. I got frustrated in this one for a bit because of the way the story was laid out, in order for it to unfold in a suspensful way one of the characters disappears for a while and you're dying to know their point of view and don't find it out for quite a while. The suspense worked! I was told that this was the hardest book to get into in the trilogy but I had no problem with it at all. I had more trouble with the first one. The translation in this book still isn't great. I can't judge if it's the author who just needed a stronger editor or if the translation was just done in such a literal way that it butchers any subtleties the original text had. However, once again the complexity of the story kept me interested enough that I was able to ignore the writing flaws.

40.Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean
Rating 6.5/10
This is an official sequel to Peter Pan and was comissioned by the hospital that gets the proceeds from Peter Pan. It was a competition to be the author chosen to write the story and I think that they failed to choose the right one. It started off well and I liked the premise of it but as we got into Neverland it was clear this book was written by a grown up. By which I mean by someone who doesn't have that effortless grasp of what it is to be a child. They can recall childlike games but all from the perspective of being grown up looking back upon it. There was far too much emphasis put on how great parents are and how useful adults are as opposed to the kids solving things themselves. Also by the end the plot got very jumpy as though she knew how to get her characters into difficult situations but had no idea what she was going to do to get them out. I felt like she had the very ending worked out but wasn't sure how to wrap up the conflict so she could get there. Overall I felt as though for much of this book the spirit of Neverland was not quite there.

41. Acceleration by Graham McNamee
Rating 6/10
This is one that I heard about again and again when I was in teacher's college. It was supposed to be a great book and it got more boys in the classes reading and it was said to be great. In reality it was just sort of meh. The pacing was good but I kept being bothered by the fact that the message was that police are useless and won't help you so it's better to go stalk a killer alone than get help. I was hoping that by the end of the story it would come out that there was a serious consequence for that choice only there really wasn't and it just sort of ended. This is my second book in a row where I felt like the author set up this huge conflict for their characters but when it came to the end resolution wasn't quite sure what to do. I found the pacing of the story decent and I think there was an attempt at a deeper message but it kept getting lost in the parts of the story that were trying to show how these three teenaged boys were smarter than the cops. I can see why that's an attractive concept to teenagers but I hope that it doesn't actually ever discourage someone from reporting a crime to the police.

42.Darkness by John Saul
Rating 7.5/10
I really do enjoy John Saul's earlier stories. This one was one of my favourites when I was younger and I think it told a neat story along with the horror aspects which is what interested me. The scary stuff is all well and good but I liked the idea of eternal youth and what the consequences of that might be. I thought it was put in a great setting to explain how children could have been experimented on or taken over the years without anyone in a position of authority noticing.

43. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson
Rating 8.5/10
I really enjoyed this whole trilogy. By the end I've decided that Blomkvist isn't nearly as charming as the author likes to imagine he is. Every woman who he meets seems to fall at his feet. He's entirely the Mary Sue of the story. I really did like Lisbeth though, she was uncompromising in all that she did. Sure a bit of a Mary Sue as well but she had flaws that weren't portrayed as endearing. I really liked the intrigue in these stories and wasn't sure how they would end right up until the very last page. They are quite a great complete trilogy. I've heard rumours that there's a fourth book coming out and I'm not sure what to think about that. It's got to be ghost written which could be a good thing if that means that more editing is done. I'd also like to see them use a better translator as it really was the translation that pulled this story down for me. Some of it read just a shade better than a Babelfish translation. On the whole though I understand the hype and am really happy that I read these books.

44. The House of Reckoning by John Saul
Rating 7/10
I liked this story but I disagree with the reviewers who said this one was back to the style and calibre of Saul's earlier books. I felt this one stepped back from the horror genre quite a bit actually. This was more of a ghost story than anything else. There is a former insane asylum involved which usually is something that scares me quite a lot but in this case it was more about a reckoning for the villains in the story and thus it wasn't so scary because they were all deserving of the ends they got. I liked the story idea but it felt that that it got a bit rushed at the end so all of the pieces of the back story didn't fall into place. There could have been a stronger connection made between the wronged inmates and the present day characters which would have made the story a lot more solid.

45. What My Sister Remembered by Marilyn Sachs
Rating 8/10
Once I started reading this one I couldn't stop. Sachs is a master at writing about really heavy and often sad topics for children. This story was about two sisters who had been separated by a tragic accident and raised by different families. The older sister has a great memory and remembers more than anyone thought she would about the accident and the events afterward that led to her being adopted by someone outside of her family and is working through her hurt and anger. I wonder if it's a regular phenomenon for older siblings to remember more about their childhoods than the younger ones because I can remember all kinds of things from when I was growing up and my brother shares very few of those childhood memories. I thought it was amazing that this entire story took place over the space of about 30 hours. In the end I found it interesting to see how the older sister's memory was accurate but missing pieces of the whole story.

46. The Bear's House by Marilyn Sachs
Rating: 9/10
I'd forgotten again that this story ends with a lot left unsaid. There's a lot of implication about what's going to happen to this family but one is left to imagine what's going to happen next. Also now as an adult I read this and think that there's no way the kids would have been so on the ball with taking care of a baby and a house and themselves for so many months without anyone catching on. But I remember reading this as a kid thinking that I would have, and could have, done the same thing. So I think for younger readers this reads true.

47. Fran Ellen's House by Marilyn Sachs
Again I'd imagioned so much more to this story than what was actually in it. I had a recollection all about Flora's foster family and her playing outside while Fran Ellen watched and none of that is in the story at all. I like that these books clearly inspire younger readers to think about the details that are left out and imagine what might have been going on. I liked the story of this family trying to rebuild their lives and it was good to come back and see that Fran Ellen was really growing up and had continued to change her life after the events in 'The Bear's House'.

48. The Magician's House by William Corlett
Rating 10/10
I saw the mini series based on these books a few years back. Actually I believe that I saw it when I was a teenager and then again about 3 years ago. I was thrilled when I looked it up and realized that it came from a quartet of books and put them on my list of things to buy and read and have finally tracked down the whole series. I was surprised to find that these books were written/published in the early 1990's rather than in the 1950's. The story just felt like classic children's fare and I thought they must have been updated for the miniseries rather than actually being more current stories. They still read like classics though. I generally don't like animal stories but these manage to have talking animals in them without becoming typical animal stories. They also have a really neat message about man needing to respect nature but letting the children figure out why for themselves. This is a book that squishes together stories about family and coming of age and magic and animals and is just delightful to read. It's an excellent introduction to the series.

49. The Door in the Tree by William Corlett
Rating 10/10
This is the second part of the Magician's House series and it continues to be a delightful story. The children in this book are quite real. I feel like they're written at their maturity level and are kids who most readers can relate to. I love how the ideas of magic and science are combined (which I suppose really is what alchemy is and that's a central part of the history of their house) and how the stories take a look at environmental issues but don't turn it into a lecture. Rather the story is about the children really learning to see the world around them and take responsibility for it. It sounds a bit dry but really the story is charming and thus far these have been fun books to read.

50. The Tunnel Behind The Waterfall by William Corlett
Rating 10/10
By the third story I'm finding the environmental angle a bit pushy but it's no less right. Corlett is cutting to the heart of a lot of the world's problems and sums them up as greed. Many suffer because others are greedy and powerful. It's a shame but it's not untrue. I still love the way magic and alchemy is interpreted in these stories. They become more about making yourself golden than the pursuit of riches. Interesting twist on the idea. I also like how the rules of time travel are being set up. It's a great blend of fantasy and realism without making the lessons that are being taught seem too overbearing.


51. The Bridge in the Clouds by William Corlett
Rating 10/10
This entire series is delightful. The children were written as realistic children and I loved that they were off having their own adventures without the adults being involved and yet without ignoring the realities of adults telling you to be home for supper or forbidding you to go outside to play. It was a great mix that way. I also liked that while this one still was about the environment it became more about finding one's own personal balance and pulled back a bit from being too pushy with the "save nature" argument. I think these books may be a great way to help kids who read animal stories start to enjoy people stories and for kids who read people stories to start to enjoy animal stories. I wasn't a huge animal story kid but these books were much more appealing to me.

52. Eight Days To Live by Iris Johansen
Rating 7/10
I liked this story. Part of what works with Johansen's books is seeing the characters grow up. We've seen Jane as a child and now she's poised to become one of the main adult characters. This makes sense too because really how much can a few characters continue to experience. It's neat that Eve and Joe will be ageing out a bit (although they're not done yet) and we can see Jane and the collection of characters who surround her (Jock, Caleb, MacDuff, Lena etc.) come into their own. I also liked the expansion on Jane's dreams and what they could be connecting her to. The religious aspect of the story was present but not overpowering and became more about history than faith which I liked. Judas is an interesting character to play "what if" storytelling games with and I think Johansen came up with a neat idea surrounding his history and the betrayal of Jesus. These books are pretty much one off reads for me but they're good fun.

53. Suicide Club by Gayle Wilson
Rating 6/10
Her style of suspense/romance writing did very little for me. The romance aspect was particularly bad. I found the dialogue pretty laughable and for the most part the sex wasn't really all that hot. It had it's moments but I think on the whole it was written more for those sorts of people who go online and bitch/moan that they don't have a significant other in their lives but then who also just want one to be dropped into their lap without any effort on their part. The same sorts who have had very little experience in social interactions and just assume that meeting someone and moving in with them right away is a totally cool thing to do and can't fathom why the last man/woman they tried it with said they were clingy. So it was that level of annoying. I liked the idea for the mystery but there really wasn't enough detail put into it or into building up the suspect base so there weren't really any surprises when we got to the climax of the story. I think what was done well was the setting of a high school from the teacher's point of view which makes sense as Gayle Wilson was a teacher for many years. It was a somewhat entertaining read but nothing really special.

54. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard
Rating 7.5/10
As I have been watching this show it's hard to look at these books without thinking of the show and of the characters. What I like is that there's actually more depth here in terms of the backstory for the characters and their motivations than there was in the early days of this show. I'm still not sure how far I'll go with the books while the show is on because I don't want to spoil the show entirely for myself. I do know one thing that's coming up from a later book (saw a review) and I'm really eager to see it play out on the screen but I don't think I want to know everything that's to come. Anyway this book was a fun read. It's not high literature or anything but it is a fun series and the writing feels pretty spot on with the behaviour of teenagers. I've started on the next one already and I think I'll keep reading until I hit the end of season one - I'm not sure how many books they burned through in the first season.

55. Pretty Little Liars #2: Flawless by Sara Shepard
Rating 7.5/10
I can now say the books are different from the series in enough ways that I think I'll keep reading them. I'm sure some of the storylines will be the same but they've changed a lot of the driving force behind Hanna's character and also have changed some very big things for Toby and Jenna. The books are pretty much the same brand of guilty pleasure addictive fun as the series is. The book also dropped a hint about who A might be, at least book series A and it seems that there may be a hint at the end of each book... could be fun. Of course the first hint still implicates almost every secondary character in the story. I like that I'm being kept guessing.

56. Summer's Child by Diane Chamberlain
Rating 7.5/10
This is a really good book to read in the summertime. Or failing that it's a great book to invoke the feeling of a summer vacation. The setting is just a perfect summer get away and reminded me very much of staying at cottages with friends or family and just having that feeling of living another life for a little while. I liked that the book wasn't a perfect fairytale of happy endings for everyone. Most importantly that when the author addressed the idea of an abandoned baby found out on a beach she dealt with the fact that this baby wouldn't be perfectly healthy. I also liked the various twists to the mystery. Some stuff was predictable but less was predictable than I thought. While the actual language of the book isn't complex and some of the summer romance aspects were a bit over the top and silly (seriously the last two books have had the oddest sex scenes. They're either written for naive virgins or for people who have been unsatisfied for a very long time... although kudos to this book for at least addressing the idea that the female lead has some solo action going on so she's not just sitting around waiting for some guy to rock her world for the whole book) the story was a fun read and was a lovely little vacation story.

57. Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill
Rating 10/10
I liked this book a lot more than I expected to. It's not quite a true story but the author did live a pretty tough life growing up and used her experiences and observations to create a really compelling character in Baby. She's still young enough to want to do childlike things like playing with dolls but she's stuck in a world where she's expected to be older and ends up walking down the path of drugs and prostitution. You really see how ugly and messed up that world is when it's presented in such a matter of fact way.

58. The Safe House by Nicci French
Rating 6/10
I picked this one up because she wrote the book upon which Secret Smile starring David Tennant is based and I figured I'd get a taste for her writing style before seeing the film. Sadly this did not make me want to rush to watch the movie. Almost all of the plot twists were so heavily foreshadowed that they were hardly twists at all by the time they were revealed. The main character was only sympathetic when she was in the most dire of situations, otherwise she was a rather selfish character and I felt she deserved what she got. The romance wasn't so much romance as it was two uncomplimentary disfunctional people who couldn't leave each other alone. While I enjoyed the whodunit mystery that was the base of this story much of the rest of the plot could have been edited out completely while still keeping the mystery framework intact. There was a lot of writing for the sake of writing here rather than writing to tell a story. I found the ending pretty unsatisfying overall.

59.It's Kind Of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Rating 9/10
I really liked this one more than I thought that I would. I wasn't sure if I'd feel too off generationally to really believe the problems the protagonist was going through but this book was well written and really invoked that feeling of being a teenager when everything is the end of the world. I think it did a great job at addressing the issue about the sort of pressure we're putting on kids at a younger and younger age to do well now for their futures until every mistake made as a child feels as though it will impact getting a job or being at all sucessful as an adult. That pressure is shown here coupled with peer pressure and the need to be socially accepted as well as academically successful and well rounded with extra curricular activities and sometimes those things don't all work well together. This book made it easy to remember how overwhelming life felt at times as a teenager (for example I can remember yelling at my mother that she'd ruined my chance of ever getting a job because she'd thrown out my notice of some award from when I was 16 and at that exact moment it was something I needed for a university application and it truely felt as if I could have just thrown away my future with that one piece of paper.) It was quite interesting to see what the chance to recharge does and how a kid's life can be changed by a little less pressure.

60. Skinny by Ibi Kaslik
Rating 8/10
I tend to read just about any fictional story about anorexia that I can get my hands on. It's a disease that's fascinated me for years. I really liked that in this story the struggle was quite real and harsh. It's not a pretty disease and it can do a lot of damage to one's body. Some of the details were quite grotesque but people who suffer from this illness are rarely pretty once it's quite far advanced. I liked that this story was told from the point of view of the girl with the illness and also from the point of view of her younger sister who's trying to hold the family together in her own way. I think this story had a lot of depth to it and the medical facts that were woven with the story were really revealing. One part that I found really neat was the denial that the sick girl was in where she knew all of this medical information and never once looked at her own disease in the same harsh way that she looked at her parents. Even when she looked at herself she saw her various ailments in multiple different ways but never saw the eating disorder for what it was.

61. Glimmerglass by Jenna Black
Rating 6.5/10
I loved the way this story blended the Fae world with our world and rewrote history around the existence of an actual tangable Avalon. That was just a fantastic idea. However, the main character was such a Mary Sue crossed with a little Bella Swan for good measure that it just made me sick. You never even really learn what she looks like beyond her being pretty because she's part fae and having small boobs and a huge amount of insecurity. She gets herself into trouble all over the place and is nowhere near as capable as someone who raised themselves and runs a household because their parental figure was an alcoholic should be. The trilogy of books Wake, Fade and Gone did a far better job at showing how a teenager with an alcoholic parent would approach the world. The biggest flaw I found was that she wasn't really hesitant to drink herself. Most kids who've seen what drinking does to their parents aren't the sort to just drink casually themselves when the opportunity arises. So while I love the setting and plot idea behind this story the main character frustrated me from start to finish.


62. A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle
Rating 8/10
Up to this point my only experience with Peter S. Beagle as an author was for The Last Unicorn which is a stunning book. This book is good but isn't on the same level as The Last Unicorn Is. That said, I was surprised to learn that this was his first published novel. It doesn't read very much like a first book at all. I think this is one of those stories that will change over the years as I reread it. The characters are deliberately left simple so they can be interpreted in many different ways. They are all exploring the concepts of love and life and what it means to love someone and what it means to be alive. The main storylines are all concluded but I felt that the book was open ended in that how the reader interprets the ideas is really what makes the story come to life.

63. Help, Pink Pig! by C.S. Adler
Rating 9/10
I love these books. I'm still finding that as an adult reader I look at them an keep thinking there's no way a kid would be able to handle that much parental neglect with such grace but as a kid I entirely believed it so I think I'm underestimating how much an 11 year old can manage on their own. I really like the blend of fantasy with reality in these stories and how at the end of the day it doesn't matter if the Little World is a real place or entirely imagined, it's somewhere where Amanda can feel safe and believing in it isn't making her unable to function in reality. For much of this book and the first one in this pair I wanted to shake the mother. She is entirely irresponsible with her children and doesn't seem to have any idea how to put their needs before her own. Upsetting to know there are a great many parents who are like this.

64. They Never Came Home by Lois Duncan
Rating 7/10
I found this one to be one of Duncan's better early books. It's funny how dated some of the stuff is but it's fairly easy to substitute out a $2,000 debt for $20,000 to bring it up to date. Then to also change the shock value of of someone dealing marijuana for cocaine or some such drug. It's actually interesting to see how the times have changed in regards to drug culture and how how the analysis one character makes of how if pot is around it soon will become no big deal to be actually pretty accurate. I quite liked how this progressed in that you knew what both sides of the story were doing and just had to enjoy the ride until they inevitably come back together.

65. The Deep End Of The Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Rating 6/10
I did not like the main character in this story at all. I found her selfish from beginning to end and while I felt sympathy for the supporting characters who were dealing with a missing child I did not feel she was a character who evoked any sympathy from me at all, which is a huge author fail as she was the mother of the kidnapped child. Before her son is taken she's shown to be a selfish parent who'd rather spend time with her friends than parent her children and after her son is taken her grief is understandable but she refuses to try to be a mother for her remaining two children or get help to start to come to terms with her own sadness. The redeeming parts of this story for me were the oldest son's chapters where we saw what he was going through. That's the only thing that kept me from giving the story a 5/10 rather than a 6. The mystery of how this kidnapping happened was a neat idea but I found far too much time was spent on the mother's character and not enough was spent telling a story.

67. Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Rating 6/10
This is a highly readable book but sadly it falls into the Twilight category of a mildly abusive immortal guy controlling a high school girl. Not sure why that's a trend right now but I'm not a fan of that. I did like the angel mythology that the author created though. I also did find the idea of Patch to be attractive but more so from an adult perspective. When you sit back and realize that the character is mentally dominating a 17 year old girl it becomes more uncomfortable. If this was with a 25 year old or something and they could hold their own I'd feel more okay about it. However, unlike the Twilight series this girl is at least allowed to have sexuality and acting on her impulses isn't in opposition to some ridiculous immortal code of morality. I think I liked this one enough that I'll try out the sequel. We'll see how it goes from there. I still don't think I'd recommend it to younger readers though unless I didn't like them much and wanted to instruct them on how to settle into an abusive relationship.

68. Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay
Rating 8/10
I really liked this story. I suspect that I was not alone in not really knowing anything about the Vel' d'Hiv round up of Jewish families in Paris by the French police in 1942. It's one of those things that's unpleasant and thus is not talked about. While this story did not endear me to the French particularly well though it's fair to say that there are lots of countries who have unpleasant histories who just neglect to mention them in the hopes that all will be forgotten. I did like the historical parts of this story but the bits set in the present day quickly became less fun to read. The main character Julia is in a horrid marriage where her husband has been cheating on her and making her feel that it's her fault and that never got resolved to my tastes. We deal with him telling her that she must have an abortion or he'll leave her and never does that make him 100% the bad guy because there's this underlying thread of "at least he's being honest" that somehow is supposed to overrule him being a complete tool. I wish we could have had more of Sarah's story and far less of Julia's as I found her to be a very weak person when it came to taking care of herself and her family and that's never fun to read.

The second part of this list continues here: books read in 2011 part two.
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Elizabeth Jamieson

January 2013


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