So, 2010 is over, and instead of writing an end of the year blog I am going to complete a year of reading with my thoughts on December’s books. All said and done, I read 57 books in the year of 2010. With the help of two book clubs I was able to chat about books way more than I have before, and admittedly I am way in love with that.
My favorites of this year:
The Book Thief
Cutting for Stone
The Elegance of a Hedgehog
I don’t know if any of these move to my all time top five favorites, but with a little time, re-reading and re-thinking, The Road and The Elegance of a Hedgehog might be contenders for a spot in the top 10.
My least favorite:
Hands down. I hated this book. I can’t even list any other books because this one took that much hate from me. The others that might have fell in this category just don’t seem that bad in comparison.
Lessons learned about blogging books I read:
I have a way easier time remembering what books I have read when I write them down.
I should definitely write up my initial notes/thoughts right after reading. I can always add to them, but sometimes the good, fresh ideas get lost.
My list of books read, is far shorter than the (ever growing) list of books I still want to read.
And with that, here are December’s books:
The Elegance of a Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery (Book Club 1)
After I finished this book, I was taking Garth Brooks for a walk.. and I talked to myself the whole time about this book. I (would like to think) had really great things to say about this book, all very thought provoking comments. But then, I lost my train of thought at book club, and felt like I really couldn’t say what how much I appreciated this book. That’s when I decided that I need to write notes about each book as soon as I finish it. (If there is one thing I learned from this year of documenting my book reading habits..) So, (unintentionally) without giving this book enough credit, it was simply beautiful. It is an extremely eloquent story that left me with the “be still my heart” feeling at the end. More thoughts will come again soon, as I plan on reading this one again. I didn’t know what to expect the first time through, but now I have a few notes and things I want to think about while reading it again.
The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
Ugh. I loved Freedom so much, and I heard even better things about The Corrections, so I was super stoked to read it. Sadly, I was very let down. The characters are so negative, and hate their mother so much, it was really hard to read. I really missed what everyone else loved about this book. Blah.
Buzz, Katherine Ellison
I was super excited to read this book, as it is written by a mother whose son has been diagnosed with ADD and ODD. While I generally think that the diagnosis of ADD can seem pretty mild in comparison to other disabilities, I was curious to read about a parent perspective. Admittedly, I most often overlook ADD when thinking about, researching or studying disabilities, mostly because I feel like it can be one of the least severe. I was ready for a new perspective to teach me something differently. Sadly, this book was not the source to do that. The author spent most of the book talking about her own problems (anxiety, ADD, overworked, stressed, etc.) rather than talking about how her family worked together to lessen the effects of her son’s ADD. The idea of the book was supposed to be her taking a year off her work/commitments to really work on understanding ADD and strengthening her relationship with her son. Meanwhile, I read about her book writings, meetings at Google, writing speeches for wealthy Silicon Valley men, etc. The basis of the book was a little misleading. While I appreciate her honesty about the hardships of raising a child with a disability, it was not hard for me to think, “Do you think your son’s ADD can be worsened that you (admittedly) often scream back at him, stomp out of the room, have inconsistent consequences/rewards, etc.?” Yeah, I judged her.
Also, truth be told, I was very turned off by all the bashing she did on her son’s school. She refused special education services (because of the stigma it would provide her son) and in turn, was upset when the general education teachers would call/complain about aggressive, disrespectful, disruptive behavior. Without going off on a huge tangent… (now that I have started, it’s hard to turn back) a general education teacher has a large amount of students that s/he is responsible for, and if there is one student who is aggressive, disrespectful, disruptive, etc. it can make the environment of the classroom difficult. And, quite frankly, those behaviors can seem so discrepant (in comparison to the other students in that setting) that often a worse (than special education services) stigma is created. Also, Ellison admitted to being at her end many times with her son, yelling, stomping, etc. Teachers are human as well. If your child makes you feel that way, chances are s/he has that effect on others as well. Mostly, it was frustrating to read all the bashing on schools because I really think that it isn’t (or at least, shouldn’t be) schools versus parents. It really should be a partnership.
… So much, for ignoring that tangent…
Memory Wall, Anthony Doerr
I put this book on my wish list quite a while back, and forgot all about it. I got it for Christmas, and when I started reading it, I was surprised that I wanted a book of short stories. Generally, short stories really don’t interest me that much. I can’t say this book changed my mind, but I can’t say that I am sad that I read it either. Doerr, somehow, tells stories that would be considered science fiction, historical fiction and realistic fiction and weaves the central theme of memory throughout the entire book. Pretty clever. The stories are written so well and are so thought provoking, that it was very hard for me to put down.
Peace out, 2010.
I seriously feel like an old lady saying this… but, really, wasn’t it just Thanksgiving? How is Christmas only 12 days away?! Whoa!
That being said.. November was pretty light, and I have a feeling December will be also. I guess things are busy around now.
Chelsea, Chelsea Bang, Bang, Chelsea Handler (Book Club 1)
I generally like Chelsea Handler. I think she is usually pretty funny, and border lines on inappropriate enough to make you not feel bad about being real. But, for some reason this book really didn’t do it for me. It seemed like the majority of the book was a different kind of humor, more mean spirited. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few funny chapters, especially about her vacation at the beach. But other stories/chapters just seemed tired and more like an already told joke.
The True Story of Hansel and Gretel; a novel of war and survival, Louise Murphy
I had really high hopes about this book. It’s the story of two Jewish children in Poland during the Holocaust. Their father and step-mother have to abandon them in the woods and give them instructions to find shelter and forever answer to the names Hansel and Gretel. The children do find the town witch to live with in the woods, on the outskirts of town. I can’t really say specifically what about this story I didn’t like. And maybe it’s not that I didn’t like it, but it just really didn’t do to much for me in any sense. I didn’t feel a connection with characters, and the story line seemed forced. It wouldn’t be one I would necessarily recommend.
Columbine, Dave Cullen
I was so incredibly surprised at how much I really enjoyed reading this book. I had heard about it for quite some time and (truth be told) was purposely trying not to read it. I felt like I didn’t want to give anymore attention to the tragedy at Columbine, and I thought that by reading the book I would be only glorifying the situation more. But, after a man at the book store saw me looking at it (for probably the 7th time) and told me that initially he didn’t want to read it because he did not want to give any more attention to such horrible killers, but after he did, his thoughts were completely changed about the events that happened at Columbine, I changed my mind and bought it. I am so glad I did. I learned so much about how the media influenced the public’s mind about the tragedy at Columbine. I learned so much about the killers of Columbine. I learned what a sense of community there is at Columbine and what an incredible person the principal of Columbine was. Most of all, I learned how the students of Columbine are true survivors, who absolutely exemplify forgiveness in its truest form.
Life is getting busy… the birthday/holiday months are here, and I love this time of year! Not much time for blogging, so here is a quick catch up of the reading last month.
Room, Emma Donoghue
Whoa. I read this book in about 3 hours… I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down. It was truly fascinating. It is written from Jack’s 5 year old perspective. Jack has lived his entire life in one room with his mother who is being held captive in a sound proof, locked prison. The story was so fascinating because of the creativity that Donoghue portrayed in her characters. I need to do a little more research and see how Donoghue came to such knowledge about being in captivity, especially her references to the emotional and psychological effects that would be present in such a situation. This book is so unique, I don’t think I have read anything like it before or since.
Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
So, Pillars of the Earth weighs 2 pounds and 2 ounces. It is a giant book. A giant soap-opera tale of monks, kings, witches and cathedral building. There is murder, love, lust, war, secrets, adultery, abandonment… the list of drama is endless. It took no time at all for the story line to catch me as a reader and suck me in like a bad reality TV show. I have really started to enjoy historical fiction, and this piece is no exception. Follett is a fantastic writer, who adds just enough detail and suspense to keep you turning 973 pages like you are reading a magazine. Rumor has it, there is a sequel coming (possibly already here?) and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!
Breaking Night, Liz Murray
Is it bad that it took me longer to read this book (at 352 pages) than it did to read Pillars of the Earth (at 973 pages)? I don’t really know what it was about this book, but it really could not hold my interest. I had originally read that it was compared to The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, which got me quite excited because I really enjoyed The Glass Castle. I would the comparison is not all that accurate, and comparing the two books is quite the compliment for Breaking Night. It is Murray’s story “from homeless to Harvard.” Her tale is heartbreaking at times, facing her parents drug addictions, their HIV statuses, her struggle with staying in school, becoming homeless and eventually finding herself and the determination to make something of her life. To me, Murray lacked something personal. She seemed so out of touch, and lacking emotion. It wasn’t until Murray found her way to an alternative high school program, and began writing about how that experience changed her, that I found some relevance and reason to keep reading. By that time, the story was close to complete, and I was fine with that.
My site was a little hacked.. so that explains the serene default scene at the top of the page. I am working on a nasty email to the Mother Computer to let her know what I think about hacking a web page of someone who doesn’t even know where they come from… bitch.
Anyway, summer is over, and it turns out, September is over as well! Here’s a little catch up on the reading during that time.
The Invisible Bridge, Julie Orringer
I have mixed feelings about this book. It reminded me a little bit of Atonement, which is one of my all time favorite books. The similarities were in the parts of the story being told (relationship, war, relationship) but the thing that Atonement had that The Invisible Bridge didn’t, was the incredible ending. It’s not that The Invisible Bridge had a bad ending, it was a fine one, but it just wasn’t one that stunned me. There were slow parts of this book, but the good parts of the story were plenty. We have all read stories about the Jews and the Holocaust, but this story is different in the fact that it is told from the perspective of the Jews in Hungary. The characters were passionate and very real, which I really enjoyed. All and all, I would suggest it to another reader, but I, personally, just needed a little bit more from it.
A Friend Like Henry: The Remarkable True Story of an Autistic Boy and the Dog That Unlocked His World, Nuala Gardner
I have spent quite a bit of time researching autism, working with people with autism and learning about various stages, lifestyles, habits, ect. of autism, but I haven’t done much research in the way of animal therapy in relation to people with autism. I have to say this book would not be one that I would recommend for either; information about children with autism or pet therapy. While I feel empathy reading a mother’s true account of her son’s journey through autism, I also felt a little of it was exaggerated/misleading. In my personal opinion, autism is not 100% curable, especially when talking about the degree of autism that Gardner described her son as having. The one thing I did enjoy about this story was the role that Henry (the dog) played in helping Dale navigate through social interactions with autism. For example, they use Henry to teach Dale about life skills, using gentle hands, taking responsibility for things, etc. But, there was just so much of the story that I disagreed with it was hard to focus on the few good things along the way.
Anthropology of an American Girl, Hilary Thayer Hamann
Ehh. I heard so many great things about this book, and I have nothing really to say about it in return. It was compared to Catcher in the Rye… not even close to a worthy comparison. Hamann says it is written about a teenage girl representing women who fall between the cracks of Boomers and Gen Xer’s. I just found it to be totally stereotypical, completely cliche and really just annoying.
Secret Daughter: A Mixed Race Daughter and the Mother Who Gave Her Away, June Cross
I was really trying not to be pissed while reading this book, but turns out I was pretty irritated throughout the whole thing! June Cross was born to a white mother and black father and at the age of four, given to a black family to raise her. While I appreciate the honesty of June’s story and her raw feelings, I really wanted her to be more pissed than she was. I thought her mother was one of the most selfish people I have read about. (Turns out, June isn’t the only child that her mother didn’t want to raise. She had two other children before June, with different men, that she let other people take care of.) I was disgusted by Norma, June’s mother, and really had a hard time finishing this story.
The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates, Wes Moore
This story fascinated me. It is told of two young black men, starting their lives in the same area of Baltimore, both with the name Wes Moore. While the beginning of there lives start in the same area and with the same name, there are so many differences in the way these young men are raised. Naturally, where they are at in their lives right now is very different as well. I would have loved to have read this book in a psychology or sociology class to discuss the age long debate, “Nurture verses Nature,” but even going a little further, there is so much more to talk about; parenting, race, socio-economic status, education…
In fact, I am real excited that Drea read it as well… maybe we can have our own little book club discussion soon!
A Piece of Cake, Cupcake Brown
I was expecting another Million Little Pieces story from Brown’s tale, but instead I found something more real, more haunting and more uplifting all at the same time. Brown finds her mother dead when she is 11, she is strung through the foster care system, horribly abused, continually runs away, fights a horrendous drug and alcohol addiction and in the end makes her way through law school. What touched me most about this story were two things. One, the horrific experience that Brown had while being in foster care. While not all foster care families are this way, the system is broken, and kids do suffer everyday. Brown continues to make the reader understand this accusation is a real, eye opening experience. And two, we all of course like it when the narrator succeeds in the end. We want her to quit using drugs and alcohol, we want her go to college, be a role model, etc. But, I think the most powerful message in this story is that Brown wanted that (eventually) just as much. As a reader, I really felt all sorts of emotions toward Brown, but in the end I felt really good for her.. mostly because she felt really good for herself.
The Stuff That Never Happened, Maddie Dawson (Book Club 1)
I feel like it really isn’t fair for me to review this book because I didn’t pick it myself, and I generally have a bad attitude about “chick lit” books. So, that being said, I didn’t love it, but I really didn’t hate it either. The main character, Annabelle, made me slightly crazy. Her husband, Grant, made me feel slightly sad. Her daughter made me feel slightly pissed. And the whole idea of marriages being that awful 30 years in made me slightly crabby. What I did love about this book though, was the conversations that I brought to the table. It truly was an interesting story to talk about with multiple generations of women.
Ape House, Sarah Gruen (Book Club 2)
I love Sarah Gruen. I wish I could sit down with her and chat. I love that you can feel her passion for animals through her words. Gruen actually spent time at the Great Ape Trust here and Des Moines and used her time there as inspiration for this novel. It tells the story of a young woman working with great apes, specifically bonobos, and how they truly are family even through a horrible time apart (the facility gets bombed, the apes get stolen and are exploited on national television). The story is a little weird, and seems a little unreal at times. But, Gruen does an amazing job at making the reader feel compassion and love for the bonobos. The book also made me incredibly curious about bonobos, especially their language acquisition skills, that I have ton quite a bit of research regarding the great apes. And because it would be silly not to, here is the link the the Great Ape Trust http://www.greatapetrust.org/ I promise you, it’s fascinating!
Freedom: A Novel, Jonathan Franzen
I was completely shocked and surprised, but I really liked this book. The characters were so incredibly flawed and real that I felt like I was listening to an old friend talk about her family life. I loved that I didn’t love all of the characters in this book. I loved that I was able to see how a family really loves one another, but can really have times of not liking each other. I loved the honesty of mistakes, selfishness, marriage, parenting and age. All of this, with this huge underlying theme of freedom. That we really are free human beings; free to make choices, free to live our own lives, free to make mistakes… but that freedom doesn’t always make a person happy or content.
Don’t get me wrong, there were parts of the story that I didn’t enjoy so much, especially when it got a little heavy on over population and environmental issues. But, I really, really would love to chat more about this one.
I promise to be more on time with book updates through the fall. I’ve got a few good ones to read on the plane… because we are off to Ireland!
Well, blogging once a day for a month ended quite anti-clamatic… more to come about that later.
Turns out, I got a little distracted by the amazing Leeperland wedding extravaganza! (Which is, of course, no surprise to anyone.) It was an incredible event and I am so happy for my dear friends.
And also in the meantime, I forgot to add the reading of June…
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak (Book Club 1)
*The review below is what I wrote when I initially read this book in January. I re-read it again this month, and loved it just as much. Without a doubt, it is an amazing book.
I heard little bits and pieces about this book before I read it, but really did not know what to expect. I was especially intrigued that it is considered a young adult novel. Let me tell you… if I would have read this book when I was a teenager, I would have been so in love with it. Because, as an adult I thought it was incredible. The story takes place in Nazi Germany and is told by Death. That’s right, Death tells the story. What an amazing spin! The story follows a young girl, Liesel, who moves in with an interesting foster family after her brother dies and her mother is no longer able to care for her. The foster family keeps a Jew in hiding in the basement, which shapes the young girl’s mind about current events. For being a book centered around such a dark time; the compassion, curious and defiant nature of Liesel make you question how young adults would think/behave in such crisis. I know that as a young adult I would have admired, felt empathy and heartache for young Liesel because as an adult I was proud with her, related to her and cried when she did… It’s so good, this book is so good.
Winter Garden, Kristin Hannah
This book is not one I would generally chose for myself. I am not a huge fan of Kristin Hannah, she reads to me a lot like Jodi Picoult, or Nicholas Sparks. Where it seems there is always the same story line, just new characters and a twist of new drama. But, a gal I work with is a huge Kristin Hannah fan, and knowing that I am not a fan, suggested I still read this book. She swore to me that it was not like her others, and I would not be “disgusted by any romance.” I can’t say I loved it, but I can’t say I am disappointed to have read this book either. It is a story of a seemingly cold mother and her two daughters. The daughters are just getting to know their mother during their adult life, through her tales of her past, growing up in Russia. All of this only begins as their father is on his death bed, and of course, makes one of the daughters promise to have their mother tell her story. So could it be a Lifetime movie? Yeah, probably. Am I alright with having read Winter Garden? Of course, it was a nice change of pace. Would I read another Kristin Hannah book anytime soon? Doubtful.
The House of Tomorrow, Peter Bognanni
I can’t lie… I had pretty big expectations for this book. I can’t really say my expectations were let down, but, they were just let there, let still, I don’t know. I wasn’t impressed. The story is about a 17 year old boy, going through quite a self-discovery experience as he has spent all of his life very sheltered, living with his quack grandma (in rural Iowa) in a geodesic dome. I felt like most of the story was very cliche, and pretty anti-climatic. The reviews promised teenage angst at it’s finest, and I just didn’t feel it. It seemed a little too short, and lacking depth.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
I was first intrigued about Henrietta Lacks when the girls group that I work with started studying her legacy. Lacks was a poor, black, mother of five children who died in 1951 from cervical cancer. Without her knowledge (or the knowledge of anyone in her family) doctors took samples of her cervix and found immortal cells, which have been named HeLa cells and have helped pave the way for vaccines and various other treatments. The story of Henrietta’s life is told through a journalist’s trail trying to contact Henrietta’s family. Although there were times that this book got a little medical (and had some serious biology references, that I admittedly had to look up) I loved the balance between Lack’s life story being told, her family’s current situation and how the medical field has benefitted (and progressed) because of HeLa cells.
Loving Frank, Nancy Horan
There is no sense in waiting to say it, I loved this book and I am very sad it sat on my book shelf for months before I read it. The story told is based on the affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney. Horan (the author) uses parts of Mamah’s personal journal entries and creates a fictional story based on the affair that people don’t know much about. The characters make this story so much more than a tale of an affair. As a reader you go feel the passion, heart ache and pride that Mamah experiences as a feminist, mother and lover. It was an incredibly told story, and I would love to read it again and discuss it. Anyone in??
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe
I started reading this story when I got it for a birthday gift in 1999. But, at that time I only made it about half way through and then kept it on the shelf until this summer, 11 years later. Wolfe tells the story of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and the revolutionary bus rides, LSD experiences and Day-Glo obsession. Reading about the wild ride of a hippie lifestyle makes you feel high yourself. You are confused at times, trying to keep things straight, reading a little slower trying to get things right… but just feel really good about the whole thing.
When the Elephants Dance, Tess Uriza Holthe
This story is based on Holthe’s father’s experiences in the Philippines during World War II. It is set around a group of families that are hiding together in the basement during the end of the war. Family members have to venture out to find food, and eventually to search for other family members that are missing. The story is told through a weaving of past and present. The elder family members tell stories of their past to lessen the effects of war, and while the present story is still occurring. Holthe tells an incredible story through this book; one that is heart breaking, and often repulsive at times, but in the same breath, a story of loyalty and strong family ties.
Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese
I don’t think I have ever read a book where the characters were so incredibly created as they are in this story. This book is amazing, I don’t know how else to describe it. It is told by Marion, who is an identical twin (that was actually separated at birth) born to a nun and a doctor in Africa. The story tells the tale of compassion, family connections, loyalty and personal struggles and achievements. Throughout the entire book I was able to feel the characters and truly relate to their emotions. Verghese makes the reader part of the story. Through the triumph and heart ache you can’t help but be empathetic.
I only have one week of summer break left, and still a stack of books I was hoping to finish before then! Here’s hoping that the start of this school year is quite a bit less chaotic than last year’s start, and I still have some time to get through that stack.
Today’s prompt says to define “freedom”…
That’s a little heavy for my mood, and quite frankly I don’t feel like getting political at the moment.
So I decided to just add my May reading list as today’s post instead.
The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield (Book Club 2)
Being amidst the mystery genre I was a little nervous to read this book. I am not one for being scared, not even a little bit, so I had some serious apprehensions about this book. But, turns out, I really enjoyed it! The plot is kind of weird, and I felt like the story occasionally got bogged down with characters, but those are my only complaints. Margaret Lea is a young writer who is asked by Ms. Winter (a famous author) to compose her biography. The story that Margaret hears is almost unbelievable, and takes you on many turns, but comes together in a pretty incredible way in the end. And, for the record, I was only (slightly) scared two times while reading this book. If all mysteries are like this, I am in for reading more.
This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind, Ivan Doig (Book Club 1)
I don’t really have a lot to say about this book, as it really did nothing for me. It is a memoir, which generally I love. And at first I really thought that Doig was a beautiful writer. But, mid way I began thinking that beautiful writing just meant too many words. To be frank, this book bored me.
The Breadwinner, Deborah Ellis
I remember reading this book for the first time in Ms. Dodge’s 8th grade English class. Ms. Dodge was married, but made us call her “Ms.” pronounced “Mzz.” She wore blue eyeliner everyday. She introduced me to the word “genre,” and encouraged us to read one book a week from a different genre. She had a massive collection of her own books, most of them being feminist in nature, for us to borrow. And when I borrowed “The Breadwinner” from her, she said I didn’t have to do a book report, we could just have a book chat. Re-reading it now, I was just as moved as I was when I was 14. A young girl in Afghanistan who has to disguise herself as a boy to provide for her family when the Taliban take her father away… I am still riled up about situations like that. I think Ellis does a great job writing this story for a young adult audience. She does not sugar coat any horrors in the Middle East, but she does introduce the diversity of lifestyles gently. I don’t really remember my book chat with Ms. Dodge, but I can’t say that I wouldn’t mind chatting with her again, 14 years later, about how this book moved me again.
The Day I Ate Everything I Wanted, Elizabeth Berg (Book Club 2)
This book was picked for a “light, summer read,” and that it was. It is a collection of short stories about different women, what is described as “small acts of liberalism.” I loved this book. It will not win any big awards, or move people to change the world. But, you will relate to one, or many, of the characters. You will laugh out loud, and you might even tear up. It was just the book I needed as I finished my school year, and was needing to clear my mind.
The Rope Walk, Carrie Brown
This book took me entirely too long to complete. Not because of it’s depth, or length… just because it really couldn’t keep me that interested. I felt like it was a chore to finish, and I am dreading even writing about it. The problem isn’t that the idea of the story was bad, because it really isn’t. The story is about Alice, and young girl raised in a family of boys, with no mother. It is told during one year of her life, that might be called a time of “coming of age.” Alice encounters many situations that she has been so sheltered from throughout her past, including race/racism, homosexuality, AIDS, and the aging process. So the story, it really is there. It just kept wandering, wallowing and taking its sweet ass time getting to the point of things that I had a hard time staying involved.
With the weather getting warmer I am starting to get real excited about summer time (outside on the back porch in the sunshine) reading. I had a little taste of it this week, with a few days off work and some wonderful “sunny and 70 degrees” days, and it was perfect! So excited in fact, I have ordered quite a few books online (Amazon will be the death of me…) prepping for the summer. Let’s hope I don’t end up reading them all before the break begins… only 21 more school days!
The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood (Book Club 1)
Margaret Atwood is fairly new to me, this is only the second book of hers that I have read, and I love her! Her futuristic, dystopia, imaginative style is so engaging. It’s almost creepy the way she sees the future, because so much of it seems so possible. Her ideas about the future of feminism, religion, genetics, environment, and science are incredible. Generally this genera would not appeal to me, but I am looking forward to reading more Atwood very soon.
Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout
This book is beautifully (and brilliantly) written. The book is told through 13 stories of various people/families in a little town of Crosby, Maine. The central character, Olive Kitteridge, makes her way into each short story told in the book. Whether her presence is big or small, her personality is heavily felt. At times I loved Olive Kitteridge, and at times I wanted to scream at her. She is honest, realistic, selfish, loving, stern, nostalgic, impulsive and loyal. Strout does an amazing job creating this character and allowing you to truly know her.
The Red Tent, Anita Diamant (Book Club 2)
*Disclaimer… I have read this book about 6 times.
It is absolutely one of my favorite books, ever. Even though I save most of the books I buy, with the intentions of reading them again, this is the only book that I honestly look forward to re-reading (again and again). I love it more and more each time, and I love to discuss it with people (especially with women). The story is of a biblical nature and is told of Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter. It is, at times, a horribly tragic tale, but also has some of the most peaceful elements to it as well. I could go on forever…. it’s an amazing story.
Little Bee, Chris Cleave
Holy way too much going on! This book, which I bought simply based on it’s cover, had way too much happening to be one 268 page story. Refugees, adultery, suicide, depression, illegal immigrants and conflict in Nigeria are just a few of the many things happening in this book. It was completely unbelievable, lacking heart and very obviously written by a man trying to tell a woman’s tale. Ugh… it wore me out trying to keep my emotions in check with all the chaos happening. You definitely can not judge a book by it’s cover…
The Black Dahlia, James Ellroy
This book was recommended by a few women in my book club, and at first I wasn’t sure I would be interested. I generally do not pick mysteries to read, and anything that might seem “scary” is usually not anything that I am up for. But, I decided to get out of my comfort zone a little bit, and try it. In all honesty, I became quite a bit more interested in the story when I found out that it was based loosely on the true story of Elizabeth Short, who was brutally murdered in LA in 1947. The story hooked me, and it read very quickly. I was surprised at complicated the murder was, and how obsessed the detectives got… to a point where it ruined their lives. I need to do a little more research about the real Elizabeth Short, to see what of the book is true and what is not. I love when books do that… get me interested in researching something else.
Brooklyn, Colm Toibin
Hmmm… I am still trying to decide what I think about this book. Written about a young girl who leaves her quiet life in Ireland to move to Brooklyn to work, study and mature, I was expecting some large things to happen. I felt like the book was written too softly, and without enough climax. Even when the climax of the story happened, I still was expecting more. Even though the last page of the novel leaves the reader with a bitter sweet empathy of the story, overall the theme was bland was left me wanting more.
March’s book list is short and sweet… more to come soon. Not about books, but about the new excitement in my life.
Peace Like a River, Leif Enger (Book Club 2)
Ehh… I don’t really have a lot to say about this book. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. It really didn’t keep me super interested, but I was hooked on the story enough to want to finish it. Weird? This book has a ton of religious undertones, metaphors, connections, etc., which normally would have gotten me all riled up. But for some reason when I was reading it, the connections just felt right. Nothing was pushed or over-done, which I appreciate. Would I read it again, or even recommend it to someone else? Probably not. But, I am not upset about having read it myself.
Nefertiti, Michelle Moran
I didn’t know anything about the life of Nefertiti, the Egyptian pharaoh. But, after reading this story I think I will keep reading about her life. Even though the book has added story lines that are obviously fiction, it was very interesting to learn about Egyptian lifestyle that was based on fact. It was a pretty quick read, and written with an imaginative spin, so I am sure the sequel will be a nice summer read.
Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins
Holy. Freaking. Weird. I really had no idea what to expect about this book when I started, and I still kind of felt that way about 150 pages in. It was so bizarre, with four stories being told, 1 in an ancient Roman-Greek(?) time period, 1 in Seattle, 1 in New Orleans and 1 in Paris. What?! It seriously took about 150 pages to finally get a connection for me, but I was addicted to the story(ies) long before that. For some reason, as soon as I started reading, even though I couldn’t make sense of the whole theme at first, I couldn’t put this book down. Individuality, immortality, religion, and beets… yep, they all come together in one of the most creative ways. I loved this book!
Monster, Walter Dean Myers
This book is a young adult novel, and was actually recommended to me by the high school young woman that I mentor. She mentioned that she had read it in 8th grade and was very moved by it. It is the story of a 16 year old boy on trial for the murder of a man who owned a convenience store. The whole story is written as a screen play, as the main character thinks his life would make an interesting movie, which was an interesting change. I imagine that if I read this story as a young adult I would have been very emotionally charged… and I would have loved the class discussions that would have come from it. (Yeah, book talks… I am totally dorky like that…)
This month was a little slower than January… partly because the lack of snow days and partly because Leo Tolstoy drained my soul.
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (Book Club 1)
This book irritated me so much… I hardly even want to talk about it right now. It took me 2 months to get through (and even then I was only 450 pages in…) I actually stopped reading it for a bit, and read a different book just to make sure that I still loved reading. It dampened my soul that much. And as it turned out, I still love reading, just not Anna Karenina.
The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein
When Ninja died someone told us that it was alright because dogs don’t really have souls anyway… I would like to recommend this book to that person. Although it is impossible to know what dogs are thinking, and why they do the things they do, this book warms my heart by giving a dog’s perspective of what it is like to live a life of loyalty, love and unconditional compassion. That’s all I can say without crying (again…).
The Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick
I read a bunch of really good reviews about this book and was curious to see what all the hype was about. The Reliable Wife takes place in the early 1900’s in Wisconsin and is based on a woman who answers a “want ad” for a wife. It takes a ton of dark, twisted turns and was quite a bit more racy than I expected. I don’t think this was the best book I have ever read, but it definitely wasn’t the worst. There were a few times that I felt like the author had some references that would not have been appropriate for the early 1900’s, but other than that I have no complaints.
Half Broke Horses, Jeannette Walls
This book is the life story of Walls’s grandmother, Lily Casey. I first fell in love with the Walls when I read The Glass Castle. I love the way that she tells stories and makes every situation (good or bad) turn into a life lesson. The life of her grandmother, Lily is incredible. She was a hard working rancher, an independent woman, a passionate teacher, a loyal wife and a realistic mother. I love stories about family, and the different dynamics that make a family function and this book was no exception.
March is finally here… warmer weather and spring break! Woohoo! More reading hopefully this month!