Sunday, January 3, 2010

What Am I Reading? - 2010

In 2009, I read more than 60 books. Some took me hours and others took weeks. Some I loved, others left me wanting. One I even quit 100 pages in, it was so bad. Now, with the dawn of a new year, so begins a new journey in literature.

The World From Rough Stones - Malcolm MacDonald (genre: Historical Fiction) I actually quit this book after about 150 pages. I just could not get into it. I renewed it twice at the library. I had it for NINE weeks. Granted I read a couple other books in there, but at least half of that was just that book. MAYBE someday I'll come back to it. Somehow I doubt it.

The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi (genre: Science Fiction) Set in a future where genetic modifications have nearly destroyed the earth's ecosystems. Many species are extinct, countries have fallen and "calorie" companies rule the world. I liked the premise for this book, and it was certainly beautiful prose, but. There's always a but, isn't there? The store was slow and frankly, I still am not sure exactly what happened. Grade: B- 

I am Number Four - Pitticus Lore(genre: Science Fiction/Young Adult) When their planet was attacked by Mogadorians, John Smith and 9 other young Loric children, along with their guardians, who will help the children develop their gifts while they hide out on earth. But the Mogadorians have followed them there and are systematically hunting them down. Grade: B+

The Passage - Justin Cronin (genre: Science Fiction) This monster of a book was one of "the" books this summer and most of the reviews I read were glowing. It chronicles the end of days brought about by a military virus that creates vampires and the small band of non-virals that fight for survival. I came away with a generally positive feeling but a couple of beefs. One: This is the first in a trilogy. I am sick to death of series books. So I was chagrined when I read the ending. Two: Length. This tome could probably have lost a few hundred pages and not really been the worse for wear. Ultimately, I enjoyed it, and I will read the next books. Grade: B+
My Name is Memory -  Ann Brashares (genre: Fiction) The centuries long love story of Daniel and Sophia. Daniel is one of a very small number of people that remembers in perfect clarity all of his past lives. He met Sophie during his first in the 5th century and has been trying to catch up with her ever since. Grade: B+

Paranormalcy - Kiersten White (genre: Young Adult/Fiction, Supernatural) Since she was a young girl, Evie has worked for the International Paranormal Containment Agency (IPCA) capturing and tagging paranormals. Her special gift is being able to see past the glamours the rest of the world sees, which makes her especially valuable to the IPCA. But when an unusual, even for her, new paranormal shows up in the IPCA headquarters, her world is turned upside down. Grade: B-

The Lonely Polygamist - Brady Udall (genre: Fiction) The story centers on Golden and his four very different wives and their 28 children. It is an unflinching look at polygamy, neither judging nor accepting. I'm of two minds about this book. One one hand, it is so very well written, the narrative and descriptions so complex and full. However, it could have been a couple hundred pages shorter. I found myself ready to give up around 400 pages in. I'm glad I stuck with it and finished it, because the ending is masterful. But it was a struggle at times. Grade: B

The Fire - Katherine Neville (genre: Fiction) Published 20 years after, this is the sequel  to The Eight, a book that blended historical fact with an intriguing fictional narrative. This book follows Alexandra, the daughter of Cat and Solarin, the couple featured in The Eight, as she enters "the game." Grade: B+

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins (genre: Young Adult/Fiction) The final chapter in the Hunger Games trilogy. Katniss takes her place as the "mockingjay" to encourage the rebellion led by the newly revealed district 13. A thoroughly satisfying conclusion to this wonderful story. Grade: A

Birthmarked - Caragh M. O'Brien (genre: Young Adult/Fiction) As an apprentice midwife, Gaia delivers babies. But an unpleasant aspect of her job is to deliver the first three babies born each month to the Enclave. When her parents are arrested, Gaia realizes that things need to change. Grade: A

The Enemy - Charles Higson (genre: Young Adult/Fiction) After a sickness has wiped out the adult population, leaving everyone over the age of 16 either dead or a zombie, children survive by scavenging the streets of London. We follow a ragtag bunch from the relative safety of the grocery store they have inhabited since the sickness over a year before as they make their way to Buckingham Palace and hopefully a better life. I really enjoyed this book and the only reason I'm not giving it an A is because I was not at all satisfied with the ending. This is part of what I guess will be a multi-part series and I understand carrying the story line from one book to the next, but for the love of god, make each book a solid story. Too often I'm reading books lately that just end. No resolution, no ending, just bam done. They are only marginally stand alone books and this one is another. Which is a big disappointment to me because I loved the characters and the action was top notch. My recommendation, wait until all of the books are done and then read them all in a row. May take a couple of years, but far less frustrating. Grade: B+

The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford (genre: Historical Fiction) Set during WWII, this is the touching story of a young Chinese boy in Seattle and the Japanese girl who catches his heart despite his father's objections. Beautiful book! Grade: A-

Nurtureshock - Po Bronson (genre: non-fiction/family advice) I gave up. There was some interesting information in this book, but it was just too dry and my "to read" list is just too long for me to spend time on books I'm not interested in.

The Eight - Katherine Neville (genre: Suspense) The story of an ancient mystical chess set and the havoc it has wreaked on the lives of all who have come into "the game." Great read. Can't wait to dive into the sequel. Grade: A

Bitter Seeds - Ian Tregillis (genre: Historical Fiction/Sci-Fi) What would happen if one of the mad scientists in the Nazi regime had created super-humans with amazing abilities? Bad things. Written as part of a series, this book doesn't stand on its own well. And that's kind of a peeve of mine. I am happy to read series, but if I don't get satisfying endings in each novel, it really irks me. If I had to say, I would recommend you wait until all of the books come out and then read them all at the same time. Sure you may have to wait 10 years, but its better this way. Grade: B+

Hush Hush - Becca Fitzpatrick (genre: YA) Misunderstood teenage girl with tragic past hooks up with mysterious boy, drama ensues that almost tears them apart, but they overcome it because of the strength of their love. Sound familiar? It is, all too. The dialogue was TERRIBLE and the story was boring and predictable. Grade: D

The Last Colony - John Scalzi (genre: Science Fiction) The third and final in the trilogy begun in Old Man's War. A satisfying resolution to the scheming machinations of the Colonial Union as they wage war against the Enclave. Grade: A-

The Ghost Brigades - John Scalzi (genre: Science Fiction) Sequel to Old Man's War. Set in the future where artificially grown soldiers are the special forces of a Colonial Union that defends the human colonists and interests in the galaxy. When one of the CU's top scientists defects, they must use an unorthodox method to find out what happened to him. Grade: B+

Dead in the Family - Charlaine Harris (genre: Fiction/Supernatural) The latest in the Sookie Stackhouse saga. In this one, she is recovering from the wounds she received during the Fae War as she comes to terms with her more complicated relationship with Eric. Grade: B

The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart (genre: Juvenile/Fiction) A novel in the vein of Lemony Snicket or perhaps Harry Potter, we follow four unique orphans as they save the world from an evil mastermind. This book might be good for a young reader, maybe 10, but it felt too immature for me. And that comes from someone who loves YA fiction. Grade: B-

How to Say Goodbye in Robot - Natalie Standiford (genre: Young Adult/Fiction) Beatrice is new in school, again. Daughter of a professor who follows the grant money, they move regularly, so it's not a new thing for Bea. In her new school, she befriends the weird kid, the one the other kids call Ghost Boy. Together they navigate familiar drama. An interesting and surprising ending. Grade: B+

The Irresistible Henry House - Lisa Grunwald (genre: Fiction) Between the 20s and the 60s the home ec departments at universities across the country "borrowed" babies from orphanages for their students to practice mothering. This is the imagined story of a one of those babies. Lula said it would be a good movie. I completely agree. Grade: B+

The Dead Tossed Waves - Carrie Ryan (genre: Young Adult/Science Fiction) The follow up book to The Forest of Hands and Teeth. This book follows Gabry, the teenage daughter of Mary who is now grown and the lighthousekeeper for a small coastal town. But one night, Gabry sneaks out with a group of friends and inadvertantly sets into motion a series of events that would change all of their lives. Grade: A-

Shiver - Maggie Stiefvater (genre: Young Adult/Science Fiction) As a young girl, Grace was attacked by a pack of wolves. But one wolf in the pack saved her from a certain death. Over the years, she develops a special relationship with that wolf until one day she learns there's something very special about him. Really enjoyed this book but some of the characters were flat, hence the minus. Still, a quick and engrossing read. Grade: A-

Dead and Gone - Charlaine Harris (genre: Fiction/Supernatural) So far, my favorite of this series. Funny how I finally really enjoy it and now I have to wait for the next one to come out. Figures. Anywho, this book heavily featured Sookie's off  again/on again vampire lover Eric, who is awfully appealing, especially when you imagine him as Alexander Skaarsgard. (drool) Grade: B+

The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell (genre: Science Fiction) After a musical broadcast is received from a planet in the next solar system, a group of Jesuit scientists and explorers make the trip to visit the sending planet. Interesting ethical questions raised in this book. An engrossing read. Grade: A-

Hominids - Robert Sawyer (genre: Science Fiction) What would happen if Neanderthals had been the successful species? What would happen if a technologically modern Neanderthal accidentally found his way to our Earth as we know it now? Interesting and well executed concept. Grade: B+

This World We Live In - Susan Beth Pfeffer (genre: Young Adult/Science Fiction) The third in the series that began with Life As We Knew It. More heartbreak. I cried on the treadmill at the gym. Again. Grade: A

Saturn's Children - Charles Stross (genre: Science Fiction) I should have known by the picture on the front and from the fact that it was about a courtesan robot. That this was going to have more than your average sci-fi book's share of sex. There was a LOT of robot sex in this book. Well developed story with a satisfyingly happy ending. (See, I wasn't going to make a sex joke, but I couldn't resist.) Grade: B

From Dead to Worse - Charlaine Harris (genre: Fiction/Supernatural) Eighth in the Sookie Stackhouse series. While I enjoy these books, they are starting to feel less like a series of books and more like big chapters of a giant story. Which is to say, each book is only marginally a complete story. It is a part of the larger story with smaller elements that occur. Without the grander picture, I don't think you could pick one of these later books up and find it a satisfying read. Whatever the case, I really hope that Harris has an endgame in mind for Sookie. Just going on and on like this? Starting to get on my nerves. Grade: B-

The Dead and the Gone - Susan Beth Pfeffer (genre: Young Adult/Science Fiction) Parallel to the novel Life as We Knew It, this book follows Alex and his two sisters and how their New York City lives are drastically altered after the asteroid hits the moon. Compelling read. Grade: A

Incarceron - Catherine Fisher (genre: Young Adult/Science Fiction) Finn is a "child" of Incarceron, the mammoth prison that serves as home to millions of "prisoners." Created generations before to house the worst of the worst, it has now become a world unto itself. Claudia is the priveleged daughter of the warden of Incarceron. She faces a prison of her own, marriage to the churlish son of the queen. She finds Finn through a pair of crystal keys and plots to get him out of Incarceron. Grade: A

The Law of Nines - Terry Goodkind (genre: Fiction/Fantasy) A followup/sequel to the Sword of Truth series, (the Legend of the Seeker tv series is based on these books) all 11 books (each close to 1000 pages, it was a monumental task) of which I read over the course of several years. This book is set in our world and follows Alex as he fights the magic-hating forces of evil. Of course there's a beautiful kick-ass woman at his side. Ending was very anti-climactic. Grade: B-

All Together Dead - Charlaine Harris (genre: Fiction/Supernatural) Seventh in the Sookie Stackhouse series. Sookie goes to a vampire convention in Rhodes, Illinois. Of course, disaster ensues. Sookie continues on her indecision about Quinn vs. Eric. Grade: B-

Definitely Dead - Charlaine Harris (genre: Fiction/Supernatural) Sixth in the Sookie Stackhouse series. More of the same. Still entertaining, new guy, old guy's out. Grade: B

Dead as a Doornail - Charlaine Harris (genre: Fiction/Supernatural) Fifth in the Sookie Stackhouse series. I'm not even sure it's worth continuing to describe each of these books. While they're entertaining, there's so little to them. They're cotton candy. Grade: B

American Gods - Neil Gaiman (genre: Fiction/Supernatural) Gods walk among us. They are the totems and charms that we have worshipped throughout history. Over the years, some are lost and forgotten. As that happens, these immortals fade away to nothingness. In the current era, the new gods: television, radio, media, internet, etc are ambitious and eager to wipe out the old gods. One of these old gods enlists Shadow, a beleaguered ex-con to help as they lead up to the ultimate battle between old and new. As always, Gaiman has a supreme gift for prose, but this book will fall as my least favorite of his books. Just didn't pull me in like most of his others. Having said that, it was still dynamite. A bad Gaiman is still better than most other's authors' best. Grade: B+

The Year of the Flood - Margaret Atwood  (genre: Science Fiction) The sequel (sidequel?) to Oryx and Crake, this book follows peripheral characters from O&C along roughly the same timeline, ending in the same time and place. I really enjoyed Oryx and Crake and was looking forward to this one, but this book felt unfocused. I never got emotionally involved with the main characters and the ending had WAY too many convenient and lucky coincidences for me. Overall, I'm glad I read it and if the rumored third book comes about, I will read, but I was not as satisfied with this as Oryx and Crake. Grade: B

Dead to the World - Charlaine Harris (genre: Fiction/Supernatural) Fourth in the Sookie Stackhouse series. In this book, Sookie finds vampire boss Eric on the side of the road, his memory wiped. Thus ensues a mad chase to find the witch who cursed him. Meanwhile, Sookie's brother goes missing. Don't worry, everyone is fine in the end. Surprise. Grade: B-

Ruined - Paula Morris (genre: Young Adult/Fiction/Supernatural) When her dad has to take an extended trip to China for work, Rebecca moves to New Orleans to live with her unusual "aunt." Once there, she feels out of place among the "old line" rich kids at her exclusive private school. She quickly learns that there are unusual forces at work and not is all as it seems. Grade: B

Club Dead - Charlaine Harris (genre: Fiction/Supernatural) Third in the Sookie Stackhouse series, this book follows Sookie on a trip to save Bill from a rival vampire clan. I'll keep reading these books, because they require no critical thought and I can tear through them on the treadmill, but they're decidely redundant. Grade: B-

The Help - Kathryn Stockett (genre: Fiction) Set in the tumultuous early 60s, this novel chronicles one young white woman and two black maids over the course of several years as they write a book about the lives of black maids in white households and the racism they face. Loved this book. Grade: A+

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate - Jacqueline Kelly (genre: Young Adult/Fiction) A year in the life of a twelve year old girl living in turn of the century (that's nineteenth/twentieth century) rural Texas. Amid six brothers and very traditional expectations of the only girl in the family, she discovers a love for science and a friend and fellow scientist in her formerly unapproachable granddaddy. One of those books that nothing happens, but everything happens, know what I mean? Loved it! Grade: A

Living Dead In Dallas - Charlaine Harris (genre: Fiction/Supernatural) The second in the Sookie Stackhouse series, I enjoyed this book a whole lot more than the first. Perhaps because I have seen the first season of True Blood and knew everything that was going to happen, it ruined the first book for me. But I came into this one fresh. This book follows Sookie and Bill when they freelance Sookie's "gift" to a vampire nest in Dallas. While the first book left me uninterested, this one left me wanting more. Grade: B+

Old Man's War - John Scalzi (genre: Science Fiction) Set in a future where humans have mastered intergalactic travel, the challenge now is the competition among sentient beings for planets to colonize. The army that defends these colonies is made up of recruits who can not enlist until they are 75. Great read. Grade: A

Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood (genre: Science Fiction) In a post-apocalyptic world, a man named Snowman lives among a primitive tribe of people he calls the Children of Crake. As the novel progresses we learn why. And how their being is related to the world's downfall. Suspenseful and engrossing. Grade: A

Shadowland - Alyson Noel (genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Supernatural) After each book, I say NO MORE. Because these books are b-a-d. But then some time goes by, and I say, well, I've already read one two of these books, I'll just read the next one to see what happens. And then I do, and I regret it after 20 pages. What I'm saying is: don't read these books. They're just not that good. Grade: D

On Deck: 

Disquiet - Julia Leigh
Truth - Robin Wasserman
Wake - Lisa McCann
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Blue Bloods - Melissa De La Cruz
Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
Goblin Quest - Jim C. Hines
Still Alice - Lisa Genova
Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
The Happiness Project - Gretchen Rubin
Willow - Julia Hoban
Private Life - Jane Smiley
The Domino Men - Jonathan Barnes

Going forward this post will be updated after I read each book and can be reached by clicking the "What's On The Bookshelf" link at the top right of the page. I pick almost all of my books based on suggestions from friends, so please feel free to leave a comment with a recommendation at any time during the year!


  1. how did you pick the books on your list? I usually look at the amazon star ratings...lame

  2. I hope you do mini reviews as you finish reading the books - would love to hear your suggestions!

  3. Ooh, you're going to read Outlander? I loved that series; have read it three times, and am seriously in love with Jamie Fraser. Just ask Kat; she'll tell you!

  4. Read The Help and Still'll love them. I don't know if you're into mysteries, but the series with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is great...3 is now dead...very dark novels.

  5. Looks like a great list! I'll be checking your virtual bookshelf!

  6. I read Green eggs and Ham.

    You rock

  7. Great list. Do you belong to Good Reads?

  8. That's quite a list! I hate when I get 100 pages in and quit. Doesn't happen often but OMG, some are really that bad.

    Happy reading! (p.s. I certainly hope this whole 'book reading thing' doesn't interfere with your blogging, Cara)


  9. I love book posts :-) Of course I am such a slacker that I have not done my own post like I told you I would. I'm working on it...still!

    You have quite a few on your list that I have never even heard of...and some that I am curious to know what you think. OH...and the Margaret Atwood - did you read the first one - Oryx and Crake? I have read that one...but not the newest one.

  10. I love that you've been posting your book lists. Every year I tell myself I need to read more. I may need to check out a title or two from your list at my library.

  11. yes, your are rich in words and thoughts because you read a lot.

    smart post,
    happy 2010.


  12. i have no time for reading when do you do it?

  13. The Help is on my list, too. I'm currently re-reading Pride & Prejudice.

  14. Heather Kelsey will kill me for this--but DON'T read Outlander. SO UTTERLY BORING. Oh my stars, I cannot stress this enough. I know you--I know me--and I feel confident in telling you that Outlander is NOT our people. Seriously, Cara.

    But hey--Blue Bloods rules. I've read several on your list. And have found new ones I wanna read. Scott gave me a Nook for Christmas...need to upload some new titles to it.

    Good times.

  15. read living dead in dallas love it and love TRUE BLOOD! but am more James Patterson love him!

  16. I didn't realize that you were such a reader! We have several of the same books on our list...The Help and the Margaret Atwood books!

  17. I had to come back and see if there were any other suggestions...and I see that I need to tell you to ignore Lula :-) Just ask Shannon. She listened to Lula...and then finally read Outlander...and is addicted now as well! Who knows which camp you will fall just have to see :-) is Shadowland? That is one that I have not read.

  18. Holy crap, HOW do you find the time to read so many books? I'm lucky if I get through my New Yorker every week. I guess I watch too much TV with my free time. Or go to bed too early? I'm doing something wrong.

  19. I am so glad that you liked Calpurnia Tate. I just loved it. It was so simple...deceptively so actually!

    I just read "Ruined" a few weeks ago. It was okay.

    Did you like "Time Traveler's Wife?" Did you read her next book "Her fearful Symmetry?" I so want to talk to someone about it. It was good in the beginning...and then it's like it jumped the shark. But...I still want someone to read it!!

  20. Now...these comments are here...but I think I have left more than that one...

    Anyway...I read "Ruined" - it was one of the better YA books I have read lately. But most of them have not been that good. I have Incarceron - or whatever it is - on order at the library.

  21. I enjoyed Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Seems like something you might like also. The sequel to it is Catching Fire, on my list of reads. There is supposed to be a third one also coming out.

  22. I had to come over and see what you were reading :-) I LOVED Birthmarked -- and actually had to email Lula to see if she had read it - and she had never even heard of it :-) I was surprised since I usually hear about all my YA books from her! Anyway...

    I loved "The Eight" - but the sequel - meh. And I am so glad you read one of my absolute favorite books - The Sparrow. You need to read the sequel. It's not nearly as good...but some of the things that you think happened...didn't. And I actually like her explanations for why not.

    Have you added anymore Robert J Sawyer to your list?

  23. Are you by any chance on GoodReads? I would LOVE to hook up there!


Give me some sugar, baby!