Tuesday, September 08, 2009

August Reads in Review (2009)

My August Reads - with links to reviews, where applicable. Note that I separated my YA reviews and posted them at my alter ego's blog, Twinkletoes Reviews. I planned on keeping that review site totally private, but since I always end up discovering that I can only handle one blog at a time, it may not last (either way, I think I'll limit it to YA) and I might as well link up to the reviews Sam has written, right? Right. I am Sam. Sam I am. There's a story attached to the name, but we'll save that for another day. This is supposed to be a summary of my August reads.


YA - Young Adult
NF - Non-fiction
CT - Christian theme or elements

Ch - Children's
PR - Promotional item
HF - Historical Fiction
M - Memoir

The Missionary by Carmichael and Lambert (CT)- A missionary who has strong opinions about the government in . . . I think it's Venezuela . . . agrees to play a small role in a coups and gets himself into a boatload of trouble. I thought this one was a stretch and the missionary was too wimpy. People have to rescue him; he never figures out how to help himself and his family.

Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman (NF)- One woman's tales of her reading life. This is an extremely fun read, but I'm going to have to read it a second time and keep a vocabulary notebook. My gosh, that woman has a humongous vocabulary!!

Paper Towns by John Green (YA) - After a night of helping his neighbor friend play some pranks on people who've upset her, a teenage boy feels like it's his job to find the girl when she goes missing (based on clues from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, if I remember right). Green's trademark style - sharp kids with angst. Not my favorite but I do love his writing. Many thanks to Chris in New Orleans for my copy of Paper Towns!!

June Bug by Chris Fabry (CT) - When June Bug and her dad are stuck in Colorado while they wait for an RV part, she sees a missing child photo that makes her question everything her dad has ever said. This was one of the best books I've read all year, a fantastic story of love with a mystery. The ending made me sob, but it was perfect for the book. It would make a *great* movie.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by (PR) - A 63-page bit of promotional material about the new Hitchhiker's book, And Another Thing by Eoin Colfer (release date is October 12), with quotes from the Douglas Adams book, info about the new one and how Adams' wife hand-picked the author. I figured I read it; I'll count it.

Evernight by Claudia Gray (YA) - The daughter of two vampires falls in love with a vampire slayer while attending an exclusive school for vampires that has unaccountably started accepting outsiders. I really enjoyed this one, although I thought she took a bit too long getting to the vampire bit (which was mentioned on the cover, so . . . )

The Daddy Long-Legs Blues by Ornstein & Kopelke (Ch)- A daddy long-legs spider jives around town. He's cute and he doesn't look very spidery. Loved the illustrations. It's best if you sing it, actually. I put it to music and sang it to the cat. I know. I'm so weird.

All the World by Scanlon & Frazee (Ch) - A very easy-language rhyming book with gorgeous illustrations that reminded me of Virginia Lee Burton's books. This would be good for preschoolers and beginning readers as it has very simple words.

Chicken Dance by Tammi Sauer & Dan Santat (Ch) - This one is my favorite of the 3 kids' books I read in August. Two chickens enter a talent contest and find their talent lies in just being chickens. Fantastic illustrations and it's hilarious. I'm keeping this one for future grandkids. Seriously, I can't part with it.

Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange (HF)- Lizzy and Mr. Darcy marry. He won't go to bed with her. They go to Europe instead of the Lake District. Told from Lizzy's perspective and with the most ridiculous ending, ever. This one was a bit of a yawn, at times, but there were some interesting historical tidbits.

Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham (HF) - A medieval romance. Bess must wed Hugh, a man who is wealthy but whose father and grandfather were killed as traitors. They move from castle to castle and slowly their love grows, then . . . the plague hits. I really loved this one. It's not extremely detailed but I just loved the story.

The Woodstock Story Book by Linanne Sackett and Barry Levine (NF) - Seriously, just what it sounds like. The Woodstock event is described in verse and photographs. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Kiddo thought the naked guy with the sheep was a hoot.

TSI: The Gabon Virus by McCusker and Larimore (CT) - A group of religious fanatics are infected with a strain of ebola and they drink poison to prevent its spread, but one boy fakes drinking and runs away. Yeeks! Pandemic alert! A team of scientists investigate a medieval plague in England in order to try to find a cure. Too many coincidences made the ending of this book too trite and perfect, but I just ignored that. It was awfully fun reading and one of my favorites.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (YA) - A toddler whose family is murdered crawls to a graveyard, where he is adopted, reared and protected by the ghosts. I liked this one a lot, although I don't quite get why it won a Newbery. The beginning is icky.

Christianish by Mark Steele (NF/CT) - This is a book about how Christians have gotten kind of arrogant and created their own rules which aren't necessarily what the Bible says we're supposed to do. The author is a Christian humorist, so the anecdotes are hilarious but he lost me a little in the theology. I had to concentrate. In general, I really liked this book.

New Tricks by David Rosenfelt - An Andy Carpenter mystery. When a wealthy man is murdered, Andy has to determine who gets custody of the dead man's dog. Then, one of those people gets blown up and the dog becomes the clue to untangling the mystery. The usual Andy Carpenter - funny and not too complex.

Don't Shoot! We're Republicans! by Jack Owens (NF/M) - The memoir of an FBI agent, now retired, who began working for the FBI in the 1960s and was on the first federal S.W.A.T. team, spied a little during the Cold War, stormed a prison, helped catch a serial child killer. Ooooh, this one was good. And, the author has a great sense of humor. Another favorite.

Darling Jim by Christian Moerk - A dark crime novel set in Ireland. I liked the writing but the story is dark and twisted (not my personal favorite; I'm into sweetness and light). However, I loved the Irish setting, thought the writing was lovely and I'm anxious to see what the author comes up with next.

Secret Society by Tom Dolby (YA) - A young adult novel about 3 teenagers who are inducted into a secret society in which extraordinarily wealthy people open doors for their young members and keep the wealth going. But, you can't turn down membership and woe betide the young members who don't fit in. This one was a serious let-down. I've loaned my ARC to a teenager, so we'll see if I'm just too old for it.

Godmother by Carolyn Turgeon - subtitled "The Secret Cinderella Story" (I think; I already sent my copy to Nymeth), the vast majority of this book is the magical tale of an elderly woman who was Cinderella's fairy godmother but was cast to Earth after she screwed up. She works in an antiquarian bookstore and thinks she's found a way to atone for her mistake. But, the ending takes the entire premise and changes everything. The ending was awful!!! I loved the rest of the book, so I'm mentally rewriting the ending.

The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang - A graphic novel with three separate stories, by the author of American Born Chinese (which I loved). You can never tell what this guy has up his sleeve. There's a man who lives in a fantasy world and imagines himself a prince, a frog who stars in a reality show, and a meek office worker who answers a spam from a "Nigerian prince". All have really interesting twist endings. I didn't like the first one, though.

Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman (YA) - A fluffy young adult novel about two friends, one of whom decides she wants to find her Mr. Darcy after reading Pride and Prejudice and comes up with a scheme to find true love by crashing a dance at an exclusive boys' school. There was a bit of strange repetitive lingo that threw me (I've never heard a teenager say "crisp" instead of "cool") but I loved everything else about this book. It's funny and sweet and silly. Thanks to Care for sending me Enthusiasm!!

Visions of America by Joseph Sohm (NF/Photography) - A picture book by a photographer whose passion was the yearning to photograph "democracy". I had a little trouble with his concept and I don't think his text was always accurate, but the photos are phenomenal. It is one whopper of a book - huge and heavy. The layout's a little cluttery but . . . the photos. Seriously. Wonderful. I could learn a ton from that guy, if he'd just drop by to give me a few hints.

Whoa! I counted 23 books. Of course, that includes three children's books, a graphic novel and a promotional book (which came with a towel that says, "Don't Panic!", hahaha) but still . . . even without those, I read 18 books. No wonder I need to lose weight. 5469 pages. Diet time, for sure.


  1. Anonymous8:54 PM

    I want to hear the story of Sam!

    My dad's name was Sam. Well, not his legal name, but that is what he was called all his life. One year for his birthday my mom and I made him green eggs and ham. And green grits, because he was from Mississippi and loved grits.

  2. Miz Fizz,

    It's not a very good story. I named my alter ego Samantha Summers, "Sam" for short. It's an old name; I used to have loads of ideas for pen names and that was among them. Samantha is one of my favorite names (I figured I'd use it on a cat, someday, since I had boys -- but our cat has held out for 15 years) and Summers is my grandmother's maiden name, which I've always loved and wanted to use. I have a distant cousin with that last name. Her first and middle names are Skye Blue (the spelling might be wrong). Oh, hahaha. I hope she's married, poor thing.

    Grits . . . I usually feed those to the fire ants, but I like the packaged kind in cheese flavor. LOL

  3. Another great month. Gotta go check out "Sam's" blog. :)

    Diary of an Eccentric

  4. Anna,

    There's not much to Sam's blog, yet. Sam just writes in a slightly more casual style. Thank you. :)

  5. Whoa! You had a great month. I really want to read Yang's new one, and I'm glad you liked The Graveyard Book and Evernight. Oh, and I really need to get off my but and read some John Green!

  6. Andi,

    I did have a super month -- not just because of the numbers. There were some really enjoyable reads on that list. I'm sure you'll like The Eternal Smile. The first story is a little sad and the other two were hopeful; I think that's why the first one didn't thrill me.

    Need to get my mitts on Stargazer. I really enjoyed Evernight. Did you send that to me?

    You haven't read any John Green? Oh, Andiloo!!! You MUST!!!!!

  7. You sent me Godmother?! Awww! You're truly one of the sweetest people out there, Nancy. *big hug*

  8. Nymeth,

    Yes, I saw your comment at Marie's blog (Boston Bibliophile) and figured that since you were interested and I already had one book I was sending you, I might as well tuck Godmother in! :) Hope you enjoy it. It'll be fun to see what you think of that ending!

  9. I'm buying Chicken Dance (I suppose I should ask which age group it's best for but I don't really care...)

  10. Care,

    It's for preschoolers, but even an old lady like me appreciated it. And, so did the cat. :)

  11. Excellent couple of months of reading!! I definitely plan to read June Bug and Offworld, thanks to your stellar reviews. I've been handselling them without even knowing if I'd like them myself. ;)

  12. Les,

    Yikes. Should you do that? What if I have terrible taste? LOL Having said that . . . June Bug is just so awesome I still think about it. I wish I knew a movie producer or two. It needs to be turned into a movie.

    Offworld was pure fun -- very far-fetched at the end but one of those books that you throw up your hands and say, "Yeah! Who cares?! Fun!"


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