First Quarter Book List

Here’s the books I read for the first quarter of the year. Please let it be known I am only partially copying Janssen. I’ve always wanted to keep track of the books I’ve read, so that part I didn’t copy, but she did give me the idea to try to read 150 books this year.  Looks like I need to step up my game if I’m going to make that goal, although I did have a few reads that bogged me down this quarter.

1. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name – good, but odd.  The Finnish history parts were fascinating.

2.  The Market – Eh.  I didn’t hate it, I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think I’d recommend it to other people, mainly based on the fact that I read it in January and can barely remember anything about it.

3. Motley Crue:  The Dirt – Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band – Seriously? I was looking forward to reading this book so much and after all that it was just SO boring.  Five pages in you had already heard ad nauseum about how disgusting the band members were and the rest of the book was just more of the same.  You can only hear about Tommy Lee peeing all over a couch so many times before it’s just not that fascinating.

4. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks – Now, I try not to be classist in my book reading.  I subscribe to the “even bad books are books and are therefore sacred” theory of literature.  But really, with the way that the book industry works lately, I really do think there are three distinct classes of young adult fiction out there.  On the bottom of the rung are the fluffy formulaic books churned out on a regular basis for teenage girls – the straight to video novels of the teen book world.  Then there’s a whole class of really good young adult books, like the stuff Sarah Dessen writes.  Great books, but still not something that transcends the genre.  Not something I would recommend to my mom, for example.  Then there are the books that are so fabulous that they transcend categories, and that everyone should read.  There are very few of these books out there – for me these are books like Walk Two Moons, Stargirl, Charlotte’s Web.  Things like that.  And The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks is one of those books as well.  It’s one of my favorite books of all time, if nothing more than because it single handedly restored my faith in humanity, writing, and teenage girls, all at the same time.  Perfection.

4. Skim – I liked this, but it took a tangent half way through that I wasn’t expecting and that I found somewhat bizarre.

5. A Free Life – So insanely slow and long.  I wanted to love it and the writing was fabulous but after 300 pages of nothing happening, it just got old.

6. So Brave, Young, and Handsome – This wasn’t one of those books I could just fly through. I had to make myself return to it. But holy wah, was it ever good.  The writing was like nothing I personally could ever put to a page, the plot twists surprised me. It was really fabulous. I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone.  Favorite adult book of the year so far, hands down.

7. When You are Engulfed In Flames – My favorite David Sedaris book is Naked, and nothing he has written since has come close for me.  This wasn’t my least favorite, but overall it was just eh.

8. Graceling – Halfway through this book took a weird romance novel turn for the worse, and it couldn’t recover.

9. A Curse As Dark As Gold – not a fan. Way too fairy taley for me.

10.  The Clothes on Their Backs – depressing as hell and not very memorable.  Well written though.

11.  Absolute Brightness – I have no memory of this book. None whatsoever.  Better look it up.  Oh, yep, got it.  Way too heavy handed with the message.  Not a fan of the “moral message” YA novel, no matter how well written it is.

12.  Down Came the Rain – Not bad for a celebrity novel.  I’m glad I read it, if only because it described SO intensely and with such great detail what postpartum depression is like, which made it really obvious that I didn’t have it.

13.  American Wife – Curtis Sittenfeld is one of my favorite authors writing today.  She’ll put words down on paper that literally take my breath away.  This book took me forever to read because I was focusing in one how great her writing is and reading certain phrases over and over again.  That being said, the first half of this was much better than the second, and I wish it hadn’t had that weird fiction/fact overlap going on. I found it distracting. She doesn’t need those sorts of tricks to write a great book.   So amazingly written, but still not as good as Prep.

14.  Tex – I liked it, but I found the main character a tad irritating.

15.  High Dive – I have no memory of this book either.  Oh.  Eh.  Not terrible, but not notable, I’d say.

16.  Shift – Again, eh.  Not terrible, not fabulous.

17.  Savvy – I liked this book, I think it just skewed a little young compared to what I normally read, and I felt like it went a little long.  It was no Walk Two Moons, for sure.

18.  Look Me In the Eye – Hmmmm.  I wanted to like this book, and I tried to get over the fact that I found the author’s tone unnapealing, since in theory he can’t help it (he has Asperger’s).  But it just wasn’t that interesting to hear about his work as a sound tech or how he was good at designing computer games.  It wasn’t so much that the author was annoying as that he was also boring. I can forgive annoying, but not boring.

19.  Fleshmarket Alley – A random mystery my mom sent me.  (Since she travels all the time, she buys el crap load of books from airport bookstores and then she sends them to me in giant book rate boxes.  Which is awesome, even though they all tend to fall in that “airport book store” genre. This was one of those books. )

20.  Jellicoe Road -  I really really liked this.  I loved the tone of voice and the romance and the main characters and all the crazy plot twists and the weird game that was the framework for the book.  However, Mr. E hated it and thought I was crazy to be so into it.  So who knows.

21.  Hurry Down Sunshine – Told by a father after his daughter suffers a break with reality and has to be checked into a mental institution.  I liked it, even though it was not what I was expecting and was sort of odd.  There were a lot of of loose ends – he worries about their crushing medical bills since they don’t have insurance, and wonders how they’ll pay off their immense debt, and then never mentions it again. Interesting, but a very specific look at a moment in time, rather than a sort of all encompassing story, if that makes sense.

22.  Paper Towns – John Greene.  Here’s what I think about John Greene.  And if you haven’t read Looking for Alaska and you don’t want to read a spoiler about it, don’t read this review, ok?  Anyway.  In Looking For Alaska, which is his first book, and by far better than anything else he’s ever written, he kills off one of his main characters pretty much straight away.  So, really, how do you follow that?  All his future books try to follow the same formula – the unraveling of tension after major events, but the “major events” he manufactures just don’t feel that…major.  In Paper Towns we’re supposed to be all het up that the main female character hates her life and wants to leave town.  Um, hi, welcome to the world?  Get over yourself, go to college, and quit throwing a tantrum about how you like New Hampshire better than Florida.

I don’t think I’d even care so much about any of this if Looking for Alaska wasn’t such a good book. Paper Towns was ok, but like I said, it lacks a central premise that we can really be expected to care about.  That being said, this was nowhere near as bad as An Abundance of Katherines.

23.  Saving Francesca – I read this because I loved Jellicoe Road so much.  Then about a third of the way through the book, an obscure point regarding cookies reminded me that Id’ read this book before, and it that doesn’t tell you how boring this book is, that I remembered nothing but the cookies, well, trust me.  This book is boring. Also?  I’m sorry. But I don’t want to read any more young adult fiction, EVER, about how your mother is 1. dead 2. dying or 3. crazy and won’t get out of bed.  If one of those three items is your main plot device, please, for the love of god, THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE.  It has already been done, done, and done.  In other news, in Saving Francesca, her mom is crazy and won’t get out of bed. SO OVER IT.

24.  Revolutionary Road – Oh lord.  Just…I don’t want to read about nasty people whose lives are terrible! I just don’t! So not the book for me.

25.  Songs for the Missing – So well written, and I thought about it afterwards for weeks.  But so so so so so so intensely depressing.

26.  Things I Learned From My Father – I enjoyed three of the essays, but overall, I was not a fan.

27.  Atonement – I started off really liking this book, and then I thought it took a contrived turn for the worse, and after that I strongly disliked it.

28.  Stealing Heaven – See point number 23.

29.  Candy Girl – Diablo Cody went to my high school and the admistration is apparently less than thrilled about this, so of course I had to read this book.  Overall I really enjoyed it, although I wish it would have had a little more emotional depth.  I never really got why exactly she became a stripper, what made her tick.  I wanted to hear more about her and less about the random workings of the stripping industry.

30.  The Falls – another random mystery.  Very obvious outcome, but nice crinkly pages, which I enjoy in a paperback.

31.  Little Brother – I wanted to like this, I did, but for me, it was just so so so so so boring.  I never got the sense of terror I was hoping for.  It just didn’t impart any sense of urgency or fear and I had to force myself back to it.  And the parts about math and computery stuff?  So did not get any of that stuff.  Mr. E liked it though.

32.  One Whole and Perfect Day – So very boring.

33.  The White Darkness – I started out SO unimpressed with this book.  The weird invisible boyfriend did NOT do it for me and the narrator seemed so incredibly dim witted as to the obvious events going on around her.  I spent the first 100 pages thinking “This won the Printz Award? How on earth?”  but I stuck with it and it got SO much better and everything sort of took on layers of meaning and there were some plot twists I didn’t see coming, and watching the narrator grow, and realizing the different depths that you didn’t see at all in the beginning – it was a nice work of writing and the end was quite the page turner. So yes, recommend, but you have to slog through the beginning to see it all sort of come together in the end.

34.  I Was Told There’d Be Cake – Funny, very funny. Sort of pointless, but entertaining.  It made me laugh, and that counts for a lot.

35.  Wishful Drinking – Weird as all get out.  When she starts in on her electroshock therapy and how Princess Lea ruined her life, I just…I don’t know.  Weird weird weird.

36.  Suite Scarlett – So boring. At no point did I care about any of these characters.

37.  Made in the U.S.A. – This book is…not good.  Not good at all.  Seriously, it was as if the author wrote down every white trash cliche she could think of (walmart, dead obese step mother, dead father, prison, trashy casinos, pornography, tattoos) and threw them up in the air and then stuck them into a book in whatever order they landed.  Oy.  Just pointless and crass and skeevy and nasty and all thrown together in weird voyersistic mess.  Blargh.

38.  Madapple – too “ye olde fashioned herbal” hoo ha for me to get into.

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10 Responses

  1. wow, you are a voracious reader! or I’m a slacker. or both. I feel exactly as you did re: Atonement.

  2. I cannot believe you’ve already read so many books. Man, I am a disgrace of an English major.

  3. #4–Totally agree. I loved this book.
    #8–Again I agree. I was totally digging this book until the middle with the whole romance plot thing and then, I felt it fell flat. I feel like it had so much potential and then…..meh.
    #9–I really liked this book. Yes it is a fairy tale retelling, but I thought it was closer to the Grimm originals (being a bit darker) than the fluffed up stuff that predominates the genre currently.
    #20–Loved Jellicoe Road. Just read it recently and really enjoyed it. I think it falls under the category of confusing beginning with everything making sense later on.
    #22–This is the first John Greene novel I have read and so far am enjoying it. I guess I will have to check out Looking for Alaska.
    #34–this book did nothing for me. I thought she was trying to hard to be funny and witty and to me and in the end everything sounded too forced to be enjoyable.

    Impressive first quarter!

  4. Unbelievable! Almost 40 books? Amzing. I was expecting like 3 because that seemed like a lot TO ME. Go you!

  5. Dude.
    I remember when I read over 100 books a year. And now, here it is, April first and I have still not finished “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” What happened to me??

    I read the Carrie Fisher book and found parts of it hilarious and other parts off-putting. Much like Carrie Fisher herself.

    So Brave, Young and Handsome: EXCELLENT book. The writing is transcendental.

    Frankie Landau Banks: I have been dying to read this.

    I really need to cancel DirecTV. And be home occasionally.

  6. 38. Madapple – too “ye olde fashioned herbal” hoo ha for me to get into. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Oh my heavens, you are so awesome. Thank you for not leaving me in the cold as the only person not to embrace this book as the most brilliant piece of YA lit out there. Because, no. Just no.

    I have Saving Francesca checked out right now but I’m going to return it because I too only checked it out because I loved JR so much.

    I’m surprised by how hugely popular Graceling has been because I too thought it had excellent excellent parts but too many problems to really be truly excellent.

    I know I have read Frankie TWICE in the last 6 months, but every time I read even a few words about it, I am so very tempted to run back out and read it again. It was that good. I see it as a book I will read time after time throughout my life. It was THAT good – bless you for liking it as much as I did.

  7. Wow. And here I thought I was doing good with 23 books for the quarter! Awesome for you.

    I’ve read three of the ones you list and I agree with you on each of them. So Brave, Young and Handsome is amazing. Have you read his first novel, Peace Like a River? It’s as good, if not better than So Brave. Revolutionary Road – totally agree. Not pleasant at all. I Was Told There’d be Cake – I think books of essays are always a little random, so I try to not let that bother me. But these were very funny.

  8. You have read thirty eight friggin books in three months? (hangs head in shame)
    And I call myself a reader.
    Thanks for not loving that David Sedaris book.

  9. Wow. I am SO put to shame by this list. DO YOU SWAP SLEEP FOR READING? Because seriously, I just don’t even know when to do it these days.

    I love that you read a book about Motley Crue.

  10. Wherever do you find the time? Seriously?

    Are you on GoodReads? If not, that’s a great place to keep track of what you’ve read and what you want to read. I use it a lot (um, for the four books a year I manage to find time to read). Mostly I use it for the “want list” aspect of it.

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