Sunday, November 20, 2011

Can I interject for just one moment?

To say how much I HATE BLOGGER? It's too bad I'm so supremely lazy that I will probably never do anything other than complain about it. Granted I'm not amazingly tech savvy, but isn't that the whole point? That even an idiot can have a blog? Then why can I only upload one photo at a time instead of just uploading a folder of 4 images? And why can I sometimes click on images within my post and resize them manually and other times have a completely different response (i.e. NONE) that requires me to edit it manually in html? And I don't need to ask why, because I know why editing html makes me want to slit my wrists - because it's ANNOYING. And tedious. And so unnecessary!

Anyways, I tried to add images of the book jackets to my post below but it looks like shite because I grew tired of fighting blogger and ... whatever. I'm wasting too much energy on this rant.


Friday, November 11, 2011

August, September and October Books

Beat by Amy Boaz- This was a book club read and it was sort of "meh". It's about a woman who flees her marriage with her 7 year old daughter to Paris. Sounds exotic, but in the end most to all of the characters are unlikeable and ... who am I kidding? As soon as you read "meh" you skipped to the next book review, because who is going to go out of their way to find a book at the library (because something tells me it would be hard to find this one at Barnes and Noble (it's currently for sale on Amazon for 1 penny) that was summed up as "meh"?

Super Sad True Love Story - So I totally hated this book, BUT I get the impression it's very polarizing and many people really love it. As opposed to "Beat" which I think most people would agree is unanimously mediocre, this book is probably still worth reading despite my strong dislike for it. This book smacked of all sorts of things that rubbed me wrong and while I could go on and on, I'm not feeling like picking a fight right at this moment.

Essentially, it boiled down to the fact that this was an extremely negative book that paints a very grim picture of the US in the not too distant future. It's filled with what I guess could be described as very dark humor that I did not think was very funny. I would compare it to that person you know who says things like, "I'm just kidding" or "I'm just being honest" when really they are just being an asshole. It wore the costume of humor, but under the mask, I felt a sea of bitterness, anger and pettiness lurking.

I read for pleasure and escape, not to have all the terrible things about America made more terrible and rubbed in my face. I have a 2 year old - I have enough unpalatable things thrown in my face all the time; I don't need to add Debby Downer books to the list.

The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins - Loaned to me by my Mom. I really enjoyed this book, but it wasn't until a third of the way through that I really dug my heels in and felt addicted. This is narrated by a 12 year old Irish boy who lives with his father and extended family as "Travelers" (aka gypsies) in the 1950s. Solid plot, well told and it captured an interesting slice of life that I don't think I've read about before.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood - I read this quite a long time ago now and barely remember it. I do remember being alternately very into this book and then going through phases of boredom. To sum up my vague memory of this book: a kind of creepy story about a female prisoner in a women's facility in the early 1900's (I think? Maybe it was the 1800's) for a double murder where you can't ever quite figure out whether she killed the guys or not. Which I suppose is the point, but I like a reward at the end of chugging through a thick mystery and while this one had a bit of a reveal, it wasn't quite enough to satisfy me.

Library book that I couldn't finish - It was called Something and Something... maybe George and Aurther? Something like that. Two dudes names. Anyways, the author sounded vaguely familiar and the plot sounded interesting but in reality it was quite boring. I kept waiting for the two guys to cross paths like was promised on the book jacket. But once I got like 400 pages in and still no sign of path-crossing, I grew irritated and returned it before racking up crazy late fees at the Library.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett- Amazing, wonderful and totally consistent with everything from Ann Patchett. Boy do I have an author crush on her. She really knows how to make up a good story and then develop fascinating characters. I could care less about how implausible some parts may be - it was still one of the best books I've read this year and you should totally choose this for your next book club pick.

The Brightest Star in the Sky - The latest Marian Keyes book. Not bad I guess. I should probably just reread Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married and see if it's still as good (in a guilty pleasure way) as I remember, because none of Marian's recent books have lived up to that standard for me. But maybe it's like my memory of that show Rags to Riches from the 80's - entirely colored by the fact that I was like 7. Except with Marian Keyes I was probably more like 23. Maybe Marian Keyes is just better left for the 23 year olds out there.

Looking for Bobowicz by Daniel Pinkwater - this is a weird book my Dad gave me. It's kind of meant for kids, but not really. It was smart, amusing and took a day or two to read but I never would have picked it up myself. It's about some kids who like comic books and go hunting for a giant chicken that supposedly roamed the streets of their small NY suburb 20 years ago. I told you it was weird.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

May, June and July - Quick recap-style

Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy - there are no words to tell you how bad this book was. For reals Maeve? Is it possible that Circle of Friends was this bad and I just didn't notice because I was 15?

Some other book my Mom gave me that sucked slightly less than Nights of Rain and Stars. I can't remember the name or find the book.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell - and yes, the exclamation point is a part of the title. Loved this book, maybe my favorite from our year of book club reads.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford- local book by local author about the internment camps during WWII. It was a sweet romance with interesting history about that period of time in the northwest.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain- A book about Earnest Hemingway's first wife Hadley and their time in Paris. How great is the name Hadley btw? The book was pretty good too. Despite it making me like Earnest Hemingway slightly less than I already did. The Sun Also Rises? SNOOZE alert.

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon- Loved. But then again, I also loved his first book Shadow of the Wind. Complicated and confusing, but in the best sort of way.

Bossypants by Tina Fey - Double loved. Despite the fact that it's a bit disjointed/rambly at times, it's still brilliant. I particularly loved the chapter about her father, Don Fey and the suggestions she makes for beauty and grooming. Oh, and the ideas of how to gain more "me time" when you have a baby. I ask you, is there anything funnier than self-deprecating humor? I don't think there is.

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht - Did I already mention this one? I don't think so. Mostly I felt annoyed reading this book that someone who is approximately 10 years old wrote it and somehow manages to sound like someone with 50 years of wisdom under her belt. It's too late for me to be a child prodigy! Sigh.

Just Kids by Patti Smith - One time, I got to see Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye perform in a tiny room with only like 30 other people. It was awesome. She is so FASCINATING! And while punk rock isn't really my bag, it's hard to deny that Patti is a bad ass chick. She talks about her early days in New York City, living in the Hotel Chelsea and hanging out with Janis Joplin. This book is good stuff.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen - You guys. As I type this list, I'm realizing how many great books I've read this summer! Many. This is another one of them. Don't be scared by it's bajillion pages, or by the fact that The Corrections was hard to slog through (for me, maybe not for you). Franzen is a bit of a relentless downer, but his writing is so smart and cutting that I was willing to ignore that.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Catch Up - 6 books

An inarticulate summary of the books I've read in the last month or so...

Russian Winter - This is a book from my Mom's book club that she loaned me. Lots of ballet and Russian cold war drama. It's been a while since I finished it, so my memory isn't very specific, but I loved all the ballet and the story is engaging. That said, I remember finding something a bit lacking overall - like the plot was missing a piece that would make it all a bit more sophisticated. A little less obvious which way the plot was going...

Peace like a River - This book surprised me. Another freebie from my Christmas haul, I didn't expect to feel very engaged. Namely because it sounded a bit wild west to me and I'm not a fan of cowboys and horses. That said, I remember finding the writing to be pretty top notch, surprising me occasionally with such smart prose that I was caught off guard. The story is narrated by a young boy (12ish?) in the 60's, who along with his clever little sister named Swede and his quirky Father go on a cross country adventure, looking for his older brother Davey who is accused of killing two of his peers and has escaped jail on a horse.

You Remind me of Me - My latest book club pick, which we meet about tomorrow. This book was beautifully written and sadder than sad. The characters are fascinating and real and the plot captivating, but given the sadness of it, I have to recommend it with a caveat. The book starts out with a few different stories - a 6 year old boy is attacked by his Mother's doberman, a young girl living in a house for pregnant teens in the 70's, and a teenage boy contemplating becoming a drug dealer. Eventually the author connects the dots until all the characters are sharing a story.

The Last Child - I plowed through this mystery in one weekend. My friend Jessie who always gets me hooked on the most addictive books (The Hunger Games, The Outlander series) gave me this book for my birthday last month and while there are definite flaws to the book, it sucks you in like nobodies business. The narration is a bit "cowboy" for my liking in the beginning, filled with swaggery sentences that when added up are a bit eye rolly. The characters aren't exactly original, but the plot is! The story follows Johnny Merrimon, a 13 year old boy who's twin sister was abducted the year prior. He's determined to track her down himself and will stop at nothing to find her (swaggery sentence anyone?). Then there's Clyde Hunt, the rule breaking detective who's lost everything trying to solve the case and is worried about Johnny and his beautiful and fragile Mother. But don't let my mockery sway you - it's not on the NYTimes Bestseller list for nothing! And I'm totally going to check out his other books. If you're looking for an engrossing mystery - this is a good one. It would be the perfect vacation read.

The Binding Chair - Foot binding is creepy! And gross! This was another freebie book and while it's not bad, it's not great either. I'm finding it hard to summarize this plot, so I peeked at the back of the book's description and it's vague - "Set in alluring Shanghai at the turn of the century, The Binding Chair intertwines the destinies of a Chinese woman determined to forget her past and A western girl focused on the promises of the future." I found this to be kind of a frustrating read. It's interesting and well written, but missing a solid plot to tie it all together.

The Historian - Creepy vampire book! And not in an Edward and Bella way, more of a Vlad Dracula in the middle ages way. The woman narrating this book is supposedly telling the story of her Father and his search for the story of the real Dracula - Vlad Teppes Dracula from the 1400's. It's creepy and jumps around in time and is full of weird and interesting facts. I read the whole thing wondering how much of it was real and how much of it made up. It's all conspiracy theoryrific - teasing you with the idea that there is a modern group of men and women (typically historians) who anonymously receive a creepy book with Dracula's seal on it that sends them into a spiraling search for Dracula. Is he still alive/undead? Are there really vampires? Follow the unlucky historians over time that track down the origins of the book to Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and other mysterious countries. I don't want to sell this too hard, because the truth is that it gets a bit tedious at times, but I still found it creepily fascinating.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Open House

I think this might be my second Elizabeth Berg book? I feel the same about all her books though. I'm also pretty sure I came upon both in the same manner. Every year, my mother-in-law helps with a big book sale for charity (I think that's what it is at least). I'm not sure, but I think all the leftover books get divided up and somehow I always end up getting a giant box of free books at Christmas. The box of books is always addressed to my sister-in-law Kathleen and me - both of us are avid readers. We typically just pull a book out each and as long as we haven't read them, keep the one we happened to have pulled out, then keep going until the box is empty. We both end up with something like 10 new books per year in this manner. It's great. But it can make for a weird, mixed bag of books.

Well, clearly someone who donates to this sale every year really likes Elizabeth Berg because I think I get at least one of her books every year. Someone else also clearly likes trashy chic lit too because I almost always get one of those in the mix. But I can't complain because this year I also got a few real winners. And Kathleen and I haven't even switched books yet!

Anyways, I think Elizabeth Berg's books are maybe for a generation above me, or at least being over 40 would be helpful. They are very much books about a certain time in your life, and I think I just haven't reached that time yet. I'm just not quiet ready to relate to mothers of middle schoolers, in fact I'm not really ready to admit that I will ever be one. And I'm definitely not able to relate to the fall-out of divorce, which is what this book is all about.

All of that trash talk aside - she's a good writer. She really captures the essence of being lonely, sad and what it means to struggle with the question "What am I doing with my life?" I liked her descriptions of the main character wandering through the house and the funny/weird things you do when you know that no one is watching (like take off all your clothes and examine your body in the mirror). It only took me a day to read, but I can't say I'd really recommend it. Unless you're over 40, are a parent to a middle school aged child, and/or are going through a divorce. In which case, I definitely recommend it.

Sweet Love

This book was terrible. Don't read it.

Parrot and Olivier in America

This was a book club pick and I read it so long ago now that I'm struggling to remember what I liked about it.

It's incredibly well written, but it's definitely not the kind of book you can just sink comfortably into. In many ways, I was about halfway through it before I started to look forward to reading before bed. But there are certain descriptions and bits of dry humor in there that surprise you (in a good way). I think more than anything, I appreciated the insight into early America that this book provided. The story is told by two narrators - Olivier, a French nobleman and Parrot, a poor Brit. Both travel to America post-French Revolution in a tangled web that links them together and their unique insights and opinions on America were fascinating.

Cutting for Stone

I loved this book. Well, maybe one step below "love"? I'm always hesitant to use that word with books unless I was totally smitten. But this book was a great combination: articulate and thoughtful, but also completely engrossing.

The story is about Marion, who is a twin to his brother Shiva. I confess to loving books about twins. Marion and Shiva were born to a nun (read: scandal) in Ethiopia who dies in childbirth. The father, a physician at the hospital where the nun worked, flees the scene. The book is Marion's story - it follows his entire childhood and has major themes of coming of age, family, unrequited love, politics, Ethiopian history (who knew it was so fascinating!?) and probably most of all - tragedy. Someone I know who read this book agreed that it was good, but was bothered by all the bummers that befall Marion in his life. Once she'd said that, I will confess that I started to notice these things more, but all in all, I still loved(?) the book. It's also important to mention that Marion and Shiva don't end up living an impoverished and depressed life having been orphaned at birth. In fact they are taken in by the hospital staff who live on the premises and they have a wonderful, warm and loving family. The early chapters about Hema and Gosh (other doctors at the hospital) were some of my favorites. I also loved when the book comes full circle towards the end when Marion moves to New York and we find what became of his father.

Anywhooo, I would highly recommend this for a book club pick.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Hunger Games Trilogy - The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and The Mockingjay

OMG. This was the most addictive reading I've done since I can't remember when. It's young adult reading, and I don't recommend it unless you're on board with that. And I know that some of you feel about YA Fiction the way I feel when someone tries to recommend a "Graphic Novel" (barf). But if you can climb on board the young adult train with me - I'm telling you that you will be rewarded. This reeks of something I would trash, but it's so suspenseful and fascinating that I couldn't help but love it. It actually reminded me a lot of another YA trilogy that I loved - The Golden Compass (I think the trilogy is called "His Dark Materials").

The stories take place in a post-apocalyptic North America where there is now the country of Panem. Panem is ruled by "The Capitol", which is surrounded by 12 outlying districts that all exist to support the Capitol. The Capitol is a terrible dictatorship and after an uprising in the now non-existent District 13 seventy four years earlier, the Capitol devised The Hunger Games. Each year, every district is forced to draw the names of one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 and these children will be sent to a large and creepy outdoor arena devised by the Capitol to battle it out for the death on live TV. Only one child is allowed to live. They do this to remind everyone in the districts that the Capitol is all-powerful and to keep the Districts submissive and scardy pants (and because they are eeeeeevil).

So, back to the story - 16 year old Katniss Everdeen (yes, everyone has weird and bad names in this book, but again, you must climb on board) is our heroine because she volunteers to take her little sister's place when her name is drawn. And that's really all I want to tell you. Except there is suspense, violence, unrequited love, drama, rebellion, and weird futuristic scenarios that are oddly fascinating. Like to the point where you try to fall asleep but CAN'T because all you want to know is what will happen next?!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I can't even remember

I've read so many books since last posting that I can't even remember them. Or maybe it's because so many of them were Terrible that I don't remember them? Regardless, I'm going to stop apologizing for the infrequent posts of late because, well, I'm not actually sorry.

I will now present to you the blog post equivalent of a mash-up wherein I tell you what I've read (and can remember) in the last month or so.

A Reliable Wife
Meh. Saucy but in a creepy, bummed-me-out kind of way.

All that Matters
Ha! Turns out the free section of the library where you don't have to check the books out (you can literally just take them and return them on the honor system) is free FOR A REASON. Why I finished this book I'm not sure. Maybe because I was expecting some steamy lovin' at the end? Expectations not met. Leading me to:

The Accidental Wedding
Good Saucy. I mean, it's bad of course. But good.

To Catch a Bride
Bad Saucy.

The Kid
Funny and smart. Inappropriate but in the best of ways. Classic Dan Savage and in novel form!

The Human Stain
My first Phillip Roth experience. The title grosses me out still, but I was very impressed with the prose. It was a thinking book. I mean, not as complex as "The Accidental Wedding" but still... That said, I had to stop in the middle (something I hate doing) because I realized our next book club was meeting soon and I hadn't started our next read! So I've now moved onto:

Parrot and Olivier in America
and hope that by the time I finish it, I will still feel some motivation to return to The Human Stain.