stone cold books in 2010
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After a very disappointing total in 2009, I hope to reach the 50 book mark this year!
1. Jerk, California - Jonathan Friesen, 352 pg
At first slow going YA read about a senior in high school with Tourette's, once the plot picked up I couldn't put it down...but in the end there were too many outrageous coincidences. Interesting story line, but not much else to redeem this one. 3/5 stars.
This is the only self-plug I'll put in all year, but I try to do fuller reviews over at stonecoldbooks.blogspot.com. Check it out if you feel so inclined.
Right now, pushing myself through American Psycho and then have another YA on my nightstand, Tamar, which I've heard wonderful things about.
Happy reading, LT!!
3. What the Body Told - Rafael Campo, 122 pgs
Yes, I read this collection of off-sonnets and off-villanelles and all sorts of poems largely in iambic pentameter last year. Yes, I am taken another writing class (this time all poetry, not general creative writing) with the same professor. So, be expecting a good amount of poetry this year!
While I didn't find much redeemable about this last year, I enjoyed it immeasurably more. There are some very explicit poems in here, written from a gay man's perspective. But his form is so strong, it's hard to not appreciate what he's doing. I guess what I really mean to say is, when you know what's coming, you can see the poetry for what is really is. 4/5 stars.
4. Tamar - Mal Peet, 424 pgs
I was expecting more out of this. It's got a compelling plot: WWII, undercover spies in the dutch resistance, and plenty of mysteries. It splits narrative between the spies in '45 and the granddaughter of a spy in '95. Both have interesting storylines on their own, but spliced together the way they are, it's difficult for the reader to really develop feelings for the characters. That's my primitive review. Not sure if I'll take a deeper look at it later on the blog or not. 3/5 stars.
8. Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks - Lauren Myracle, 292 pgs, running total: 2437 pgs
Not my normal grab, but was in the mood for some YA. This is pretty general fare for the genre. A few stellar scenes/bits of dialogue, but in the end, nothing we haven't read before. 3/5 stars.
9. Sweethearts - Sara Zarr
217 pgs, 2654 total
Interesting and insightful..but between the last two YAs I've read, why do some YA authors disregard the show don't tell rule? I know I'm a little bit older than the target audience, but it's a tad insulting anyways. Or just mediocre writing.
Forgive my jaded my-fiction's-been-torn-apart-in-way-too-many-fiction-workshops-in-the-last-three-semesters critical eye.
10. The River Sound: Poems - W. S. Merwin
133 pgs, 2787 total
So...this batch of poems just didn't work for me as well as the others. The images weren't as strong and he uses no punctuation. It takes a lot of brain power to search out the caesuras without even meter to rely on.
I feel a bit guilty counting this one because there's a sixty page poem that I could not bring myself to finish. Turns out, only one person in class managed it, not even the professor has. :)
11. The Wild Iris - Louise Gluck
63 pgs, 2850 total, ~47 pgs per day
Another poetry collection about gardens, spiritual well-being, and creation. I think Gluck had a really careful, concise balance between images and abstractions. Plus, it's a nice easy collection to read in a night. I really enjoyed it. It almost made me want to get out my own poems and revise them.
12. Once Was Lost - Sara Zarr
217 pgs, 3067 total
I find the story very original and refreshing for the genre. A neglected pastor's daughter tries to find herself as her mom goes to rehab and the whole community is shocked by a kidnapping. Many of the characters were very realistic; I especially enjoyed watching the pastor's inner workings.
I met Sara Zarr last week, which was so unbelievably cool. She's a very down to earth person and genuinely nice. We talked about the writing process a lot (all others in attendance were aspiring writers) and she said she can get the beginning and know how she wants it to end, and it's the middle that gives her the most trouble. I think I could kind of see that in this book. It was by no means bad; I think it's the strongest of her three books. But, the plot's progression seemed weak and maybe a tad unorganized?
14. Dien Cai Dau - Yusef Komunyakaa
poetry, 63 pgs
All poems about Vietnam war. Some people in class found it a little too pedestrian, I thought it was gorgeous throughout. This coming from someone who first looked at it and said, "Ugh. War poetry? For real?" But it's good stuff, y'all.
15. A Raisin in the Sun - Lorraine Hansberry
play, 151 pgs, 3602 total
I really liked this one, too. But one minor qualm, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS, FOLKS and maybe I just am coming from a completely different perspective, but I did not think it would be so shameful to just take the money from the "Welcoming Committee" and find a different place to live. It certainly would have been the more pragmatic thing to do, IMO. Thoughts from those who've read it?
On the docket, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and my roommate has suggested Nicholas Sparks's The Last Song but after reading his USA Today interview I'm even more wary of him than I was before. Check it out, it'll make you barf.
For my own benefit, I think I'll start tabulating genres and suchwhat.
YA - 7 / Fiction - 6 / Poetry - 5 / Drama - 1
24. The Dead Travel Fast - Deanna Raybourn
Finally got this Feb LT book, and got the review up just in time to find I snagged a book in April, too, after a 6-month dry spell, how lovely!
YA - 8 // Fiction - 8 // Poetry - 5 // Drama - 2 // Graphic Novel - 1
25. Beige - Cecil Castellucci
YA, LA punk rock scene
Loved this. Def the best YA I've read so far this year. (Well, besides Feed, but that's my all time fave and I read it almost every year) Ventured to a different library in town and got four YAs that I will probably devour in the next week or so. :D Can't believe I'm halfway through the count already!
YA - 9 // Fiction - 8 // Poetry - 5 // Drama - 2 // Graphic Novel - 1
26. The Game of Sunken Places - M. T. Anderson
young readers, fantasy
Two tween boys are invited to "crazy" Uncle Max's only to find themselves trapped in completing an epic, life-threatening game to decide the fate of two war-faring mythical nations.
This is targeted to a slightly younger audience than most books I read. The lack of sexual content was a nice change of pace, and Anderson is never ending in his charming witticisms. Not the most gripping read in the world, but it was a fun ride.
YA 9 // Fiction 8 // Poetry 5 // Drama 2 // Graphic Novel 1 // Children 1
27. How to Be Bad - E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle
YA chick lit
Two best friends take a road trip in hopes to salvage their struggling friendship, and one rich acquaintance tags along to overcome her fear of people. Epic road trip happenings happen. They all learn important lessons about friendship and love and even religion. I'd been dying to read this since it came out, but really was unimpressed. Cute, but not memorable. Fun, but not dazzling. Just skip this one, you've probably read something similar to it before.
YA 10 // Fiction 8 // Poetry 5 // Drama 2 // Graphic Novel 1 // Children 1
28. Mothers and Other Liars - Amy Bourret
fiction, courtroom drama, ER
I've never read Picoult, but I'm guessing this is a knock off of what she does. It took me a very long time to get into, and the ending really wasn't worth it.
YA 10 // Fiction 9 // Poetry 5 // Drama 2 // Graphic Novel 1 // Children 1
29. I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President - Josh Lieb
YA, comedy, awesome
The title kind of speaks for itself. Written in mock-scholarly article fashion with footnotes and plates and all. Funny, kooky, smart, and it even has heart. Fans of YA shouldn't miss this one.
YA 11 // Fiction 9 // Poetry 5 // Drama 2 // Graphic Novel 1 // Children 1
32. King Dork - Frank Portman
YA, coming of age, sex, drugs, rock and roll
A YA classic I really should have read sooner! On a beautiful pace so far this year, and have about a million books to read for summer classes, what a wonderful year for literature!
YA 14 // Fiction 9 // Poetry 5 // Drama 2 // Graphic Novel 1 // Children 1
34. Rethinking Multicultural Education - Wanye Au
35. The Light in Their Eyes - Sonia Nieto
Don't usually include "textbooks" but in this case, I read both books cover to cover, which definitely counts as books read in my opinion. RME is a book with thirty or forty odd chapters, each written by a different teacher/scholar, with their anecdotal encounters with multicultural ed. TLITE is more standard non-fiction, with strategies and game plans for fighting racist education, promoting social justice in education, etc. I'm not sure I would have picked these up if not for class, but I certainly learned a lot from them, and would recommend them to those going into education or a similar field.
This reminds me, I started my first 50 Book Challenge thread as a senior in high school. A couple people on this very site gave me a lot of encouragement in pursuing a teaching career. Just a few months ago, I ended up not getting into the Teacher's College at my university, and was forced to switch majors. (English/Creative Writing, with minors in Education and Theatre, kind of a handful, right?) And now! I don't even want to be a teacher at all and instead want to become a youth services librarian. All in all it's been an exciting year, as far as my future is concerned.
YA 15 // Fiction 9 // Poetry 5 // Drama 2 // Non-fiction 2 // Graphic Novel 1 // Children 1
36. Deadeye Dick - Kurt Vonnegut
good lord this was fantastic. Recommended by a friend and huge Vonnegut fan as her favorite of his. Only the second Vonnegut I've ever read, and now I'm hungry for more. Nobody can come close to touching his distinct voice. This was so immaculately written; the details really make the story come alive.
What did you think about American Psycho?
I watched the movie for the first time a couple of months ago, and someone told me the book is pretty wild. I was thinking about reading it.
American Psycho is....brilliant, but disturbing. And downright tedious. It's something that I'm very selective about recommending, but if you've already seen the movie (which I haven't) then you probably already realize it is extremely gory, graphic, and at times, downright pornographic. Approach with caution, but by all means read it if you want to. I do think it's an important book.
43. Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
I just finished this about a half hour ago. Still emotionally processing everything. How am I supposed to return to the real world after an epic four hour mind journey? Perhaps next time I am really excited about a book, I should display some self-control and perhaps try to not finish in one day. I felt this way after Harry Potter ended, and the Bartimaeus trilogy ended: empty. And sad. And not necessarily because of a sad ending.
It feels like I'm losing a few of my closest friends. Is this asinine or normal?
Oh, and just as a side note, I am on Team Peeta. Always have been. ALWAYS. Very surprised to find that a Team Gale even exists. What is the appeal?
YA 19 // Fiction 10 // Drama 6 // Poetry 5 // Non-fiction 2 // Graphic Novel 1 // Children 1
44. By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead - Julie Anne Peters
What a completely breathtaking book. A must read about the implications of bullying and suicide.
YA 20 // Fiction 10 // Drama 6 // Poetry 5 // Non-fiction 2 // Graphic Novel 1 // Children's 1
46. Nothing - Janne Teller
Crazy dark YA, reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, about what happens when thirteen year olds try to prove to a classmate that the world still has meaning.
YA 22 // Fiction 10 // Drama 6 // Poetry 5 // Non-fiction 2 // Graphic Novel 1 // Children's 1
47. Good Day, Bad Day: Teaching as a High Wire Act - Ken Winograd
This was a really fun book written by a professor in a Teacher's College who hadn't taught in an elementary school for over ten years when he went on a year sabbatical to teach a blended 1-3 classroom. I loved the justice in the "expert" struggling to maintain order in the class. The first half of the book consists solely of his daily journal, describing both his good and bad days. The second half contains his more formal, academic reflections on the experience. A good mix of theory and practicality.
YA 22 // Fiction 10 // Drama 6 // Poetry 5 // Non-fiction 3 // Graphic Novel 1 // Children's 1
48. The Roller Coaster Year: Essays by and for Beginning Teachers - Kevin Ryan
This book is fairly dated but interesting, nonetheless. Between this and the last and feel I have a firmer grasp on what to expect your first year. My major complaint about this book is the homogeneity of the essayists. I think nearly all of them got their Masters before entering the work field (which didn't seem to help them out much, IMO), many of them were much older than traditional beginning teachers, and the majority of them either taught in Boston or were from Boston. Some of the authors were laughably obnoxious, others wrote with enlightening elegance. A good crash course on how important AND crazy the notion of teaching is.
YA 22 // Fiction 10 // Drama 6 // Poetry 5 // Non-fiction 4 // Graphic Novel 1 // Children's 1
49. Reclaiming Assessment - Chris W. Gallagher
All about my lovely home state's (Nebraska) response to NCLB. It wasn't written too long ago, but already dated since we now use actual standardized tests (sad face), but still a very insightful and inspiring read.
50. The Ring of Solomon - Jonathan Stroud
Was SO pleased to find a new Bartimaeus book out! Though completely detached from the original trilogy, old Barty is just way too good a character to let go. (actually, Bartimaeus was around way before the Tony Stark-type character became trendy). While this doesn't have the same resonance as the originals, still a highly entertaining read, and I do hope for more to come?
YA 23 // Fiction 10 // Drama 6 // Poetry 5 // Non-fiction 5 // Graphic Novel 1 // Children's 1
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