Below: dashed off notes on the last dozen books I've either read or attempted.
Grimalkin the Witch Assassin

  Grimalkin the Witch Assassin (The Last Apprentice, Book 9)
• Joseph Delaney
pb 416 pages ISBN-10: 0062082086 ISBN-13: 978-0062082084
This series is never not good. They are fast-moving stories filled with witches, beasts, fights, ghouls of every stripe and narrow escapes. They can also be gruesome but this is a horror series so that's no surprise. This book is a bit of departure in that Grimalkin is the protagonist (and narrator) and Tom Ward (the apprentice spook) sits this one out. She's a great character, though. Also, one note: I've recently learned that this series will end with book 13. Fitting, that.
[started 26 march 2014, finished 9 april 2014] [amazon]
 
Rise Of Empire

  Rise of Empire (Riyria Revelations, vol 2) • Michael J. Sullivan
tpb 688 pages ISBN-10: 0316187704 ISBN-13: 978-0316187701
This volume contains books 3 and 4 of the Riyria Revelations. They follow the adventures of Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater. But they've largely moved on from their previous pursuits and are fully caught up in the political intrigue enveloping their world. Three factions are angling for power. I read book 3 (the first half of this volume) months ago and then returned to finish it this month. Sometimes the story doesn't quite grab me but then it always gets better as I continue. By and large it's light-hearted adventure stuff that is easy and fun reading.
[started 20 july 2013, 25 march 2014] [amazon]
 
Momo

  Momo • Michael Ende
pb 227 pages ISBN-10: 0140079165 ISBN-13: 978-0140079166
This book had been sitting on my shelves and that turned out to be a good thing because I needed another book to read aloud to my daughter. This story about a young homeless girl named Momo who arrives at the edge of the (nameless) city and makes her home in the ruins of an old amphitheatre. She soon becomes very popular with many of the children of the city and some of the adults because in her presence people think clearly and she really listens to people. But then the men in gray arrive. They are insidiously stealing time from people with their nefarious Time-Saving Bank. Momo, however, is impervious to their charms, but as the situation worsens, she has to do something about it. This book is very much about the value of your time and what you do with it. (Hint: don't get carried away by ambition and haste.) This book is also sort of an odd tale that slowly gets under your skin. We enjoyed it.
[started 4 feb 2014, finished 6 mar 2014] [amazon]
 
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

  Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore • Robin Sloan
pb 304 pages ISBN-10: 1250037751 ISBN-13: 978-1250037756
A twentysomething website designer suddenly finds himself without a job and takes a job at the titular bookstore. He quickly learns that the odd bookstore has even odder books and few (and secretive) customers. So he investigates what's going and brings in some friends into the investigations and they lead to a secret society. There's a lot of cool ideas going on here and so many geek and pop-culture references that it helps to be familiar with Generation X stuff. But while the story drew me in immediately, once I was halfway through it wasn't as much as a page-turner as before. Also, the characters are basically ciphers. But it was interesting enough to finish it. One thing is for sure, the author is a big fan of books, the internet, and Google.
[finished 2 mar 2014] [amazon]
 
Pirate Latitudes

  Pirate Latitudes • Michael Crichton
mmpb 416 pages ISBN-10: 0061929387 ISBN-13: 978-0061929380
This book was found as a finished manuscript after the death of the author. Like just about everything I've read by him, the narrative hums along at a fast clip and deserves to be called a page-turner. Set in 1665, this is a straightforward pirate adventure tale complete with sea battles, treachery, treasure, swordfights, and even an encounter with a kraken! Great for a quick read but not otherwise memorable.
[started 2 feb 2014, finished 12 feb 2014] [amazon]
 
The True Meaning of Smekday

  The True Meaning of Smekday • Adam Rex
pb 432 pages ISBN-10: 0786849010 ISBN-13: 978-0786849017
This was a Christmas gift for my 11-year-old son. He finished it a few weeks ago and loved it. So then I needed another read-aloud book for my daughter (age 9). She was soon entranced by the story and occasionally my son would pop by during a reading to re-live some of the humor. The story concerns a young girl named Gratuity ("Tip" to her friends) who is writing a school paper assignment (the title of the book). Smekday is a holiday created (or co-opted really) by the alien invaders known as the Boov. Tip's mom (along with most of the other Americans) gets kidnapped by the Boov and relocated to Florida. Shortly afterwards, Tip befriends a renegade Boov who had adopted the name J. Lo. J. Lo, a male by the way, is hiding from his fellow Boov because of a screw-up he's responsible for. Much of the humor in the book stems from the relationship between Tip and J. Lo. It's funny stuff. They're soon on a road trip together.

Once again, whenever I informed my daughter that I was going to stop reading for the night, she begged me to read just a little bit more. Note: there are several fun illustrations within the book too.
[finished 3 February 2014] [amazon]
 

In the Company of Ogres

  In the Company of Ogres • A. Lee Martinez
mmpb 336 pages ISBN-10: 0765354578 ISBN-13: 978-0765354570
Never Dead Ned has died dozens of times yet each time gets resurrected. He's not very good at staying alive for long. Then Ned gets assigned to be the next commander of Ogre Company, the place where the Legion's rejects get assigned and it's full of ogres, elves, goblins, sirens, humans, etc. The past several commanders of Ogre Company seemed to die mysterious (and sudden) deaths too. It doesn't look good for Ned. And then when he finally learns why he keeps getting resurrected, he's got a real motive for staying alive. But Ned's got enemies including a cursed wizard and a demon lord.

This is a comic fantasy and has it's amusing moments but too much of the story suffers from a lack of action and the plot is way too listless for the bulk of the story. Then finally, somewhere well past the mid-point, things pick up and the ending is much more fun and entertaining. Very light reading.
[finished 6 January 2014] [amazon]
 

The Templeton Twins Have an Idea

  The Templeton Twins Have an Idea • Ellis Weiner
pb 240 pages ISBN-10: 1452127042 ISBN-13: 978-1452127040
I picked this one out for a read-aloud book for my daughter. I didn't get too far into it before her older brother decided he wanted to sit in on the readings as well. The Templeton twins are 12-year-old John and Abigail. They have an inventor father named Elton. But then the evil Dean D. Dean (and his brother Dan D. Dean) try to steal credit for one of Elton's inventions and the twins become part of the plans of the evil Deans. The story is told by a "narrator" who refers to himself/herself a lot, makes a lot of snarky comments, and generally is highly self-regarded. Quick story with some humor in it and my kids ate it up.
[finished 6 January 2014] [amazon]
 
The World in a Phrase

  The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism • James Geary
HC 192 pages ISBN-10: 1582344302 ISBN-13: 978-1582344300
I've found this slim volume to be very entertaining and informative. I read it the first time at the end of 2005 and just finished my second reading of it yesterday. James Geary, an editor of the European edition of Time magazine, has been collecting aphorisms since he was a young man. He defines an aphorism as being brief, definitive, personal, and philosophical. And it must have a twist. Then he provides some brief bios on the best known aphorists from Lao-tzu to Dr. Seuss and beyond. Of course many examples of their aphorisms are included. I enjoyed this thought-provoking book very much. Below are some of the aphorisms that I particularly enjoyed.
Your worst enemy can not harm you as much as your own thoughts, unguarded. But once mastered, no one can help you as much.
~ Buddha (c. 563 - 483 BCE)

Acquire knowledge. It enables its possessor to distinguish right from wrong; it lights the way to heaven; it is our friend in the desert, our society in solitude, our companion when friendless; it guides us to happiness; it sustains us in misery; it is an ornament among friends, and an armor against enemies.
~ Muhammad (570 - 632)

Insist on yourself; never imitate.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

How many a man has dated an era in his life from the reading of a book!
~ Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862)

Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.
~ Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

Politics: a Trojan horse race.
~ Stanislaw Jerzy Lec (1909 - 1966)

Playing it safe can cause a lot of damage in the long run.
~ Jenny Holzer (1950 - )

[finished 25 November 2013] [amazon]
 
The Green Futures of Tycho

  The Green Futures of Tycho • William Sleator
mmpb 128 pages ISBN-10: 0765352389 ISBN-13: 978-0765352385
Eleven-year-old Tycho discovers a mysterious egg-shaped object as he digging in his garden and learns it is a time-travel device. He's determined to keep it a secret from his bossy older brothers and sister and begins jumping back and forth in time. But he soon discovers that when he visits the future, the futures are getting weirder and scarier. Tycho is horrified to see what he himself is turning into and must figure out a way to prevent what the future may hold. It's a fast book but a little confusing at times. Regardless, I read it aloud to my 8-year-old daughter and she and I enjoyed discussing the events in the book as we were going through it. It provoked a lot of interesting discussion with her.
[finished 24 November 2013] [amazon]
 
Shipwrecked

  Shipwrecked: The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy
• Rhoda Blumberg
HC ISBN-10: 9780688174859 ISBN-13: 978-0688174859 (pb)
I also read this true story aloud to my daughter. A young Japanses fisherman gets shipwrecked along with his comrades in the early 1800s when Japan observed a strict isolationist policy. From there they embark on a real life adventure featuring whaling ships and learning about America and Americans first hand. The book includes many illustrations, period drawings, woodblock prints, etc. We learned a lot of interesting things about this time, especially about whaling. Interesting tale.
[finished 9 November 2013] [amazon]
 
Who Could That Be at This Hour?

  Tibet Through the Red Box • Peter Sís
hc 64 pages ISBN-10: 0374375526 ISBN-13: 978-0374375522
I re-read this recently aloud to my daughter. It's an unusual story that mixes the fantastical with a diary left by the author's father, a documentary filmmaker, in a red box. The author's father had traveled to Tibet to film the making of a highway into Tibet and was gone for just over a year. The drawings within are awesome -- I'm a big fan of Peter Sís and his detailed, intricate line-drawings. And the story within is by turns fascinating and strange.
[finished 6 November 2013] 2nd reading [amazon]
 
 

last dozen books read
Grimalkin the Witch Assassin ~ Joseph Delaney
Rise of Empire ~ Michael J Sullivan
Momo ~ Michael Ende
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
~ Robin Sloan
Pirate Latitudes ~ Michael Crichton
The True Meaning of Smekday ~ Adam Rex
In the Company of Ogres ~ A. Lee Martinez
The Templeton Twins Have an Idea: Book 1
~ Ellis Weiner
The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism ~ James Geary
The Green Futures of Tycho ~ William Sleator
Shipwrecked: The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy ~ Rhoda Blumberg
Tibet Through the Red Box ~ by Peter Sís


recommended general fiction:
Carter Beats the Devil ~ Glen David Gold
The Lovely Bones ~ Alice Sebold
Geek Love ~ Katherine Dunn
Corelli's Mandolin ~ Louis De Bernieres
Water Music ~ T. Coraghessan Boyle
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
  ~ David Mitchell
City of Thieves ~ David Benioff


recommended crime fiction:
Bad Things Happen ~ Harry Dolan
Ordinary Thunderstorms ~ William Boyd
Beat The Reaper ~ Josh Bazell


recommended fantasy:
Perdido Street Station ~ China Miéville
Furies of Calderon ~ Jim Butcher
The Gates ~ John Connolly
The Warded Man ~ Peter V. Brett
Sixty-One Nails ~ Mike Shevdon
Dark Harvest ~ Norman Partridge
Johannes Cabal the Necromancer
  ~ Jonathan L. Howard
Boneshaker ~ Cherie Priest
Soulless ~ Gail Carriger
Scar Night ~ Alan Campbell


recommended YA:
Revenge of the Witch ~ Joseph Delaney
The Amulet of Samarkand ~ Jonathan Stroud
The Goose Girl ~ Shannon Hale
The True Meaning of Smekday ~ Adam Rex
A Tale Dark and Grimm  ~ Adam Gidwitz
The Mysterious Benedict Society
 ~ Trenton Lee Stewart
The Graveyard Book ~ Neil Gaiman


recommended science fiction:
The Skinner ~ Neal Asher


recommended non-fiction:
The World Without Us ~ Alan Weisman
God Is Not Great ~ Christopher Hitchens
The Immortal Game ~ David Shenk
Silk Road To Ruin ~ Ted Rall
A Short History of Nearly Everything ~ Bill Bryson
The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism
~ James Geary
Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects
~ Amy Stewart
The Checklist Manifesto ~ Atul Gawande
Sh*t My Dad Says ~ Justin Halpern