2010 Wrap Up

I am spamming. I know. But I have to get everything done before midnight.

This year, I read 74 books and participated in three challenges. According to GoodReads, I rated the following books with five stars:

I signed up for three reading challenges: Women Unbound, POC Challenge, and the YA Reading Challenge.

I more than completed Women Unbound and POC. In fact, I really should’ve bumped up to the next level on POC. Women Unbound was a lot of fun because I totally read books I had intended to read but probably would’ve put off a little longer. So that challenge gave me an excuse to get my butt in gear. As for POC, I don’t think it really changed my reading so much as made me aware of how many books about POC I actually read. I kind of low-balled it, so next time I’ll go for the higher limit.

As for the YA Challenge, considering I didn’t even read 75 books, I think it’s fair to say I didn’t complete the challenge. Shocking is that I didn’t even read 50 YA books. Huh. But that’s okay! Maybe I just am expanding my reading horizons? I don’t even know.

Anyway, next year is a new year with new challenges. Forthcoming post with my sign ups for the next year.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Book Reviews: Percy Jackson #3-5

My promise to my daughter has been fulfilled. She read all seven of the Harry Potter books (well, we listened to them together), so I have read all five of the Percy Jackson books. This past month I finished the last three books in the series:  The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, and The Last Olympian. It has been some kind of trip. These books are immensely readable. There’s lot of action and comedy, the relationships are fun and interesting, and the characters all have their own unique journeys. In fact, the one thing this series has going for it that HP doesn’t is that each of Percy’s friends has his/her own motivations and quests. In HP, they’re always doing what Harry is called to do, and, though Percy is the main character, sometimes he is actually the sidekick in a couple of the books.

I hate to compare the two series because they’re so different even in their similarities. It’s just kind of hard not to. I will say the one thing I thought was missing from the books–particularly the final one–is a depth of emotion. Everything is all tangled up in family and friends, but it still felt kind of hollow and on the surface. I feel like I should’ve felt more, especially with the climax when really it was just like, “Well, I’m glad that’s resolved.”

That said, I had a lot of fun reading the books. They’re largely predictable for someone like me who has read and seen lots of books/movies, but there were moments here and there that surprised me. I feel like I need to investigate some more mythology, which is a win for Riordan who’s a teacher, and I really do love the characters that were introduced. I think things were resolved nicely here, while still leaving room for Riordan’s next series set at the camp. Which…I wish Rowling would set more stories at Hogwarts, so. (Ack! Another comparison!)

Anyway, a great little series, and I can see why my daughter loves it so much.

Audiobook Reviews: December

The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, narrated by LeVar Burton:  This book is hilarious. We seriously spent most of the book laughing at all of the crazy situations Kenny and his family got themselves into. It starts with his brother Byron getting his mouth stuck to the car mirror in the freezing cold, and then it just goes on from there. There’s a lot of seriousness mixed in with the humor, of course, coupled with the fact that the Watsons drive south in 1963, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Even those moments, though, are handled with levity and grace, so that the story doesn’t feel bogged down or preachy. In fact, the story is about how the family came to head South, and, of course, the fallout of that decision.

Burton as narrator gives the book a real sense of nostalgia. He is a grown man narrating a child’s story, after all. That, and he’s LEVAR BURTON. So there you go.

POC Challenge: 25/15

Orange Mint and Honey by Carleen Brice, narrated by Cherise Booth: This book. THIS BOOK. Okay, this book was seriously like reading about my life. Shay, the perfectionist overachiever, trying to navigate a relationship with her mother, a recovering alcoholic. The details of how it unfolds aren’t really important to me (thought it’s all handled very well and brilliantly), what gets to me is that Shay thinks things I’ve thought in the exact ways I’ve thought them. Not to mention the situations she encounters and just how she handles them.

I mean, I won’t get into all the ways the plot closely resembles my life because that would be like telling the whole world about my neuroses, and that’s not necessary. Also, I don’t need to put all my business out in the street. I’m just saying.

Anyway, as far as the book goes, I really think all of the characters are well-rounded and believable. The conflicts are authentic. I also love that it’s a delayed coming of age novel because, let’s be real. YA is my thing, and grown up lit that is practically YA makes my heart sing. Also, I love the romance so much that it’s kind of ridiculous.

The narrator is really fantastic. All of the voices are varied, the emotion is authentic, and I didn’t even have that moment of adjustment to her performance style. I was hooked from the beginning, and it was very easy to get into the story. So, yeah, I recommend this narrator.

POC Challenge:  26/15

Mini Reviews: December Fiction

Well, the new year is almost upon us and I am, as usual, behind on reviews. Since I don’t want to carry over anything into the new year, I’m going to just go ahead and do mini reviews so I can have a clean slate in 2011.

The Fortunes of Indigo Skye by Deb Caletti: Wow, so I really did not like this book. Wait, that’s negative. Here, let me start with a positive. This is what I liked about the book: the premise. Eighteen-year-old waitress becomes an overnight millionaire? YES PLEASE. Too bad that’s the only thing that kept me reading. I found the characterization lacking in so many ways. I didn’t understand any of the the characters’ motivations and even when there were valid conflicts brought up (boyfriend too excited about funds, mom not pleased), they were never really addressed in a satisfying way. Also, I was really, really annoyed by the anti-TV, anti-cell phone, yay poor/middle class people, boo rich people sentiments. Plus also, nothing really interesting happened except that I learned poor people are noble, and rich people suck (except the ones who give away lots of money to people they don’t know–and even they’re whimsical and wasteful). Oh, and the ending was awful. So there you go.

YA Challenge: 31/75

Virgins by Caryl Rivers: This book was first published in the ’80s and is about Catholic teens in the ’50s. When I picked it up (library book sale for the win), I thought it was set in the ’80s because of the cover (perhaps it reminds me of Girls Just Want to Have Fun?), so the whole 1950s thing was kind of surprising.

That aside, I enjoyed the book. The character work is fantastic. I thought the relationships were really well developed, and the conflicts inherent in each were clear. The major overall conflict is growing up and growing apart (it is a coming of age novel after all) and how the characters navigate their relationships as they head for graduation and college. As such, it’s more of a character piece than a plot-driven novel. There’s a definite shape and trajectory to the plot, but the chapters are almost vignette-like.

I do think it’s a bit unbalanced that I was more invested in the relationship between Sean and his father than the relationship between Peggy and her parents. But that’s probably my only complaint.

YA Challenge: 33/75

Alex Unlimited Vol 1: The Vosarak Code by Dan Jolley: There’s not a lot to say about this book. It was a total bathroom book, and I still breezed through it pretty quickly. It’s not bad, it’s not good. It’s just sort of there. I won’t be seeking out the sequel.

YA Challenge: 34/75

Happy Haul-idays!

Chronicle Books is having a contest, and the terms are pretty simple. List up to $500 worth of books that I want? Don’t mind if I do!

Books that I Would Give to Others, specifically my daughter:

  • The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Junior Edition Box Set by David Borgenicht
  • The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Middle School by David Borgenicht
  • Just Between Us by Meredith & Sofie Jacobs
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls by The Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls
  • How to Raise Your Parents by Sarah O’Leary Burningham
  • The Kid Who Named Pluto by Marc McCutcheon
  • L Is for Lollygag: Quirky Words for a Clever Tongue (2 copies!)

Books I Want for Meeeee:

  • Fast Fresh & Green by Susie Middleton
  • Apartment Therapy Presents by Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan
  • What’s Your Poo Telling You by Josh Richman and Anish Sheth
  • Office Yoga by Darrin Zeer
  • Wonder Woman Journal (2 copies!)
  • Between the Bridge and the River by Craig Ferguson
  • Disneystrology by Lisa Finander
  • Michael Jackson: Before He Was King by Todd Gray (2 copies!)

Audiobook Review: Eleven

“You are not the boss of everything just because you wear a bra!”

My daughter loves the Winnie books. LOVES. So when she saw the audiobook version of Eleven by Lauren Myracle (narrated by Jen Taylor) at the local library book sale, she scooped it right on up. So it became our latest car reading.

What I Liked

– I really like the set up of the book. It starts with Winnie’s eleventh birthday party in March, and each subsequent chapter highlights another event in each month that reveals something about Winnie’s evolving relationships with her family, friends, and classmates over the course of the year. It’s a pretty effective way to show how much things can change in a year–especially for tweens.

– Winnie is kind of amazing. I finally understand why my daughter loves the books so much because SHE IS JUST LIKE WINNIE. Not only do they have practically the same birthdays, but the things they enjoy, the way they relate to their friends, and the challenges they face are basically the same. IT IS UNCANNY. Needless to say, I think Winnie is a fantastic character.

– FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS. And the evolving nature thereof. I don’t want to give too much away, but a lot of Winnie’s conflict comes from the fact that her best friend Amanda is growing up a lot faster and their interests start to diverge. Then, of course, there’s the new girl who moves to town that Amanda befriends, leaving Winnie unsure of her place in Amanda’s life.

– There are a lot of genuinely funny moments, which makes it fun to listen to. We laughed out loud several times.

– The narrator is very good. She’s a voice actress, so all of the female characters have distinctively different voices. Some of the boys sound similar, but that’s okay. Because it’s really about Winnie navigating her relationships with the other girls and women in her life.

What I Didn’t Like

– I can’t think of anything! Except the fact that the library doesn’t have the other books in the series on audiobook. Boo.

In conclusion: This is a fun book that really highlights the awkwardness and many changes that can occur over the course of a year for an eleven-year-old girl.

Mini Reviews: Fiction

As I said in my previous post, I am really far behind, so mini reviews! Some of these date back to October, just to give a clue at how far behind I am.

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins: I’ll be upfront and say I don’t have as deep a relationship with this series as most. I don’t remember much of what happened in the first book, and I put this book on hold with no real urgency. Mostly, I wanted to read it before the spoilers proliferated the blogosphere, but, you know, whenever the book came available is when I  would read it. Which is what I did.

I know a lot of people were disappointed with this book, but I actually liked it. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been reading so many war narratives this year or what, but I thought this was an excellent book about the effects of trauma as well as how much war sucks and that there are no real winners in a war.

I found myself much more interested in the focus on rhetoric in this book, even though I know it was a large part of the other books as well. Also, I have to be honest, that as someone who loves Peeta, this was a hard book to read. PEETA. Peeta, I love you so.  Poor dude.

YA Reading Challenge: 30/75

My Double Life by Janette Rallison: I found this book to be a bit of a disappointment, especially because the premise is so strong. Basically, there was too much romance and not enough family/friendship. I was way more interested in how Alexia would relate to her family (new and old) but Rallison went with the boy angle. So. Yeah.

YA Reading Challenge: 31/75; POC Reading Challenge: 22/15

Alvin Ho Collection: Books 1 and 2: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things and Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look:  We listened to this on audiobook and, lo, it is AWESOME. Alvin Ho is a great character. He’s funny and smart and, yes, afraid of everything. He has an awesome best friend who wears an eyepatch and has a bad leg, but her real crime is being a girl. His older brother and younger sister provide him no end of amusement or grief depending on the circumstances, and his quest to fit in and not be so darned scared all the time is where most of the comedy comes in. The narrator of the books is Everette Plen, and he is FANTASTIC. We really enjoyed listening to these two books and will be passing the Alvin Ho joy to my daughter’s younger cousins.

POC Reading Challenge: 23/15

Played by Dana Davidson: Stylistically, I had a lot of issues with this book. Some of the dialogue was stilted, there were some scenes I didn’t get, and it got totally preachy at times (Virginity: It is special). But. BUT. This book totally got me in the gut. I don’t know if it was my overidentification with Kylie and her need to be wanted/liked or just the fact that the characters and their situation was so heartbreakingly realistic, but I found myself worrying about Kylie when I wasn’t reading the book and hoping everything would work out okay for her. Which I knew it couldn’t, really, but I just wanted it to!

Also, I found the ending pretty satisfying, and considering all the ways in which I was prepared to hate everything about it, that’s saying a lot. Stupid Ian and his stupid need to fit in. GAH.

YA Reading Challenge: 32/75; POC Reading Challenge: 24/15

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2) by Rick Riordan: We attempted to listen to this on audiobook but had to let that dream go because, as previously mentioned, the narrator is really annoying. So! I read this one, and I actually liked it more than the first. I thought the pacing was good, I loved the new characters introduced, and I also enjoyed how Riordan managed to fold in a whole! new! quest! without just replaying the first novel over again. Nicely done. I’ve already started the third book.