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Books I Read in January 2011

I used to keep a record of all the books I read, and I liked being able to look back and remember, so I thought I'd start doing that again in 2011. These are the books I've read so far this year:

Jennifer Echols, Forget You: "There’s a lot Zoey would like to forget. Like how her father has knocked up his twenty-four- year old girlfriend. Like Zoey’s fear that the whole town will find out about her mom’s nervous breakdown. Like darkly handsome bad boy Doug taunting her at school. Feeling like her life is about to become a complete mess, Zoey fights back the only way she knows how, using her famous attention to detail to make sure she’s the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect girlfriend to ultra-popular football player Brandon. But then Zoey is in a car crash, and the next day there’s one thing she can’t remember at all—the entire night before. Did she go parking with Brandon, like she planned? And if so, why does it seem like Brandon is avoiding her? And why is Doug—of all people— suddenly acting as if something significant happened between the two of them? Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her. Controlled, meticulous Zoey is quickly losing her grip on the all-important details of her life—a life that seems strangely empty of Brandon, and strangely full of Doug." -- from Amazon.com
My thoughts: Basic teen romance fluff.


Patricia A. McKillip, Solstice Wood: "World Fantasy Award–winner McKillip revisits the setting of her masterful novel Winter Rose (1996) in this compelling contemporary fantasy. Summoned home for her grandfather's funeral, Sylvia Lynn arrives with the intention of leaving as soon as possible. Once there, however, she feels the treacherous pull of the old house, the shadowy forest around it and the otherworldly beings who live there. Sylvia's grandmother introduces her to the Fiber Guild, women who meet once a month to sew the magical barriers that protect Lynn Hall from the fay, "a cold, loveless, dangerous people." But the hall's protective magic has weakened, leaving Sylvia—both mortal and faery herself—vulnerable as "the bridge across the boundaries" between the two worlds. Can generations of mistrust and long-hoarded secrets yield to a truce, let alone a new understanding and even trust between faery and human? Though McKillip has traded her usual lyrical style for a sparser approach, she doesn't stint on characterization, mood or mystery in this multilayered tale." -- from Amazon.com
My thoughts: At first, I had difficulty adjusting to McKillip's writing style here, as it is drastically different from that in Winter Rose (to which this book is a loose sequel), but in the end I enjoyed it quite a bit. I still prefer her more lyrical novels, but this more modern novel did not disappoint me.


Gayle Forman, If I Stay: "The last normal moment that Mia, a talented cellist, can remember is being in the car with her family. Then she is standing outside her body beside their mangled Buick and her parents' corpses, watching herself and her little brother being tended by paramedics. As she ponders her state (Am I dead? I actually have to ask myself this), Mia is whisked away to a hospital, where, her body in a coma, she reflects on the past and tries to decide whether to fight to live. Via Mia's thoughts and flashbacks, Forman (Sisters in Sanity) expertly explores the teenager's life, her passion for classical music and her strong relationships with her family, friends and boyfriend, Adam." -- from Amazon.com
My thoughts: Okay, I *totally* love this book. This was the second time I'd read it on loan from the library, and I may eventually buy my own copy. I like how the novel explores the main character's rich inner life, her questions about her own identity, her relationships with others as expressed through her memories, etc. Plus, it made me cry both times I read it, and I'm generally quite fond of a book that can make me cry.


Keith Donohue, The Stolen Child: "Folk legends of the changeling serve as a touchstone for Donohue's haunting debut, set vaguely in the American northeast, about the maturation of a young man troubled by questions of identity. At age seven, Henry Day is kidnapped by hobgoblins and replaced by a look-alike impostor. In alternating chapters, each Henry relates the tale of how he adjusts to his new situation. Human Henry learns to run with his hobgoblin pack, who never age but rarely seem more fey than a gang of runaway teens. Hobgoblin Henry develops his uncanny talent for mimicry into a music career and settles into an otherwise unremarkable human life. Neither Henry feels entirely comfortable with his existence, and the pathos of their losses influences all of their relationships and experiences. Inevitably, their struggles to retrieve their increasingly forgotten pasts put them on paths that intersect decades later. Donohue keeps the fantasy as understated as the emotions of his characters, while they work through their respective growing pains. The result is an impressive novel of outsiders whose feelings of alienation are more natural than supernatural." -- from Amazon.com
My thoughts: Apparently, this is Donohue's first novel, and I find that pretty impressive. The writing is vivid -- both sensorily and emotionally -- and the characters are complex. Donohue explores the issue of identity, of what makes us who we are, in depth. I thought it was really interesting.


Siobhan Vivian, Not That Kind of Girl: "Despite its chic-lit packaging, bubbly style, and sophomoric jokes, this is a smart feminist novel. The story sheds light on some unfinished business of the women's movement: where sex is concerned, girls are still either 'good' or 'bad,' while boys are allowed more nuance. Outraged by these double standards, Natalie, president of the student council, organizes a Girl Summit, an 'empowerment symposium' for female students. As she flounders in leadership, she wonders: Can I ask for help? From a cute boy, Connor? The quintessential 'good girl,' Natalie is more complex than she appears. Indeed, all of Vivian's characters are recognizable types and human at the same time. The dialogue and emotional honesty are pitch-perfect. Natalie and Connor's love scenes are as steamy and fraught as anything in Judy Blume's Forever (Bradbury, 1975). The overall message of the novel is that sex is joyful and should be embraced–but it is ever complicated. In Natalie's effort to be an independent woman who refuses to be used by a man, she inadvertently uses Connor. Clearly, gender relations have a long way to go–especially in high school. This protagonist is the perfect representation of a conflicted 21st-century feminist teen. Readers will cheer for her epiphany at the end: 'I just needed to be okay with all the kinds of girl I was.'" -- from Amazon.com
My thoughts: This book was a lot smarter than I expected, focusing less on romance and more on teen female identity and how it is determined both from within and from without.


Carrie Jones, Entice: This is the third novel in Jones's "Need" series, which follows a teenage girl and her friends through a battle with evil pixies. This particular novel is described thus: "Zara and Nick are soul mates, meant to be together forever. But that's not quite how things have worked out. For starters, well, Nick is dead. Supposedly, he's been taken to a mythic place for warriors known as Valhalla, so Zara and her friends might be able to get him back. But it's taking time, and meanwhile a group of evil pixies is devastating Bedford, with more teens going missing every day. An all-out war seems imminent, and the good guys need all the warriors they can find. But how to get to Valhalla? And even if Zara and her friends discover the way, there's that other small problem: Zara's been pixie kissed. When she finds Nick, will he even want to go with her? Especially since she hasn't turned into just any pixie. . . She's Astley's queen." -- from Amazon.com
My thoughts: I've been really looking forward to this book, enough so that I've been following the author's LJ (carriejones) since reading the previous book in the series. It's your basic modern fantasy story, but I find the characters and the plot to be surprisingly fresh.


Louise Erdrich, Four Souls: "Fleur Pillager, one of Erdrich's most intriguing characters, embarks on a path of revenge in this continuation of the Ojibwe saga that began with Tracks. As a young woman, Fleur journeys from her native North Dakota to avenge the theft of her land. In Minneapolis, she locates the grand house of the thief: one John James Mauser, whom she plans to kill. But Fleur is patient and stealthy; she gets herself hired by Mauser's sister-in-law, Polly Elizabeth, as a laundress. Polly acts as the household manager, tending to the invalid Mauser as well as her sister, the flaky and frigid Placide. Fleur upends this domestic arrangement by ensnaring Mauser, who marries her in a desperate act of atonement. Revenge becomes complicated as Fleur herself suffers under its weight: she descends into alcoholism and gives birth to an autistic boy. In Erdrich's trademark style, chapters are narrated by alternating characters—in this case Polly Elizabeth, as well as Nanapush, the elderly man from Tracks, and his wife, Margaret. (Nanapush and Margaret's relationship, and the jealousies and revenge that ensue, play out as a parallel narrative.)" -- from Amazon.com
My thoughts: I'm a big Erdrich fan, and Shannon and I have been working our way through her novels by reading them aloud together. Shannon does a *fabulous* Nanapush voice. I wasn't terribly fond of Tracks (without which this book makes basically no sense), but I found Four Souls both funny and touching, often surprising (as Erdrich's books so often are), and often deeply meaningful.


I expect to read more books before the end of the month, but I'll just add to this entry. Right now, I'm a few pages into Ruth Nichols' children's novel A Walk Out of the World, which I haven't read since I was 9 or 10 years old. I checked it out of the library repeatedly in elementary school, and the illustrations all look as familiar as if I'd seen them last week, so I'm curious to see whether the book itself sucks or not. Sometimes you revisit those books you loved as a child and find that they are embarrassingly bad.

ETA:

Ruth Nichols, A Walk Out of the World

Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Played with Fire

Ellen Rogers, Kasey to the Rescue: The Remarkable Story of a Monkey and a Miracle

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
paceisthetrick
Jan. 20th, 2011 04:01 am (UTC)
Wow! You're an awesome reader. ;)

I was thinking about reading "If I Stay". I keep seeing it and thinking of it. Hmm...
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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