Recently Read Books!

This is a list of the books I read in 2008, with a few of my thoughts on each.

Go here for 2007's list! Go here for 2009's list!
Go here for the jump-off point of all the years I've been recording my reading list, separated by year!

12/31/08 Eoin Colfer
I liked the main character, and I thought the complexity and darkness of the plot was appropriate for the intended audience. I've still not liked any of Colfer's books as much as I like Artemis Fowl, but even when it's not the author's best characters and situations, I always think he does a great job building full and complete characters with believable situations. The culture of the Saltee islands and Conor's childhood and transfer to a different mindset after a traumatic event were all very realistic in the context.
12/10/08 Jerry Spinelli
Love, Stargirl
I loved the first one--it was about Stargirl from the point of view of Leo, her boyfriend--but if possible I loved this one more because it was about Stargirl from the point of view of STARGIRL! I read the first book because a friend said Stargirl reminded her of me, and in a way I agree. This book made me more sure of that--I recognize this character in myself and I relate to her on nearly every level (though I don't like pets, so a pet rat is right out). I LOVED watching her give herself permission to explore love in different ways. I LOVED watching her involve herself in meditation and experience nature in her special way. And I especially loved the way she took meaning in small things, had such a good heart, and wrestled with her feelings without ever seeming to be dishonest with herself.
12/3/08 Dale E. Basye
Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go
I don't understand. What are the children doing in Heck? It's like no one ever actually worked this out. "Yeah they are just kids so they go to Heck, not Hell, and then they have to go to school." To do what? When does this circle assigning they mentioned actually happen, and why are they going to school beforehand? Is there a point to only feeding them really gross stuff? Are they just being punished, or are they being rehabilitated? That's never really clear. Well, what was really going on was two kids are going to repeatedly try and fail to escape Heck (um, by getting to the surface?), and it's funny to watch them get buried in sewage, while going along the way making weak literary references (to stuff kids won't see until they hit high school) and cracking jokes about Watergate and Typhoid Mary (that kids don't get on their own but don't receive enough info in the book to want to research it). And at the end nothing has been proven, nothing has been revealed, no one has grown as a character, and little has been resolved. The book kind of bewildered me.
11/6/08 Jaclyn Moriarty
The Year of Secret Assignments
Another of Ms. Moriarty's books that took place entirely within the confines of written documents: E-mails, memos, court records, and--most importantly--pen pal letters. It was pretty good, though I thought that some of the ways things tied up were a little too orchestrated. I know the action was a bit stifled by the requirement that it take place in written records, but I really missed actually seeing the characters interact with each other--it made me feel more like I was listening to someone tell me about what happened instead of watching it happen, and I guess that's inevitable when an author chooses this sort of format. However, these three girls who get assigned to write pen pal letters to students at another school have distinct personalities that are reinforced by their writing styles and their mentions of life events. I thought the evolution of the relationships between two of the three girls and the boys at the rival school were pretty clever (and it's nice that they don't always get along--they fight and misunderstand and lie to each other just like real high school couples would), and I was actually feeling some residual pain when the third girl had her feelings stomped on by the big fakey-fake pen pal when she was already hurting from some very real bereavement in her life. As an aside, I really liked the character Lydia wanting to become a writer and being "tutored" by an amazingly LAME how-to book, and I enjoyed the concept of the Secret Assignments.
10/26/08 Wally Lamb
She's Come Undone
Everyone was always saying how shocking it was that Lamb managed to write a woman so convincingly, and I loved his other book I Know This Much Is True, so maybe my huge expectation to be WOWED contributed to my disappointment on this one. I liked it but didn't love it, and didn't always find main character Dolores incredibly convincing. There were times when she seemed very real, but overall I wasn't overly sympathetic because she seemed kinda nasty to people when I didn't see reason for it. I liked her travel through therapy and the fact that she wasn't perfect, though, and her epiphanies were interesting. I liked that there wasn't a happy ending with a bow on it even though she was basically okay at the end, and I was really cheering for her when she stood up to some of the abuse she got.
9/30/08 Riichiro Inagaki and Yusuke Murata
Eyeshield 21, Volume 21
I think my favorite thing about this one was "Hiruma vs. the Kongo brothers." Well, let's be honest--I like anything that has Hiruma in it. The best devil quarterback ever. :D Anyway, suck on that, Shinryuuji. Agon needs a kick in the teeth and there's no one better to give it to him than Sena Kobayakawa. And I really enjoyed Yukimitsu's debut, especially Ikkyu's reaction to him.
9/8/08 Shannon Hale
Princess Academy
It seems like a simple idea--the prince has to choose a bride from amongst a group of appropriately-aged but rough mountain girls, and they must become educated to be proper princesses--but I was impressed at how this book ended up being a lot more than just the answer to "which girl will be chosen?" Miri and her classmates' culture on Mount Eskel is well-thought-out and realistic; the "quarry-speech" is a neat idea that is uncovered for the reader's discovery through the main character's realistic lack of experience with it; the predictable nature of a few of the events is easily overshadowed by the enjoyability of watching it all play out. It was great to see a girl who thinks herself weak and useless transform herself through education and courage into a strong and helpful person without making it seem like it'd all be a waste if she didn't get chosen as the princess. Miri's relationships with her classmates, her teacher, and her family were all very realistic and interesting . . . especially the in-fighting between the girls, the alliances and feuds carried between them, and the transformations that occurred on all fronts. I loved that Miri often became conflicted about what she wanted; it's so rare in children's literature that authors respect their audience and their characters enough to give them layers and personality facets as if they are real people.
8/28/08 Melina Marchetta
Looking for Alibrandi
All through the reading of this book, I felt like the author hadn't been able to decide quite what she was writing; is this a teen's journal or is it a first-person narration book? Every chapter seemed to address some subject of the main character's life, and mostly they seemed really disconnected. I didn't think the writing was smooth at all, though it wasn't because it was trying to imitate a teen's voice. I liked some of the concepts, but overall it just seemed like there was a pattern of "stuff happens to Josie, Josie reacts, later Josie has a thought about it that might or might not relate to other crap in her life." There was a lot of inconsistency with regards to style--for instance, the Italian grandmother who doesn't speak smooth English sometimes has her accent highlighted with alternate spelling and sometimes it's just dropped and written normally. It just seemed so random sometimes, and there were very unlikely events in it (like the main character breaking a classmate's nose for calling her a "wog," even though she'd never had any predisposition for violence before or since). The relationships seemed forced and unresolved and just very . . . very much like the book was a collection of thoughts on a first-draft level. When I looked deep I could feel the issues Josie had, and the most interesting thing about it for me was the way it highlighted the experience an Italian-Australian has in Australian society, but overall I found it difficult to get into.
8/2/08 Daniel Waters
Generation Dead
On this one I felt like the author avoided a lot of the important details of worldbuilding just to skip right to the fun part: Dealing with the societal implications of something weird (in this case, teenagers who come back to life after they've already died). The whole "Yeah, scientists can't figure out what's going on, but let's send the zombies to school anyway!" thing really bugged me. The author's character interaction was pretty good, though, and I liked how two of the main characters (Phoebe and Adam) handled their dual confusion about their relationships with friends, romantic partners, and each other.
7/18/08 Eoin Colfer
Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox
Book 6 is out! This time we've got Artemis going back in time to try to save a lemur. Well, really, to save the lemur because it is part of a cure to save his sick mother. But that's a bit difficult when there's a version of him (and his bodyguard) in the past and they're NOT on elder Artemis's side. And I do have to say one thing: The relationship between Artemis and Holly has come a LOOOOOOONG way, dear lord. As always, Eoin Colfer has wowed me with his wonderful characters and the way the plot doubles up on itself.
7/10/08 Riichiro Inagaki and Yusuke Murata
Eyeshield 21, Volume 20
Realized I didn't have this one and it was out, so I bought it and read it on the way to the mall, making this the second day in a row I read this manga while traveling. What a great story. It was the Shinryuuji game . . . and the book ended before the game did. That's such crap!
7/9/08 Riichiro Inagaki and Yusuke Murata
Eyeshield 21, Volumes 18 and 19
Read both of these as entertainment for the bus ride to the mall and back. These covered the Devil Bats vs. the Bando Spiders. Indeed, no one would witness a game like this and say the kicking team isn't important. o_O Musashi vs. Koutaro. What a ride. And Sena introducing himself without hiding behind his title is awesome. Not to mention the mysterious phone call to one of Hiruma's cell phones and the awesome follow-ups with the naming of the MVP and hilarious bath house scenes . . . Mizumachi is hilarious. . . .
7/5/08 Jeffrey Eugenides
My friend Jessie wrote about how much she loved this book (and compared its through-the-generations epic-ness to my book Bad Fairy), so I decided to read it. Holy smokes! Eugenides is a fantastic storyteller, and the realistic bits and pieces of an unusual person's usual life were touching and intriguing. I love the concept of having to go back into family history to really figure out who you are, and I liked the narrator Cal's rationale on why he did not want to continue being Calliope. The storytelling style was the biggest attraction for me. I loved it.
6/7/08 Carl Hiaasen
The Downhill Lie
I like Carl Hiaasen's novels, so I picked this up to read about his personal descent into golf hell. Just like his adult novels and his children's books, his narrative is enjoyable, and even though I don't play golf I got a big kick out of it! Now that I've read it I want to give it to my dad for Father's Day because he does play golf.
5/13/08 Lemony Snicket
Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid
Being that I loved A Series of Unfortunate Events, I decided to use a coupon on this collection of Lemony Snicket's advice. It is all in the same sort of politely-phrased and wildly depressing style as the Baudelaire Books were. I was very pleased . . . and even got good advice out of it!
5/5/08 Shannon Hale
River Secrets
Finally got around to reading this book I got as a gift. I had liked the first two in this "Books of Bayern" series, and was reminded again by this book how wonderful Hale's writing style is. She has an easy style that is so eloquent without seeming like it's trying to be, and I'm surprised at how well she gets into people's heads considering she writes in third person. This book about Razo was endearing and interesting. I love her characters and the reality of their personalities.
3/26/08 Jaclyn Moriarty
The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie
Jeaux told me I needed to read this, and I am grateful. It was quite good, and the ending was really unexpected! For literally the first seven eighths of the book I thought it was a normal sort of teen novel in which a rather unusual, socially awkward, brainy girl learns that she--gasp--really is a teenager after all. And that was good by itself, but then something else happens. Man, I liked it, and it managed to NOT be annoying even though the whole thing was transcripts, e-mails, and written communication of various sorts. I recommend it, and I hope to read the other stuff by this author.
1/13/08 Aya Nakahara
Love*Com Volume 1
I received this manga as a holiday gift from Mike. I have seen the anime and thought the comic version was way cute, but Otani is drawn so girly you sometimes forget he's a boy! And they make a big deal about Risa being 5'7"--that's gargantuan, apparently. Go fig.

Go here for 2007's list! Go here for 2009's list!
Go here for the jump-off point of all the years I've been recording my reading list, separated by year!

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