01 November 2012

Last Month in Review: October 2012

Princess Elizabeth's Spy

Audio books and some vacation reading make this month's reading list longer than usual, despite reading very little in the second half of the month; most of the physical books listed were read in the first half of the month and some of them begun quite some time ago. In chronological order:

1. This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz.  Started this one back in the summer and lost my copy of the book.  Found it just in time to get it signed when Diaz read at my bookstore.  The next day he was awarded the MacArthur genius award, and shortly after that, this book was shortlisted for the National Book Award.  I think Yunior is, perhaps, in ascendence.

2. Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes (yes, as in that Downton Abbey guy). This was a long-ass audio book that took me over a month to complete. Good reader, pretty good story, though I'd have preferred it to be edited down quite a bit. A richer-than-Bill-Gates berk on his deathbed asks an old college chum to track down all of his former lovers from his university days to see if they might have borne his children. He's dying without any, you see, and thus wants to pass his humongous fortune on to somebody. There's a lot of talk alluding to the big bad that happened in Portugal back in the day, so when we finally get to the scene near the end of the book, it's mostly a let-down. Still, if you like reading about Britain's upper class (and if you watch Downton Abbey, presumably you do), this is worth a go. Fellowes has the perfect turn of phrase every now & again that makes reading this worthwhile.

3. Safekeeping by Karen Hesse. This is a YA book I read on vacation. Review here.

4. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. This is another book I read on vacation, and though it's for adults, it pretty much read like a YA. Review here.

5. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison. Definitely NOT a YA book, but still read on vacation. Review here.

6. The Dinner by Herman Koch. Man, was this book ever good. Totally sneaked up on me, which was easy to do as the copy I read was an advanced reading copy with not even one sentence dedicated to plot summary.  Came in to it blind and was therefore blindsided. Review here.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore7. Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. This was my favorite book of the month. Fun romps through the history of bookmaking, from the incunabula to e-books, with secret societies and code breaking thrown in for good measure. Plus, the cover actually glows in the dark. Review here. . M

8. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. Alas, couldn't quite finish this one, but since I read over 200 pages of it, it counts. McEwan is one of those writers I wish I could like but I somehow just cannot. Book started off great then quickly petered out. And as for the big reveals that come at the end of every one of his books, most of the time I don't care enough to give a damn.  Too bad, as I think he's an excellent writer and fine stylist.

9. Love is a Canoe by Ben Schrank. You know how sometimes you keep reading a book because you just know it's about to get better?  This was that book for me, except it didn't. There is almost nothing I can find to praise about this book. The characters were largely two dimensional, the dialogue was stilted, and other than the sections immediately dealing with infidelity or job anxiety, very little felt realistic to me. I think I mostly kept reading because (1) the book was published by FSG, a publisher whom I usually respect, and (2) the author is involved with Razorbill.

10. Fairytale Interrupted by RoseMarie Terenzio. One of my sales reps passed this audio book to me and I finally gave it a shot.  As someone who had almost no interest or knowledge of JFK Jr. (I'm not sure the "master of your domain" episode from Seinfeld counts), much less Caroline Bessette, I didn't think I would like it much but it was okay. Read by the author, who is far from professional, but it did give it that my-girlfriend-is-dishing kind of feel.

11. Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal. Sequel to Mr. Churchill's Secretary. Lots of fun, though once the U-Boat hits center stage, it stretched beyond even my credulity.

12. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. This is a YA audio book that a friend let me borrow since I'd loved the author's other book, Revolution. Although I felt it ended rather abruptly, this was a great story and a good audio production, read by Hope Davis.

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic NovelA Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Hope Larson. Loved the original book as a child and thought this was a decent adaptation, though I wasn't crazy about the illustrations or the palette.

14. Nocturne by Dutchy. This is a novel-length Harry Potter fanfic. It's a darker one than the kind I usually read, set after Voldemort's victory, featuring HG/SS. Generally well written and very satisfying overall. You can read it here if you're interested. 


  1. Impressive range of books! I've heard lots of buzz for Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore -- I need to get it -- and I'm probably going to pass on Sweet Tooth b/c I am just not a MacEwan fan no matter how hard I try!

  2. Mr. Penumbra's is on my list already but just got bumped up a notch (glow in the dark cover!!;)

  3. Several of the books on my "read list" are from your recommendations....please keep it up.

  4. I'm sorry you didn't love the Wrinkle in Time graphic novel. I feel like that book would have so much potential in that form!


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