Tuesday, December 31, 2013

reading roundup: 2013

I read 39* books out of my goal of 40 this year.

*I wrote a book for Nano and proofread it, which makes this number actually 40, based on this technicality.

I would have to say my favorite books for this year would be:
1. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison
2. Reached (Matched #3) by Ally Condie
3. The End of Men and the Rise of Women by Hanna Rosin

My least favorite books of the year were ones that were actually pretty popular:
1. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
2. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
3. The Stand by Stephen King

I love SK, but I did not love that book!

Looking forward to another year of reading!

11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King

I just finished this book last night and read most of it in the last week. It centers around Jake, a schoolteacher in 2011, who finds out through a local diner owner, Al, that there is what is termed a "rabbit hole" in the back of his restaurant that takes people to 1958. Al is dying from lung cancer and has Jake go through the rabbit hole a couple of times to experience it before telling him his idea: Al wants Jake to go and live in the past and prevent JFK's assassination. Initially, Jake doesn't think he's up to it, but eventually agrees to Al's persuasion. Al gives Jake money, a fake ID (Jake becomes "George"), and a notebook he has written on Oswald and his movements in Dallas leading up to the assassination. Jake takes all of this information with him and tries to lead as normal of a life as possible in the past, but doesn't always quite blend in due to some catchphrases that don't exist yet, which makes some people suspicious. I think how King blended everything together worked well, but I will admit I was disappointed by the ending.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park is set in the 80s. Sometimes the point of view is from Eleanor, others it is from Park. Eleanor is new at school and stands out because of her hair (she is nicknamed Big Red), size, and men's clothing she wears. Park, on the other hand, is the only Asian in school. They ride together on the bus after Park is the only one who offered Eleanor a seat. She reads his comics over his shoulder and eventually that starts a friendship. However, Eleanor comes from a broken home with an abusive stepfather and four younger siblings. Being in a relationship is essentially not allowed, so she has to hide her budding romance from her family.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

I really enjoyed Walls' Glass Castle and Half-Broke Horses books, so I knew I had to read this as soon as possible. I really enjoyed the story! It centers around Bean and her older sister Liz moving from California to Virginia after their mother abandons them in California when Bean discovers she is lying about a boyfriend. After their move, they take on jobs working for Jerry Maddox, known to most in the town as a bully. He sets up bank accounts for them, but when Liz goes to the bank to withdraw money, she discovers he had moved the money to T-bills without her permission. She goes to him, demanding the money, which leads to an altercation and a court case against Jerry.

Into the Wild by John Krakauer

Krakauer retraces the steps of Chris McCandless, a young man who walked into the Alaskan wilderness and never walked out again. The author speaks to people who took McCandless in and drove him to Alaska and around the west. He also discusses other adventurers who never returned to society and goes over the possible reasons why McCandless perished. To be frank, the book creeped me out, so I would not recommend reading it before bed unless you want to think of dead bodies in sleeping bags.

This was a book for my Couples Book Club-PDX Meetup group.

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

Love Anthony revolves around two women in Nantucket. One, Olivia, had an autistic son named Anthony who passed away two years prior. The other, Beth, finds out her husband is cheating on her with a woman he works with. They are drawn together by autism: Olivia by her son, and Beth with her rediscovered creative writing. The intersection of their stories seems entirely unrealistic, but if you can divest yourself of reality, you would be able to enjoy it.

This book was for my Portland Book Club for 20-Something Women Meetup group.

Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu

This book picks up where Legend leaves off, if I could only remember where Legend had left me. As I have discussed in previous reviews of sequels of books, this one did not do a good job of connecting this book to the previous one and refreshing my memory of what had occurred. However, I was able to piece it together enough to still enjoy the book. Day and June are trying to escape to the Colonies, who they believe will keep them safe. Meanwhile, the new elector, Anden, is struggling to keep the Republic together and needs Day's endorsement for the people of the Republic to trust him. Will Day choose to endorse Anden or go to the Colonies to be safe with June?

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

I had previously read Maine by Sullivan and was mildly impressed by it. When I heard about this book, it sounded like a lot more interesting of a plot line and it did not let me down. The story spans over fifty years, from the beginnings of the tagline "A Diamond Is Forever," to the application to pro-marriage, anti-marriage, affairing, struggling couples. There are four couples featured throughout the book, plus Frances Gerety, who came up with the line. One couple has been married for thirty years and find out that their son has left his wife for another woman. A second couple lives in Europe and she leaves her husband for her lover. The third couple struggles to make ends meet, but love each other dearly. And the final couple doesn't believe in marriage. The story revolves around how diamonds are the connecting thread through all of the couples.

The End of Men and the Rise of Women by Hanna Rosin

I really enjoyed this book; it was a lot like The Richer Sex, but more readable/easy to read. Rosin discusses all the ways that women are surpassing men: education, careers, financially. I would recommend this book over The Richer Sex, but both are great reads if you want to learn more about how women are outperforming men.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Dinner by Herman Koch

This story takes places during the entirety of a dinner between two couples: brothers and their wives to discuss an event that their sons took part in. As dinner goes on, the story unfolds of what happened one night and what can be done to remedy it. Each couple has their own idea for what can be done to solve it, but one couple holds the final say.

When I put this book on hold, it was mainly out of curiosity to see how far someone could take a book over what can reasonably happen in the course of 90 minutes. Other books, such as Gone with the Wind, take place over years and it was interesting to see someone flesh out a complete story over the course of 300 pages and how Koch wove the story together.

The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell

I really enjoyed this book, I thought it was very unique. Bonus: the author is from England, so I had to infer some of the things she was talking about.

The story is told from three points of view: Marnie, Nelly, and Lennie.  Marnie and Nelly are sisters and Lennie is the neighbor next door. Together, they tell the story of Marnie and Nelly's father being murdered by Nelly and later their mother being found hung (suicide) in their shed. This occurs during winter and with the girls being 13 and 15 and Marnie one year from being considered an adult and able to take care of them both, they have to keep of the facade that their parents went on vacation. Meanwhile, they bury them in the backyard and plant lavender bushes on top of their graves to help camouflage what happened. To keep their secret alive, they have to deal with their maternal grandfather looking for his daughter, their father's drug supplier wanting money, and the school officials poking around. Lennie keeps an eye on the girls and eventually they end up taking care of each other. But their lies keep building and Nelly begins to crack. Can they hold it together until Marnie turns 16?

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer

I actually went to see Marissa Meyer and Malina Lo speak at Wordstock in early October! I have never gone to see an author speak, and it was a very interesting experience. They talked about their inspirations (such as the retelling of fairy tales in a futuristic, dystopian world) and future works. But I digress...

Scarlet is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood (which Marissa told us the actual Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, which is actually very creepy in nature). Scarlet meets a street fighter named Wolf while trying to find out who kidnapped her grandmother, where they were holding her, and how to get her out. Meanwhile, our protagonist from the first Lunar Chronicles, Cinder, needs to escape her prison cell so she will not be deported back to Luna and killed by her aunt who wants to marry Prince Kai and rule Earth.

The third installment, Cress, releases next year and is based on the story of Rapunzel.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Marie Semple

I thought this book was very entertaining and told in a unique way. The book is told through collections of correspondence, so you have Bernadette's neighbor Audrey sending letters or emails to her gardener about Bernadette's blackberry bushes; Bernadette emailing her contact in India who can order her motion sickness pills; Audrey emailing Soo-Lin, Bernadette's husband, Elgin's, admin assistant; etc. The premise of the story is that Bernadette and Elgin have promised their daughter, Bee, anything she wants as long as she gets straight As. Bee has decided she wants to go to Antarctica. Bernadette (it sounds like she has agoraphobia) has motion sickness and is desperate to get out of the trip. A lot of other "I Love Lucy"-type things occur surrounding Bernadette, and I found the book wholly enjoyable and look forward to more books by Maria Semple.

The Erotic History of Advertising by Tom Reichert

I found this to be a really insightful book. It went through using sex in advertising through the ages (starting in the late 1800s and going through present) and also in specific campaigns (perfume/cologne, intimates, jeans, etc). It shows and explains a lot of examples and also goes over how not only are items sold, but the lifestyle surrounding them. Like if you wear Guess? Jeans, you instantly become desirable and people flock to you. I would recommend this book if you are interested in the history of advertising and how sex sells things, including sex itself.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Elite (The Selection #2) by Kiera Cass

The Elite is the second book in The Selection trilogy. It continues where The Selection left off: with six girls remaining trying to win Maxon's heart. However, America is still deciding if she loves Maxon or Aspen, one of the guards that she knew from before the Selection began. As she struggles, both men show her what they can give her. Aspen can give her security now that he is a 2, but Maxon offers her a princess crown and the possibility of changing their country for the better. The final installment, The One, will be released next year.

Monday, August 19, 2013

These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen

I think this was my first "chick lit" book I have ever read. The story revolves around three women: Cate, who had an affair with her professor and dropped out of college and hopes no one finds out that secret; Renee, who is vying for a beauty editor position and is desperate to lose weight; and Abby, who had an affair with the father of the girl she was nannying. I thought how the story was told was interesting. Renee and Cate's go from present forward, while Abby's starts presently and then goes back into the past, bringing her to the present moment, and then forward. It was a very light, fluffy read, perfect for those summertime days at the beach.

Pure (Pure #1) by Julianna Baggott

This book takes place after the Detonations, which is what occurred after the Dome was built. People who made it inside the Dome (bought their way in and whatnot) are known as "pures" since they are not liked the "fused" who live outside the Dome. Those who are fused are just that--were fused to whatever they were touching or whoever they were near or holding when the Detonations occurred. Pressia is the main character who lives outside the Dome and has a doll head for a right hand (since the Detonations occurred when she was six and holding her favorite doll) and glass in her face. Another character is Patridge, who is inside the Dome. He figures out that his mother is still alive, but lives outside the Dome. He escapes and goes on a search for her, and while outside the Dome, Pressia runs into him and protects him from Groupies (people who were fused together, so three individuals but in one connected body) and helps him in his search to find his mother. I found this book to be fairly dry for a fiction book, but I do want to know what happens. It felt like an adult version of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Outpost (Razorland #2) by Ann Aguirre

This book picks up where Enclave left off: Deuce, Stalker, Tegan, and Fade living in Salvation and trying to find a life there. There is a love triangle afoot, as well. Fade thinks that Deuce likes Stalker, while Deuce likes Fade (and Fade likes Deuce), while Stalker also likes Deuce, but she does not reciprocate that. The Freaks/Muties are also becoming smarter to the point of understanding the fields that the Salvationites plant are imperative to their survival and thus destroy them. This leads to an outpost (hence the title) being set up to protect the fields. Deuce, Stalker, and Fade go on a recon mission at night to find out where the Freaks/Muties are and they discover that they have their own little semi-civilization like Salvation. They return to the outpost and tell Longshot (the leader of the outpost who also rescued them and brought them to Salvation) what they saw, and even though he believes them, he does not decide to do anything about it. Later, both Fade and another outpost soldier are captured in the night, leading Deuce, Stalker, and two other soldiers on a mission to rescue them. I thought this book picked up really well from where Enclave left off and I could figure out/piece together what had happened in the end of the first book. I am looking forward to the third installment, Horde, to come out later this year.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love, and Family by Liza Mundy

I loved this book! I seem to be having a streak of really great feminist nonfiction books and I am not complaining! Mundy discusses the increase of women in college, which is leading females to be taking higher-paying jobs than their male counterparts. This has impacted the family dynamic and has led to an increase in non-traditional home lives, such as stay at home fathers/husbands, since the wife makes more money. I thought the book was really interesting. It does discuss the difficulties of women who don't want to "marry down" (marry someone less educated than them), since more and more women are getting graduate degrees, which leads to less (graduate-educated) men to match them with. Mundy also talks about how work/school/home life will be in the future if the trends continue the way they are going.

One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper

This book revolves around the character of Silver (his last name), a has-been one hit wonder, who was diagnosed with a fatal heart condition, has a pregnant teenage daughter, and an ex-wife who is getting remarried soon. He decides to forgo the surgery to save his life, as he determines that the life he had been living since his divorce is not one he wants to continue to live (and not because the ex-wife's fiance would be performing the surgery, which he would do if Silver wanted it). I thought this book was really good. It showed a lot of growth of the characters both as individuals (grappling with difficult life decisions) and with each other (Silver setting out to be a better father and improve his relationship with his daughter). I thought the ending was a little confusing, but I would love it if someone could clear it up for me!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick

Gorgeous is about a girl named Becky Randle who just graduated high school. Her mother dies and while she is going through her things, she finds a jewelry ring box that has a phone number in the bottom of it. She calls the number and Tom Kelly, a famous fashion designer, answers it. Becky flies out to New York to meet him and he presents her with an offer: to make her the most beautiful woman in the world. She agrees to it and he makes it happen via three dresses: a red one, a white one, and a black one. She isn't sure how this can be accomplished since she is rather plain looking, but when she wears the red dress, she transforms into Rebecca: a taller, thinner, and more beautiful version of herself that even models are jealous of her. At the end of their first night out, he tells her that she can stay looking like this for the rest of her life if she falls in love and gets married within a year. I honestly really did not like this book. I thought it was too supernatural (something I was not expecting from it), at least for my tastes, and also pretty predictable.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Joyland by Stephen King

I had been anticipating this book for quite some time and it was well worth the wait. The story centers around Devin, a 21 year old college kid, who spends his summer working at Joyland amusement park. There is word that there is a ghost that haunts one of the rides since she was murdered in it. Dev never sees her, but befriends a mom named Annie and her ten year old son Mike who has muscular dystrophy. Mike also has "the sight" and knows that there is a ghost in the rides. I found this mystery--who killed the girl?--a very different change of pace for Stephen King. As always, SK knocked it out of the park...I could almost smell the salt of the ocean air, the popcorn, and the cotton candy as I read this book.

The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf

I really loved this book! The book is divided into chapters such as violence, hunger, and sex and how what Wolf terms as "the beauty myth" interacts with them. Like violence is not domestic violent disputes, but violence against one's body, such as plastic surgery and fixing flaws that aren't really there through surgical means. The book was originally published in 1991, so it definitely shows its age. I wish there was an updated version of it that included more recent statistics, but the book is still extremely relevant--maybe even more so than when it was originally published--and worth a read.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

I really enjoyed this book and realized it is the fourth road trip book I have read in about two years. The story revolves around Colin Singleton who has just been dumped by the nineteenth Katherine he has ever dated. He is really hurt by this, so he and his friend Hassan convince Colin's parents that it would be best if they went on a road trip and "find" themselves which really means get Colin over Katherine. They end up in Gutshot, Tennessee (they originated in Chicago), living with a girl named Lindsey (who is dating a guy named Colin, nicknamed "TOC" [the other Colin]) and her mom Hollis while they take down a history of the town given by the residents. The original Colin is trying to figure out why his relationships with Katherines always end and why he is the one who always gets dumped. He is on a mission to create a mathematical formula that predicts relationships, except there is hitch after hitch on why it does not work. Does Colin ever figure out the formula and get over Katherine XIX?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This book revolves around 8 year old Scout, her brother Jem, and her father Atticus while he defends a black man that allegedly raped a white woman. It is definitely a coming-of-age story where Scout realizes that everything is not as she thought it was and how people behave in unexpected ways. Also, there is a "mysterious" boarded-up house where "Boo" Radley supposedly lives. When Scout and Jem walk home from school, sometimes they find "gifts" in the crook of a tree, such as two pennies, a pack of gum, and a broken watch.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

I don't know much about Jewish culture or customs, which is what this book revolves around, so maybe I missed a lot of inside jokes...I am not sure. I have heard that it is like a Jewish version of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections (which I own but have not yet read...maybe I should). This book was very character-driven, much like J. Courtney Sullivan's Maine, although I think you knew where the book would end as soon as it began. The story revolves around Edie, an overweight matriarch of a three generation family, who keeps having to have surgeries done to keep her alive (stents in legs and whatnot). Her husband Richard leaves her since he was done living with someone he didn't love anymore and who was slowly killing herself and taking him along with her. They have children, Benny and Robin. Benny's wife Rachelle is on a mission to save her mother-in-law from herself, even going so far as to stalk her when she goes from a McDonald's to a Burger King and ending at a Chinese restaurant. Benny tries to be fairly hands-off, but appeals to his dad when Rachelle says Richard can no longer visit the grandchildren (Josh and Emily, twins who have their b'nai mitzvah coming up). Robin seems to want nothing to do with her family, and she and Emily are often likened to younger, smaller Edies. I didn't feel like this book really went anywhere (that is what I think of most character-driven books, I have found), but it was told in an interesting way: each chapter has a different character narrating. There is even a chapter where the family friends are narrating the b'nai mitzvah.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy

I had high hopes for this book, really, I did. It took me two check outs before I finally had a chance to read it, and then I was disappointed. It was kind of like the unprofessionalism of Down the Up Escalator made it to feminist, non-fiction works. It felt like the book was full of Levy's own opinions, and less about facts and how the degrading and oversexualization of women has reduced culture. This book is only 10 or so years old, but so much has changed since it was written...it would be much better if they did a tenth anniversary revised edition to include Facebook (the book talked about Friendster and LJ...talk about a flashback!). I did get the point that women sexualizing each other like men do is not a good thing, but there is no talk of instead of lowering women to men's levels, of raising men to women's levels (if that makes sense). Like...why all the sexualization? Who really wins from that?

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving: A Novel by Jonathan Evison

I felt like this book was like last year's (personal) sleeper hit The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this since I had never read anything by Evison before, but it was well done, although I think the ending could have been more complete, but that is just me. The story goes that Trevor, a 19 year old with muscular dystrophy, needs a caregiver and in comes Ben, a man with a sad past who is trying to make a go of the future. Trevor has his routines of going to see a movie every Thursday, eating waffles at every breakfast, and watching The Weather Channel every morning. Ben starts an exercise with Trev where they mark all of the unique road stops on a map, just for something new for him to do. Trev's semi-deadbeat dad (who seems like an okay guy) flies in from Salt Lake City to see him, but Trev wants nothing to do with him. Trev's mom goes out of town for a conference and it is at that point that the two men take a roadtrip and meet an unforgettable cast of characters, all while being followed by someone in a Skylark. The book flashes back to what happened to Ben and how that affected him, which was a nice touch.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Down the Up Escalator: How the 99% Live in the Great Recession by Barbara Garson

Maybe the tip-off should have been the "99%" in the title, but this was a very non-professionally written non-fiction book. When the author starts commenting on what people look like (Russian nesting dolls...really?!) it is definitely cause for concern and reduces the overall impact of the book. Especially when you write a book that is about the poor and include people who lost their jobs in their early 50s, but have enough money to last until they retire. Not part of the 99%, in my opinion, but okay.

Overall, I think the grand idea of this book was that there was a recession, these are the effects (mainly focusing on wage depression, foreclosed houses/loan modification, and stocks/capital), and people are suffering from something they did not causes since the US government can't seem to understand that the "debt crisis" isn't really a crisis at all and the fastest way to make that crisis go away is by dealing with the jobs crisis that politicians refuse to acknowledge.

The author did do their homework and provided many anecdotes on what people were doing to keep their houses or the methods they were using to support themselves, but I feel like the fact that the author is Wiccan and spent ten days in jail back who-knows-when because of protesting are not really relevant factors in the Great Recession. But what do I know, all I do is read Jared Bernstein and Paul Krugman...every day.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Little Bee is apparently not to be talked about, according to the back of the book:
We don't want to tell you WHAT HAPPENS in this book. It is a truly SPECIAL STORY and we don't want to spoil it. NEVERTHELESS, you need to know enough to buy it, so we will just say this...
A very strange disclaimer, if I do say so myself. But I will divulge that Little Bee is from Nigeria where she meets Sarah and her husband Andrew under very unusual circumstances that leads to Sarah to cut off her middle finger. Andrew eventually commits suicide over what occurred in Nigeria, but can Sarah and Little Bee ever come to terms with what each did?

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi is about a sixteen year old boy named Pi. He grows up in India and his family owns a zoo during the 70s. They end up selling the zoo and most of the animals in it and take a boat to Canada. On the way there, the boat sinks (for unknown reasons) and Pi escapes into a lifeboat with a tiger, hyena, zebra with a broken leg, and a gorilla. The hyena ends up killing the zebra since it was already injured, then it goes after the gorilla. Eventually the tiger takes it out and Pi realizes that he needs to keep the tiger alive. He does this by catching it fish and turtles and other marine life. Are they ever found?

I thought this story was really boring the first 100 pages, slow-ish the next 100, and the last 100 were at a decent speed and for sure the most interesting. The end blew my mind and I don't know what to think about it.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3) by E. L. James

Fifty Shades Darker ends with a mystery person spying on Christian and Ana at their new house that they will renovated. Fifty Shades Freed starts during their honeymoon and does weird flashbacks, so it is like honeymoon-wedding-honeymoon-earlier in the honeymoon-honeymoon...you get the idea. I was not a big fan of it and in general did not enjoy this book as much as the other ones. Anyway...immediately after they get home to Seattle after their honeymoon, they are being chased by a mystery woman for whatever reason. Ana manages to lose them, but it is soon discovered that the fire that occurred at GEH during their honeymoon was not an accident, but indeed arson. Who could be causing all these problems and why? Do they have anything to do with Charlie Tango going down? Most of this book is focused on Christian and Ana's relationship while it grows and normalizes after they are married. Other subplots occur (I will not ruin them by talking about them), but all in all, I felt like it was a weak book to end the series.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Age of Miracles: A Novel by Karen Thompson Walker

In The Age of Miracles, we meet Julia who is experiencing the slowing of the turning of the earth. The days are gradually getting longer with interesting consequences: birds start falling from the sky, people create "earth day" communes (instead of living on 24 hour "clock time"), and gravity sickness. Things slowly dissolve into chaos with the government instituting clock time, limiting personal power use (since the crops have to have sunlamps since the nights get to be so long), and trying to figure out how to bring back the astronauts stuck in the space station. In Julia's personal life, she is experiencing the coming-of-age challenges of first bras, first loves, and keeping her father's infidelity from her mother. I thought this was an interesting premise for a book, but the ending left me wanting.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fifty Shades Darker (Fifty Shades #2) by E. L. James

In this sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, Ana and Christian reunite at Jose's art gallery opening. They realize how much they care for each other and Christian will do anything to keep Ana, even give him his Red Room of Pain. Ana then starts a job at SIP, the publishing house. Her manager is Jack and he keeps making passes at her and hinting that they need to go get drinks. Christian is very aware of Jack's past history with his assistants, with none lasting longer than three months and is concerned the same will happen to Ana. Eventually, Jack corners her in the kitchen and makes his proposition quite clear. But Ana, whose dad Ray is ex-army, knows how to defend herself. Jack loses his job and Ana takes it, elated. Meanwhile, Christian and Ana grow closer, with Ana meeting with Dr. Flynn to find out more about why Christian is the way he is. The book continues to reveal snippets of Christian's past, making the reader understand more about him. I am so glad that Fifty Shades Freed is waiting for me at the library since the ending leaves you hanging!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloan

I think, in general, I appreciate books that are based in the same city that the author resides since it gives an "authentic" feel to the book (or sends me searching for information on something I read since it sounds neat). Sloan is from San Francisco, which is where this book is based. Google is often discussed, along with their hierarchy and how working at Google really is. I am not sure if he worked at Google (it doesn't appear to be that way from his website) or knew people who did, but it still has at least a realistic flavor since Google is so well-known for being one of the best places to work. I also recently (in the last three months) visited San Francisco and really enjoyed my stay. But I digress.
Clay is unemployed and happens by Mr. Penumbra's bookstore, where he is hiring for a night clerk. Clay applies and accepts the job, quickly realizing that this bookstore is not like your typical Barnes and Nobel. Instead, it is divided into sections. One section is for normal, albeit mostly outdated/older books. The second section is in the back and Clay is "forbidden" by Mr. Penumbra to look in the books. One night, one of Clay's friends comes into the store and looks in one of the "forbidden" books and finds out that it is all in code. This becomes immensely intriguing since the patronage of the store are...misfits. Clay tries to up the store's presence by offering a very targeted coupon online. A Googler finds it and comes into the store while Clay is working on a 3-D animation of the store. With this animation, he is trying to track what books people are checking out based on the notes that all the clerks are required to take. The Googler, Kat, sees what he is doing and offers the help of her resources at Google to help figure out what is going on since there is a method to the books being checked out. This is only the beginning of a mystery at this store. What do the books say? Why are people checking out only specific ones? Clay quickly finds that this runs deeper than he ever suspected.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

New: Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change by Winifred Gallagher

I thought this book was very interesting. Gallagher presents information on neophobes, neophiles, and neophiliacs. Neophobes shun technology. One can think that only the older generations are neophobes, but I know that isn't the case from personal experience with a decidedly older gentleman asking about how e-books work. Neophiliacs are all about the latest and greatest thing. If it's new, they want it. Neophiles are able to find a balance between the two: they know when to use technology, but aren't addicted to it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1) by E. L. James

With all the hype around this book, I knew I had to read it. Ana, a soon-to-be college grad from WSU-Vancouver, interviews Christian Grey for her sick roommate, Kate. From this interview, they become quite taken with each other, but Christian tries to resist, since he knows he has problems that Ana probably can't handle. They find each other anyway, and Ana gets introduced to his alternative BSDM lifestyle. I thought that the book would be heavy into the BSDM (maybe that comes in the next book?), but it seemed quite gentle in that regard. More focus was given to Christian and what sort of past he has and why he doesn't do the "girlfriend thing." He is an awful hard nut to crack, but will Ana do it with gentle prodding? Will he be able to have a relationship that includes the "girlfriend thing"?

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

This book was supposed to be one of the best books of last year, so I was really looking forward to reading it. I didn't quite know what to expect, but I have concluded that it is a very character-driven book, very much like Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan. There isn't much to plot, but it does have more than Maine did. The story goes that there is an ill American actress who goes to stay in a hotel on the Italian coast. The innkeeper there, Pasquale, is immediately taken by her. The story hops around a great deal. One chapter will be 1962 Italy, the next is present day LA, then it will be 1990s Europe. It is easy to stay caught up, but it was not much of a page turner and I didn't find the characters that great or memorable. However, Jess Walter is from Spokane, so I did enjoy the Washington references.

Reached (Matched #3) by Ally Condie

This is the third book in the Matched trilogy. The Rising has come and to win followers, they released a deadly flu virus into the Society's water. They have a vaccine and everyone who gets it is healed, but soon the virus mutates and they do not have a vaccine against the mutated form. It becomes a race against time to find a cure and it becomes even more urgent when Ky falls ill. But there are people working against the Rising to make sure as many people as possible die. Will a cure be found in time to save Ky?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Stand by Stephen King

The Stand begins when a man escapes his government job carrying a deadly flu virus (unbeknownst to him) and goes home to his wife and daughter. He packs them up and they head out of California and go east, eventually dying from the virus and spreading it to innocent bystanders. Quickly, in a matter of weeks, most of the population has been wiped out by the virus, except for a select few that have a natural immunity to it. These few are scattered throughout the United States and slowly find each other. All of them have had dreams of a black woman in Nebraska and also of a strange individual they call the "dark man," who they know is evil or at least a representation of it. This story follows the groups of people on their quest to find one another and the mysterious woman who appears in their dreams. Who is the woman? And who is this "dark man"? This book is supposedly Stephen King in his finest hour, but I think Under the Dome is much, much better.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013: reading preview

For 2013, I have a goal of reading 40 books. This will be a bit more manageable than 2012 when I had the goal of 52 books. I did come very close and finished my 47th book on December 31, 2012, but I felt like it was limiting in some aspects since 1Q84 seemed to break my stride a bit since it was 1,026 pages long and still only counted as one book. I think 40 books will allow for the longer books I am wanting to read, such as Stephen King's The Stand, which I started on January 1, 2013. This is the uncut version and clocks in at 1,439 pages.
I have other books in mind to read this year, as well, such as finishing the Matched triology (Reached by Ally Condie), An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, and the second in the Razorland trilogy by Ann Aguirre, Outpost.

For non-fiction, my readings in feminist literature will continue with works such as Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy, The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family by Liza Mundy, and The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf.

There are also a few books from 2012 that are supposed to be very good, at least according to the editors at Amazon. These include The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, and The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker.

The year will most likely end how it began: with another Stephen King book! But this time it will be 11/22/63, a book I have been wanting to read ever since it came out! 
Have a suggestion of something I might like? Leave it as a comment and I'll see if I can work it in. Just because my goal is 40 books doesn't mean I can't overachieve!