Tag Archives: Jenny Han

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 Q3 – September

My reading tapered off a bit this month as my time became more invested in orchestrating Yeah, You Write (among other things), but I read some wonderful books during September.

Best Friends Forever, Jennifer Weiner – At some point, Jennifer Weiner started writing and publishing books faster than I could read them, so this was me beginning to catch up. When I picked it up, I wasn’t terribly excited about the premise of the story. I dreaded reading about a formerly fat woman who’s been a doormat for her more glamorous best friend most of her life. But I quickly became absorbed in Weiner’s humor and the complicated, identifiable characters she presents.

Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver – This one was so lovely and so frustrating. You know right from the beginning that the main character dies in a car accident. She somehow gets stuck in a Groundhog Day loop, reliving her last day several times and approaching each version of the same day with a different mindset and goal, sometimes trying to change her fate and sometimes resigned to it.  Heartbreaking and gorgeous.

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman – I listened to the audio version of Coraline a few months ago and when I returned it to the library, one of the librarians recommended this one, also read by Gaiman himself. I’m so glad she did because I liked this one even better. Loosely based on The Jungle Book, this story is about Nobody Owens, who is adopted as a baby by a family of ghosts and raised in a graveyard. It fun and sad and adventurous and clever and Neil Gaiman is such a good narrator.

Crossed, Ally Condie – This book was immediately different from the book it follows, Matched. The continuing story of Cassia, her match Xander and Ky, the boy she has fallen in love with against the predetermination of The Society, this follow-up is told in alternating chapters from both Cassia and Ky’s points of view. They are now in the Outer Provinces, Ky exiled to die and Cassia outwitting The Society in order to find him. The environment in Matched was lush, with increasing menace. Crossed starts out menacing, parched, with glimmers of hope like mirages across the desert.

It’s Not Summer Without You, Jenny Han – This is the second book in an addicting trilogy. I’ve had to utilize all of my library cards (3 cities, 2 different states) in order to find all of the books, but it’s been worth it. This second one amps up the melodrama and the emotional stakes in the complicated friendship/relationship of Belly and the two Fisher boys – Conrad and Jeremiah. Jenny Han is an exceptional writer who can make the most stereotypical and melodramatic of plots fascinating and new, filling them with characters it’s impossible not to care about. Smart, funny and romantic.

I Am Number Four, Pittacus Lore – I was intrigued by the movie, which happens more often than I should probably admit. This book was just atrociously written, but there was something compelling about it that not only made me finish it but request the sequel from the library. The story is interesting, even if the writing is dull and heavy-handed. Most of the characters are pretty one-note and flat and several of them could have been collapsed into one, but I was interested by the world that was built.

Knowing Your Value, Mika Brzezinski – A while back, Maurice showed me a clip of Morning Joe and I was disgruntled by Mika Brzezinkski’s on-air persona. Admittedly, I was basing my annoyance on one twenty minute clip, but the men on the show talked over her constantly and when she did speak, it was to say cheerleader-ish things like, “I read your blogs – they’re so awesome!” A few weeks later, Maurice sent me the link to a second clip of Morning Joe where Mika discussed her new book, Knowing Your Value, where she uses her own negotiating mistakes and interviews with other powerful and successful women to illustrate that women are often their own worst enemies in negotiating salaries and benefits. I saw Mika in a new light and knew I had to read her book. It hit home quite a lot and changed my perceptions of situations I have been in and will be in again. Highly recommended – not just for women, but for men, too. Everyone should read it to better understand negotiation and how women and men deal with, and perceive,  each other in business.

So that’s my September reading, which finishes out the third quarter in my reading report. It’s be interesting to see what books the last quarter of the year brings into my life!

[11.2.11 Update: Interestingly enough, ironically, I accidentally tagged Mika Brzezinski as “Mike Brezezinkski.” Sheesh, subconscious. It’s now fixed.]

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Reading in Q3 – August

I really picked up the reading pace this month, making up for lost time and visiting the library a lot. Whenever I’m between movie gigs and freelancing, reading and library visits are two of my favorite things.

Dead as a Doornail, Definitely Dead, All Together Dead, From Dead to Worse, Dead and Gone, Dead in the Family, Dead Reckoning, Charlaine Harris – I’m taking something of a reading vacation for myself and breezing through these books in 2-3 days each. Definitely Dead was a bit confusing in some places, especially at the beginning with the timing. Something pretty interesting happened in the gap between books and Sookie mentions Bill was with her when it happened, so that was a bit strange to me. I’ve been loving the series so much that I’m actually becoming increasingly disappointed with True Blood and how much it’s veered away from the plots and characters of the books. Trying to enjoy the books and the show as two separate things, though I was incredibly disappointed with the Season 4 finale. I don’t know if I’ll keep watching the show.

The Southern Cross, Skip Horack – My review will be published in 225 Magazine. Link coming soon. here.

Twenty Boy Summer, Sarah Ockler – I specifically requested this book from the library after reading about it being banned. The description of the book sounded really good and the reasons for it being banned were so incredibly dumb, so I was intrigued. I’ve so rarely read a book that addressed grief so well, especially grief processed by a teen. It really resonated with my own experiences and relationships growing up, and then also with things I’ve only experienced now, as an adult.

The Devil She Knows, Bill Loehfelm – My review is upcoming in 225 Magazine. Link to come.

Bumped, Megan McCafferty – Really fascinating look at a very possible reality where teenage girls are the only ones who can conceive and so become the most important people on the planet. Up until they’re about 19. Really says a lot of powerful, interesting things about our tech-addicted society, the marketplace, relationships, growing up, all of those things. I’m increasingly impressed with not just the books that are available for teens, but the teens themselves for being such a hungry audience for these extraordinary books.

Matched, Ally Condie – And this one just blew me away. Set in a “perfect” future society that orchestrates every detail of the lives of its citizens — their meals based on ideal caloric intake, their deaths on the their 70th birthday, their jobs and their “matches” — it really demolishes the idea of perfection. This Utopia has selected 100 of the greatest paintings, songs, poems, etc. and banished the rest, a form of banning so extensive that it’s terrifying. There is no new art, no new creative thought. Citizens don’t even know how to write with their own hands, only how to select words to form messages, a cut-and-paste method. The teen characters in this book are so hungry for choice that unauthorized poems become a way of communicating connection, love, secrets and history and learning to write your name by hand becomes an enormous act of rebellion. This book has a lot in common with Fahrenheit 451 (as well as 1984), but is so cleverly wrapped up in juicy, romantic melodrama. And the most haunting thing is that the future depicted here is not at all unlikely or very far away.

The Summer I Turned Pretty, Jenny Han – Swoon. This was a just delicious teen romance set during the summer, but written so very, very well. I loved Jenny Han’s Shug and I knew I’d love this series, too. Belly, the main character, was so vivid and ferocious in her desires and uncertainties that it was impossible not to completely fall for her and identify with her. And then it turns out the book is so much more than “just” a lighthearted teen romance and I’d gotten so beautifully conned into reading a deeply emotional book about families and friendships. I had to read the next two books as quickly as I could, but my local library didn’t have them. Good thing I have a library card in three cities and two states…

The War of Art, Steven Pressfield – This book kicked my ass. It’s a drill sergeant of a book, but also calm and encouraging. It’s a short book, often with just a little text on each page. But I read it s l o w l y because each page kinda punched me in the gut. I read passages aloud to my friends, fellow writers and artists, and they never failed to kind of gasp after I finished, cause they’d gotten punched in the gut too. I can’t recommend this book enough. I actually kept it out from the library because I want to re-read it.

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