February Round-up

I read 14 books in March – 10 Fiction, 4 Non-fiction, heavy on the mysteries.

U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton. Sue Grafton has been writing this alphabetical mystery series about private investigator Kinsey Millhone since the 1980s. I have been reading it since middle school. This book showed she’s still got it. A very engaging mystery.

The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katharine Green. This book was first published in 1878 and is a classic of the mystery genre. Green was one of the first to introduce the detective series. Her detective, Ebenezer Gryce, first appears in this book – almost a decade before the world first met Sherlock Holmes.

My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store by Ben Ryder Howe.

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. This month’s book club selection, The Moviegoer, won the National Book Award in 1962. Percy is a New Orleans writer and the book has a real sense of place, but mostly I thought it was just okay. Glad to have read it (and good book club discussion as always), but nothing amazing.

The Bloody Tower by Carola Dunn. Back in the mood for some Daisy Dalrymple mysteries. This one is set at the Tower of London.

The Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters. This is the second book in the Amelia Peabody series – I read the first ages ago, but I was in grad school and I didn’t manage to keep up. I’m glad I went back and gave the series another try though – very amusing.

Black Ship by Carola Dunn. This is the first Daisy Dalrymple book that I saw on the new books shelf at DCPL. The lovely art deco cover drew me in – but I had to read the 16 preceding mysteries first!

Captain Raptor and the Moon Mystery by Kevin O’Malley. This is a book that only a 7 year old boy could love – a space adventure featuring dinosaurs. Sort of bizarre, but would probably appeal to a very specific demographic.

Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembicki. Matt Dembicki is from DC and I actually got to seem him speak at a program at DCPL which was pretty cool. This anthology features a bunch of different graphic artist illustrating Native American Trickster tales. It’s quite good.

Shake, Rattle & Turn That Noise Down!: How Elvis Shook Up Music, Me & Mom by Mark Alan Stamaty. A graphic memoir about the author’s love of Elvis. Not sure how interesting the tale would been to the elementary school set. Do kids even know who Elvis is nowadays?

Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America by Jay Mathews. This book is about the founders of the KIPP Academy charter schools, which exist all across the country (and of course about the schools themselves). I though it was good – and it was nice to read a book about something that was working in public school education.

No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure by Susan Hughes. A somewhat lackluster collection of a Girl Power tales. Just okay for me.

Dawn Land by Joseph Bruchac. This was a graphic novel adaptation of a book first published back in 1994. It was interesting to read with Trickster, since it also a Native American tale – but a full book length one. It was quite good.

Essex County by Jeff Lemire. This was a gorgeous graphic novel about life in rural Canada. It was a Canada Reads nominee and it was easy to see why.

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February Round-up

January Round-up

Gunpowder Plot by Carola Dunn. Daisy Dalrymple returns in another fun and fluffy mystery – this one set at a Guy Fawkes celebration.

Moving Pictures by Kathryn Immonen. A graphic novel imagining of the true tale of the moving and hiding of art work from the Louvre in advance of the German takeover of France in World War II. Enjoyable with nice black and white illustrations.

All Clear by Connie Willis. The sequel to Blackout, which a read and really enjoyed last year, All Clear resolves to stories of the time travelling historians trapped in World War II England. Lived up to my high expectations. If you’ve never read Connie Willis, I really recommend her.

Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye: Hamster and Cheese. Aimed at early readers, this the first book in a cute graphic novel series in which a guinea pig tries to solve the mystery of the disappearing sandwich.

Dracula Madness by Mary Labatt. A graphic novel detective series featuring an investigatory sheep dog. Nothing brilliant.

Room by Emma Donoghue. This book was on a lot of “best books” list at the end of 2010 and having read it now, I can say that the acclaim is well deserved. The story is told from the perspective of a 5-year boy who has only ever known the room is held captive in with his mother who was kidnapped when she was a teenager. Definitely worth reading.

Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way by Dan Buettner. Buettner wrote a book that I read last year about lessons learned from communities where people live a long time (routinely get into their 90s and 100s), and with this book he takes the same approach with communities who rate high for happiness. Nothing new or brilliant to the book, but I thought his description of Denmark sounded pretty great!

Children of the Sea, Volume 1 by Daisuke Igarashi. Beautifully illustrated manga that tells the story of the friendship between the daughter of an aquarium owner in Japan and two boys from the sea (children raised in the ocean by sea mammals).

Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. This is the latest is a cute and fun graphic novel series staring some elementary school aged kids and their lunch ladies who foil evil plots using things like fish-stick nunchuks. Good for the mid to late elementary school audiences.

January Round-up

October Round-up

I read 16 books in October, 5 Non-fiction and 11 Fiction.

Juliet by Anne Fortier. I heard about this book on NPR, and was interested in giving it a try. Juliet is a sort of Da Vinci Code-esque book, but focused on the story of Romeo and Juliet, not art. This isn’t a criticism, for all the criticism The Da Vinci code got, it was still a very engaging read. Juliet is probably a little better written, but equally engaging. If you like thrillers with a little history to them, this is a good one.

Salt Water Taffy: A Climb Up Mt. Barnabus by Matthew Loux. This is the second Salt Water Taffy graphic novel that I’ve read. They are the cute adventures of two brothers on vacation. I especially enjoy the fact that they are set in Maine.

The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier. A great, detailed, colorful graphic novels for middle grades.

Mercury by Hope Larson. This is a interesting graphic novel that tells the parallel stories of a modern Canadian in high schooler living with relatives after her house burned down and the ancestors who first lived in that house. Great black-and-white illustrations.

Binky to the Rescue by Ashley Spires. I love Binky! Binky is an officially certified space cat (think feline astronaut) living a secret life as a house cat. In this second adventure, Binky must brave outer space (the back yard) to rescue his copilot (stuffed mouse, Ted) from aliens (bigs). Cute and smart and funny.

Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan. This book was mentioned a lot on Slog (The Stranger’s Blog), which made me curious. It is a really fascinating look at what clues evolution has left in our bodies and what they tell us about how our prehistoric ancestors lived and how we evolved.

The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser. A real life whodunit. If you like Ocean’s 11 and the like, you will like this book.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I read this over a matter of months on DailyLit. Classics are free on DailyLit and this is a good way for me to fill in those gaps in my literary knowledge caused by not being an English major. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t that crazy about Great Expectations, but I’m glad I read it.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen. This book was really funny, which I wasn’t quite expecting. Janzen wrote the book while on sabbatical and living with her parents after an emotionally painful divorce (her husband left her for Bob from Gay.com) and a physically painful car accident. That doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but trust me, it was upbeat and funny and interesting.

Spark: How Old Fashioned Values Drive a Twenty-First Century Corporation by Frank Koller. This is another book I heard about on NPR. I was intrigued because it is about a company (Lincoln Electric) that is one of our clients at the firm. I didn’t know anything about them, so it was neat to learn more about a company that we represent. Lincoln Electric offers profit sharing and a guaranteed employment program which is pretty unique in the corporate world. They have a promise to employees not to lay folks off during downturns due to lack of work. Instead they cut hours (down to 30 hours/week at the lowest) and shift folks to other jobs or even to painting the factory if need be. It was need to see how that worked.

Tall Tales by Jeff Smith. A prequel to the Bone series.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. This was a reread for me. I have been slowly reading the Harry Potter series to Jami (she had never read the books!), and we just finished Book 5. I forgot how dark things get toward the end.

Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler. Peter Hessler is an American journalist who lived in China for a decade. This is his third book about his experiences there and offer and really wonderful look into what life is like in China. If you are at all interested in China, I recommend reading him.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. This was our book club book this month. Prior to this the only  Atwood I had read was The Handmaid’s Tale, and this book was very different (a historical novel based on a true story instead of dystopian science fiction). It was really good though and lead to an interesting book club discussion. I think I will have to try more books by Atwood.

Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel. Another graphic novel – this one about a boy who is inadvertently taken from the land of the living to the land of ghost and the efforts to rescue him. It’s another good one – well-drawn and exciting story.

The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg. This mystery reminded me of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books – probably mostly because they are Swedish, but also because of the weather and focus on domestic violence and the darker side of humans. If you like the Stieg Larsson books, I think you will enjoy this one as well.

October Round-up

August Round-Up

I read 18 books in August, 8 fiction and 10 non-fiction. I feel like that must be a personal record for non-fiction read in a month!

Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell. A graphic novel that looks at a family affected by mental illness. The book is from Top Shelf, which is one of my favorite publishers of graphic novels.

Hatter M: The Looking Glass Wars, Volume 1 by Frank Beddor. An interesting somewhat Steampunk reworking of Alice in Wonderland, in which Hatter M (part of an elite squad of millinery-ly inclined secret security agents) attempt to rescue Alyss, who has been kidnapped.

For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage by Tara Parker-Pope. Parker-Pope decided to take a look at the scientific research done on marriage after her own marriage failed. Her book offers an interesting overview of the research out there, as well as some concrete advice, in an easy, enjoyable read.

To Davy Jones Below by Carola Dunn. Daisy Dalrymple again. DCPL continues to leave me hanging (I had to buy this book), but I just discovered Montgomery County has more comprehensive coverage of this series. Expect more Daisy Dalrymple books next month!

Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer) by Stan Cox. This book was the “bonus book” for our September book club. It was interesting, if sometimes dry, and a fairly quick read (it’s only about 200 pages). It definitely opened my eyes to how unsustainable our current energy use is here in the U.S.

I Am Hutterite: The Fascinating True Story of a Young Woman’s Journey to Reclaim Her Heritage by Mary-Ann Kirkby. This book is accurately subtitled. I found it truly fascinating. The only thing I knew about Hutterites going in was what I learned on a brief news program years ago – Hutterites are like Amish, but they wear patterns and are sort of communist (communal property). I learned so much about a group I hardly knew anything about. If you are curious at all, I really recommend the book.

The Shadow Spies by Nykko. This is the second book in the Elsewhere Chronicles series, which is a really book graphic novel series for middle school aged kids. Recommended.

Here If You Need Me: A True Story by Kate Braestrup. I’m reading Braestrup backward, having started with her second book, Marriage and Other Acts of Charity, but I really enjoy her as a writer – which is saying something since she is a UU minister, and chaplain for the Maine Warden Service, and I am generally pretty uncomfortable reading about folks’ faith or religious beliefs.

Aya: The Secrets Come Out by Marguerite Abouet. This is the third book in the Aya series, set in the Ivory Coast in the last 1970s – a time and place I know very little about.

Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Greg Mortenson. I finished the book about a week before the Pakistan floods and it really made me realize what a huge tragedy those floods are – and also how awful the security situation is in Afghanistan, especially for women and girls. No one should be killed or bodily injured for going to school. Let’s just agree on that now.

To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel. A memoir in graphic novel form about the author’s childhood and teenage years at the School of American Ballet in New York City. This would definitely be enjoyed by ballet crazed youngsters (and offers a positive view of a dancer who chooses not to pursue ballet as a career).

The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation by David Kamp. It really is striking how much the food universe has changed in just the 3o years I’ve been alive. Kamp does a good job of tracking the progress.

Korgi, Vol. 1 by Christian Slade. Beautifully illustrated wordless graphic novel set in a magical land filled with Mollies (wood folk) and corgi dogs.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier. A graphic novel memoir of middle school, with it’s normal doses of crushes, teasing, peer pressure, and a heaping side of dental distress.

Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson. My least favorite of all the Bryson books I’ve read so far. Bryson wanders solo around Europe in the early 1990s. Mostly he seems mopey to me.

Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons In Life, Love, And Language by Deborah Fallows. I got this book through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program. It thought it was a good, quick read (I read the whole book in one sitting on a bus to New York), but it’s definitely not my favorite of the expats in China genre. I found myself wishing that Fallows had either gone there more with the language (more research and nitty-gritty on the Chinese language, rather than just anecdotes), or had headed more firmly in the personal experiences direction. If you are interested in reading about the experiences of a Westerner living in China and learning Chinese, I recommend River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler.

Silverfin: The Graphic Novel by Charlie Higson. Imagine James Bond as a teenager, going to school at Eton. Now imagine a graphic novel was made of that account. Voila, Silverfin: The Graphic Novel.

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick. A Reliable Wife is a dark book, set in Wisconsin in the early 1900s. Ralph Truitt has advertised for a wife, and Catherine Land replies, finding herself in relatively short order on a train into the long, dark Wisconsin winter. Little is what it seems, and the back story unravels over the course of the book. It was a good read.

Solomon’s Thieves by Jordan Mechner. Another graphic novel. I know Mechner from his adaptation of Prince of Persia (yes, the video game) to graphic novel format, so it was interesting to see what Mechner creates when starting from scratch. Solomon’s Thieves is set in the Middle Ages and deals with the return of the Knights Templar from the Crusades and their subsequent persecution by the French monarchy. But humorously.

August Round-Up

January Round-up

I finished 7 books in January: 2 non-fiction, and 5 fiction. They were:

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart
This is a children’s book, part of a series that I’m really enjoying. DC Public Library has the first two, but somehow hasn’t managed to get this latest one yet, so I bought this with a Christmas gift card. I rarely buy books, but it is so much fun to do so – so hooray for gift cards. This was a good addition to the series – not quite matching my love for the first book (The Mysterious Benedict Society), but better in my opinion than Book 2. Honestly, they are all worth a read though if you like smart, fun children’s books.

The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich
Jami and I started this as a book on tape on the drive back from Virginia Beach after Christmas, and then both finished it up in paper form. Erdrich is one of those writers that I discovered in college (Thanks, Dr. Bell) and that I have enjoyed reading in the years since. This book is set in New Hampshire of all places (not a typical locale for a book by Erdrich – usually her books are set in the Dakotas), which seemed like a good hook to introduce Jami to this author that I liked. I think I am even more pleased that she liked that book than I am glad that I liked (which I definitely did). Jeanette Winterson (see below) wrote a piece for the London Times once about how intimate and meaningful it is to share a book that you love with someone. If you have a few minutes, I highly recommend the column: The books we choose to keep.

The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson
I cannot even explain how or why I love Jeanette Winterson’s writing so much. Every book she writes feels like a present to me. I first read her in college (not for any class, just because I wanted to) – Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit for which she won the Whitbread Award for First Novel – and I hated it. Then a few years later, grown up somewhat and living in DC, I read Gut Symmetries, mainly because the book was on mega-sale and I liked the cover. And it was amazing. I couldn’t believe the difference in my reactions. I loved Gut Symmetries, it’s still my favorite of Winterson’s work and I have enjoyed everything else that I have read by her (and I’ve read almost everything she’s written). I haven’t ever tried Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit again – part of me really wants to. I feel like I would probably like it now – but the rest of me is scared to. What if I still hate it? It’s definitely going to have to happen though. I have no excuse – there is a copy on our shelves downstairs.

The Meaning of Wife: A Provocative Look at Women and Marriage in the Twenty-First Century by Anne Kingston

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder
This book is about Paul Farmer, a doctor who co-founded Partners in Health, a non-profit that provides medical care in poor communities around the world. The organization first started in Haiti, and Partners in Health is where I donated my meager post-earthquake funds. The book is inspiring and made me feel like my money was well spent. Definitely worth a read.

The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah

From Doon with Death by Ruth Rendell
I ended the month with mysteries – this one the first in a new-to-me series (Inspector Wexford). My neighbor loaned me the book and it was a quick and entertaining read – and I’m excited to have discovered a “new” mystery series (written starting in the 1960s so I’m a little late to the party. I can’t believe I had never read (or even heard of) Rendell before, seeing as she is one of the preeminent mystery writers of the last century. Better late than never, I suppose.

January Round-up