Book Reviews

Monday, May 31, 2010

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
by: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

I loved this book. It's a story about two teenagers who meet at a concert and the crazy night they share. It has a rotating narrative, going back and forth between Nick and then Norah's point-of-view. They are both such good characters, ripe with insecurities and hormones, they felt so real. I love the references to My So Called Life and so many good bands.

My only problems were the constant f-bombs, which normally don't bother me, but there are a lot. The book was at it best when Nick and Norah were together and were just getting to know each other. It's such a sweet look at that immediate rush of feelings you get when you're falling for someone and are just desperate to get to know them better. This is the first thing I've read from either of the two authors, but it won't be the last. I'm particularly looking forward to Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Levithan's collaboration with John Green.

"Right now she's hanging on to the guy from Are You Randy? like she's auditioning to be the pocket on his jacket. And I can tell he's about ready to sew her on."

If I Stay
by Gayle Forman

Mia is a high school senior and a talented cellist. Her life currently consists of deciding where to attend college and how her rock 'n' roll boyfriend fits into the picture. She and her younger brother and loving, hippie parents are in a tragic car accident and afterwards she finds herself trapped in a coma. She watches her helpless self lay frozen in a hospital bed and has to try to decide if she should stay or go.

I loved how this was written. It felt like the real point-of-view of a high school girl, stripped of all the shallow clichés. Through flashbacks we learn more about Mia, her relationship with Adam, her family, her love of music, etc. The story manages to be sweet, without dripping saccharine.

Silas Marner
by George Eliot

Silas Marner is a weaver who is thrown out of his village after being wrongly accused of stealing. He settles into life in a new town and becomes consumed with squirreling away every cent he earns. His obsession is only replaced when an orphaned toddler comes into his care. His priorities change completely as his love for his little girl, Eppie, grows. At the same time, Eppie's real father, Godfrey, is a rich man who hides his marriage with Eppie's poor mother from society and refuses to acknowledge that she is his daughter. The story was good and the moral is obvious. It's all about having the right priorities, realizing that all things come to light in the end and your past will inevitably haunt you. It was an interesting read and my first of Eliot's. I'll definitely be reading some more of her classics.

Hold Tight Shelves

Saturday, May 29, 2010

I love bookends, but these shelves are brilliant! I could see these acting as my just read shelves, because I'm constantly adding a finished book and having to rearrange everything. With these I could just slide out the stopper, add my book and slide it back.

Photos from here.

Friday Favorites: Edgar Allan Poe

Friday, May 28, 2010

(My copy of Poe, which I've had since junior high)

Tonight I'll be winging my way to "Charm City," which is what has inspired this Friday Favorite post about the author who is buried there. The deliciously dark Edgar Allan Poe has been a favorite of mine since the first time I read The Tell-Tale Heart. I was in junior high and was in awe of the story. It was the perfect blend of macabre, unnecessary murder and the dire consequences of a guilty conscious. My love for him grew as I read his famous poem, The Raven, and wrote a school paper about his sweet, yet disturbing, Annabel Lee.

Perhaps my favorite Poe tale is The Cask of Amontillado. It was the most vivid of the stories in my mind. I could feel the chilly air of the cellar. I could hear the faintest tinkle of a jester's bell and the rasp of Fortunato's sickly cough. The eerie calm with which Montresor executes his plot still gives me goosebumps.

Poe's mysterious death fueled my fascination and made me wonder what he would have written if he'd lived a little longer. His story, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, featured the detective Dupin, which is considered the first of its kind and was later followed by Sherlock, Poirot and dozens of others. His brilliant Fall of the House of Usher and The Masque of the Red Death still stand as some of the best ghost stories ever told.

If you haven't had the chance to enjoy Poe's work you should pick up something immediately. As for me, I'll be back with gravesite pictures next week.

Top photo by moi.

Book Reviews: Mean Girls

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Mean girls have caused a lot of problems in literature over the years. These three books have one thing in common; the main characters are frequently at the mercy of some vicious girls. In The Crucible it's teens accusing others of witchcraft, in Carrie it's high school girls picking on a misfit. Autobiography of a Face is a bit different because it's a true story and it's more about how Grealy dealt with other people's reactions to a physical disfigurement (and it was boys who did a lot of the taunting), but still, she constantly struggles to fit in and find a group of kind girls, which is apparently a rarity.

So what did I learn about mean girls? They were just as mean 400 years ago as they are now, their selfishness can be the catalyst for a lot of death (in fiction) and they are more likely to be mean if everyone else is doing it. So go be nice to someone today.

The Crucible
by Arthur Miller
Set in Salem, Mass. during the witch trials in 1692, the play demonstrates the power of a mislead crowd, personal revenge and malice. Young teenage girls are questioned about witchcraft and in their nervous fear they accuse many of the town's women of being witches. Caught up in the heat of the trials, the girls convince themselves that the accused women have actually done something to them and things spiral out of control. The leader of the hysterical girls is Abigail, who has her own reasons for orchestrating the insanity.

I didn't feel truly immersed in the play until midway through Act III. There's a moment that made my heart break for the main two characters, Protor and his wife. It reminded me of a tragic version of The Gift of the Magi. The third and fourth acts deal with the characters' motives for the decisions they make and the eternal consequences of their actions. The play feels a bit stiff in the first half, but hang in there for the final acts. It was worth it.

by Stephen King

Carrie is an odd teenage girl in the '70s. Her crazy, religious mother has warped Carrie and she is constantly persecuted at school. After an incident in the girls' locker room, Carrie begins to realize she has telekinetic abilities. The book's drama builds to prom night, when everything goes horribly wrong.

I've read some of King's short stories, but this is my first time reading of one of his novels. I was really surprised by the way he told the story. He uses sections for books, reports, testimony, etc. interspersed with individual accounts of what happened. It's based on the supposition that telekinesis can be carried as a recessive gene and can manifest itself in young teenage girls who carry it. I expected the book to have a does of horror, but I wasn't expecting the sorrow I felt for Carrie. She lives her life persecuted by her cold, crazy mother and catty high school girls. It's a heartbreaking look at the cruelty people can inflict upon each other.

Autobiography of a Face
by Lucy Grealy

At age 9 Lucy was diagnosed with a cancer of the jaw. In this nonfiction memoir she chronicles her 5-year battle with the cancer and then the years that followed, during which she has dozens of reconstructive surgeries. More than the disease though, it's about Grealy's battle with learning to accept herself and feel comfortable in her own skin. It's about the universal struggle of feeling ugly. Grealy's story is a tragic one, but it's also beautiful.

"Beauty, as defined by society at large, seemed to be only about who was best at looking like everyone else."

If you find a copy to read, make sure it includes the afterward by author Ann Patchett that was added in 2003. Patchett was one of Grealy's best friends and later wrote the book "Truth and Beauty" about their friendship. I think she sums up Grealy's book perfectly with this...

"In the right hands, a memoir is the flecks of gold panned out of a great, muddy river. A memoir is those flecks melted down into a shapeable liquid that can be molded and hammered into a single, bright band to be worn on a finger, something you could say, "Oh this, this is my life." Everyone has a muddy river, but very few have the vision, patience and talent to turn it into something beautiful."

Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blue Moon Over Thurman Street
by Ursula K. Le Guin

This unique project combines photographs by Roger Dorband of Thurman Street in Portland, OR, and the poetry that they inspired Le Guin to write. The goal was to chronicle the people and places of the street. It was a really interesting project, but neither the poetry, nor the photos were particularly moving to me. I did enjoy the additional comments from the collaborators about each photo/poem at the end of the book. I'm traveling to Portland later this year and so I'm glad I read it. It was a glimpse into the city I'm so excited to see.
Beyond our understanding is the changing form of that tree; we do not know its beginning, or its ending, or its roots. - Quoted in Blue Moon

Matchless: A Christmas Story

by Gregory Maguire


Maguire weaves the original Match Girl story in with a new one of his creation. A poor boy named Frederik lives alone with his mother. Their lives cross with the Match Girl's and it changes their future. It's a sweet Christmas tale, but it lacks the depth and dark twists that have made the author so famous.

A Reliable Wife
by Robert Goolrick

Ralph is a wealthy middle-aged man living in Wisconsin in 1907. He lived a lazy, opulent youth, gallivanting around Europe on his father's dime. He married a spoiled Italian girl before moving home. After she broke his heart he lived alone for years before deciding to write an advertisement for a wife. Catherine answers the ad and meets him in Wisconsin. She's not what she seems and her secrets run deeper than Ralph could fathom.
This book seemed to revolve around sex, being obsessed with it, thinking it was evil, etc. I wish that there had been a lot less of that and a lot more focus on the deception and secrets. It made it seem far too harlequin for my taste, all heaving bosoms and lustful glances. I can understand a bit of that, but not the whole book. The writing and story were both pretty good, but the rest was just far too distracting from the real plot. I was interested in the story, but tired quickly of the sex and lost interest. By the end I didn't really care what happened to any of the characters. I thought they all deserved each other.

The Whore's Child and Other Stories
by Richard Russo

I've always loved Russo's style of writing. He has a way of describing people so intimately that you can see them there in front of you, flaws and all. This is my first taste of his short stories and they are exceptionally good. The title story, The Whore's Child, is about a nun's foray into a writing workshop and her attempt at a memoir. It was simple and did exactly what a great short story should do, give you a glimpse at a few characters and leave you wishing you knew just a bit more about them. Russo writes about a young boy's cross-country road trip with his mother, a man struggling to come to terms with the discovery of his wife's lover, a married couple who are haunted by the decisions of their youth and more. I loved the book as a whole and was left wishing for more stories from the author.

Book List: 3 Books You Thought You'd Hate But Ended Up Loving

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This week's meme, from Lost in Books, begs the question "What are 3 Books You Thought You'd Hate But Ended Up Loving?" I can think of dozens that I thought I'd love, but ended up hating, but this one was hard for me. Usually, if I think I'll hate it, I don't read it. Here's what I came up with...

1) The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court: I read this for book club and expected it to be ridiculously dry. The cover looks like something you'd see on a bad thriller or a Grisham novel. I began reading and was immediately hooked. The author managed to weave political, judicial and personal information together in a way that was really enthralling.

2) Watchmen: I had never read a graphic novel before Watchmen, so it's not that I thought I would hate this particular book, it's more the whole genre. I didn't read comic books and I thought that graphic novels were the same thing. Instead, I found a rich story full of fascinating characters, literary references and complicated back-stories. Now I love trying new graphic novels.

3) The Twilight Saga: The only reason I picked up Twilight was because I had too many people (whose taste I trusted) telling me I should read the series. I thought I would HATE them. But once I started I couldn't stop. Yes, Bella is a bit of a twit and somehow always seems to throw herself into the path of danger. Yes, every inch of the love triangle is melodramatic. But I was hooked. I read all four books in less than a week, which is part of the appeal. Reading them is fluff and it's escapism and it takes very little of my time. So, though it's embarrassing, I couldn't put them down.

Cranford Read-Along

Monday, May 24, 2010

I've decided to participate in a read-along hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey. I've been wanting to read this for awhile, especially since I bought a beautiful copy, part of the new Penguin cloth-covered classics series.

(Cranford is the green one in the front)

Here's Amazon's summary of the book: A novel by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, published serially in Charles Dickens' magazine Household Words from 1851 to 1853 and in book form in 1853. Basing her tales on the village in which she was reared, Gaskell produced a gently comic picture of life and manners in an English country village during the 1830s. The novel's narrator (a young woman who periodically visits Cranford) describes the small adventures in the lives of two middle-aged sisters in reduced circumstances who do their best to maintain their standards of propriety, decency, and kindness. Using an intimate, gossipy voice that never turns sentimental, Gaskell conveys the old-fashioned habits, subtle class distinctions, and genteel poverty of the townspeople. Cranford quickly became one of the author's best-loved works.

Allie has set the following reading schedule:
Since Cranford is a relatively short book, I decided to have two days for posting. There are 16 chapters, so a post on chapters 1-8 can be made on June 15th (a Tuesday). The second and final posting can be done on June 30th (a Wednesday).

To join in on the fun, sign up here.

Friday Favorites: Persuasion

Friday, May 21, 2010

I've been a Jane Austen fan for a long time. I've read her six completed novels and have loved all of them, but in very different ways. Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility introduced me to the brilliant author. They are beautiful odes to love conquering all and the huge blessing it is to have a sister you love, no matter how different you are. Their main characters are shaken by misunderstandings and steered by naïveté.

Northanger Abbey and Emma feature somewhat silly girls that let their imaginations run away with them. You somehow still love them, because though they may be simple or selfish, they really do have good hearts. Mansfield Park is Austen's picture of perfecting one's character. Fanny is just so damn good that it's a bit frustrating.

Of course all of these books are much more complicated than my quick sentences allow me to explain. So you should read all of them!

But Persuasion, this book is different from all the rest. Maybe it's because it was the last full novel she wrote. Maybe it's because she had experienced a bit of love in her life by that point. Whatever it is, it gives this book a depth and soul-shaking intensity that makes it my favorite.

The premise is simple. Anne falls in love with Wentworth, but her family says he's too poor and persuades her not to marry him. All of this happens before the book begins and in the opening chapter we are 8 years in the future. Anne is still single and Wentworth returns to her town. Now they are both older. Any feelings they share or don't share aren't based on infatuation or young love. They are both mature and have had years to decide what they really want out of life. This slow burn is intoxicating.

If you've never read Persuasion you're missing out. I love Austen's more celebrated novels (P&P and Emma), which have been made popular by movies and modern remakes (aka Clueless), but it's Persuasion that won my heart.

Book Reviews: The Lacuna and Let the Great World Spin

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Lacuna
by Barbara Kingsolver

Harrison Shepherd, half-Mexican and half-American, is raised in Mexico with his mother, later he returns to the USA to attend an American school. His divorced parents have left him feeling like he has no real home. He's an eternal outsider. He finally finds a home of sorts working in the kitchen of the famous married artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The story is told through letters and Harrison's diary entries throughout his life.

The book feels like an entire series piled into one book. It's split into many parts, but they are so different it almost feels like reading multiple books. It has an epic feel, spanning multiple decades and cultures. It started slow, but it picked up speed as you became invested in the story. I loved learning more about Mexico's history and Lev Trotsky, but I didn't always love the fictional characters. I was annoyed by Harrison's mother and disliked the sections with her, but I was fascinated by Harrison's interactions with his artist employers. Frida's voice was by far my favorite part; her fiery nature spill passion and life into whomever she touches. I also loved hearing about Harrison's love of literature and his friendship with his stenographer Violet Brown.

Overall I'm glad I read it. I've never been a huge fan of most of Kingsolver's work, but I loved The Poisonwood Bible. My thoughts on this book fall somewhere in between my past experiences with her. I liked the book and enjoyed reading it, but I wouldn't read it again and it doesn't make me long for more from the author.

Pair it with a movie: Frida

Let the Great World Spin
by Colum McCann

In 1974 Philippe Petit walked on a wire between the World Train Centers in New York City. McCann's novel revolves around various New Yorkers' response to this real event.

Corrigan, an Irish monk, Tillie and Jazzlyn, prostitutes, Claire, a Park Avenue woman who lost her son in the Vietnam war, Lara, an artist and drug addict; each of these individuals has a unique story. McCann's lyrical descriptions of each character pull you in. Their disconnected lives don't seem so different as her weaves them together. He finds a way to cut to the core of the human condition and highlight the threads that connect us all.

Tillie's sassy but tragic voice and Solomon's stoic pain were too of the stories that hit me on the deepest level. Polar opposites, one is a black prostitute who ends up in jail and the other is a white judge who has lost his son in the Vietnam War, but their universal pain unites them. Though their paths cross only for a moment, there's a deeper recognition of despair that they silently share.

This is one that I know I'll read again. The next time I pick it up I'll have met the characters before and so their stories will resonate on a different level. I'm still mulling over each of their stories and considering their connections and I know I'll be thinking about them for a long time.

Pair it with a movie: Man on Wire

Wordless Wednesday: Budapest Birthday

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Two years ago today I celebrated my birthday in Budapest.
Here's hoping that age 26 holds another great year full of adventures.

More Wordless Wednesdays here.

Photo by moi.

Book List: 3 Books that have been on your TBR List the longest

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This week's list from Lost in Books is 3 Books that have been on your To Be Read (TBR) List the longest. There are many classics that would make this list, but here are the first few books that come to mind. These are all books that I put on my "TBR this year" shelf every year and somehow haven't gotten to them yet.

1) The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov: People have recommended this book to me for years, but it's never seemed to be the right time to read it.

2) The Rabbit series by John Updike: This series seems to be the definition of "critical darling." Critics say it's wonderful, but I've never had an actual person recommend it to me, I just see it on every TBR list.

3) Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace: This one is obvious. I haven't picked it up because it's huge and I know it's going to take all of my attention to read it. I know I'll get to it eventually.

Have you all read any of these? Should I pick them up immediately?

Lois Lowry Lecture

Monday, May 17, 2010

This past weekend I had the chance to attend a lecture and book signing given by Lois Lowry. Her books The Giver and Number the Stars were two of the first that had a huge impact on me as a reader. I read both in grade school and reread them many, many times.

She's written many others, including two companion books to The Giver, that I've enjoyed, but it was those first two, which made her such an important author to me. In person she was clever, intelligent and wonderfully funny.

Lowry has had a fascinating life. She skipped second grade and graduated from high school at only 16. She attended Brown University, but dropped out when she was 19 to get married. She then had four kids by age 25 and yet still managed to become a successful author. 

(Lowry signing books after the lecture)

One thing I'd never heard of before her talk was her passion for photography. She's take portrait photographs for years and when her publishers asked what the girl on the cover of Number the Stars should look like, she sent them a shot she'd taken a decade earlier of a young girl. The publishers used that very shot on the cover (after Lowry got permission from the girl). The covers of The Giver, The Messenger and Gathering Blue also feature photos she's taken.

Lowry's book A Summer to Die was inspired by her own experience of her older sister Helen dying. The Giver was born of her father's struggle with Alzheimer's, which made Lowry wonder, wouldn't it be nice to forget everything sad or lonely that happened to you?

Hearing her talk definitely inspired me to read more of her work and gave me a deeper appreciation for what I've already read.

Top photo by moi.

Friday Favorites: Catch-22

Friday, May 14, 2010

Before I read Catch-22 I thought it would be a serious book about war. I imagined scenes like those from For Whom the Bell Tolls, tragic heroes sacrificing their lives for the cause and such. Then I actually read it and it was beyond hilarious.

The World War II book is a satire and unlike any other "war" book I've read. The sense of humor is dry and sarcastic, think Monty Python. There are a few Abbott and Costello style bits that left me in stitches. The main character, Yossarian, is desperately trying to find a way to leave the service and go home. This is much more difficult than it sounds and he runs into more than one ridiculous obstacle.

Constant contradictions run through the whole book, intentionally infusing it with a sense of insanity, but the reader is in on the joke. Characters like Major Major Major Major (both his rank and his first, middle and last name) fuel the confusion.

Though the book is full of side-splitting laughs, it also makes an important point about the absurdity of war. Somehow it manages to do this with humor instead of heartbreak. Don't get me wrong, there is a tragic element when you think about how desperate some of the soldiers are to get home. It's also horrible to think about what they see when they are at war and how that affects them.

In my opinion, this is a must read for anyone, especially if you love a good laugh.

I've heard Heller wrote a sequel, Closing Time, to this classic, but I'm nervous I won't like it as much. Has anyone else read it?

New Blog Pages

Thursday, May 13, 2010

As you may have noticed, in the last couple days I've been trying to add a few pages to my blog. I wanted to post the books I've read over the past few years and the ratings I gave them. That's something I always enjoy looking at on other blogs, because it helps me determine if we have similar taste in books.

I wanted to post one caveat to the lists. In the years since graduating from college in 2006, my taste in books has changed. Or rather, my taste has remained the same in a lot of ways, but the number of books I'm aware of has changed. I am now able to find more books that I think I'll like, as opposed to reading the latest Nicholas Sparks or James Patterson novel because I can't think of what else to read. I'm such a happier reader now. I love picking up a book that other bloggers or LT members have suggested.

I also wanted to note that when you look back on the books you've read and ratings you gave them it's really hard not to edit your list. I've certainly read some guilty pleasure books (I'm looking at you Twilight) that I know are fluff. Others are "comfort" authors that I return to even if the writing isn't great. I look at a high rating I gave something and think, shouldn't that have two stars instead of four? But I know that I gave it four because at that moment, after finishing the book, I really enjoyed it. It isn't fair to second-guess myself because I might not like the book as much now. There's something to be said for judging books by how they make you feel and not just how good (or bad) everyone else thinks they are.

So anyway, those are the books I've read since 2005. Don't judge me.

Photo by moi.

Wordless Wednesday: Prague Storm

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Today it's a stormy mess outside, similar to the storm that rolled in while we stood
on the Charles Bridge in Prague. It's my favorite kind of weather.
Although today I won't be able to slip into a restaurant
for a big bowl of goulash while I wait out the rain.

More Wordless Wednesdays here.

Photo by moi.

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I'm a sucker for lists like the one in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. While I realize I'm not going to love every book in there, it's helped me discover quite a few that might have flown under my radar otherwise. Also, if someone recommends a book that's on this list, I'm more likely to pick it up.

I don't tend to choose books because they are on the list, but I love keeping track of ones that I have read from it. At the beginning of every year I sit down with the book (and a good movie) and I go through every page and highlight the titles of books I read the previous year and add a red check mark. It's oddly satisfying for a list maker like me.

I've read 126 books from the list (approximately, I haven't updated my list since January), so I obviously have a long way to go. The completist in me certainly wants to finish the list one day, but I certainly read many, many books that aren't on this list.

How about you guys? How do you feel about TBR lists created by someone else?

If you've never seen the complete list, here it is.

Photos by moi.

Book Reviews

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath

Esther Greenwood is a young woman who wants to become an author. She's trying to understand social norms for women in her generation and work out what she actually wants from her life, as opposed to what's expected of her. She feels disconnected from most of what is happening around her and the book chronicles her decent into mental illness.

I read this for the first time as a teen. Rereading it now was an interesting experience. I identified more the main character when I was younger, but I had a better understanding of the wider scope of the message this time around. Also, Esther's struggle with embracing motherhood had a bigger impact on me this time, now that having kids doesn't seem impossibly far away. I knew Plath committed suicide, but I didn't know until recently that it was only a month after this was published.

Briar Rose
by Jane Yolen

Becca's grandmother Gemma has told her the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty (Briar Rose) her whole life. When Gemma passes away Becca realizes that her family barely knew anything about her past. She begins a search to uncover the secrets of her own heritage and in doing so finds the truth woven into the fairy tale story.

This brilliant retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale broke my heart. I was hooked from the first pages. It combines elements of the classic story with real facts about the Holocaust. Then weaves other important issues into the fold, prejudice, cowardice, homosexuality, wartime heroes, sibling relationships, the importance of knowing your history and the power of stories. I loved the characters and though the subject matter is obviously difficult, the story is so well done that I still enjoyed reading it. I know this is one that I will be rereading in the future.

Rip Van Winkle
by Washington Irving

Rip Van Winkle is a man who lives with his family in the Catskill Mountains before the American Revolutionary War. One day he escapes his nagging wife by going up into the mountains. He shares a few drinks of liquor with a stranger he meets and falls asleep under a tree. He awakes to find that 20 years have past, a revolution has taken place and his wife has died. His grown daughter takes him in. It's a quirky short story, but not one that was terribly impressive. As a side note, I had no idea that Irving was considered the first American short story writer (with this story and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow).

Friday Favorites: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Friday, May 7, 2010

I first read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in high school. Up until that point my favorite books were all fiction. I loved classics and mystery series, but I rarely read nonfiction. I assumed it was all dry and boring.

(The infamous Mercer House in Savannah)

Reading Midnight was a shocking experience. It was wonderful! The descriptions of people were intoxicating. I was completely enamored with the whole city of Savannah. I could picture every street and quirky neighbor. The fact that those people really existed and those things really happened just made it all the more amazing.

Since my first reading I've reread it many times. Different details and characters stand out to me each time. I also visited the city with some friends a couple years ago and seeing the restaurant, homes and cemetery Berendt describes made the book come alive even more.

(The Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah that's talked about in the book)

Midnight opened the door to the world of creative nonfiction for me. I still love fiction, but some of my favorite books are travel memoirs or nonfiction accounts of war.

Do you guys have any books like that; books that opened your eyes to a new genre?

Photos by moi.

April Monthly Summary

Thursday, May 6, 2010

April was an interesting reading month. I didn't get anything read for my Color Challenge, but got quite a lot done for my 101010 Challenge. I read 20 books total. Here's my update...

101010 Challenge
(10 books in 10 categories in 2010)

Favorite authors (8/10)
-"The White Seal" by: Rudyard Kipling - ★★★
-"Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" by: Rudyard Kipling - ★★★

Nonfiction / Travel Memoirs (9/10)
-"A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906" by: Simon Winchester - ★★☆
-"The Happiness Project" by: Gretchen Rubin - ★★★★
-"Literary England" by: Richard Wilcox- ★★★
-"The Kitchen Confidential" by: Anthony Bourdain- ★★★★
-"The Poe Shadow" by: Matthew Pearl- ★★☆

Recommended (10/10)
-"The Little Stranger" by: Sarah Waters - ★★★★☆
-"Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History" by: Art Spiegelman- ★★★★☆
-"Beat the Reaper" by: Josh Bazell- ★★★★

Plays (esp. Pulitzer Prize Winners) (9/10)
-"All's Well That Ends Well" by: William Shakespeare- ★★★☆

Short Stories / Poetry Collections (4/10)
-"Heaven and Other Poems" by: Jack Kerouac - ★★★★

1,000 Books / Gilmore Girls List (9/10)
-"The Meaning of Consuelo" by: Judith Oritz Cofer - ★★★☆

Sequels (7/10)

Book Awards (Pulitzer, Booker, Orange) (6/10)
-"Olive Kitteridge" by: Elizabeth Strout- ★★★
-"Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began" by: Art Spiegelman- ★★★★★
-"Invisible Man" by: Ralph Ellison - ★★☆

One Book One Town / Book Club (8/10)
-"In an Instant: a family's journey of love and meaning" by: Lee and Bob Woodruff - ★★★☆
-"The Heretic's Daughter" by: Kathleen Kent- ★★★★
-"The Unnamed" by: Joshua Ferris- ★★★★

Random Book Challenge (6/10)
-"O Pioneers!" by: Willa Cather - ★★★★★

Here's January, February and March's summaries.

Photo by moi.

Wordless Wednesday: Oxford Radcliffe Camera

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Did you all see "An Education" yet?
I kinda loved it, so here's a bit of Oxford.

More Wordless Wednesdays here.

Photo by moi.

Book List: 3 Books You've Read Over and Over and Over and...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This weeks list, from Lost in Books, is 3 Books You've Read Over and Over and Over and...

1) The Harry Potter series: I can't help it. I love this series. I can read this books over and over and they don't get old, especially when I go back and forth with reading the actual book and listening to the excellent audio version. I definitely have my favorites in the series, but no matter which one I'm reading, I always get caught up in the drama.

2) The Mystery of the Cupboard: This underrated sequel in the Indian in the Cupboard series was so much better than the original (in my opinion). The book explains the origin of the magical cupboard. It came out when I was in 3rd grade and I must have read it a dozen times in that first year alone.

3) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: There's something addictive about this book for me. I can't quite explain it. Every time I see a copy in a bookstore I want to buy it and give it to someone. I love reading this book and different things stand out to me each time I read it. In fact, I think this might need to be this week's Friday Favorite.

Book Reviews

Monday, May 3, 2010

My final reviews from the month of April.

All's Well That Ends Well
by William Shakespeare

Helena, a physician's daughter, falls in love with a nobleman, Bertram. She cures the king with the stipulation that he will give her Bertram as her husband. They marry, but Bertram can't stand her and leaves before they even spend one night together. He gives her a brush off and says she isn't his real wife until she bears him a child... but he won't sleep with her. He then tries to court another woman.

Helena is a witty and resourceful woman and comes up with a way to trick him into impregnating her. All's Well That Ends Well... I guess. So Helena wins over her husband, who doesn't like her, by tricking him. In my opinion Helena's love and efforts are completely wasted on a selfish jerk. Even Bertram's mother thinks that Helena is a wonderful wife for her son. I wish Helena would have wised up and picked a different guy from the get-go. The play has Shakespeare classic puns and double entendres, but it's not one of my favorites of his.

Beat the Reaper
by Josh Bazell

A former mobster now works as a doctor in a Manhattan hospital. He's in the witness protection program, but a patient recognizes him, putting him once again, in danger. The violence/sex descriptions are pretty graphic, but it's entertaining if you can ignore the language. There are definitely some gross parts. It's a fast-paced thriller that takes you from the streets of New York to the death camps in Poland. It's also peppered with medical trivia that I loved. Suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the ride.

The Unnamed
by Joshua Ferris

Tim, a middle-aged lawyer, struggles with an unnamed disease that causes him to walk without stopping for hours. His wife Jane and teenage daughter Becka try to understand it and how it affects all of their lives. To me the point of this book is not the disease itself, but instead the relationships it affects.

A subplot is woven throughout the story that deals with a murder case Tim is working on. The case acted like a litmus test for the severity of his disease at the time. It was an interesting way to show how bad the symptoms were at any given point.

I loved the way Ferris describes each of the characters. I became fascinated not by the walking, but by his wife and daughter's responses to his walking over time. Their anger, frustration, love, disbelief, hopelessness were intoxicating. His own reactions were also interesting, but it was their point-of-view that I loved. I would absolutely recommend this.

An excerpt from the book...

"From the first bite of his sandwich to the last he ate mechanically and without pleasure. The ache of his jaw told him he had to finish. The duty of lunch had been acquitted."