Book Log 2014

Books read in 2004: 21
Books read in 2005: 28
Books read in 2006: 40
Books read in 2007: 30
Books read in 2008: 41
Books read in 2009: 22
Books read in 2010: 44
Books read in 2011: 28
Books read in 2012: 31
Books read in 2013: 8
Books read in 2014: 13

Honestly, if it weren’t for reading to my kids, I almost don’t think I would read anything at all.  What’s become of me?

I think it’s my change in job a couple years ago.  I used to close the door to my office-cubicle at lunch and read for an hour most days.  Now, I’m in an open layout work environment, and everybody eats lunch in the breakroom and actually talks to each other, so…. people instead of books.  Maybe that’s good?  Or just different?

I would probably make time to read if I had a book that grabbed me.  Nothing lately has really pulled me in.  I’ve been off and on reading The Optimist’s Tour of the Future, which is okay but not magnetic, and I keep forgetting I have it.

I had all sorts of plans to read La Tia Julia y El Escribidor by M. Vargas Llosa in the original spanish, but never felt up to it.  Since I don’t read at lunch, that leaves before bed after putting the kids to sleep. By that time, my brain isn’t up to constantly looking up words I don’t know and struggling with comprehension of the more poetic Spanish.  Perhaps a I need a Dick y Jane reader to warm up.

Also, I can’t find my Kindle.  I loaned it to Rocketboy, and haven’t seen it since.  It may be at camp or on a bus or who knows.  At any rate, my days of effortless downloading of the next thing to read are stalled.  Should’ve asked for a new one for Christmas, I guess.  The eInk has improved anyway, so… worth it.

At any rate, the meager list:

1. Legitimacy: The Vanilla Cycle: Volume One by M.H. Van Keuren
A novel by my good friend from my college days.  An impressive “first” work, to say the least, and a good read.

2. Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
I’m loving the Lockwood & Co. series. An alternate history with kid ghostbusters! Great Young Adult fare.

3. More Baths Less Talking by Nick Hornby
Huge fan of Hornby’s reading column. So glad he brought it back.

4. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Bought at Malaprops in Ashville, wrapped in plain brown paper and advertised as a Blind Date with a Book. Wouldn’t have tried it on my own, glad I did.

5. The Blood of Flowers: A Novel by Anita Amirrezvani
A very good read recommended by my wife. Also not my usual fare… need to get outside my comfort zone more often, I guess.

6. Peter and the Shadow Thieves (Peter and the Starcatchers #2) by Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Greg Call (Illustrations)
Read with the kids, an excellent series that we’re all enjoying.

7. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
First book I got from my Little Free Library. A fine book, and I learned there’s a movie available on Netflix, so bonus!

8. Lockwood & Co., Book 2 The Whispering Skull  by Jonathon Stroud
Same as #2, loving the series.

9. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Blah, blah, classic, blah blah.

10. The Mr. Gum series, by Andy Stanton

  • You’re a Bad Man, Mr. Gum
  • Mr.Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire
  • Mr. Gum and the Goblins
  • Mr. Gum and the Power Crystals
  • Mr. Gum and the Dancing Bear
  • What’s for Dinner, Mr. Gum?
  • Mr. Gum and the Cherry Tree
  • Mr. Gum and the Secret Hideout

Hilarious, perfect, couldn’t recommend more for kids.

11. The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
Okay fantasy, if you like them fairy tales.

12. Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
Love Amy Poehler. Would probably read the Federal Tax Code if she wrote it.

13. Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
Fascinating essays on how to go to Mars.

Book Log – Packing for Mars

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

I read this earlier this year but forgot to log it.  Don’t remember when.

I remember it was a good read for the most part.  It’s a book of essays on different aspects of how we’re planning to live on Mars, and what it will take to get there.

I skipped the biology chapters, because… gross.

Otherwise, engaging reading.

Book Log – Yes, Please

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Who doesn’t love Amy Poehler?

Seriously, who?  I will cut you.

She’s funny, she does one of the best female characters on television, she’s the brainchild behind the Smart Girls at the Party website (

Her book is a fine read.  She’s witty, and learning of her evolution to where she is now is a reasonably interesting story.  She has a good outlook on life, and its infectious.

Perhaps there wasn’t quite enough story to tell just yet, at her young age.  Or perhaps she could have fleshed it out a bit more.  Her years at SNL are told in little one or two sentence snippets; Perhaps if she’d told them as full stories with more detail, we could have gotten a more vivid impression of what it was like to be her in that famous writer’s room.

Regardless, I enjoyed the book.  After all… she’s Amy Freaking Poehler.

Book Log – The Land of Stories

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

This another bedtime reader.  My whole year of reading is basically reading to kids.

Land of Stories we read at the same time as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, alternating nightly.  My son much preferred this book; My daughter complained she never knew what was going on, largely because she would fall asleep halfway through each evening’s reading.

This is an okay book, the first in what appears to be a popular series.  Written by one of the kids from Glee, it documents a fairy-tale obsessed couple of siblings that fall into the world where the stories come from.  There’s a whole lot of fan-girling at storybook characters and “wow can you believe we’re really here and it’s really real?” stuff.

There’s a lot of plot machinations to get them going on a quest that will allow the writer to introduce all of the storybook characters.

All in all, it was okay.

Book Log – Mr. Gum series

  • You’re a Bad Man, Mr. Gum
  • Mr.Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire
  • Mr. Gum and the Goblins
  • Mr. Gum and the Power Crystals
  • Mr. Gum and the Dancing Bear
  • What’s for Dinner, Mr. Gum?
  • Mr. Gum and the Cherry Tree
  • Mr. Gum and the Secret Hideout

all by Andy Stanton

This is a series that the kids and I ploughed through at bedtime.  This series is by far my favorite set of kids books.  It is absurd, and ridiculously funny.

Mr. Gum is a deplorable human, with a disgusting house with “carpet the colour of unhappiness.”  We have taken to describing things we don’t like as having the colour/shape/smell of unhappiness around our house.

Each story captures the evil plot of Mr. Gum and his conspirators being battled by the forces of good, namely the bold and courageous young Polly (whose full name is half a page long) and the eccentric and possibly magical Friday O’ Leary.

The true value of the books lie in the language and word play.  Polly’s dialog and the narration are a delight to read.  The whole stories are terrifically over the top.

A must have for any kid over the age of 6 or so.

Book Log – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

This was a request from my daughter for our nightly before-bed reading.  My son tolerated it, but just barely.

Scout enjoyed it, though she admitted it was super-trippy.  My son didn’t understand why it was so popular, not making a whole lot of sense.

My only answer was that perhaps there weren’t so many fanciful children’s books at the time.  No Harry Potters or the like, and kids grabbed on to what they could.

Or maybe kids did a lot of drugs back then.  Dunno.

Book Log – Lockwood & Co., Book 2 The Whispering Skull

Lockwood & Co., Book 2 The Whispering Skull by Jonathon Stroud

Stroud writes really good young adult fiction, that works for adults as well.  He’s just one of those writers that just writes incredibly well, and has good ideas to back up his technique.

Lockwood & Co skews a little younger than the Bartimaeus series, I think, but I didn’t mind. The world building he does about teenage British ghostbusters is immaculate and engaging.  And just creepy enough for me.

The second book builds on the supernatural conventions very well, adding pieces to the puzzle of why ghosts began appearing 50 years before the time of the story, and what the ghosts are.  The whispering skull itself is the second incident in recorded history of one of the spooks communicating with the living, and his dialog is reminiscent of the snarky Bartimaeus character I enjoyed so much.  I enjoy a good sarcastic demon character.  Call it the Betelgeuse Effect.

This is another series I’m trying to get into RocketBoy’s hands, but we left the first one in New Jersey this past summer, so it won’t be retrieved until Xmas.  Alack, alas.

Book Log – Stardust

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This is the first book I’ve read that was culled from our Little Free (Monster) Library out front of our house.

Looking it up on Amazon just now, I see that it’s a movie from 2007 with a bunch of movie stars in it… Robert DeNiro, Claire Danes, bunch of others.  I had never heard of it, but the visuals look pretty spectacular.

But, the book.

The book is a very Neil Gaimenesque wonky tale with plenty of eccentricity.  If Gaimen does anything well, it’s invent new fantasy elements.

In fact, my only issue with this book is that it feels like a clever bunch of fantasy elements strung together on a thin plot.  The ideas are entertaining and stick with you… perhaps that’s enough to call it a good book.

An ordinary town called Wall is near a wall between the fairy land and the regular old world.  A boy is with a parent from each side is raised on the dull side, then begins a quest for a girl’s love through the never traveled fairy land.  And fantasy elements ensue.

It’s a good read, and I’m passing it on to my son, so he can read it before we watch the movie.

Book Log – Peter and the Shadow Thieves

Peter and the Shadow Thieves (Peter and the Starcatchers #2) by Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson, Greg Call (Illustrations)

This has been my nightly read-aloud to the kids, and both of them looked forward to the nightly chapter or two. It’s a good solid action/fantasy, with a nice take on the Peter Pan origin story. We picked up the next three books, so we should be enmeshed in this world for a couple years.

It will be interesting to see how long my 11 year old sticks with the nightly reading. My guess is he would be fine with just reading to himself at night, but it’s like when someone is watching a good tv show in a room you walk through… it’s hard to keep walking sometimes.

Book Log – The Blood of Flowers

The Blood of Flowers: A Novel by Anita Amirrezvani

I actually finished this quite a while back. I got it for a neighborhood book club, but never actually went to the book club meeting.

I really enjoyed this book on a 17th century Persian rug maker. I never know how accurate this period novels are, but it certainly immersed me in some kind of world, regardless of how true it was.

It’s got a great female protagonist, strong writing, humor, sensuality… good stuff.

Shoulda’ gone to the book club meeting.