2008 Reads

Saturday by Ian McEwan
I decided to pick up this book after reading Atonement by McEwan. McEwan is a British writer and even if you didn’t know that going in, you would soon realize it from his writing style and spelling. It makes him a little harder for me to read than some other authors. He also has a way of writing so it is hard for me to visualize what is going on in my head. I cannot exactly pinpoint what about his writing makes this so – I just know that if I had not seen the movie Atonement before reading the book, it would have been hard for me to follow. Saturday was a little easier to follow than Atonement. The entire book takes place in one day in the life of a neurosurgeon. The day is filled with events that make the doctor reflect not only on his life and how it is affected, but also world affairs. It was an interesting read but I’m not sure McEwan is my style.

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
Almost done with this one. Odd is probably going to be my final feeling on this one. I picked it up because M. told me the name of a popular Radiohead fan site, w.a.s.t.e., came from this book and I wanted to know what that was all about. I have about 20 pages left and still don’t really know what is happening. It’s a satire from 1963 – I am guessing it relates to something going on that that time, from the tone, probably something political, and that is a bit before my time. Even if it were more current, I am definitely not a politically-minded person. UPDATE: Okay, I admit I didn’t really finish this book. I got down to the last couple pages one evening and just skimmed them, put it back in my book bag and moved on to the next book. I rarely quick a book before totally finishing it, but I just didn’t get this one. Something about an underground postal service…

Trading Dreams At Midnight by Diane McKinney-Whetstone
Great book about how a woman’s mental illness affects her mother and her daughters. Story is told from the perspectives of all the characters. May have to pick up something else by McKinney-Whetstone!

Borkmann’s Point: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery by Hakan Nesser
Hesser is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Nesser is a Swedish mystery writer and I’ve finished this book and am already about half way through Mind’s Eye. In this book there is a serial killer who brandishes an ax useful for nearly slicing off heads. Of course the killer is tagged with the name “Axeman.” Inspector Van Veeteren is on the case – and I had no idea who the killer was until revealed in the end.

Mind’s Eye: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery by Hakan Nesser
Hesser has done it again! I was no where close to guessing the right culprit in the murder case and the end definitely had a twist to it. For anyone who enjoys mysteries, Nesser is an author you should pick up – I will be looking for more of his writing at my library. In Mind’s Eye a local teacher has been arrested and found guilty for the murder of his wife. Then while incarcerated in a mental facility, the teacher is also murdered putting the local police force back at square one.

Black Out by Lisa Unger
Another hit and another author I will be looking for more from. This book is about a mentally ill woman and how her past is affecting her current life. She was once Ophelia March, however Ophelia had to die and Annie Powers has risen in her place to live a life that is normal. But can Annie live her normal life when Ophelia keeps coming back to haunt her?

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle  by David Wroblewski
As I was reading this book, I found out Oprah has made it her latest book club selection. Not that matters to me, just thought I would mention it. This was a very good story, a bit long, but still a good read. It is about Edgar Sawtelle (of course), a boy who is mute (but can hear). Edgar and his parents live on a farm where they breed Sawtelle dogs. The beginning of the book which deals with Edgar’s early life and his relationship with his dog, Almondine, reminded me of one of my favorite books from grade school, Where the Red Fern Grows. I’m not an Oprah fan/follower, but she got it right when she added this book to her list.

The Dark Lantern by Gerri Brightwell
I don’t remember why I picked up this book at the library, but it was a good choice. It’s not a deep book and it’s an easy read which was nice after reading through The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. The book is set in nineteenth century England. Jane, a girl born to a murderess, is trying to rise above her mother’s bad name and eek out an existence for herself when she comes into the service of the Benteley home. During her time with the Bentleys Jane is absorbed into some strange going-ons in the house. It’s fun to read through and speculate about what exactly is going on and who did what.

I am good at missing hype about those books written for teens and young adults that make their way onto the adult booklist as great reads until everyone else and their dog has heard of the book/series and movies are being made. That’s what happened with Harry Potter and also what has happened with the Twilight Saga. My niece had mentioned she liked the books, and I’d heard mention of them at work, but didn’t think much of it – too many other books to read! I was shopping one day a few months ago and decided to pick up the first two books in the series since they were getting such good reviews. I had a bunch of library books that needed to be read first, so I am just now getting to these books. I started reading Twilight last night (9/21) with the intent to have it read before the movie comes out. Should not be a problem since the movie doesn’t come out until 11/21. I should be able to get through the first two books and pick up and read the third before the movie. So far I am reminded of another series I read and really enjoyed when I was in high school – The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
I’ve finished the first two books in the Twilight Series and loved them both. I had planned to jump into the third right away after finishing the first two, but I got a notice that one of the books I’d placed on hold had become available, so I went to pick that up instead. Big mistake! I am looking forward to finishing the Twilight Series and seeing the movie when it comes out in November. Even though these books were written for teens/young adults, anyone who likes a good vampire/werewolf story is going to enjoy these!

sTORI Telling by Tori Spelling
Okay, I will admit that I really enjoy watching Tori & Dean on Oxygen. Tori is so funny! So I thought her book might be a good read – get to know her a little more. Sorry, but that was a mistake. She writes just like she talks on the show. Fun to watch, not so entertaining to read. So tomorrow morning (10/4) I plan to make a trip to turn this book back in even though I’ve only read a few chapters.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
I started in reading as soon as I returned home from the library and this is the first book I pulled out of my book bag. (Yes, I have a literal book bag that hangs on the back of my bedroom door. I use a canvas tote my mother-in-law ironed a House Mouse picture onto.) I’ve not gotten too far into the book yet, but already I am more entertained than when trying to read Tori Spelling’s book!

I have finished The Gargoyle and really enjoyed it! I had no idea what it was about when I plucked it off the shelf at the library. It had an interesting title and cover, and usually that is enough for me to take a book home. After reading it, I was not disappointed. The narrator of the book begins by telling the reader how he was in a car accident and was severely burnt. While recovering from his burns, a strange young woman named Marianne comes into his life. Marianne begins telling the narrator love stories of the past, one of which she claims is their love story from another time. The way the narrator’s story and Marianne’s stories are woven together is very interesting and make for a great read!

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Ironically, on the back of The Gargoyle, there is advanced praise from an author who likens the book to Life of Pi. I didn’t know this until I had already picked up both books from the library. My friend RR recommended I read this one and since the first book I decided to read made mention of this one, it will be my second read.

Finished Life of Pi after reading Eclipse. My friend was right – the book was great! This is probably a book I will count among those “rare find reads.” I will let anyone interested pick up a copy of this book and discover it for themselves.

10/15/08 We interrupt this reading list to add:
Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
I bought the first two Twilight Saga books in paperback form. Because I twinge on the border of being OCD, I must have all the books in the same format. The 3rd and 4th books are only out in hardback format, so in order to read the final two books in a timely fashion, I will get them from the library. I had to put a hold on Eclipse and it became available before I could dig into Life of Pi, so I am now reading through Eclipse and plan to get to Life of Pi next.

Finished Eclipse and am looking forward to moving on to the final book in this series: Breaking Dawn. One thing I did not particularly like about Eclipse was the change in voice. Edward, the main vampire love interest of Bella, begins calling her “love” towards the end of the book. This was weird for me since he hadn’t called her that in the first two books or the beginning of the third. The other thing that bothered me was switching to the voice of Jacob Black for the final part of the book, but not sure how else Meyer could have handled that part since the rest of the book is in Bella’s voice…

Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
Meyer’s approach to the whole vampire and werewolf myths is very interesting and the story told in the 4th book of her Twilight saga is no exception. What would happen if a vampire slept with a human and conceived a child? Meyer answers this question in her final story of Bella and Edward. I liked this book the best out of the series because it added a new dimension to the myths.

My name is Will : a Novel of Sex, Drugs, and Shakespeare by Jess Winfield
Set in both the 1980’s and the 1580’s, this book follows the parallel stories of Willie Shakespeare Greenberg, a master’s candidate at UCSC, and the Bard himself. The way Winfield tells the stories is interesting. Not the best read, but a good one.

The Glimmer Palace by Beatrice Colin
Set in the early 1900’s and spanning across WWI and WWII, this book tells the story of an orphaned girl who made her way into the glamorous world of films. This was one of my first experiences with the early 20th century and I really enjoyed this book, although it took me longer to get through it than my favorite reads.

The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard by Erin McGraw
Same time period as The Glimmer Palace and also about early films, however the main character in this book runs away from prairie life in Kansas to become  renown costumer in Hollywood. Another good read.

These are all loaners from my favorite former coworker and good friend, RR.

When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris
I was not too jazzed to read this since RR told me it was a book of short stories. Short stories are not really my favorite reading. I did not read the dust jacket before beginning this book, so I did not realize the book was actually short essays David Sedaris wrote about his life. (I actually thought the narrator was a woman for the first few essays.) But I ended up really liking this book. Sedaris has a writing style I really like and his sarcastic wit is very enjoyable. I was able to relate to a lot of his writing.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Not personal essays, but still enjoyable short stories by Sedaris! Also, read at the right time of year with the holidays coming up. If you like quirky and sarcastic, chances are you will like Sedaris. I was pleasantly surprised.

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham
This book was not one I zipped through. It was okay, but did not hold my interest very well. Good thing it wasn’t too long! It bordered a bit on the romance edge and I am not a big fan of romances. I didn’t relate or feel empathy for Kitty, the main character. I found her a big naive and boring. Ah well, I always keep an open mind when reading books and don’t mind trying out different things. This is just one that was a bit of a flop for me.

I decided to try out something new. I am going to go to a book discussion group at our local library. The discussion takes place this Wednesday, December 17th. The book selected was The Beach House by Jane Green. The reviews of this particular book are mixed on Amazon and it’s not something I would typically pick up to read, but in an attempt to be more social and get out and do something, I am looking into local events at the library and this is the first one that sounded somewhat interesting to me. I finished the book this morning and am determined to go to the book discussion, if not to say anything, just to hear other’s views of the book and meet some people. I plan to write about my book discussion group experience after attending.

There were things I liked about this book, and some things I didn’t really care for. Overall, not a bad read, especially for a book deemed “chick lit” (which I don’t often read or like). I found the characters interesting, but my favorite thing is the overall message that was imparted. It can best be summed up by something one of the characters, Nan, says at the end of chapter 14, “…nothing in this world happens without a reason. That we are all exactly where we are supposed to be, and that the pieces of the puzzle have a tendency to come together when you least expect it.” That is exactly how I feel about life.

————
Well, I went to the book discussion group today (12/17) and I was the only one who showed up, so needless to say, there was no discussion! Instead, I read two chapters of The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun. I want to finish up The Constant Princess and some other books I checked out earlier, but then plan to plow into this The Cat Who… series.

The Gathering by Anne Enright
I finished this book up and really didn’t know what to think. There were interesting bits, but overall, I found the book a confusing and did not particularly like it. I found it hard to follow what was happening in the present and what had happened in the past and who the characters were, what was actual events in the main character’s life and what was possibly mistaken memory.

From the book’s description, I expected a story about siblings coming together to mourn their recently deceased brother and a dark secret comes bubbling up. It took well into the book to understand the dead brother had committed suicide and his suicide was probably predicated on the fact he was sexually molested by a man at his grandmother’s home when he was nine years old. But then, once mentioned, these facts barely come up again in the swirling confusion of past and present.

I did finish the book, but glad to be done with it.

The Little House by Pilippa Gregory
A departure from Gregory’s usual historical fiction novels. This was a good read, but I think I like the stuff I read by Gregory about the Tudors in 16th century England better. The ending of this particular story was a surprise for me.

The Tales of Beetle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
Having read the entire Harry Potter series and really enjoying them, when the publication of Rowling’s Tales of Beetle the Bard was announced, we purchased both the collector’s edition and the standard edition. This was the final book I read in 2008. I loved the wizard fables and how Rowling wrote in Dumbledore’s commentary on each tale. If you like Harry Potter, this is a must read.

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