So, without further ado:
In no particular order:
"This will be over soon, and then I can go home to Tara." Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind by Alexandra Ripley.
It's not the first book. Of course it's not as good as Gone With the Wind was. But it is still an interesting take on what happens after GWtW, and I really enjoyed Scarlett's adventures, especially when she leaves the country.
"Keladry of Mindelan lay with the comfortable black blanket of sleep wrapped around her. Then, against the blackness, light moved and strengthened to show twelve large, vaguely rat- or insect-like metal creatures, devices built for murder. The killing devices were magical machines made of iron-coated giants' bones, chains, pulleys, dagger-fingers and -toes, and a long, whiplike tail. The seven-foot-tall devices stood motionless in a half circle as the light revealed what lay at their feet: a pile of dead children." Lady Knight by Tamora Pierce, the fourth book of the Protector of the Small quartet.
I've talked about Ms. Pierce's books before, but I'll never be able to say it enough. Go. Read all of her stories. Marvel at the complexity with which she writes these books supposedly written for young adults. Reread the stories. Take even more from them. Read them yet again, and again, and again. You won't be able to stop reading them.
"We didn't always live on Mango Street. Before that we lived on Loomis on the third floor, and before that we lived on Keeler. Before Keeler it was Paulina, and before that I can't remember. But what I remember most is moving a lot. Each time it seemed there'd be one more of us. By the time we got to Mango Street we were six--Mama, Papa, Carlos, Kiki, my sister Nenny and me." The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Cisneros uses the vignette to create a world that is harsh, beautiful, and painful all at once. Her narrator is stunning, and the voice of the narrative itself clearly draws from her heritage, revealing power and passion and pain. It's fantastic writing.
"Sunday November 21st
I've just seen a sparrow be quite literally washed off its perch on a tree. It should have had its umbrella up. But even if it had had its umbrella up it might have slipped on a bit of wet leaf and crashed into a passing squirrel. That is what life is like. Well, it's what my life is like." Dancing In my Nuddy-Pants: The Even Further Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison
This series is often compared to Bridget Jones, only for the younger crowd. However, Georgia is a fun and funny narrator, and though she is young, she is witty and smart--at times--and altogether interesting. I've never laughed at books more than I've laughed at this set.
"Elsewhere, night falls, but in Moonlight Bay it steals upon us with barely a whisper, like a gentle dark-sapphire surf licking a beach. At dawn, when the night retreats across the Pacific toward distant Asia, it is reluctant to go, leaving deep black pools in alleyways, under parked cars, in culverts, and beneath the leafy canopies of ancient oaks." Seize the Night by Dean Koontz
This is probably my favorite book by Koontz, and I'm a big fan anyway. I just love Christopher Snow, the narrator who cannot go out in the sunlight, and who finds things to be frightened of in the dark, no matter how familiar he is with the night. It's creepy and entertaining and well-written and I'm desperate to read the third book (this is the second of a set). I love the idea of people changing into something more--or something less--and the characters are believable and I care for them quite a bit.
"Medicine Creek, Kansas. Early August. Sunset.
The great sea of yellow corn stretches from horizon to horizon under an angry sky. When the wind rises the corn stirs and rustles as if alive, and when the wind dies down again the corn falls silent. The heat wave is now in its third week, and dead air hovers over the corn in shimmering curtains." Still Life With Crows by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
I didn't think I would ever like a book as much as I liked The Relic, which had me scared to death for days when I first read it. But this surpassed it by leaps and bounds. First, the setting is just so familiar--they captured summer in Kansas, summer in the Midwest, so well that I can really feel the heat and the sun and the stickiness, even in the middle of winter. And the story is well-plotted, disturbing, realistic, and filled with characters who make me react--good or bad--to their actions and decisions.
And Pendergast. He is by far my favorite fictional character. He's just--phenomenal. I want to have him as a mentor. Really.
"Somehow I knew my time had come when Bambi Barnes tore her order book into little pieces, hurled it in the air like confetti, and got fired from the Rainbow Diner in Pensacola right in the middle of lunchtime rush. She'd been sobbing by the decaf urn, having accidentally spilled a bowl of navy bean soup in the lap of a man who was, as we say in the restaurant game, one taco short of a combo platter. Gib, the day manager, was screaming at her to stop crying, which made her cry all the more, which led to the firing and her stomping out the door wailing how life wasn't fair, right in front of the hungry customers. That's when Gib turned to me." Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer
I hadn't read any of Bauer's work until recently, and I've been--mostly--swept away by it. This story in particular is filled with such caring and so much hope--no pun intended--that I couldn't put it down. It's the story of Hope, and her move from NYC to a small town diner, and a story of death and food and dealing with situations you don't want to deal with. It made me laugh and almost cry and I've read it a dozen times in the last year. It's worth it.
"I'd always lived a fairly blameless life. Up until the day I left my husband and then ran away to Hollywood, I'd hardly ever put a foot wrong. Not one that many people knew about, anyway. So when, out of the blue, everything just disintegrated like wet paper, I couldn't shake a wormy suspicion that this was long overdue. All that clean living simply isn't natural." Angels by Marian Keyes.
I stumbled onto Watermelon in the bargain section a number of years ago. It was my luckiest find, back before Keyes was popular over here in America. She's an incredible writer, and I've been caught up in the trials and humor of the Walsh family ever since. This is the story of Maggie, who finds her husband cheating on her, leaves him to live with her family, and then joins a friend in L.A. I'm always interested to see a British author's take on a character coming to America, and the sheer humanity Keyes' characters possess makes it worth reading. The crazy antics of Maggie and her family (a one-night stand with a man her sister later sleeps with, a lesbian fling, pretending to be a movie executive's assistant) are just icing on the cake. At the heart of this story is warmth and love and the idea that some things can be repaired, even if you feel they're broken forever.
"When I first set eyes on Evelyn Barton-Forbes she was walking the streets of Rome--
(I am informed, by teh self-appointed Critic who reads over my shoulder as I write, that I have already committed an error. If those seemingly simple English words do indeed imply that which I am told they imply to the vulgar, I must in justice to Evelyn find other phrasing.)" Crocodile On the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
I love history, especially the history of Egypt. I love archaeology. I love strong female leads. And I loved this book, even though I'm not terribly fond of Victorian-era writing, or of stories set in that age. However, Amelia Peabody-Emerson is a fantastic protagonist, a strong character, and one of the most interesting mystery narrators, ever. The later books in the series aren't nearly as satisfying, but the first four or five are fantastic, and this is still one of the best mysteries I've had the pleasure to read.
"Barco que no anda, no llega a puerto.
There are guavas at the Shop & Save. I pick one the size of a tennis ball and finger the prickly stem end. It feels familiarly bumpy and firm. The guava is not quite ripe; the skin is still a dark green. I smell it and imagine a pale pink center, the seeds tightly embedded in the flesh." When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
Beautiful narrative of the author's life in Puerto Rico. Her innocence is endearing without being overly sweet, and her descriptions are powerful and amazing. I was enthralled by this story, by the love and hate between her parents, by her protective nature toward her siblings, even as she tried to grasp her childhood and stay young. It's a strong book, and my only complaint is the speed with which it ends. This even inspired a poem from me.