Tag Archives: Ally Carter

2012 Q3 Reading Report

As I predicted in my last Quarterly Reading Report, July and August were a bit sparse, but I made significant gains in September. And as always, I read some really amazing books. All but two of the sixteen books I read this quarter were from the library. I did go back and buy two of the books after reading them, because I wanted a copy of my very own.

July

Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu – This was an odd, sometimes completely amazing, mishmash of other fantastical children’s tales, pulling from fairy tales like Hansel & Gretel, as well as The Chronicles of Narnia. But, these references were homages, touchstones in a tale that was, in part, about the power of stories and imagination.

One for the Money, Janet Evanovich – You’ll be disappointed to know that I was inspired to read the book by the recent movie (once again). I found this first Stephanie Plum tale amusing and entertaining, though completely dated. But, how can it not be considering how much the world has changed since it was originally published in 1994 (that’s 18 years ago!).

August

Two for the Dough, Janet Evanovich – One of the things I like best about reading these books now is seeing simultaneously how absolutely original and completely influential Stephanie Plum has been in this genre. You can see Sookie Stackhouse’s origins in Stephanie Plum, too, even though they live in different genres.

Oyster, John Biguenet – This book devastated me. I began reading it to prepare for my interview with John Biguenet, but finished it out of entirely selfish reading necessity. I was so utterly captured by this book that I had one of those experiences where I felt like I was living in the world of the book and would bump into the characters at any moment. I also felt the unbearable itch to see this book become a movie, most especially with one of the final scenes.

A Million Suns, Beth Revis – This sequel to Across the Universe was a bit slower to start than the first book, but once I was in, I was truly in. It didn’t quite go where I expected it to, which I appreciate. I’m fairly good at predicting plots and twists (both in movies and books), so my hat comes off to a book or movie that can surprise me without making me feel cheated. Can’t wait for the third book, Shades of Earth, which is coming out shortly after m birthday next year.

Out of  Sight, Out of Time, Ally Carter – The latest in Carter’s Gallagher Girl series, which I’ve enjoyed for a while. This one took a bit of an odd turn, elevating the “what I did last summer” essay to new heights, introducing amnesia and a spy adventure after the fact. At first, I wasn’t so sure about this twist in the series, especially since it’s been a little while since I read the last one, but I settled in just fine. I love that Carter writes about teen girls, who also happen to be spies and con artists.

Tiny, Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed – Poor you, if you spent any time with me while I was reading this book. I did not talk (or think!) about anything else as I quickly devoured it and for a while after I finished. Sugar (Strayed) presents a master course on absolute, raw courage in nonfiction, not to mention how to write about yourself without being self-centered. Made me excited to read Wild, though the subject matter hadn’t previously appealed to me.

River Road, Suzanne Johnson – My interview with Johnson will be forthcoming from is in this month’s issue of 225 Magazine. Let me just say, this is what I read during my Hurricane Isaac evacuation.

September

Hot Stuff, Janet Evanovich + Leanne Banks – This is the “fluffy audio book” mentioned in the Leg Three post from the Grandma Road Trip. It truly is fluffy. It did the trick though, which was gave Mums and me something to listen to while driving, engaging enough to listen to, but not complicated enough to distract us from driving.

Naughty Neighbor, Janet Evanovich – This one was begun on Leg Four and finished on Leg Five. I hate to say it, but I kinda wish we’d given this one a pass and moved on sooner to the loooong audio book that I resisted, but which Mums picked out. That one ended up being very engaging and we didn’t get to finish it.

Reunion, Alan Lightman – This one was recommended to me by a writer friend when I told him I’m writing about tango and dance. The funny thing is that though he recommended it to me, in part at least, because it features a dancer, I think I needed to read it for an entirely different reason. Another interesting thing is that this book is of a type that is usually like nails on a chalkboard to me (literary, male character longing for the past and an idealized woman he’s probably invented), yet I loved it. Mysterious. While I didn’t buy Reunion, I did later buy Lightman’s book of essays Dance for Two. It remains to be seen how much the essays will actually be about dance.

The Lover’s Dictionary, David Levithan – One of two books bought at The Book Table in Oak Park during Leg Four of the Grandma Road Trip. It’s small enough to fit into a purse, so I ended up tucking it into mine and reading the whole thing over the next few days. Partly because the book is written in relatively short “dictionary entries,” this is one of those books where you can say, “hey, I have a minute, let me read a page or two” and you end up reading twenty before you know it.

Wife 22, Melanie Gideon – I read a write-up about this one in Entertainment Weekly and was both intrigued and skeptical. I wasn’t sure if it would hold my interest, but I ended up gulping it up in like 24 hours. I’m not surprised that it’s going to be made into a movie. It’s got the best combination of knowing what’s coming and yet you can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Switched, Torn, Ascend, Amanda Hocking – Because I don’t live under a rock and I’m somewhat plugged into the publishing world, I heard about a successful self-published writer selling the rights to her already-released e-books to a traditional publisher for what I think ended up being a $2 million deal. So, I thought I’d give them a try. You can see the self-published thumbprint on this books and not for the stereotypical reason you’d think. They’re compelling and well-edited. Where you can see their origins in self-publishing is a contradiction: there was no gatekeeper to tell Hocking her odd-ball ideas wouldn’t sell (trolls as sexy creatures and heroes? depicted sexual acts and cursing?) and you can clearly see that Hocking was writing the type of story she enjoys reading, so it fits nicely on the shelf next to other “popular paranormal teen books.”

Whew. So many books, so little time! I do my best. Already can’t wait for the fourth quarter report cause I’m reading some great books. Till then…

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Reading in Q4

The 4th Quarter has been one of the lightest so far, but there are some real gems in here.

October

We’ll Always Have Summer, Jenny Han – This is the satisfying conclusion to what could have been a sappy teenaged trilogy in a lesser writer’s hands and what is, instead, an absolutely riveting tale about three friends growing up and the ways that their friendships change.

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Sara Gran – An interesting flip on a standard mystery, this weird novel (in the good way) set in post-Katrina New Orleans and is certain to be only the first in a series featuring private eye Claire DeWitt. I’m fascinated with the way different writers, using different genres and different agendas, are weaving Katrina into their narratives.

Dark Rain, Mat Johnson – Also set in post-Katrina New Orleans, this graphic novel tells the story of Dabny, reluctantly drawn into a bank heist in the chaos of the aftermath of Katrina and the people he meets in the city. While reading Dark Rain, I kept thinking I really need to read more graphic novels – so many narrative possibilities!

Pym, Mat Johnson – Talk about weird! This novel is a re-imagining, a sequel, and also a parody of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and also it’s own bizarre creation. The tale of an all-black expedition to the Antarctic is funny, thought-provoking and also, just plain weird.

Wild Ride, Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer – Silly, fun. Jennifer Crusie’s novels are always witty, light and fast-paced and the books she co-writes with Bob Mayer are even more so. Not my absolute favorite of their collaborations, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Uncommon Criminals, Ally Carter – I thought  Carter’s Gallagher Girls series was inventive and awesome, but she outdoes herself with the Heist Society books, about a family of art thieves. I ate this second book in the series up as soon as I got my hands on it. Only downside is waiting for the next one…

November

One Day, David Nicholls – Once again, I was intrigued by the movie… I probably shouldn’t admit that. The movie is pretty good and the book, of course, is better. Gut-wrenching, of course, but a very good read. By very good, I mean that you’ll want to kill both of the characters and pound your head against the wall in frustration. But, you’ll definitely be emotionally invested.

Something Borrowed, Emily Giffin – Not only was this the second book in a row I read because I was intrigued by the movie, but oddly enough, it’s the second in a row with a lead male character named Dexter. Which I don’t find to be a particularly romantic name, especially in light of Dexter. Besides the point. I’d never gotten around to reading Emily Giffin before and the book was a lot better than I’d thought it would be (also frustrating, see One Day, above).

Fly Away Home, Jennifer Weiner – Continuing my mission to catch up on JennWein’s books. Only one left! Well, till she publishes another… There are certain obvious inevitabilities in every one of Weiner’s books, but what amazes me about her writing is that once she establishes the (let’s face it, sometimes ridiculous) situations and the characters, she burrows in so deeply under their skin that it’s often frightening and uncomfortable, but always, she introduces us to not just fleshy, but fully fleshed-out women in modern circumstances.

Deadlock, Iris Johansen – Always ridiculous, Johansen books are nevertheless addicting. I don’t know why I can’t stop reading her. The books are almost impossible to distinguish from each other, the characters all one of maybe five stock types that Johansen relies upon (and almost all with the same voice). But, after all of that is said and done, I still read her books. This one is about the same, perhaps marginally better than usual as it follows an archeologist in a preposterous set of circumstances.

December

The Future of Us, Jay Asher + Carolyn Mackler -This story, about two friends who stumble upon Facebook in 1996, is brilliant, haunting. Facebook in this book is a (future) time capsule, a Ouiji board, a DeLorean, a time machine. It reminds me of Big (so therefore, also 13 Going On 30) and also, weirdly of Before I Fall. It’s a great book, like a classic 80s movie and I mean that as the highest compliment.

Blood Game, Iris Johansen – This one is an Eve Duncan book. Eve Duncan books are my least favorite of Iris Johansen’s, though she’s the character that really helped launch Johansen (who was writing romances decades ago). As annoying as Eve Duncan is to me, there was something about this book that made me determined to seek out the rest of the books, including the trilogy that hopefully concludes Eve Duncan’s story.

That’s all of my Q4 reading so far, but if I manage to finish the book I’ve been reading before midnight, I’ll be sure to add my review, to wrap up 2011’s reading…

Before I go, I should add that I was disgusted with the number of books I read last year (59) and I was determined to read more in 2011. I usually aim for 100 books a year and I managed 105 this year. But always, quality wins out over quality and this has been a great year for reading.

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Reading in Q1

Lately, reading has felt like my full-time job, so I’m going to make a quarterly report of the books I’ve read. I was so ashamed of the low number of books I read last year (59, my lowest in a decade) that I vowed to step it up this year. So far, I have.

Keep in mind that these are not ALL the books I’ve read, but most of them. As I continue to do this, I may sometimes leave off books I’ve reviewed for 225 or elsewhere, unless those reviews have already printed. Them’s the rules of this new game, but I think it will be fun.

January

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Steig Larsson – I feel satisfied to have concluded the series. I’m glad I read them, but I probably won’t feel the need to re-read. We’ll see. Only time will tell.

February

Dirty Little Angels, Chris Tusa – Read the 225 review here.

The Wavewalkers: Pirate Wars, Kai Meyer – This book was also the conclusion of a series, the second I’ve read by this German writer. They’re a lot of fun, full of remixed world mythology and fables, which I love and I was really happy with how this series ended.

12 Reasons Why I Love Her, Jamie S. Rich + Joelle Jones – This is a graphic novel that Maurice recommended and loaned me. I felt like it could’ve been meatier story wise, but there were a few glorious moments and I continue to be interested in how image and text work together.

March

House of Prayer No. 2, Mark Richard – Read the 225 review here.

Only the Good Spy Young and Heist Society, Ally Carter – I’ve loved Ally Carter’s girl spy series for a while, so it was really good to catch up and read the latest book. But I am OBSESSED with her new series that begins with Heist Society. I want another Heist Society book like NOW. It was soo clever and fun. If you’re reading this Ally Carter, feel free to send me an ARC of the next book anytime.

The Red Garden, Alice Hoffman – For some reason, I keep thinking I’ve grown out of my Alice Hoffman phase. But, it’s habit to pick up her latest book each time and she never disappoints me. I don’t know why I keep thinking that. I was disappointed in Hoffman’s Twitter fracas last year, since she’s been one of my absolute top favorite writers for years, but her books continue to be lovely and chilling and inspiring. Every time.

Across the Universe, Beth Revis – The morning after I finished this book, I woke up from a dream about it and reached for the book to continue reading, only to remember I’d finished reading it a few hours before. I was so disappointed not have more of the book to read for the first time. I really loved the new world created here. It was absolutely tragic and interesting and cool.

Whip It, Shauna Cross – I really loved Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut Whip It, with Ellen Page, so I’ve been wanting to read the book that inspired it, formerly titled Derby Girl. I can totally see why Drew was inspired to make a movie because the character of Bliss just SCREAMS out from these pages, so funny and funky. It was a fun book and inspired a really good movie version.

Like Pickle Juice on a  Cookie, Julie Sternberg – Read the 225 review here.

Peter and the Sword of Mercy, Dave Barry + Ridley Pearson – I love this series a lot. It started off as an origin series about how Peter became the Peter Pan we know and love. They finished the series and I love that they listened to their readers and wrote this book for us, continuing the story. The last line made me cry big time. So perfect.

Dinner with Tennessee Williams, Troy Gilbert, Chef Greg Picolo and Dr. W. Kenneth Holditch – Read the 225 review here.

Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater – Another book that I got absolutely obsessed with. I ordered the sequel online before I’d finished it because I was consuming this book at such a rapid pace and the Borders by my house was closing and no longer had a copy. I’m not as engrossed by the sequel so far, but I love how innovative this first book is.

How the Hangman Lost His Heart, K.M. Grant – This is one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. That should tell you something. I loved, loved, loved K.M. Grant’s de Granville trilogy so passionately that I immediately bought an entire set for my sister, who is the mother of a toddler, and bugged her till she read them. So I’ve been searching for this stand-alone book ever since I heard about it. My library finally got a copy and it was not what I was expecting. Well, honestly, I don’t know that I could’ve expected this book. Who could? It’s a really surprising and clever adventure story about a stubborn girl who convinces people to risk their lives and their families to help her. And what mission are they helping her fulfill? She’s determined to rescue her uncle’s severed head from where it has been displayed after he was executed for treason. The story is based on K.M. Grant’s ancestor, who was the last man in England hanged, drawn and quartered. Did I mention it’s a book for young readers? I really love the renaissance literature for young people is undergoing.

I know I used the word “love” a lot in this post. I’ve decided you’ll forgive me because there are some really awesome books in my quarterly reading report. Check them out!

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