supercheesegirl: (books - can't talk reading)
So, I never did an end-of-2007 reading post. And I read 128 books in 2007! I like taking a look at my numbers periodically, especially because I can already tell that 2008 is a much different reading year than 2007 was. (So far in 2008 I have read more nonfiction than fantasy. Can you believe it??) And doing a wrap-up allows me to recommend to you the very best books I read last year, and there are few things I enjoy as much as recommending books! Hence I present to you the 2007 Reading Year in Review.

Read more... )
supercheesegirl: (books - reading girl)
Oh, I love Le Guin. This book is third in a YA series of hers that I'm really enjoying. There's definitely some dark stuff in this book--the hero's sister gets raped and murdered and the man responsible goes unpunished because she's a slave girl--but I think this hero is the best one yet in this series. It's a really good series, and I like the recurring characters and themes.

I've spent the last few days reading The Expected One, by Kathleen McGowan. It's a total Da Vinci Code knockoff, which I knew when I bought it, but it's not compelling or even well written. I'm about halfway through and I could care less about the conspiracy theories or the main character or what startling revelations Mary Magdalene wrote in her super-secret Gospel. You know I don't give up on a book easily, but this just is not worth my time.

Hoping to cram in one more book before the new year!
supercheesegirl: (books - BSC)
Oh wow. The entire Traveling Pants series was entirely worth it for this fourth book. I was a little disappointed in the third book, but this last one is better than all of them combined. It's the conclusion. They're all grown up now. And the way in which each of them grew up was sweet and believable and honest. They're grown up now, so the pants said goodbye.

I'm not entirely pleased with the resolution of Carmen's storyline, honestly. It didn't seem like she got as much out of this book as her friends did. But it was a really good book. The girls had real problems and they screwed up and they dealt with things, maybe not in the best ways, but they dealt. Their problems weren't so much storybook problems like they were in the earlier books; they were real problems.

If you've read the other Traveling Pants books, I really recommend this one. If you've read one or two of the others, I recommend reading the ones you haven't read so you can read this one. If you haven't read them at all, you're probably a boy, so don't worry about it.
supercheesegirl: (books - can't talk reading)
Whew. Thank goodness I'm done!

Not that it wasn't a good book. It was a fairly excellent book. I always like books about reading, and this book really reflected on what it means to be a reader. There were also some extremely sexy sections, which I wasn't expecting. That was fun (and also a little disturbing--there are things I try not to think about when I'm wedged in next to a fat man on the train!).

I thought the conceit of the book was really interesting. Every other chapter is the first chapter of a different novel. You, the Reader, are reading a novel, but then something happens--the rest of the pages are blank due to a printer's error, or your book was stolen, etc.--and you are desperately trying to find the rest of the book. Then you find a book that you think is the one you were reading, and as you read the first chapter you discover that it's not the same book at all but by then you're hooked, but after the first chapter something happens.... and it goes on like that. Kind of fascinating. I liked the different first chapters, and overall it was a really interesting book. But it's definitely a book that makes you think, and it's the holidays and I've been reading it for like two weeks and I'm kind of sick of thinking right now, so I'm glad to have finished it.
supercheesegirl: (star trek - aieee)
Woot! Another Hugo Award winner down. This was a really good book. I spent a while being shocked at the sexism in this book, but then I thought about it, and realized that Farmer's hero died in 1890 and had the masculine ideas of the era, and that in general many billions of the billions of people in the book died in centuries well before this one, when people had different ideas about women. So then I felt a bit better--would have liked to see a female character who was important for more than just sex, but hopefully in the next book. I'm interested to read the next one, chiefly because NOTHING WAS ACTUALLY RESOLVED in this one, but we'll see when I get around to getting it from the library.
supercheesegirl: (books - petals)
A really good memoir. Really really good. An homage to everything about growing up in the 1980s, and a story about food, and a story about what it means to be a foreigner growing up in America, about not belonging anywhere and wanting to belong. I found this book really captivating, and I'm so glad to be taking Bich's nonfiction workshop in January.
supercheesegirl: (sandman - delirium)
This book was really disturbing. It took me all last week to read it because the stories just kept freaking me out. Ordinarily I'd go back to the TOC of a collection like this and put down the stories I liked the most, what worked best for me, etc, but I don't think so with this one. Some of them are going to stick with me, like the creepy playhouse, and the two boys in the graveyard, and some of them won't so much, and that's okay.
supercheesegirl: (books - Matisse reading lady)
I didn't love this one nearly as much as I loved his other books. The writing was beautiful, but it just didn't hit me the way his other books did. Still worth reading, for sure, but I didn't fall in love with it.
supercheesegirl: (books - BSC)
Full title: Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood. I can't believe I'd never read this one. I didn't think this one was quite as engaging as the earlier books--as if she was already writing light in anticipation of a movie--but still a fun read.
supercheesegirl: (books - narnia lucy)
Finished this last night. The sequel to A Red Heart of Memories. It kind of bugs me a little that her titles don't have anything to do with the actual novel unless you think about it really hard. Overall, though, a good book, and a good finish to the story.

::edit:: Crap, I need to step up my game, I've only read five books so far in November! I was averaging ten books a month! Not that that's going to mess with my total for the year in a significant way. I'm already at 120 books for the year, which is better than last year's total. It's just, you know, don't want to get complacent. And I have this huge pile of exciting library books.
supercheesegirl: (books - narnia lucy)
Yay, the library! Yay, awesome fantasy! I wish I could talk to houses and cars and stuff!
supercheesegirl: (books - petals)
Okay, this is a slightly early book post, considering that I haven't yet quite finished the book yet. I have three stories left to go. But I am planning to read those stories on the train home tonight, and then to drop off the book at the library immediately afterward, and I knew I wanted to talk about certain stories in this post and I wanted to refer to them. So, early post.

First of all, the title story, "Unlocking the Air". A really beautiful story. Le Guin returns to her imaginary Orsinian country in this story. I was wondering at first why she didn't include this story in her book Orsinian Tales, because it would have injected a much-appreciated bit of light into that very dark collection, but I just now checked on amazon and Orsinian Tales was published in 1977. Unlocking the Air came out in 1996, and the story itself was first published in 1990. And then when I thought about it, I realized that this story couldn't have been written in 1977; Orsinian Tales is very much a book about a country trapped behind the Iron Curtain, a Slavic country with its own personality but with that history that's in a very dark time. "Unlocking the Air" was written after the Iron Curtain came down, and that's what it's really about, those people finally achieving some freedom, and how scary but also intoxicating and beautiful that is. Orsinian Tales is so full of sadness and hopelessness, so it made me glad to see that Le Guin came back to Orsinia (I guess? the people are Orsinian, so...) and wrote some relief and freedom and joy for those people.

Other stories. I liked "The Professor's Houses", a nice little story about aging. "Ether, OR" was probably my favorite in the whole collection. Also a bit reminiscent of the kinds of stories in Searoad, I felt, but a little weirder--I liked how the town of Ether is migratory--and I liked how we came back to the different characters and got an idea that they would each find what they were looking for. I think that's probably the story from this collection that will stick with me. "A Child Bride" I had to read through twice before I fully understood it, but it's only like three pages long so that was fine. Almost a poem as much as a story.

The back cover describes these as "mainstream stories", I guess to distinguish them from Earthsea or scifi stories, and looking at the acknowledgments, a lot of these appeared in places like The New Yorker and Harper's. So in that sense they're mainstream, but some very odd things happen in some of these stories, and they're very magical in their way. Some of them really strongly reminded me of Kelly Link stories, even. There's this sort of creepy darkness in some of this work. I mostly think that's a good thing. Some of the stories were just a little too off, enough that I didn't really get them, but some of them were just enough off that I felt creeped out and hauntedy.

Anyway, I recommend this collection, especially if you like Le Guin, or Kelly Link, or, um, good short stories. Because I think Le Guin is honestly not as appreciated as she should be for her short stories. I'm not all about short fiction myself, so I tend to love her novels more, but she's an excellent story writer and storyteller.

::edit:: Okay, two of the best stories were right at the end. "Olders" is about a secretive group of farmers on a secluded island who have a, well, secret about the trees. It's amazing. And the final story, "The Poacher", was just honestly amazing. It's a fairy tale. It's not a fairy tale. It's amazing and haunting and is going to stick with me and OMG READ IT. So much Le Guin love.
supercheesegirl: (books - petals)
One of F's favorite books. Got it from the library. Really beautifully written, with some lovely turns of phrase. About halfway through I got really, really tired of watching Grady screw up his life, but the prose was so good I didn't want to put the book down. I'm kind of surprised it ended the way it did. Not that I was unhappy with the ending. So much of it just fit together so beautifully. But yeah, I was a little surprised at the ending, while at the same time feeling it was kind of an inevitable ending. Anyway, a really good read. Highly recommended.
supercheesegirl: (books - narnia lucy)
A quiet little book about love and grief by one of my favorite writers. It's so simple that it almost reminds me of a Mitch Albom story, except that the concept is a bit weirder than Albom gets. Apparently Beagle wrote this book while trying to work through some of his own grief at the loss of a friend.
supercheesegirl: (books - star paper)
Hooray for free subscriptions. A lot of good stuff in this issue. Mary Oliver and Kim Addonizio were my favorites, and I also really enjoyed the interview with Natasha Trethewey. Not loving Phil Levine's new work. Erik Fraser Storlie's essay about James Wright was really compelling. Overall, a lot of stuff worth reading in this issue.
supercheesegirl: (books - reading girl)
Lent to me by Mike in the art department. Really good--I couldn't put it down yesterday. Wasn't overly thrilled by the ending, though. Read more... )
supercheesegirl: (indy - rare antiquities)
Full title: The Keys of Egypt: The Obsession to Decipher Egyptian Hieroglyphs. Nonfiction; another great library find. Starting with Napoleon's expedition to Egypt, this book describes how the ancient Egyptian civilization was rediscovered and how hieroglyphs came to be deciphered. The Rosetta Stone had a lot less to do with it than we were all led to believe. Also, Jean-Francois Champollion is my new goddamn hero. He learned a couple dozen languages and worked on it for over 20 years, while several different revolutions were going on in France and while he was living in poverty, but he's the guy who eventually came up with the method of decipherment that actually worked. He didn't receive nearly enough acclaim during his lifetime--there are apparently *still* people trying to discredit him today, and they were a lot nastier about it then--and he died way too young, at 41. I was really glad to read that he eventually got to go to Egypt, though. That made me happy that he was able to actually go and see it all in person.
supercheesegirl: (books - petals)
Wow, a seriously creepy novel. They made a movie based on this book, which I thought looked really interesting, but I never saw it, so I was excited to find the book at the library (because we all know the book is better than the movie).

Jean-Baptiste is born in the 1740s in Paris in a stinky slum--although he has no personal human scent, he has an extremely sensitive nose that allows him to pick out the best and finest scents. He becomes an apprentice to a perfumer, and is always on the lookout for new and beautiful smells to distill and recreate--and then he catches the scent of a young girl, and he has to find her, and find a way to capture her ultimate perfume.
supercheesegirl: (narnia - caspian stars)
Another amazing novel by LeGuin. In this one, our heroine Sutty comes from a future Earth where the ultra-religious Unists take control of the government and try to destroy the libraries and all book knowledge outside of the Bible. Sutty leaves Earth to become an anthropologist, basically, studying the language and life and history of other planets. She is sent to Aka, and in the 70 years it takes her to travel there, Akan culture is transformed into a giant capitalist city-state that destroyed all the history and culture that came before it. Sutty needs to find the remnants of the way of life on Aka before the Corporation took over.

I am always struck by the way LeGuin's novels are about both a space adventure on another planet and also about politics and religion and war and philosophy and humanity and what it means to be human.

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