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July Booklist

1. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce's fourth mystery - she remains delightful (if you like precocious twelve-year-old budding poisoners).

2. Keeping the Castle, Patrice Kindl

This looked like a great Jane Austen meets I Capture the Castle sort of story. Unfortunately, it was instead shallow, rather silly, and not that compelling. My reaction when I finished was "I didn't DISLIKE this book." It could have been so much better.

3. 101 Things I Hate About Your House, James Swan

Already discussed here.

4. Redshirts, John Scalzi

So I've followed Scalzi's blog for years, and while he's coming from a very different place spiritually and politically, I love approximately 90% of his blog posts. He's just rather fab, and I love his level-headed breakdowns of various internet kerfuffles especially. But I've never read his books. So Redshirts came out, and it was a pretty big hit for him, so I figured I should probably read it. I'm not generally that much into straight-up scifi (the main exception being Timothy Zhan's Star Wars trilogy) but this was really a cracking good read, for it was full of humor, unexpected twists, and delightfully meta moments.

Also, I met either Scalzi or Scieszka at PLA back in 2008. To this DAY I still cannot be sure which one.

5. Enthusiasm, Polly Shulman

Fairly average YA fluff until it got to the end and was incredibly romantic in a non-cheesy, non-sleazy way. Also, yanno, yay Jane Austen and stuff.

6. Death Comes to Pemberley, P.D. James

Another JA-themed book, this one a murder mystery set at Pemberley. This was another one that wasn't bad ... it just wasn't great. It lacks the wit and sparkle of its source material, and I found Lizzie - called Elizabeth here, WHY - far too quiet and uninteresting. On the other hand, the offhand mention of Harriet Smith and Robert Martin was both jarring and awesome.

6. Motel of Mysteries, David Macaulay

By the same guy who wrote/drew the magnificent Cathedral. This was a clever little thing, lavishly illustrated, about the mistaken conclusions archeologists might make if they uncovered a motel hundreds of years from now. It's pretty hilarious, kind of depressing, and makes me wonder how much of what archeologists tell us about ancient civilizations might be totally wrong.

7. The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson

Another author I've followed online for ages (I highly recommend following Maureen on Twitter, she is the BEST) and yet never got around to reading any of her books. Ruth's recommendation changed all that, and basically, I loved this book. It's unexpected and real and contains JACK THE RIPPER.

8. Why We Make Mistakes, Joseph Hallinan

Another along the lines of Malcolm Gladwell, and as such I quite liked it.

9. The Long Earth, Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

I'm really sad about this, but The Long Earth did nothing for me. It's the first Pratchett I haven't liked, though since it's a collaboration maybe I can get away with saying it doesn't count. I mean hey, it's great that Pratchett is open to trying new things and whatever makes him happy is fine by me, but if there's a sequel I probably won't bother reading it. There was some unique and interesting worldbuilding here, but pretty much no plot. At all. And I happen to like plot.

10. The Last Princess, Galaxy Craze

Not sure if this is technically apocalyptic or dystopian (wait. It's BOTH) but I picked it up because I'm a sucker for anything relating to the British royal family. Here the royal family is killed by ... bad people. Terrorists or something. Except for the Last Princess, of course, except I'm pretty sure her brother and sister also survive, so she's not really the last. But whatever. But there's also some unexplained catastrophic weather events that killed most of the plants and made life mostly terrible. And then some stuff happens. The characters are flat, there are plot holes, and basically I really do not recommend this.

11. Shadow of Night, Deborah Harkness

daaaaang. If this series keeps on going the way it is now, it might someday come to rival Gabaldon's Outlander series in securing my eternal affections. Brief recap of book one, A Discovery of Witches: the witch Diana isn't keen on her magical heritage and would rather hide it, and hangs out at Oxford instead studying historical stuff. This works fine until she finds a mysterious manuscript and suddenly all the daemons and vampires and ... other magical creatures (?) sit up and take notice, putting her in danger. BUT DO NOT FEAR. A handsome (but dangerous) vampire named Matthew is there to protect her. Despite what this sounds like, this isn't particularly supernatural in nature (much more historical) nor is it like Twilight - it's pretty much the anti-Twilight, in fact. As for why, despite the strange creatures and magic, is this like Outlander? It's long (800 pages, I think). It's got Epic Love, but in a real-world kind of way, not a teenage-fantasy way. It's steeped in history. And there are about 569 characters to keep straight. And you will probably come to adore them.

But I didn't really notice the similarities until the second book, most of which takes place in Elizabethan London, where Matthew and Diana go to find answers about the manuscript. I almost didn't even care about the manuscript plot because the historical detail was so awesome. And all the random historical characters popping up throughout was fantastic.

12. Violins of Autumn, Amy McAuley

Elizabeth Wein seemed excited about this, so I got a copy. Female spies in WWII, behind enemy lines in France - a perfectly adequate story (especially as it seems young adult historical fiction is hard to find these days) but, yanno, nothing like Code Name Verity. Not that any of us expected it to be, so it's really not fair to compare the two.

13. The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker

I'm not generally a fan of apocalyptic novels (in the sense of 'major catastrophes' not the Biblical sense, though I'm not into those either.) So I can't say I really loved this book, because any book about the spin of the Earth slowing until days are weeks long, all the birds die, and houses have to be shielded from radiation? Not gonna lie, it's depressing.

That said, this was beautifully written, and I mean beautifully written.

14. Entwined, Heather Dixon

Ahh, I kind of want everybody to read this now. I expected a typical girls-in-pretty-dresses-in-
quasi-fairytale-setting and I was so happily surprised to find a very realistic story with just a touch of magic. Okay, more than a touch, but all the characters felt so REAL that the story stayed very grounded.

My favorite thing was that underneath it all this is really a story about the relationship between a father and his daughters. That's so rare to find in ya lit (or any lit at all), especially the way it's done here.

15. The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost, Rachel Friedman

Rather than face 'real life' (finishing her degree and finding a job - and I'm not judgement-calling, this is how the author describes it) Rachel goes to Ireland for several months. And then Australia. And then South America. It's an engaging and fun story that acknowledges the deeper issues behind her urge to travel while not spending unnecessary time belaboring them. Her travel stories are marvelous.

Books from The Stack: 4
ebooks: 0
audiobooks: 0



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 1st, 2012 09:14 pm (UTC)
I am very put out that Keeping the Castle wasn't better. It sounded so good!

Isn't Entwined lovely? I bought it just because I needed that cover on my shelves, even if the book was terrible, and am so happy that it turned out to be one of the best books I read last year!
Aug. 1st, 2012 11:03 pm (UTC)
I know; that was a big disappointment. =\ Entwined, on the other hand, was SO much more than I expected. So that more than made up for it!
Aug. 1st, 2012 10:55 pm (UTC)
Oh my gosh you read so much! I need to get back to reading more--this post is v. inspiring.


if you like precocious twelve-year-old budding poisoners

What do you mean "IF"??? :D
Aug. 1st, 2012 11:04 pm (UTC)
Wellll I'm a librarian. I have a built-in excuse for neglecting life in favor of books. It's research! ;)

I feel quite the same way about precocious poisoners, but I introduced Flavia to a bookclub and about half the ladies didn't like her. O___O
Aug. 2nd, 2012 02:45 am (UTC)
Yay! You're here :-D
Aug. 2nd, 2012 02:45 am (UTC)
Adding A Discovery of Witches to my to-read list :)
Aug. 2nd, 2012 05:51 pm (UTC)
I think you might like it. :) (Although IMO, the second book is even BETTER.)
Aug. 3rd, 2012 03:19 am (UTC)
Ah well... guess I had still better start with the first one ;)
Aug. 5th, 2012 10:25 pm (UTC)
Yes, absolutely, but know that BETTER STUFF is coming. :D
Aug. 6th, 2012 03:28 am (UTC)
Always a good thing to know :) I've managed to find it as an ebook, so it's been added to my list :)
Aug. 3rd, 2012 05:07 pm (UTC)
Have we talked about the Timothy Zahn Star Wars books before?? I loved them too! It's like a secret club. :D I haven't known too many people who have read them.
Aug. 5th, 2012 10:28 pm (UTC)
It IS like a secret club! I'm pretty positive you're the only other person I know who's read them. I don't even like the original star wars movies that much (shhhhhh) but his books made the characters so totally human and relatable. Mara Jade is my favorite. :)
Aug. 5th, 2012 11:24 pm (UTC)
She's pretty awesome.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )