Friday, May 30, 2014

I habe a cood - Achoo!

Sorry I have been dormant.  I have a terrible cold and haven't been up to anything the past few days.

Here - have a picture of the workings of our old Planetarium. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle in Time 
by Madeleine L'Engle

Publisher: Dell
Format: Paperback  
Copyright: 1973 edition - First published 1962
Pages: 211
Genre: Classic children's literature
Source: personal copy

 It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I'll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract."

 I read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle last week during Bout of Books because it was on my TBR pile for the May Midnight Garden's Classic YA Readalong. I had really enjoyed reading Anne of Green Gables and have started reading the The Golden Compass in order to catch up. I was really excited about Wrinkle in Time. (If you have read my Bout of Books update, you already know most of what I am going to say here.)

Now I am all verklempt. I remember loving the Wrinkle in Time books when I was a kid but I have not re-read them since and almost nothing I remember was in this book - I must be remembering a different one in the series. This book was plain odd for me and reading it now, I don't understand why I loved it so much. The style is disorganized, the plot jumpy and kinda incoherent, there is lots of telling and not showing. It doesn't really make much sense and the story ends very abruptly. The story is basically a Good verses Evil story but lacking in any subtly. The ideas here are interesting and potentially engaging but the execution is seriously lacking.

There are some classic lines in the earlier part of the book, for example ...

I love "Have you ever tried to get to your feet with a sprained dignity?" 

Both "But you see Meg, just because we don't understand doesn't mean that the explanation doesn't exist." and  "Oh, yes, things could always be worse." are both good bits of advice.

... but as the story goes on it becomes more and more disjointed, and the descriptions are increasingly uneven.

Were we really so bereft of adventure books with female characters that this was exciting at the time?  We must have been. I am still mulling this over. A Wrinkle in Time was the winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal but, and this is going to sound cranky, it doesn't look like there was a very wide field that year - the runners up that year were Thistle and Thyme: Tales and Legends from Scotland by Sorche Nic Leodhas, pseud. (Leclaire Alger) (Holt) and Men of Athens by Olivia Coolidge (Houghton). Compare that to other years in the 60s when Cricket in Times Square, Across Five Aprils and Black Caldron were runners up. I was scanning the list from the 60s to see what other heroines there were and it was more diverse than I expected, though the category of books with a female lead must still have been pretty short. Now I want to go back and read the 1961 Medal Winner, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, which I also adored as a child, to see how well it holds up. 

I know that the character of Meg was important for many young women, me included - she was brave, dedicated to her brother and family, and suffering the slings and arrows of being a teenage girl of no special beauty or talent (theoretically at least - she was actually extremely talented in mathematics and she gets through her gawky phase to later become a beauty in later books if memory serves). For girls in the 60s and 70s she obviously was very relatable and the fact that she was successful in her adventure at saving her brother and father, rather than being a damsel in distress, that was huge.

But reading the story now? Meg comes off as rather a brat and is busy acting out - totally understandably given the situation, but at the start of things she isn't actually trying to make anything better - instead she is wallowing in her grief. She doesn't get into gear until forced. For me, this time around she was much less sympathetic. She was selected for this job by The Power of Good after all and has tremendous support through Mrs. Whatsit, Who and Witch. When she pulls herself together it is less of a heroic shift due to personal growth and more of a finally. I know that teenagers can feel like the universe is against them and Meg is rather the embodiment of that - so the fact that she wins against the universe must be appealing to a kid. It comes off much less well to an adult.

Oh dear. I am not even going to attempt to rate this book. Disappointment will almost certainly weight it down. I will let that sit.

I am looking forward to sharing Anne of Green Gables with my daughter when she is a bit older, but now that I have re-read A Wrinkle in Time (and I do still plan to read the other ones that I did as a kid - just to see if what I remember is in Swiftly Tilting Planet or Wind in the Door) -  I really doubt that I will suggest this one to my daughter.  There seem to be much better choices these days and the story, to me anyhow, doesn't appear to have aged very well.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lexicon by Max Barry

by Max Barry

Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (April 1, 2014)
Format: Paperback  
Copyright: 2013
Pages: 400
Genre: 'Thriller'
Source: personal copy

Amazon says this "At an exclusive training school at an undisclosed location outside Washington, D.C., students are taught to control minds, to wield words as weapons. The very best graduate as “poets” and enter a nameless organization of unknown purpose. Recruited off the street, whip-smart Emily Ruff quickly learns the one key rule: never allow another person to truly know you. Emily becomes the school’s most talented prodigy, until she makes the catastrophic mistake of falling in love."

Which is a terrible description - Emily is not their most talented prodigy by a long shot - she was a street hustler playing three card Monte and only gets in on sufferance. The book actually starts with the other main character, Wil, who is being kidnapped from an airport by two men who think that there is something special about him. 

The book starts with ...

"He's coming around."

"Their eyes always do that."

The world was blurry. There was a pressure in his right eye. He said, Urk.

Well, if there is anyone reading my ramblings this is probably not going to go down well but I don't have any idea why this book was so popular. There is effusive buzz about this book all over the place and it sounded like it should be right up my alley. After reading the first few chapters, my reaction to the plot was sociopathic bloodbath, and - well, it didn't really change except to add the word boring because everything was telegraphed from miles away. 

This might get a bit spoilery - the plot is so linear, despite the time splice, it is hard to say anything without potentially giving something away. I know that several people have complained it was difficult to follow the time jumps - and the author does cheat, jumping time frames within chapters, but I had no problem. Everything was linear - you were just waiting for them to connect at points to make the whole. I don't say anything explicit but fair warning, if you want to read the book with a pure mind skip this ...

The whole plot is completely predictable, since the dramatis personæ is so small you already know exactly who is who and you can tell what is going to happen. I kept hoping that something unexpected or interesting would happen but no dice. At best you had this verses that bipolar choices, so reading along was like flipping switches - this - this - that ... which means the books pretty much fails as a thriller for me. 

The world-building was nonsensical too. Shallow post-modernist 'information is power' but 'truth is subjective' that doesn't go anywhere or have any deeper meaning. There doesn't seem to be a point to the names given to the poets (the magic word gobbledegook speakers) other than that they are names most people would recognize. If there really was a shadowy organization that acted like this bunch of twits they would have long since imploded. There was no internal logic to their behavior nor any sort of overarching purpose - it never made any sense - we have awesome power and do research on phonemes and mass sociology - so we use it to lamely manipulate politics and make consumers buy more shit (oh, and get sex).  Really ??  That is the best you can do? 

We are also supposed to totally buy into protagonist centered morality, which means that the vast majority of the characters are two-dimensional red shirts, and we are supposed to root for the 'heroes' but I really have no idea why. Self-preservation isn't much of a heroic arc.

In addition the book seems to have some serious issues with sexuality - and appears to think that love = sex for some reason. Just yuck!

The ending was the soppiest bit of nonsense I have seen in a while. And to cap it all off - it seem nothing that happens in the story actually matters in the long run. If you think about it, the 'agency' is so seriously dysfunctional that it make have taken them a while to sort out that one of their own went nuts, but given a few months it would not have mattered anymore if they did or didn't, so it is seriously unclear that anything we read about mattered. 

If this is seriously what passes for a 'fast-moving, intelligent thriller' I despair of finding anything to read in this sub-genre that I will enjoy.  Two claws.  

The more I think about this, the more irritated I get, so...

Seriously - STOP NOW - unless you have already read the book or don't plan to 

The beginning of the book sets up this idea that Emily is unusual because she uses her words to kill someone - so that makes her susceptible and sets her up to be used. However, it turns out that the poets, and the agency as a whole, regularly kill off people all the time, in gruesome ways. For the most part it appears that the only reason members of the agency are upset about Broken Hills is that it was sloppy and too obvious, not that three thousand people died. Regular humans are treated like lab animals at best - actually no - there are rules about how lab animals are treated so that isn't it - regular humans are treated as disposable conveniences. I have seen this book described as fun and uplifting which makes me side-eye those reviewers and want to back away from them slowly. Mass murder is fun?

We find out that there are several 'branches' internationally with other leaders - so why doesn't Australia have their own head of agency ?  What's up with that ? The agency was already not making much sense, this made it even weirder. 

A pattern on a block of wood?  My suspension of disbelief was already pretty tenuous, but some block of wood that they dug up?

And - Elliot knew - he had worked out more or less what had happened so that at the beginning of book, the timeline that starts the book with Wil's kidnapping, he knew what went down at Broken Hills, he knew who was really responsible and his behavior after getting Wil doesn't make sense. Instead he experiences several course corrections as the reader learns more from the previous timelines. The connection from the last bit of the earlier timelines and the first bit of the later timeline that starts the book isn't made so there is a significant bit of logistics left out. This makes it seem like the author wasn't sure how he was going to end the book when he started, and didn't go back and fix it once he had the end so there are mismatches. And those connections - how you got from the bit near the end to the bit at the beginning would be the most interesting part of the story and would have the most active characters running around!  Instead the reader starts out knowing that all of those people are dead (or at least will be soon) so they lose all their potential for interest and just become more red shirts. ARGH!


Ten Books About Friendship

Hosted by the Broke and Bookish the topic for May 20th is Ten Books About Friendship.

Since I have been reading lots of Classic and more recent YA/children's books I thought that I would pick books using that as a theme ...

1) Anne and Diane in Anne of Green Gables. Though in this case I suppose that Anne wouldn't call it friendship - she would call it a meeting of kindred spirits. This sets a rather high bar for friendship.

2) Judy (Jerusha) and Sally in Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster. Jean would call Sally her best friend, but this would be another example of kindred spirits.

3) Now I have a couple about discovering a friendship with your brother or sister - first I just finished in Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells Emilie starts to reconnect with her brother. Note - you can't read this book without reading Emilie and the Hollow World first!

4) Which made me think of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg which also features a brother and sister learning about each other and becoming friends.

5) The friendship between Danny and Wendell is at the core of all of the Dragonbreath books by Ursula Vernon. They are pretty much inseparable.

6) One of the things that I really liked about Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger is that there are several friendships.

7) How about a friendship that isn't quite what it appears to be ? In Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol, a ghost becomes Anya's best friend, but it isn't clear that that is a good idea.

8) In Zita the Spacegirl: Far from Home by Ben Hatke, it is Zita's ability to make friends that enables her to have her adventures and it was because she was picking on her friend Joseph that they got into trouble in the first place.

9) Oh - that reminds me of Giants Beware written by Jorge Aguirre and illustrated by Rafael Rosad. This is a wonderful graphic novel that features a girl, her younger brother and her best friend going on an adventure - testing the limits of friendship and what it is fair to expect of your friends. 

10) Friendship and the associated costs are at the heart of The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues by Ellen Raskin. The name sounds very frivious, but this is actually a pretty deep book.

10.5) I also have to give a shout-out to Frog and Toad are Friends books by

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bout of Books Weekend Update and Wrapup

Bout of BooksHurray for completing my second Bout of Books!

The weekend was very busy with family time, homework. etc. but I managed to do more reading than I usually would have, mostly by waking up early and staying up late.  I have to remember that I really need to focus on ebooks for these kinds of events since that is what I typically end up reading - like Sunday morning I had a child climb on top of my and fall asleep pretty much trapping me - I didn't have enough light to read a print book, so I wound up reading an ebook that wasn't even on my radar at the start of the week.

Pages read: 328 pages today
  • 228 pages of Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells (fun!)  - finished it.
  • 100 pages of Lexicon by Max Barry  - sociopathic blood bath
  • 118 pages of The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke (wow! was this intense!)
Running Total Pages:  1188 ; plus a 214 page graphic novel
Books Finished so far: 5
I didn't get to participate in the challenge today.

Pages read: 328 pages today (wow, that's weird - same as Saturday)
  • 246 pages of Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster - finished it.
  • 82 pages of Lexicon by Max Barry
Running Total Pages: 1516 ; plus a 214 page graphic novel
Books Finished so far: 6
I didn't get to participate in the challenge today either. Heck - I didn't even get to touch a computer on Sunday! 

So, like I said, on Sunday morning I wound up with a child sleeping on top of me (she informed me that she had a bad dream and fell asleep on me after talking about it for a while) - I couldn't reach my book so I checked out the Amazon daily deals on my ereader - and read about Dear Mr. Knightley - which sounded rather too much like a rip of one of my favorite books from when I was a kid - Daddy-Long-Legs - and it turns out that you can download Jean Webster's books for free so I got Daddy-Long-Legs and Dear Enemy (which I have actually read 19 pages of but I have no intention of re-jiggering all my numbers at this point!).

Happily, unlike with Wrinkle in Time, I still really enjoyed Daddy-Long-Legs. It makes for a sweet, entertaining read, and as an adult it is obvious now what was happening, though it surprised me as a kid. The story is a little problematic in terms of modern social mores, but the squick factor isn't that bad.


Wrap up - 

So how did I do ?   Here is my original Bout of Books 10.0 Goals List 

Final Stats: 
Total pages read: 1,516; plus a 214 page graphic novel
Total books finished: 6

Books Finished:
The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Owl's Well That Ends Well by Donna Andrews
Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells  
The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke  

Books In Progress: 
 Lexicon by Max Barry

 On the Organic Law of Change: A Facsimile Edition and Annotated Transcription of Alfred Russel Wallace's Species Notebook of 1885-1859 annotated by James T. Costa.

Oh - and Dear Enemy by Jean Webster, which I forgot that I started reading a bit after finishing Daddy-Long -Legs. 

My Goals

  • To read 6 books for pleasure (to heck with books for classes - I have all summer for that).  DONE! - Not generally the ones I planned to read, but still I did read 6 books.
  • Complete at least a summary review for each book read Working on it. 
  • I also want to participate in at least three challenges (I did all but one last time, but my time will be more thoroughly occupied with grading this time around).   DONE!
Hope your Bout of Books went well!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bout of Books Friday Update

Bout of BooksFriday was full time grading, with a little bits of reading here and there. Brain is fried today.

Pages read: 196 pages today
  • 88 pages out of The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff - finishing it.
  • 108 pages of Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells (fun!)  
Running Total Pages:  860 ; plus 96 pages of a graphic novel
Books Finished so far: 3
 The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
 Owl's Well That Ends Well by Donna Andrews
Challenges:  Rainbow of Books Challenge for Bout of Books! This one was lots of fun - I created a pile at work all from nonfiction books.

I also finished the Cover Scavenger Hunt at Book Monsters that was fun too.
I liked The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street though not as much as 84, Charing Cross Road. Duchess is a series of journal entries describing the trip that Helene Hanff took to London after the publication of 84, Charing Cross Road - basically a book tour kind of thing. I have been to London a couple of times (short work trips) and mostly the book made me want to go back. I loved London and it was a ton of fun with the kids, since most of the museums are free (donations accepted) and there are lovely parks with slides and playgrounds all over the place. I want to go back. Now! 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Rainbow of Books Challenge for Bout of Books!

I am at work grading tests etc. but this one sounded like fun so I wanted to try it with the books that I had in the office (skipping out textbooks - with one exception - Indigo was really hard to find!).

This is what I came up with ...

I topped off the pile with Color by Victoria Finlay because it seemed appropriate but here are my rainbow books

Black - Spook by Mary Roach
Violet - A Walk Through Time by Sidney Liebes, Elisabet Sahtouris and Brian Swimme
Indigo - Practical Forensic Microscopy by Barbara Wheeler and Lori Wilson
Blue - Maps, Myths and Men by Kirsten Seaver
Green - sleeping naked is green by vanessa farquharson
Yellow - Crude: The Story of Oil by Sonia Shah
Orange - Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner
Red - No Impact Man by Colin Beavan
White - Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin (it just looks odd because of the desk color)

Now I want to do this at home too for a fiction version - since everything in that list is nonfiction.

A peak into On the Organic Law of Change and Nightmare of the Iguana

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City Reader.

Finals ended yesterday. Now I have about a thousand pounds of grading to do. So am procrastinating and doing this instead.

I am going to go backwards today - with nonfiction first since I got a cool book yesterday, a copy of On the Organic Law of Change: A Facsimile Edition and Annotated Transcription of Alfred Russel Wallace's Species Notebook of 1885-1859 annotated by James T. Costa and signed by the annotator. Without the threat of Wallace scooping him, Darwin might never have pulled himself together and published On the Origin of Species.

Since this book a facsimile of Wallace's notebook, I will go with the first bit that is coherent for an outside reader than the first page. The notebook starts with newspaper clips, random notes and a plan that sketches out for a "cheap inset cabinet" for displaying butterflies.

On March the 12th. 1885 I arrived at the landing place in the Si Munjon river. Here I found a thatch house erected by Mr. Coulson the superintendent of the Coal Mines at the neighbuoring mountain. A rough jungle path on logs & fallen trees leads from this point to the hill through a swampy forest - for about a mile & a half - On the road I found a magnificent Orchideous plant a species of Celogyne in flower, but saw very few insects till I arrived at the hill.

Celogyne is a genus consisting of more than 200 species of epiphytic orchids, so I have no idea which one he saw but here is an example ...

Now just for fun I am going to offer you the beginning bit of Nightmare of the Iguana (Dragonbreath #8) by Ursula Vernon ...

They were after him. 

The monsters were going to find him any minute now. 

There were different kinds, and they carried papers in their long claws. 

It was the quiz he hadn't studied for ! 

For The Friday 56 hosted at Freda's Voice
from page 56 of On the Organic Law of Change we have ...

Along this footpath we now walked listening for the slightest sound that might betray the presence of the monster till we came to the place where Charley has seen him going down the road. I felt sure he would be somewhere near as there were Chinamen working in the road, & he would have to come down on the ground to cross it which he would not do in their neighborhood, and as he has evidently come down from the hill he would probably not return there, but most likely remain stay til night ...  

The "monster" they are searching for is an orangutang BTW. 

And from page 56 of Nightmare of the Iguana:

"Suki also helps weed the tomatoes," said Great-Grandfather Dragonbreath, plonking down the teacups. "You'd think the mythopoetic influences could keep out the weeds, but nooooo . . . " He slid a cup towards Wendell. "Here Wanda, you look like something that's been living under the refrigerator for a week. Have some tea." 

"Is this the kind that tells your future in the tea leaves?"

"Sure. It says you're about to drink a cup of tea. Don't fight it." 

Bout of Books Thursday Update

Bout of BooksLast final was yesterday - now to full time grading!  Yeah?

Pages read:  94 pages today, plus 96 pages of a graphic novel;
• 51 pages out of The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff
• 96 pages out of Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
• 33 pages (11%) of Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells (fun!)
• 10 pages of On the Organic Law of Change: A Facsimile Edition and Annotated Transcription of Alfred Russel Wallace's Species Notebook of 1885-1859 annotated by James T. Costa. 
Pages - Running Total:  664
Books Finished so far: 2

Challenges: Bout of Books 10.0: Spell It Out Challenge  - I think I went a little overboard - I put my little phrase "Class Done Can Bloom" together using the pictures from books I had already reviewed because I did the challenge on my laptop while proctoring the last hour of a senior class capstone final. It wasn't the sort of final you can really cheat on, so I didn't have to spend the whole test period circling the room like a vulture but I still had to pay attention to them and answer questions, so I couldn't really sit there reading a book. The challenge was a nice compromise - trying to figure out what I could spell with the book cover I had copies of, rather than picking a word and finding books to spell it with.
I am reading Emilie and the Sky World to make up for my disappointment with A Wrinkle in Time. The first book Emilie & the Hollow World by Martha Wells was lots of fun - it is an adventure story that starts with Emilie runs away from home and, in a effort to stow away on a steamship, ends up  ...  going somewhere else entirely. The new book picks up pretty much right where the last book left off.

Plus - I have swag!  I picked up an autographed copy of On the Organic Law of Change: A Facsimile Edition and Annotated Transcription of Alfred Russel Wallace's Species Notebook of 1885-1859 annotated by James T. Costa.  It was signed by Costa, since I don't claim to have held a seance. Without Wallace, Darwin might never have pulled his act together and produced a paper. It was the threat of being scooped that got him moving.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Environmental News Notes 3

I have been rather avoiding this one, but here goes ...

1) Two miners were trapped and died at the Brody Mine #1 in Boone County, West Virginia on Monday. The mine was designated as a pattern violator by the MSHA, meaning it had repeatedly broken federal health and safety regulations in the previous year. The mine was being prepared for abandonment and the workers were engaged in the dangerous practice of removing the supporting pillars, usually 60 - 80 square feet, which are the last coal in the section of the mine. The company said that the miners died in a "severe coal burst" - which basically means that the weight from the roof got shifted to pillars that were too weak to support it, resulting in a catastrophic collapse.  You can read more at the New York Times.

Photo from the NY Times (Source)
This follows on a report released last week by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) which summarized the U.S. mining deaths which occurred during the first quarter of 2014. From Jan. 1 to March 31, eight miners died in accidents in the U.S. mining industry - three were killed in coal mining accidents and five in metal and nonmetal mining accidents. There were 15 deaths in the previous quarter.

2) Of course, this pales in comparison to what happened in Soma, Turkey, where more than 250 people were killed in a coal mine explosion. The explosion occurred during a subsurface shift change when more than 700 workers were underground. The explosion started a fire that cut off electricity to the mine, rendering the elevator useless and trapping hundreds of miners approximately a mile beneath the surface. As of now, they are still pulling out bodies so the death count will continue to climb. Roughly 450 miners were rescued, but about 150 others miners are still unaccounted for. As far as I can tell the majority of the deaths have been due to carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Photo from Ruters via (Source)
And as bad as Turkey is - this incident is the worst mining disaster in Turkish history, but according to an article in the New Yorker, there have been at least thirteen “major” mining accidents in Turkey since 1983, most due to methane explosions. Last year alone, thirteen thousand miners reportedly suffered workplace accidents and there have been some 3,000 deaths since 1941 - China is even worse. The MSHA reports that there are around 1,000 coal mining related deaths there each year.

3) They still don't know what caused the radiation release at the WIPP site, but they confirmed last week they "discovered that some of the large magnesium oxide bags that are placed on top of waste disposal containers during disposal were damaged. The magnesium oxide in the 3,000 - 4,200 pound bags acts as a barrier, helping to prevent the radioactive material from being releasing into the environment" 

Spring is Blooming

I am glad that I caught these flowers looking like this - because now the rain is trying to drown them all.

Bout of Books 10.0: Spell It Out Challenge

The books covers below spell out: CLASS DONE CAN BLOOM 

All but one were taken from images that I had already uploaded for my blog, I have read all of them and reviewed most of them :-)

The down side of this is that while classes are almost done (last one right now!) I still have about a thousand hours of grading to do.
Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
Lake Effect: Two Sisters and a Town's Toxic Legacy by Nancy A. Nichols 
Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Soulless by Gail Carriger
Some Like it Hawk by Donna Andrews
Digger by Ursula Vernon
Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell
Nurk: The Strange, Surprising, Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew by Ursula Vernon
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Night Watch by Terry Pratchett, which I have read several times but all before I started this website. 
Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
Ottoline goes to School by Chris Riddell
Owl's Well That Ends Well (mini review) by Donna Andrews
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan