An Un-Calibrated Centrifuge

My dad once said to me, "You give a lot of books three stars." I do.

The House of the Scorpion

The House of the Scorpion - Nancy Farmer

Another one from NPR's Ultimate Backseat Bookshelf.


I've owned this book forever. My grandma gave it to me, and I just never got around to reading it. It would not have appealed to me as a kid, and I had to resort to skimming several times because the story was too graphic.


The writing felt inconsistent. Sometimes it was great and I was really immersed in the story. Other times it was so boring it felt like a slog to finish. The pacing was equally inconsistent. There are so many interesting ideas in the book that went nowhere.


If I hadn't challenged myself to complete it, I would have quit reading about 100 pages in. I'm not mad that I've read it. I guess I'm just confused why it keeps ending up on best of lists. Has no one written a better kids cloning book since 2002? Maybe it's because I'm not a fan of sci-fi. Maybe I'm just not getting it.

Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery

Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery - Russell Freedman

I only picked up this book because it's on a list I'm trying to complete. I am not a fan of the Roosevelts, and I'm not a fan of this book. I'm sorry, but it's disingenuous at the least to write a book about Eleanor Roosevelt that covers her life during WWII but makes zero mention of Japanese internment. I read ~75 pages to get a feel for the tone, skimmed ahead to see how WWII was dealt with and then nope-ed out of the rest of the book. 


The 57 Bus

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives - Dashka Slater

WOW. I live in the Bay Area, and I had never heard this story. The book was recommended to me by a classmate and I started reading it today a little skeptically. It ended up being so good though.


The book tackles some really big topics (including gender identity, hate crimes, racial bias in the judicial system), and it easily could have become a huge mess. But Slater handles the story well. Occasionally bits are overwritten, but the book never becomes salacious or feels exploitative.

Green River Killer

Green River Killer: A True Detective Story - Jonathan Case, Jeff Jensen

This book should have been interesting, but the material is mishandled, and it ends up being a story about essentially nothing (what was the point of this book?).


I did not understand the interweaving timelines. It just made it difficult to understand what was happening.


Skip this one and read My Friend Dahmer instead if you're looking for graphic novels about serial killers.

Return of the Thief

Megan Whalen Turner announced the sixth (and final?) book of The Queen's Thief series a few days ago, coming March 19, 2019. I'm not ready. I just reread the series last summer. I thought I had at least four more years. My whole brain is crying (and has been since the announcement).

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer - Michelle McNamara, Patton Oswalt, Gillian Flynn

I have to start this review by saying that I have never really liked Patton Oswalt, but his tweet about how America is more sexist than it is racist sent me from dislike to hate. His connection to this book combined with the subject matter had me convinced I would never read it. 


And then a coworker recommended it to me several times and I had some vacation, so I did end up reading it and now I know that true crime is not the genre for me. The book is very well-written, but honestly so scary. I felt really unsettled for several days after reading it. Just knowing this guy was still out there freaked me out so so much. 


I'm writing this review today because today they finally caught the Golden State Killer. Maybe now the many questions the book brings up will be answered. 


Sassafras (Serendipity Book) - Stephen Cosgrove, Robin James

My note on this book says: Reminds me of the Mrs Piggle-Wiggle books but slightly less absurd. So take that as you will.


Squeakers - Stephen Cosgrove, Robin James

A heavy subject wrapped up in a way that kids can understand.


Shimmeree (Serendipity Books) - Stephen Cosgrove, Robin James

Fits my idea of a quintessential Serendipity book: fantastic land, beautiful creatures, moral at the end (not as heavy-handed as some…).


Fanny - Stephen Cosgrove, Robin James

I feel like the intent behind this one is good, but the repetition that being handicapped is only a state of mind doesn’t sound great? I mean, the story could have hit harder on the other animals’ prejudice towards Fanny than the fact that she has three legs?

Morgan Morning

Morgan Morning - Stephen Cosgrove

This one was weirdly morbid for a kids' book.


Catundra (Serendipity Books) - Stephen Cosgrove, Robin James

Conflates skinny-ness with beauty and health.
Also shows cats eating vegetables.

Little Mouse on the Prairie

Little Mouse on the Pairie (Serendipity) - Stephen Cosgrove, Robin James

The tale is similar to the ant and the grasshopper. The Serendipity stories all feel like stories you've read before with a slight twist. The illustrations are the best part of the series but even those have their flaws (every single creature has suuuper long eyelashes... even the lizards). 

Truly Devious

Truly Devious - Maureen Johnson

Nope nope nope. 1. Why is Maureen Johnson starting a new series when I have been waiting on the last Shades of London book for years? 2. Why wasn't it at least better?


To be fair, I did read the whole thing, but I wasn't happy about it. If a book has flat characters, it better have a good plot. If the plot is weak the characters better at least be interesting. To have both... don't do it.


Also it's unfair to write a book and not resolve any of the storylines. OK, there is one reveal at the end of the book, but it's about a super boring character (from a cast of boring characters) and it answered a question no one was asking.


More rambling under the cut.

read more

Goodbye, Vitamin

Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel - Rachel Khong

This is a SVR 2018 book. A copy was available on Overdrive, and I needed a desk book. 


I kept getting pulled out of the story at the beginning because I kept having to Google things. Can people who are allergic to NSAIDs take aspirin? What is the difference between lo mein and chow mein? 


But once I settled into the story, the book read very quickly. It might have read a little too quickly? At the end I didn't feel like a year had passed. The book also ended quite abruptly. I would have liked a little more resolution. 


ETA: There were times where I was reading, and it was like seeing my family on the page. That doesn't happen too often, and I like when it does.

Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng

This book was really good, but it also made me really anxious. I had to stop in the middle and read a summary to find out how everything ended before I could finish it.