Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Books Read in 2014

Well, thank goodness that's over and done with. Like many people I know, 2014 was not the best of times, nor was it the worst of times, but I am not sorry to see it end. I managed to finish 62* books this year, 6 more than 2013, but several of them were Very Easy Reading, so that 62 deserves an asterisk.

My sort of resolution for 2014—to read an e-book, then an audiobook, then a real book, followed by another real book—never really took off, though 29 of the 62 books were actual physical books from Mt. TBR. If only I hadn't acquired dozens more to replace them at the same time...

So here is a list of the books I finished in 2014. You can follow the links to their journal entries on BookCrossing; those books without a link were either borrowed, or are in my permanent collection for the moment. (E) indicates they were read on my Kindle/Nook/iPod Touch; (A) means they were audiobooks; (L) means I borrowed them from my local library; (R) means I re-read some old friends.

My favorites this year? "How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming," by Mike Brown; "Ready Player One," by Ernest Cline; "Grave Sight," by Charlaine Harris; and "Neverwhere," by Neil Gaiman, because it was read by Neil Gaiman.

1. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
2. Timebound, by Rysa Walker (E)
3. Doctor Who: Galaxy Four, by William Emms
4. The Life and Times of Call the Midwife: The Official Companion to Season One and Two, by Heidi Thomas (E) (L)

5. A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L'Engle (A) (R)
6. My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor
7. The Quest, by Nelson DeMille (E) (L)
8. Doctor Who: The Myth Makers, by Donald Cotton (E)
9. Seek, by Paul Fleischman

10. Choke, by Chuck Palahniuk (A) (L)
11. National Velvet, by Enid Bagnold
12. All My Friends Are Dead, by Avery Monsen and Jory John
13. All My Friends Are Still Dead, by Avery Monsen and Jory John
14. The Teleportation Accident, by Ned Beauman (E)
15. If Love Be Blind, by Emma Goldrick (E)
16. Divergent, by Veronica Roth (E) (L)
17. A Feast for Crows, by George R.R. Martin (E)
18. Passenger to Frankfurt, by Agatha Christie
19. Doctor Who: Storm Warning, by Alan Barnes (A)

20. Agnes and the Hitman, by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
21. Insurgent, by Veronica Roth (E) (L)
22. Garden of Beasts, by Jeffery Deaver (A)
23. Blackberry Wine, by Joanne Harris
24. Takedown Twenty, by Janet Evanovich (E) (L)

25. The Museum Guard, by Howard Norman
26. The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey (A)
27. How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, by Mike Brown (E) (L)
28. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman (A) (L) (R)
29. Rebecca's Tale, by Sally Beauman
30. Allegiant, by Veronica Roth (E) (L)

31. An Officer and a Spy, by Robert Harris (A) (L)
32. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
33. Transmission, by Hari Kunzru (A)
34. Cash: The Autobiography, by Johnny Cash with Patrick Carr
35. Bossypants, by Tina Fey

36. John Dies at the End, by David Wong (E)
37. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman (A) (R)
38. Ripper, by Isabel Allende (A) (L)
39. The Bat, by Jo Nesbø (E) (L)

40. The Frog King, by Adam Davies
41. The Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J.K. Rowling
42. Cat Among the Pigeons, by Agatha Christie (E)
43. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman (A) (R)
44. Stormy Persuasion, by Johanna Lindsey (E) (L)
45. Tears of the Giraffe, by Alexander McCall Smith

46. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke (A)
47. The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green (E) (L)
48. The Girl Nobody Wanted, by Lynn Raye Harris
49. Silent to the Bone, by E.L. Konigsburg
50. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (A)
51. The Foretelling, by Alice Hoffman
52. Morality for Beautiful Girls, by Alexander McCall Smith

53. The Gates, by John Connolly
54. Grave Sight, by Charlaine Harris
55. The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke
56. Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell (E) (L)
57. No Choice But Seduction, by Johanna Lindsey

58. Wicked Appetite, by Janet Evanovich
59. The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan (E)
60. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, by Anne Tyler
61. Death in the Steel City, by Thomas Lipinski

62. How The Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss (A) (R)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Catch #242!

I got an early Christmas gift this year from new user paper_chaser, who found "Death In The Steel City" just where I left it a couple of weeks ago: "Found it while restocking the City Paper box near PPG plaza."

Monday, December 01, 2014

Catch #241!

My first (and hopefully not last) catch from this year's Holiday Parade has checked in. New member MarStar writes: "Found at the Holiday Parade, read over the weekend. Enjoyed. Will be releasing it again soon." Safe travels, little guy!

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan

Read on my Kindle at the insistence of Niece No. 6. She and Nephews No. 2 and 3 are big fans of The Olympians series of books and I can see why. I'm sure they would have captured my imagination had they been written when I was their age. They serve as a nice introduction to Greek and Roman mythology and made me want to refamiliarize myself with the original stories—they made me want to read more, which is a fantastic result for today's kids.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's not a trick ...

It's that time of year again! For the last couple of years, I have had a smorgasbord of books for my trick-or-treaters, in addition to the traditional candy, and the books have been a big hit! This year, I made my own labels just for the occasion. The tagline says: "it's not a trick, you're in for a treat!" Download them by clicking here. You can find links to other user-created labels in this thread on the BookCrossing forums.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Catch #240!

One of the books I left in Little Free Library #7801 in Indiana, Pa., last month was just caught and journalled! An AnonymousFinder says, "We love finding book at the book box."

I love that they found it!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green

Borrowed Kindle version from my local library many months after having seen the film (featuring Niece No. 2 as an extra!) and after years of hearing glowing reviews of the book.

Although this was my first John Green book, it was not my first encounter with John Green. I was familiar with him from his Life Hacks vlogs and some of his social media interactions, and he's a likable guy. So what took me so long to read this book? Me. I didn't want to give in to the hype or read a depressing book. How can a book about kids with cancer not be depressing? But I finally read the book because I had seen the movie and knew what to expect.

I probably would not have seen the movie if Niece No. 2 had not been an extra in it. Who wants to see a depressing movie? How can a movie about kids with cancer not be depressing? It was, and it wasn't, and that seems to be the magic of John Green. He tells the truth and he doesn't sugar coat it. Sometimes the truth sucks, but sometimes it doesn't, and the world *is* full of infinite possibilities.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

A4, anyone?

I have been making my own BCID labels for years, formatted to 8.5" x 11" paper, as is the standard here in the United States. But since BookCrossing is an international community, I'm venturing past the borders into A4 territory. First up, a little international romance. What do you think? Which label should I tackle next?

Monday, September 01, 2014

2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

When you remember that "2001: A Space Odyssey" was written in the very dawn of the Space Age, that makes it pretty impressive. Man had not even orbited the moon when this book was published in July 1968, just a few months after Stanley Kubrick's movie.

Arthur C. Clarke provides an introduction on this download, and it was fascinating to hear the history behind this iconic story. In 1964, he and Stanley Kubrick decided to collaborate on a new project, using Clarke's short story, "The Sentinel," as a starting point. Clarke describes this as "a mood piece about the discovery of an alien artifact on the moon. A kind of burglar alarm, set to go off on man's arrival." Kubrick suggested that he and Clarke let their imaginations soar freely by writing a complete novel from which they could derive a movie script. In reality, the novel and the screenplay were being written simultaneously. Clarke says some parts of the novel were written only after seeing the screen rushes of the script.

Dick Hill was a great narrator for this book, providing excellent voices for each character, and getting through the sciencey bits in a very calm and smooth way that didn't make my brain hurt. This book stands alone very well; it does not need the movie. The movie, however, needs this book. I don't remember completely understanding the movie when I saw it, but after hearing this book, I totally get it. And recommend it.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Catch #239!

Another book from my June/July beach vacation has been found, just where (and when) I left it! An AnonymousFinder writes: "I found the book at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach SC. It was on a bench outside one of the retail stores, shortly after 5:30pm. We brought it to VA. My daughter who is 12 read it, but wasn't really fond of it."

The AF also reports that its journey is continuing: "Released Aug. 30th at the National Book Festival in Washington DC around 4pm." I know a few BookCrossers were planning to attend the National Book Festival—I wonder if any of them encountered this traveller?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Catch #238!

I spent the day dropping books in the Oakland and Shadyside neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh's bridges have become magnets for "love locks"—combination locks or padlocks that are attached to the wire mesh of the bridges by lovers declaring their undying affection for each other—so I thought leaving "Kramer vs. Kramer," a story about a bitter divorce and custody battle, would tell the other side of the story. It was the first book I left today and was journalled before I could even make release notes. The AnonymousFinder reports: "I was baked and was walking across the Schenley bridge and found this book! Humanity is fucking cool!!!!!!!!" Couldn't have said it better myself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Stormy Persuasion, by Johanna Lindsey

Borrowed Kindle version from my local library because I just can't quit Johanna Lindsey's Malory series. "Stormy Persuasion," however, is not just a Malory tale, but a Malory-Anderson tale. I feel like I missed a book or two as there were characters I didn't remember—or maybe I skipped a book or two because reviews I read ranged from "meh" to "another rapist love story."

There were *lots* of characters in this one—Malorys, Andersons, good guys, bad guys—too many characters to keep track of while trying to remember their back stories, which rather took away from Judith and Nathan's story. Luckily (perhaps), I have a feeling I'll be reading the story again from Jack's point of view, as her storyline took an unexplored detour.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

What the heck? How could I not LOVE this book the first time I read it in April 2010? Can you believe I wrote:

I wish I were more familiar with London so that I could properly enjoy this wonderfully descriptive and imaginative book. Having never been to London Above, much less London Below, I feel like I missed out on some of the nuances of the story locales. When I read fantasy books, it's much easier for me to imagine completely fictional worlds than to try to fit the fantastical into real-life cities, streets, and buildings. Nevertheless, I still thoroughly enjoyed the story, the characters, and Neil Gaiman's writing skills.

This time around, I still haven't been to London Above or London Below, but it doesn't matter. Neil Gaiman made them both come alive for me. Not only is he a better writer than I am, he is a better reader. He can read me any book, any day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Bat, by Jo Nesbø

Borrowed Kindle version from my local library, based on bookczuk's review of a newer book in the series. Of course I couldn't read *that* book without reading all the books that led up to it, so I started with the first Inspector Harry Hole novel, The Bat.

The plot (paraphrased from amazon): Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is sent to Sydney, Australia, to observe a case involving the murder of a 23-year-old Norwegian woman, who is a minor celebrity back home. Harry is free to offer assistance, but he has firm instructions to stay out of trouble. He fails miserably.

I wasn't too sure about this book through the first few chapters—it was full of Crocodile Dundee-like stereotypes as Harry Hole settled into the story and that made it uncomfortable for me to settle into the story. As it went on, I felt a little more at ease, but I don't know that I always knew what was going on; I was often surprised by a turn of events, a twist, an unexpected reaction, and I liked that. I also liked that everything is important in this story. I will visit "Harry Holy" again.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ripper, by Isabel Allende

I don't know who I am more disappointed by: Isabel Allende, for the way she wrote this book; Edoardo Ballerini, for the way he read this book; or me, for reading/listening to this book for 14+ hours. I think we may all be equally at fault.

This book is full of stereotypes and condescending preachiness and unlikable, unbelievable characters, many of them barely veiled real-life pop culture figures. It is a series of character vignettes loosely held together by a murder mystery that is being solved not by the San Francisco police department, but by the 16-year-old daughter of the investigating deputy chief and her merry band of computer role-playing gamer misfits around the world. Oh, and her grandpa. All of whom are given unusual access to confidential police files of an active investigation. Allende also takes on the U.S. military and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly Navy SEAL Team 6, which just seems wrong. She may be spot on with her depiction of war and its post-traumatic stress, but its delivery was just off. And that may be the fault of the reader, Edoardo Ballerini. His tone throughout this whole book was that voice people use when they feel sorry for you.

Maybe he did feel sorry for me because I chose to listen to this book.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman kept Niece No. 4 and me company from North Carolina to West Virginia and we loved every minute. Stardust was the perfect antidote to my misguided beach read of John Dies At The End. Where John was dark and depressing, Stardust—especially Stardust read by Neil Gaiman—was magical.

I read the actual physical book once before, and have seen the movie a couple of times; after this re-read, the book wins hands down. It has a much better, romantic, and gentle ending than the movie and it was just what I needed to hear.

Friday, July 04, 2014

John Dies at the End, by David Wong

So, maybe this wasn't the best book to read at the beach. It's not very light, there are some darkly funny moments, but overall I found it rather depressing—a normal person might have deduced all this from the title alone. Apparently I am far from normal.

I have read too many of these dystopian apocalyptic books of late. I want to laugh. I want to love. I want to believe in the goodness of humankind. I want a do-over.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Catch #237!

Road trip! I am enjoying a week at the beach with my family and left a trail of BookCrossing books at various restaurants and gas stations on my way here. The last gas station we stopped at in Virginia couldn't print a receipt at the pump, so I had no idea what town I was leaving Jean-Luc Picard and Guinan in. Thankfully, an AnonymousFinder set me straight: "Found on top of the gas pump in Bastian, VA!" Bastian! Of course! Thank you, AF, and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

An Officer and A Spy, by Robert Harris

My knowledge of the Dreyfus Affair prior to reading this book was that there was such a thing as the Dreyfus Affair. I had no idea who Dreyfus was or what the Affair entailed. Now I do. This was an interesting bit of fictionalized history. I loved hearing about France and Paris at the turn of the 20th century. I am so glad I listened to this book--after consulting Wikipedia to learn more/clarify some "characters" I would have butchered most of the French names. David Rintoul really did a nice job reading. Only a couple of times was I confused about who was speaking.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Allegiant, by Veronica Roth

Thanks a lot for making me cry, Veronica Roth. Although I didn't necessarily approve of where the story went (A whole world of possibilities was waiting outside the fence at the end of "Insurgent" and it ended up being this??? Or was that a brilliant commentary on the all-too-ordinary cruelty of humanity? Hmmm, reevaluating ...) you did manage to keep me emotionally invested in Tris and Four and the rest of the Divergent. Even with its faults and shortcomings, I liked "Allegiant." Maybe the movie plot will be different enough (different-good, that is) that I can say I loved "Allegiant."

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman

Borrowed the audio version through my local library. Although this is a reread, having read the physical hardback book in June 2013, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was like a brand new story because Neil Gaiman was reading it to me. I got a much better sense of the characters and their tones when the author is reading them as he intended them to be read.

I follow Neil Gaiman and his wife, Amanda Palmer, on assorted social media platforms, and I remember Neil's tweets when he was writing this book, and Amanda's blog posts when he was sharing this book with her, and I feel like I'm all wrapped up in the symbolism of this book and their relationship and I shouldn't be because I am a stranger to them both. Neil has said this is his most personal book, and Amanda tells a story about how she and Neil were discussing the book one day and she asked him about a particular plot point and he said, "Don't you get it?" (or something to that effect) and then she did. I want to get it, too.

Well, part of me does.

Another part of me just wants to enjoy or not enjoy the story for what it is to me and forget about what it is to them. I love Stardust and Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book, but I don't need to know what was going on in Neil Gaiman's life when he was writing them to love them. I think I may need to scrub my mind and reread this for the third time as if it were the first.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Catch #236!

Another book from my mini-release spree through Oakland last month has checked in. I left J.D. Robb's "Immortal In Death" with the immortal Robert Burns outside of Phipps Conservatory before 2 p.m. New member bahall6 says: "Picked up the book where Journal Entry 2 left it at 3 or 4pm and brought it home to zip 13760!"

Saturday, May 10, 2014

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, by Mike Brown

I was one of those people who mourned the passing of Pluto when it was demoted to "dwarf planet" status in 2006 (has it been that long already?), but I never really took the time to understand how and why that happened (I was busy, OK?).

Now I know it's all Mike Brown's fault.

And I'm OK with it.

This was a very interesting book: part memoir, part history, part science (but not scary, hard-to-understand science), part intrigue. Who knew the search for planets could be so enthralling? Mike Brown is a very good storyteller and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about *everything* that was going on in his life, even when it had nothing to do with finding planets. If I ever get the chance to meet him at a cocktail party, I will feel like he's an old friend.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Takedown Twenty, by Janet Evanovich

Twenty times I have read about Stephanie and Lula and Morelli and Ranger and Grandma Mazur. Twenty times. The first book in this series, "One for the Money," was published in 1994. I don't know how much time is supposed to have passed in Stephanie's fictional world, but that's twenty real years for me. This installment was light and enjoyable (if you look past the violence and murder), but, like Stephanie Plum herself, I'm feeling like it's time to move on.

I know there are lots of series of books out there—especially in the mystery/thriller genre—where the protagonist can exist indefinitely, but I want more for Stephanie. I want her to either make a choice between Morelli and Ranger or choose them both and stop feeling guilty about it. Then I won't feel guilty about choosing to read "Top Secret Twenty-One" when it is released in June.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Catch #235!

Yesterday was International BookCrossing Day, as declared by BCer MissTree and sanctioned by the BC powers-that-be in this BC forum post: "April 21, 2014 will mark the first ever International BookCrossing Day. How can you participate? It's easy! On that date, April 21, 2014, according to your own time zone or side of the date line, just release a book, or as many books as you'd like! The point is to get as many BookCrossers from around the world to participate in a mass release on the same date as possible."

Being a good(ish) BCer, I couldn't NOT participate, so I took the opportunity to continue my recently resumed releasing ways. I left five books in and around Greensburg and Colin Dexter's "The Secret of Annexe 3," which I thought would be languishing out in the rain, was found and journalled!

New member aleksandrvulkov says: "I love books. And finding this completely made my day. As soon as I get home I'm going to start reading. And I will have to join in on this collaborative effort to bring small joys through random books."

That journal completely makes my day. Darn it, I think I have been pulled back in.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Catch #234!

Inspired by Catch #233 a couple of weeks ago, I went on a mini release spree through the Oakland area of Pittsburgh today. I left five books in various spots. There were a lot of people out walking and jogging and dancing at the Color Festival and enjoying Phipps Conservatory and Schenley Park and just going about their business, so I was hopeful for a catch. The book I thought most likely to be confiscated or thrown in the trash, especially after seeing a couple of security guards heading its way, was Steve Berry's "The Charlemagne Pursuit," which I left on a bench by the Mary Schenley Memorial Fountain. Thankfully, new member bryandmoods found it first. "I didn't read it yet but it's heavy." he reports. "The guy on the back looks kinda racist but thats okay. I carried this book with me through the color festival it also went to buffalo wild wings with us after. I got the snack size boneless wings in medium and some fries. It was delicious!"

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Catch #233!

"The Grouchy Ladybug" is on the move. An AnonymousFinder says, "Read to preschool class and finally released it. Released it at Station Square in Pittsburgh by Hard Rock / Just Ducky Tours. Hopefully a visitor to the city will take it to destinations unknown :) "

Although this is my first catch in almost three months, it happens to be one of the last books I released back in November 2013. We, like many other parts of the country, had a very long winter with consistently bad weather that made even going outside a chore to be avoided. That left me a lot of time to read, but now that the weather is improving, I should get back in the releasing mode, too.

Insurgent, by Veronica Roth

"Insurgent" starts right where "Divergent" ended. That's why I didn't understand the source of the conflict that rages between Four and Tris for most of this book. As far as I can recall (and it's been only a few weeks since I left them on the train headed for the Amity farm), they were on good terms at the end of "Divergent," facing their future together, stripped bare (not literally), no secrets between them. Maybe as time passed, survivors' guilt consumed them both, driving them apart rather than bringing them together. To me, the conflict seemed contrived—the book has enough conflict already without manufacturing any between our main characters.

Who or what is outside the fence? When will I be higher than user 9 of 13 on the library's waiting list for "Allegiant"?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Feast for Crows, by George R. R. Martin

I couldn't help myself. I had to read ahead. "Game of Thrones" Season 4 premieres in 12 days and I just couldn't wait any longer to see what the future holds for the denizens of Westeros. I'm trying to enjoy the HBO series and the books on their own merits. I'm having my cake and eating it, too.

The war is (mostly) over and our favorite characters have gone off in all directions. So many directions, in fact, that "A Feast for Crows" follows only a few of them: Arya, Jaime, Brienne, Sansa, Cersei, Sam, and puts us on more intimate terms with the inhabitants of Dorne and the Iron Islands. There is an author's foreword that explains why we're hearing only half the story, and promising the second half within a year or so. Instead, it was six years before the next book in the series, "A Dance with Dragons," was released.

I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in the GoT world with this book. My only complaint is that it ended too soon, even at 784 Kindle pages.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Divergent, by Veronica Roth

So it's after 2 a.m. and I just swiped past the last page of this book on my Kindle. It's been awhile since I stayed up to finish a book, but how can one go to sleep when the fate of a fictional free world is at stake? For the most part, I enjoyed reading "Divergent." There were times in the very beginning and the very end when the writing style seemed a little clunky, but the middle was pretty solid and that made me forgive (if not forget) the shaky parts. I know just enough about Chicago to "know" most of the landmarks and buildings in Tris' world, so that was a nice bonus for me. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie, whose trailers have matched my imagination so far, and to reading the next book in the series.

Monday, March 10, 2014

If Love Be Blind, by Emma Goldrick

If Love Be BlindWhat a gem. My sister recently came across this oldie but goodie in her "Harlequins-that-I-might-want-to-read-again" cache from the 1980s. She and a friend have been talking about its "so-bad-it's-good" qualities for so long I felt I had to read it. If this is what the ideal romance was supposed to be like in 1987, I am glad times have changed. There were definite jaw-dropping I-can't-believe-these-characters and THIS-was-romance-in-the-1980s??? moments, but in the end, I would rather have read the story of Penn's snow blindness than Philomena's humiliating journey from head of the typing pool to wife of the boss.