#43: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
I was somewhat doubtful about this one going in, as it's set in the same should-be-compelling-but-just-isn't universe as American Gods - but I was very pleasantly surprised. It's a solid mix of layered characters, compelling story, and shots of ludicrousness that doesn't make a big thing of deciding The Fate of The World Oh Noes - but, in the end, saves the world anyway. (Hope I didn't give away the ending there.)
One possibly crucial distinction between American Gods and Anansi Boys is that in the former, I was always wondering - why Thor? Sure, the American version of the god was corrupted and changed from the original, but it just didn't feel right, and even in the characterization given in the book I could never quite believe it.
In the latter, though, it makes complete sense for Anansi to be at the center of all this, and yet a step removed - the book centers on his sons, and we only see the god himself a couple of times. It doesn't feel like I'm explaining this well, but I think Anansi Boys is character-driven to a point that AG tried to be and failed.
#44: What's Going On in There? How the Mind and the Brain Develop in the First Five Years of Life by Lise Eliot
I've been raving about this book for months now. It's a neurological analysis of brain development; not only does it tell you things like when a baby is likely to be able to sit up, have object permanence, talk, etc., but it tells you *why*, and what is going on behind the scenes. It's not written in full academic voice, but neither does it assume you're an uneducated clod. You do have to actually pay attention to follow it, which is refreshing in the parenting-book world.
I really only had three issues with the book, two of which were most likely the publisher's fault and not the author's.
One, the organization of it by developmental area (sight, speech, movement, etc.), which, while it was probably far easier from a writing point of view and may be a more useful format for the academic reader, as a parent I was really hoping for organization by age or developmental stage, so that I could go back and reference appropriate sections of the book as my child gets older. At the very least some kind of central chart covering the major milestones would have been really nice, since it's highly unlikely I'll have time to collate one myself. (Yes, I'm sure one exists online, but it probably won't have the information I'm looking for.)
Two, the final chapter: "How to Raise a Smarter Child". I'll bet you just about anything the author was forced to include this chapter by the publisher, because it's a load of the useless, guilt-mongering crap that you find on all the baby websites.
Three, the binding is absolute crap. There was a section already separated in the first copy I looked at in the bookstore. I ordered the copy I have online, and it has the same problem (it's now in four distinct pieces), so my guess is the entire print run does. I'm tempted, in my copious spare time, to write the publisher and bitch.
#45: Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde
After the catapulting, exponentially increasing absurdity of the first three books in the Thursday Next series, this one returns from the BookWorld to reality (or what passes for it in Fforde's universe) and as a result feels alternately overblown and flat. It also has the too-grand-of-a-finale problem where her perfectly good ending feels artificially inflated into ~The Grand Finale~, far more than it needed to be. (So hard to discuss this stuff without spoilers...).
For all that, though, it's still a good story, with some brilliant twists, that successfully ties up just about every thread in the series.