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Books 2011

Books I read in 2011, organized by category and then alphabetically by author:

< < 2010  2012 > >

Non-Fiction—Memoir, Autobiography, Biography:

Chocolate & Vicodin, Jennette Fulda
It feels heartless to say I enjoyed reading a book about the author’s chronic pain, but I did.

Half-Assed, Jennette Fulda
It took me a long time to finish this, maybe because I found it less engaging than Jennette is in person (I’ve talked to her at a gathering of online writers).

Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, Vicki Myron and Bret Witter
This was as much an autobiography of a small town librarian and a regional history book as it was the cat story I was expecting; I guess maybe a biography of a cat isn’t enough to fill a whole book. There were a few moments of snark in here that made me wish she’d written this as a novel instead, so she could have felt free to expand on those parts.

Love is a Four Letter Word, Michael Taeckens (editor)
Faced with a magazine story that is part anecdote and part educational information, I am very likely to just read the anecdotal bits. This book is all anecdotes, so I liked it quite a bit. I’d let it sit on my to be read pile for a long time because I feared a book of breakup stories would depress me, but that didn’t turn out to be the case, probably because by the time these authors wrote about the incidents, the pain was not still fresh.

Vietnamerica , GB Tran
I might have to read this graphic memoir again, as there were points where I got confused about who was who, since the story jumps back and forth in time. That said, I liked this a lot; it’s dramatic and touching and funny by turns.

Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian, John Elder Robison
Interesting view into life on one segment of the autism spectrum.

Non-Fiction—Everything Else:

The Upside of Irrationality, Dan Ariely
The one thing that stuck with me from this book was that from a happiness-maximization perspective, it makes sense to take more breaks during pleasant experiences than during unpleasant tasks. The subtitle of this book is “The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic”, but these benefits were never enumerated that I could see.

Flex Diet, James Beckerman
I kept waiting for the diet part of this diet book; it’s really a collection of eating, exercise, and lifestyle tips rather than any sort of formal plan. I wasn’t clear on how the author intended one to implement this “diet”, and I’d already been exposed to most of these tips before; perhaps if I were a newbie to diet and shape-up information this would have been more useful to me.

X Saves the World, Jeff Gordinier
It wasn’t until I read the acknowledgements at the back that I learned this book sprung from a magazine article, which makes sense, as it didn’t seem like there was enough meat here for a whole book. There were odd pages-long asides—like the author’s trip to see the Beatles Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas—that didn’t seem to add anything to the development of the main idea. In fact, I’m not so sure I know what the main idea is. Xers are going to save the world by using YouTube and MeetUp?

Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You, Sam Gosling
The subtitle makes a promise on which the text does not deliver. I don’t feel I ended up knowing what my stuff says about me or how to analyze other people’s stuff in any systematic manner despite the very academic feel to the book. I did like the anecdotes and the discussion of the Big Five personality traits.

Poor Man’s Provence, Rheta Grimsley Johnson
I liked that this included descriptions of things the author likes about Cajun country and things she doesn’t. I would have been happier to not hear about the cock fighting, but not hearing about it wouldn’t mean it didn’t happen, so I can understand why it’s in there.

In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives, Steven Levy
It’s a rare day indeed that I don’t use a Google product, what with my Android phone and search and maps and Gmail and Google Docs and now Google+, and I work for a company that delivers our product over the internet, so I found the subject matter of this book quite interesting. I enjoyed reading it and learned a lot about the company. The only problem I had was keeping some of the players straight in my head; I think the author could have added a few reminders when people popped up again many chapters after they’d first been introduced.

Japan Home: Inspirational Design Ideas, Lisa Parramore, Chadine Flood Gong, and Noboru Murata
I learned some things about the Japanese aesthetic from reading the text, and enjoyed looking at all the photos, but don’t see myself using any of the ideas in my own home. I can appreciate the look, but it’s not one I want to live in myself.

Driving Mr. Albert, Michael Paterniti
I didn’t realize at first that this was non-fiction; by the end I wished it had been fiction so it could have been made more interesting. The premise is intriguing—a cross country road trip with the former doctor who stole Einstein’s brain and the brain itself. Not much happens, though, and I didn’t feel like I got to know the doctor or anyone else in the story. Nor did I understand why they had to take the road trip in the first place, since the doctor ended up flying home with the brain.

The Secret Lives of Hoarders, Matt Paxton and Phaedra Hise
Being the child of two people who had/have too much stuff and a person who has too much stuff herself, I couldn’t pass this up when I saw it at the library. I liked the case studies the best and wished for a lot more photos.

Matchbox Cars, Mac Ragan
This appealed to my collector’s spirit. I learned some things I hadn’t know before, and the photos made me want some of the cars even though they’re not a hobby of mine.

Woodframe Furniture Restoration, Alan Smith
I picked this one up at the library because a) I needed a W for my A-Z challenge and b) every time we pay hundreds of dollars to have a hand me down piece of furniture fixed up, I wonder if I could have done it myself. This book pretty much made me decide I’ll have to keep taking stuff to the professionals unless I’m willing to get a much more detailed book and lots of tools.

The Nordstrom Way, Robert Spector and Patrick D. McCarthy
I recognized some similarities between the Nordstrom Way and my employer’s way, and was heartened that such a big company as Nordstrom is able to succeed at giving individual employees a lot control over how they do their jobs. The later chapters of this book, which discussed the future of retailing as it looked around 1995, were really interesting as far as seeing what did and didn’t come to pass.

Fiction—Paranormal, Romance, SciFi, Fantasy:

Taken by Midnight, Lara Adrian
This book shows that it’s possible to keep a series going without ending up with messes like Lover Mine. There was no bloat here, quite the opposite; I wished for more—I wanted details about what’s going on with the heroine (I’m hoping we’ll see that in the next book, but we might not since the focus will shift to the next couple). I liked seeing the characters from the earlier books (though I confess I didn’t remember much about a few of them).

Deeper Than Midnight, Lara Adrian
Not my favorite installment of this series; the ending was entirely too abrupt and the main couple’s story was too removed from the rest of the story (also, I never quite got why they connected other than circumstance).

Love in Vein, edited by Poppy Z. Brite
I generally try to avoid reading reviews in depth before I dive into a book so I can be surprised and form my own opinion, but I should have skimmed a few more for this one, because it turned out to be much more horror than I have a taste for. I had to stop reading this just before bed, as some of the stories were graphic and intense enough to disturb my sleep.

Lost Souls, Poppy Z. Brite
These were most definitely not my kind of vampires, but I did think many of the characters were well drawn and settings well-described.

Pleasure of a Dark Prince, Kresley Cole
I’m not sure how I got this many books behind in this series, since I do like it a lot. This installment was no exception. Somehow the horrific things that go on here don’t bother me like those in Love in Vein did, perhaps because there’s an underlying humor there. I liked that the hero and heroine made a connection early on. I didn’t like that there were problems caused by them just not talking to each other, but that’s pretty standard for the genre, I suppose. The ending felt rushed to me, which is something this shares with other books in this series. Maybe it’s just that I don’t want them to end so soon? In this case, the main story wrapped up quickly, then there were some vignettes in the epilogue that felt like they really belonged in the next book; I wish those pages had been used to give me a bit more of the main characters from this book.

Demon from the Dark, Kresley Cole
This installment of the series was darker than most. I understand that this is book one of a trilogy within the series, so I guess I am stuck with the new bad guys I don’t like for two more books. Still, there were some good scenes in this, and I’m glad I read it.

Deep Kiss of Winter, Kresley Cole and Gena Showalter
I’ve had this sitting in my to be read pile for a while now, thinking it was a holiday book and I’d wait until winter to read it, but I needed a vacation book in October and it was handy, so I grabbed it. It turns out it’s not especially Christmas-y, so that worked out fine. The Kresley Cole story fits into the Immortals After Dark series, though trying to recall what happened in the other books this story overlaps with was making my brain hurt so I just ignored that issue after a while and enjoyed the characters. The fact that it wasn’t a full novel meant there was less of the action/adventure aspect typical to the series, which I was fine with. I was curious how the main obstacle for the pair would be resolved and am not entirely satisfied with how that got worked out, but I’m not sure what would have been better. The Showalter story is one of those that you just have to not take too seriously, like Twilight, because if you look to the plot as being an example of how a real life successful relationship gets started, it’s not on. There’s a crossover bit in here that seemed unnecessary, but again, I just glossed over it and enjoyed the good parts.

Elijah, Jacquelyn Frank
It’s been nearly two years since I read the second book in the series so I’d forgotten a lot about this world, including the things that bothered me. I don’t know if I’ve changed or this third installment is really that different than the first two, but I liked this a lot more than I recall liking the others. I got sucked in quickly and things that might otherwise niggle at me just zipped by as I kept reading to see what would happen next.

Damien, Jacquelyn Frank
This is one of those books that just grabbed my imagination and made me want to keep reading. I’m sure if I stepped back and tried to analyze it, I’d find things to pick at, so I’m not going to.

Dead Reckoning, Charlaine Harris
I’m reading this series more out of habit than anything else. This installment left me with a feeling of “that’s it?” People and non-people died, and a bunch of stuff happened, and I didn’t feel much about any of it. Oh look, more magic. Oh look, a fairy did something really dumb. Oh look, Bill said something completely out of character. Oh look, Sookie’s in peril, again. Oh look, something really forced happened in the plot, again. There’s just so much going on in this world now that there’s not enough depth to any of it for my taste.

Pleasure Unbound, Larissa Ione
First book in a new-to-me series, and we didn’t quite click. I liked some aspects of the world building and some of the characters were quite colorful and appealing, but the heroine was emotionally damaged in a way that made it hard to enjoy her connecting with the hero early in the book, and then the healing of that damage took place in a way that I couldn’t quite believe. There were a lot of hints and setup for future stories; I might read the next book to see if this world grows on me.

Dark Seduction, Brenda Joyce
I chose this book from the library shelf based on the theory that since it was beat up, a lot of people had read it and thus it must have something going for it. I probably should have put it back when I discovered it involved time travel, because time travel plots often make my head hurt. Sometimes they can be delightful, though, so I took the chance that this one would be. It was not, at least for me. This a romance novel, not science fiction, so the time travel aspect is not really explained or explored; it’s just a device to allow the contemporary heroine to hook up with the 15th century hero. I am willing to overlook a lot if I find a featured couple compelling, but these two didn’t do it for me, so the annoying parts seemed even more annoying. Most of the book is set in Scotland, so there’s repetitive dialect a plenty, except when the characters are speaking French (which is written in dialect-free English). The premise that sex can kill women (but not men, apparently) was not hot, and some of the language used in the sex scenes was just not sexy to me.

Zen and the Art of Vampires, Katie MacAlister
There are certain conventions in genre fiction (in this case paranormal romance) which are risky for an author to flout. In this case, the author decided she not to provide the expected HEA, and I was left quite annoyed. I might read the next book in the series to see if things conclude satisfactorily, but I’ve got the idea that this series really isn’t for me. (I read the first book way back in 2006 and almost didn’t finish that one. Maybe I shouldn’t have jumped back in at book six, but I needed the Z for my A-Z challenge.)

Dark Protector, Alexis Morgan
Another new-to-me series, and again, not quite a good fit. I might just need to take a break from the supernatural for a while and let my brain restock its suspension of disbelief reservoir. I might have connected better with this one if there’d been more introduction to the characters (I still don’t have a strong mental picture of the hero and heroine, though my brain was quite happy to use Daniel Craig as a stand-in for the hero) and better justification of the main conflict. (My brain also came up with some engineering-based ideas to shore up the barrier the hero and his compatriots were defending, and wondered why the people in that world hadn’t thought of the same things.) I did appreciate the nods to safer sex. This was obviously written with a series in mind, as there are tons of unanswered questions left, including some really big ones.

Bonds of Justice, Nalini Singh
I finished this book with a smile on my face. If this series hadn’t switched to hardcover, I’d order the next one right now. As it is, I’ll wait for the paperback (though maybe by that time I’ll have converted to an e-reader). I found her solution to the Psy’s issues in this one interesting and like the way her bad guys have some complexity to them.

Lover Mine, J. R. Ward
I’m not sure this really belongs on a “books I’ve read” list, as I most certainly did not read all the words in it. About a third of the way in, I started skimming the chapters covering the bad guys and skipping the flashback and haunted house chapters entirely (though I did go back and read those after I’d finished the main story). The various plot lines all jammed into one book felt chaotic and unfocused. The main couple didn’t click for me, and the sub plot that did really intrigue me (Blay and Quinn, for those of you who know these books) was the one least delved into. At least I didn’t buy this one so I’m not feeling regret at money as well as time spent on it.

Lover Unleashed, J. R. Ward
When the first chapter of this was an italicized flashback to centuries ago, I thought it was going to be another annoying mess like Lover Mine. To my great relief, that was the only flashback chapter in the whole book. Yes, there were still too many plot lines, and like with the last book, I started skipping chapters about halfway through to follow just the main couple’s story, then went back and read the other ones, but I enjoyed this book much more than the previous one in the series. I guess maybe the badness of the last one reset my expectations so low that this one was bound to be better. I am bothered that there was no payoff in here for one of the more tedious plot lines from that last book—those characters weren’t even mentioned, so I’m not sure why that material was there at all. There’s a similar seemingly unrelated plot line here, about human cops; evidently that’s a crossover from another series J. R. Ward is writing. Bah to that, I say.

Fiction—Everything Else:

The Art of Friction, Charles Blackstone & Jill Talbot, editors
This anthology explores the territory between non-fiction and fiction, including short stories and autobiographical essays and mixes of the the two. As someone who likes non-fiction to be factual, I wasn’t so sure about this concept, but the author commentary on each piece helped out greatly in shining a light on what was true (as the author saw it) and what was fictionalized. A couple commentaries did stray too far into high falutin’ academic analysis for my taste, so I skimmed those.

The Quilter’s Apprentice, Jennifer Chiaverini, read by Christina Moore
I’m not sure why I never picked up this series until now (this book was first published in 1999), since a novel revolving around quilting should be right in my sweet spot. The quilting parts were very good; the author either is a quilter or did really thorough research. The main character, Sarah, is an accountant who doesn’t want to be an accountant anymore, and that should resonate with me, too, but I didn’t connect with her, maybe because she acted unprofessional and unprepared for her job interviews (those didn’t seem realistic to me, either—cattle call interviews for an accounting position? I never ran into that in my years in accounting, nor do we do that at my current employer for any position). The character development seemed a bit lacking, and thorny interpersonal issues got resolved much more easily that I thought realistic. I did like the manor and quilting parts quite a lot, so I’ll probably read on in the series to see if the character development was saved for later books.

Round Robin, Jennifer Chiaverini
I liked that the structure of the quilt the ladies were making was reflected in the chapters of the book, with each character adding a border to the quilt getting the focus on her story for a time. I’m still not a big fan of the main character, but fortunately there’s a large supporting cast.

The Cross-Country Quilters, Jennifer Chiaverini
In this third in the series, most of the characters from the previous books got minimal screen time (page time, I guess that should be), which meant that the one I didn’t much like in the last two wasn’t around to annoy me, so that was good. What wasn’t as nice was how none of the stories of the new cast got quite enough attention; it felt like trying to cover a year in the life of so many women we’d just met was too much for one volume. The story arcs in the previous book, which also was built around a collaborative quilt framework, were shorter and more satisfying. I suppose I’d rather be left wanting more than the opposite.

, Percival Everett
There were parts of this novel that I didn’t understand at all, not being embedded in academia, but I liked the main character, a brilliant baby, so well that I could live with the frustration of missing out on some things. I got enough of it, and there was one moment maybe a third of the way through that really made me stop and think. The climactic scene verged on slapstick, which didn’t quite fit for me, but again, I could overlook that because it was followed with something quite satisfying.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer, read by Jeff Woodman, Barbara Caruso, and Richard Ferrone (A)
I liked this. The three different readers made it easy to know which narrator was in charge at any point, and also since it was audio, that meant I wasn’t exposed to the experimental text and layout aspects I’ve seen mentioned in reviews of the print version, which I suspect would have annoyed me greatly based on other books I’ve read that have incorporated those sorts of things. With the audio, I could focus on the characters and the story. I liked Oskar the best; whether he was a believable character was not really the point for me for a change. The dysfunction of the grandparents was beyond belief, but not in a way that made me want to pop the CD out of the player. This book left me with things to think about, and since Mr. K had listened to it just before I did, we could talk about those, which also added to the experience.

Yesterday’s Tomorrows, Rian Hughes
I couldn’t get into this. If I were a comic book geek and/or British, perhaps I could have. As it was, the stories didn’t pull me in, and a couple of them just wandered off instead of ending in any satisfying manner.

April Rising, Corine Lemaître
I almost quit reading this, so much did I dislike the protagonist (who was also the first-person narrator). I’m glad I didn’t. The eventual resolution was a tad forced but it left me feeling good, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Kalahari Typing School for Men, Alexander McCall Smith, read by Lisette Lecat (A)
I don’t think this series is for me, at least not on audio; I nearly fell asleep more than once listening to this in the car.

Scratch Golfer, Wille Thompson
It’s definitely not necessary to be a golfer to enjoy this book; I’m not one, and I did. I smiled a lot while reading, laughed out loud at least once, and thought the ending was delightful. The sidenotes were educational and entertaining and not so numerous as to be intrusive.

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