Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire

First off, let me say, it’s been forever since I last posted. It’s not that I haven’t been reading. I have. I just haven’t finished a book. I know that’s probably worse. I tried to finish a collection of short stories by Gogol which I can’t seem to ever really finish. I started reading the Stephanie Plum book from last summer which I then lost. I started reading a collection of short stories compiled by Nick Hornby, which I also lost (and then found so hopefully I will finish it soon). Then I got Little Women at a used book store and destroyed the book with rain, snow, and coffee. My new job makes it increasingly difficult to read. Enter a five day vacation for Christmas which included two three hour train rides and two six hour drives. Not to mention four new books.

A Lion Among Men was one of those new books (my favorite one I got, mostly because it came as a surprise. I don’t remember ever asking for it or even mentioning I wanted to read it to anyone). This is the third book in the Wicked Years series and as the title may suggest, it is the true story of the Cowardly Lion. It is also very much about Mother Yackle, the mysterious old woman who always seems to be lurking around the series. The book picks up eight years after the events of Son of A Witch amidst the war between the Free State of Munchkinland and Loyal Oz. Mother Yackle is ready to die and is placed in the crypt of the Cloister of Saint Galinda in the Shale Shallows (a central location for many important happenings of the series). A year and a half later however she comes out of the crypt just as alive as she went in with the arrival of Brrr, the Cowardly Lion (a capital L because he talks). He has come as an emissary of the court in Emerald City to interview her about her connection with Elphaba and Liir. Yackle, however, being shrewd and pragmatic as much as she is mysterious offers Brrr a trade. If he tells her his life story including his shames she will answer his questions. With a little probing and some well placed questions (probably a little magic too) she gets him to spill his deepest darkest shames which he had repressed for years. We learn how Brrr got from shivering in a cage at Shiz University to the court investigator we see today. This includes his childhood in the Gillikin forest, how he came to be known as The Cowardly Lion, how and why he joined Dorothy on her quest, and what happened to him after she left Oz. We also learn why he is in the employ of the arguably evil Apostle Emperor (Shell Throppe, Elphaba’s brother) and what he is truly after. We also learn much more about Mother Yackle including how she came to be and why she was always on the outskirts of Elphaba and Liir’s life. Both have compelling and interesting histories.

The book explores many of the same themes as the other two Wicked books. With any revisionist view on a story the over-arching theme is always did the main character get a bad rap? Did Elphaba deserve to be called Wicked? Did Brrr deserve to be called Cowardly? We grow attached to the hopeless Lion who seems to always get a raw deal and can never see anything through to the end, “running away” when things get difficult. He views them as shames of his life. No discussion of cowardess is complete, however, without the underlying idea of morality. What makes a person courageous? Is it cowardly to lie down in the face of war (that’s how Brrr got his nickname)? Did Brrr do the right thing with the wrong circumstances? You be the judge. With the secondary back-story of Mother Yackle we explore the idea of fate. Why was she in Oz on the outskirts of Elphaba and Liir’s life? Why can’t she die? Are there things she was sent here to accomplish? Then the ever present Clock of the Time Dragon shows up to answer many of these questions.

I really liked this book. I was slightly disenfranchised with the series because of Son of A Witch but this one definitely reinstated my interest. Perhaps it is because it is with a familiar character that you have an attachment to. Who knows? Much of the criticism of the first two books is that they are long and slow. They are difficult to get through. This is not Harry Potter we’re talking about. It is a much more adult view of the classic story. I didn’t feel at all that this book was difficult (I felt that especially about Son of A Witch). The world is established by now and the confusing elements are gone. Maguire no longer needs to set the scene for the reader, so perhaps that is why it was an easier read. Not to mention now that the story is winding down he can answer questions instead of asking them. I liked the fact that it included elements and characters from both previous books and answered a few questions left hanging. It inspired me to reread both books. I remember very little from Wicked (it was years ago that I read it) and maybe I should give Son of A Witch a second chance. Not to mention, I cannot wait for the next book to come out. There are so many unanswered questions still. What happened to Liir and his baby (a green girl like Elphaba)? What happened to Ozma, will she return when Oz most needs her like the prophecy says? The fourth book, who’s working title is Out of Oz, may be about Glinda. I have a few ideas as to her backstory thanks to this book.

I definitely recommend reading A Lion Among Men. And if you have not read (or finished reading) Wicked do that first. Read the series, it’s worthwhile.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

One of the two magic related books I bought at Borders recently. I felt a little self-concious and awkward like the chick who rung me out was judging me for buying two books relating to witches and wizards. But you know I’m an awkward human being in general and I over think everything so she probably didn’t even notice. I guess my Harry Potter fixation extends to other literary ventures.

Anyway, this one is about a girl, Connie, who is studying for her PhD in Colonial History at Harvard. She inherits or rather is instructed to fix up an old house in Marblehead and by old I mean early 17th Century. She is cleaning the house and finds an old bible with a key inside of it. Inside the key is a name: Deliverance Dane. She investigates and finds out that Deliverance was an accused witch who hanged in the Salem Witch Trials and finds that she had a physick book which contained spells or potions directions. Long story short… she finds a previously unknown accused witch who was an actual witch. So she goes on the hunt for this book for her dissertation. The book goes back and forth between Connie and Deliverance and her descendants as we learn about the book and the magic they are capable of.

It was an interesting concept, the idea that there was an actual witch who was accused at the Salem trials. Not to mention I’m all for the combination of history and a mystical element. The magic here was what is known as vernacular magic or folk magic. It’s not so much about magical spells or “silly wand waving” as Snape would say. It’s more about potions and enchantments to help people. It sprang from the concept of the cunning woman who was sort of like the town healer (think that scene in The Princess Bride where they take Wesley to the wizard who declares him “mostly dead” and gives him a cure). The book looked at an interesting and arguably more accurate view of the witch trials. No not that there were real witches, though there were cunning folk, just the motivation and process behind the witch trials. I learned a lot about that time in history from this book.

As historical fiction, the historical part was spot on but what was lacking, however, was the fiction part. It was a pretty simple read to be honest and lacked a lot of the drama and suspense that I was hoping for. It had brief moments but they were far and few between. The back of the book compared it to The Historian, a book which I adore, but this one didn’t compare at all. They also tried to include some romance which seemed forced, there seemed little purpose for it here. It wasn’t a bad book, I just wasn’t impressed. Even the mystery was lacking. There were parts that were way too easy to figure out and others that they didn’t touch on at all. I would have liked to have been able to figure out for myself where the book was hidden but they insulted my intelligence and didn’t let me. In fact in general I felt like this book insulted my intelligence. I was a history major and I love solving mysteries and suspense. Also a minor issue I had was the flashbacks included a lot of writing that was meant to be in the Boston vernacular (replacing r’s with h’s for the accent). I mean I live in New England and I’m all for the accent but it was just confusing and made it needlessly harder to read.

I liked the book. It was okay. I was just a little disappointed. I had high hopes and it didn’t live up to it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

This is the second in the Millenium Series (the first being The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo which I read in the winter. My brief review is in the four months of catchup post). It picks up with Lisbeth Salander (the girl) in the Carribbean taking it easy thanks to her recent activities. Mikael Blomkvist meanwhile is back at Millenium working on a magazine issue and a book relating to human trafficking and the sex slave business in Sweden. When the book’s author, his wife (who was doing a dissertation on the sex trade), and Lisbeth’s guardian all turn up dead in a single night all signs point to her as the killer. Mikael however doesn’t believe her to be guilty and investigates who else could have killed them and would want to frame Lisbeth. The book delves much deeper into Lisbeth’s history and we learn a lot about how she got to be the way she is. We learn how she got the nickname Wasp, why she was declared incompetent, and much more.

The book took me awhile to get into. The whole first third is about Lisbeth on vacation and buying new stuff to start over and Mikael editing this book and wondering what happened to her. I really could have done without a lot of this. It seemed unimportant (who knows it may come into play later) and at the end I was remembering the beginning and how it had nothing to do with the main storyline. The real meaty part of it, when we get into the mystery, doesn’t start until around page 215. But when it did finally pickup it was non-stop excitement. There were so many twists and turns that I spent a lot of it rereading passages just to figure out what had happened. It was also much more suspenseful than the first book. It was a real page-turner, which is such a cliché statement but absolutely true. I did not want to put it down. It took me six weeks to read the first 200 pages and a week to read the rest of it (its 725 pages).

I also have to say that it leads to some times of confusion but one of the things I really like about these books is that it is told from many different perspectives. We don’t just hear about what is happening from Lisbeth or Mikael, but a combination of the two and a myriad of other characters. I think that is really refreshing when it comes to mystery novels. It’s not just told from one character’s perspective with whom we have to follow along with as they try to put clues together. We get a whole bunch of different pieces and perspectives. I think it helps you come up with more substantial possibilities. In the first book I figured out a key part of the mystery and the same was the case in this one. I actually figured out a lot of this one but there were still surprises. I’m pretty sure the last twenty pages I had mouth hanging open and I definitely cannot wait to read the third one (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest).

On the whole it was very good. I definitely recommend it, especially if you like mysteries. Maybe it was because one of the perspectives it was told from was the police or just that it is more sensational but this one seemed very much to me like an episode of Law and Order. I can really see it making a good movie. On that note… they are making these books into movies staring Daniel Craig as Mikael. Which honestly I think is brilliant casting. I think he has the right amount of smarts and brooding to pull it off. I’m waiting to hear who they get to play Lisbeth. I’m not all that impressed with the rumored options (Carey Mulligan, Ellen Page, Kiera Knightley, seriously?) and they better not screw this up. Also I am a little confused because there are Swedish version already. I've seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and it’s pretty good. It’s on Netflix instant. They did change a few things around (like making two characters one) but in general they stuck to the main storyline. They did also add a small part in that gave a major thing about the second book away. Maybe that is why I figured a lot out?

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius... the title says it all.

I’m not a fan of non-fiction. Whether it’s about a particular event, place or person it always feels to me like reading a textbook. I didn’t read my textbooks when I had to… why should I read them for pleasure? The last two I tried reading I gave up on very quickly (Lost City of Z, When You Are Engulfed in Flames). I had heard good things about this one (Dave Eggers is one of the “stuff white people like”) and I got the book at a used book store for $5.70 (it was originally $6.50 but the guy wouldn’t bargain down to $5 even though it had coffee stains). I actually liked it.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers is a memoir of the author’s life. As it begins his mother is dying of cancer. It truly is heartbreaking learning all the gory details of her last days and her illness. While that is happening there are some flashbacks where you learn that recently his father died of cancer as well. So now an orphan, Dave inherits his little brother Toph who is eight years old. The two along with his sister move to California to start over. He creates this fledgling indie magazine and raises his brother in a bachelor lifestyle in the 90’s.

There are some funny parts like when they’re trying to go to an Open House at Toph’s school, and Toph isn’t dressed appropriately and they end up late which is a common occurrence for them. It is also sometimes confusing because he incorporate a lot of dream sequences and exaggerates scenes. He changes people’s names and even some things that they do or how they’re connected. Like there are two real people who he writes about that didn’t know each other at all but he uses one of them so that he knows about the other’s goings on. He did this to make vague who the real person is because the character is depressed and suicidal and the author seems to be the only one to talk him down. All of this is explained in the preface which I didn’t read until the end. There are some parts which drag on and seem a little disconnected to the story. For example, Dave auditions for The Real World San Francisco. I was really pumped for this part having been a Real World fan back in the day. But the interview seems to take forever and he is seriously trying way too hard to seem jaded and damaged so he can get on the show.

But in general the book was what the title said, heartbreaking and genius. Unlike most non-fiction and memoirs I’ve read it didn’t read like a textbook. It was entertaining and a pretty fast read (although I did lose the book and have to go to Borders two separate times to finish it so it took me a little longer). And it was not at all pretentious like David Sedaris. I cared about what happened to the people in this book and I didn’t feel like he was trying to shove down my throat that he leads an interesting life that I should care about. I recommend it if you haven’t already read this book which it seems like a lot of people have.

I also reread The Twilight Saga Eclipse in anticipation for the movie coming out. I’m not a diehard TwiHard (as the fans are called) but Eclipse was my favorite of the books and the movie looks fantastic. I hear it’s much better than the first two. I am totally Team Jacob. Edward is way to over-protective and he doesn’t seem to really trust Bella or respect her opinions. However rereading the book I began to feel that way a little less. I do however hate Bella even more. She gives in to him way to easily. Like even when she does decide what she wants (sex) he is easily able to talk her out of that and into what he wants (marriage) and their whole idea of that being a compromise is so messed up. I also became more frustrated with Jacob. His desperation is annoying. The whole argument between Edward and Jacob before the fight is ridiculous. Jacob says he will kill himself because Bella won’t choose him and then she makes out with him and says that she loves him too. No wonder he sticks around and hopes that she will change her mind. Bella is a tease! How can she tell him that she loves him but she’s choosing Edward. I want to puke all over her stupid face! I think I’m changing my allegiance… Team Seth!! He’s just precious and so funny!

Finally, I know this isn’t a book but it is literally related. The first official trailer came out for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows! It looks FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC! I so cannot wait. The trailer showed some major scenes. The escape from Privet Drive, the break-in to Gringotts and the Ministry, the destruction of the locket, a lot of the final fight scenes at Hogwarts, and so much more. It is masterfully shot, emotional, the acting is stellar, the special effects are beautiful, and it looks like they’re sticking to the books. Although the other movies left so much out I wonder how much they can include without it seeming to be pulled out of thin air. There is some controversy about the fact that Hermione’s hands which were once bloody are now clean and people thinking they’re cutting a lot of the violence out. But I can’t see how they can but then again you never know. I cannot wait to see it. Part one comes out in a little under five months. I included a link if you haven’t seen it check it out!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Audiobooks… to hear or not to hear?

It has been a very long time since my last post. It’s not that I haven’t been reading. I have, just not on the scale that I used to, which is weird because normally summer is a time for me to really read a lot. I did start and absolutely hate The Lost City of Z about a lost civilization in the amazon that many people have disappeared or died trying to find. I didn’t know it was non-fiction and it was like reading a history textbook. I have also been reading a lot of terrible chick lit that frankly seems unimportant and too shameful to post about. I’ve also been getting into audiobooks.

I have a few friends who like audiobooks for daily commutes or long road trips. I guess that it’s is better than struggling to find a radio station. I however was fervently against them, mostly because I’m a ninety year old woman and I’m totally against new book technology (don’t even get me started on these kindles. It’s like reading stuff on a word document). Though, I’m pretty sure this isn’t a new technology. I know they had books on cassette tapes. What about 8-tracks and vinyl? Can you find an LP of Little Women? If you play it backwards does it say satanic things? Anyway, it seemed so pedestrian and lazy. You’re can’t actually flip the pages and let your mind comprehend what words you see in front of you?

But I gave it a whirl and illegally downloaded The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy read by the author himself Douglas Adams. It was really good. I found myself sitting on a train trying really hard not to laugh, because then people would look at me like I’m some sort of nut job laughing on the Amtrak for no particular reason. I failed a few times at that task but I don’t think I got many looks. I found that with audiobooks more of the tone and style of the books comes across. You get the lines delivered in such a way that you can’t help but laugh, be excited, feel sad, and maybe even cry. And unlike movies you are able to imagine for yourself what people and scenes look like.

I do however think it comes down to the reader and the book. Something long, dry, and wordy I can’t imagine would translate real well to audio. Therefore I will be avoiding Jane Austen, Tolkien, and War in Peace. (Just so we’re clear I love Jane Austen I just find her wordy and she puts way to many needless details which I think would be boring read aloud. Tolkien too).

Hitchhiker’s Guide was perfect. It had excitement, energy, humor, and heart. For those unaware, it is the story of Arthur Dent who is told by his friend Ford Prefect (who turns out to me an alien) that the earth is going to explode and that they need to escape into space, they do and it does. They are picked up by Zephod Beeblebrox another alien who happens to be Ford’s cousin and President of the Universe and Trillion a woman who Arthur actually met on earth. Also on the ship is Marvin the paranoid android who is depressed because he was programmed with that human emotion (I find him amazing and hilarious). These folks are on the run because Zephod stole the ship that they’re flying, The Heart of Gold. They end up in the mythical planet of Megarathea which is known for constructing planets, including Earth. There they learn about a race of very intelligent beings that created Deep Thought the computer that will answer the ultimate question about life, the universe, and everything. The answer? 42. Very vague and non-descript. So they must then find out the ultimate question and constructed another computer to figure that out. I won’t give too much away if you want to read or listen to it. It actually started out as a radio series so it is no surprise that it is so good as an audiobook.

I’m not 100 percent sold on the idea of audiobooks. They’re great but there is something to be said about the feeling (and smell) of a book in your hand. Call me old-fashioned but I’m not going to be giving my paperbacks up anytime soon. But if you haven’t tried it and you’re going on a trip this summer I say yeah, pick one up. But choose wisely. I recommend... Harry Potter.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Absurd Take on Twilight

I was originally going to include this in my last post but figured it warranted its own posting. A few weeks ago I was in Boston for a conference and was killing time by visiting the Harvard book store (side note: I felt incredibly out of place, like everyone there knew that I didn’t go to Harvard which I doubt). So, I picked up Nightlight to read which is written by the staff of the Harvard Lampoon. The book is a parody of the book Twilight (which second aside: this is something that always bothered me. Why is Twilight considered a saga and Harry Potter which is way more epic is just a series? What makes a saga? I must research this further). I didn’t finish it then but I did finish it today while killing time at Borders.
It is absolutely absurd. Now I’m not a die-hard Twilight fan, I’ve read the books and seen the movies (finally saw New Moon thanks to Netflix) but this is just a ridiculous parody. The story is about Belle Goose, the teenage heroine who moves from Pheonix to the tiny town of Switchblade, Oregon to live with her father who is the only window-washer in the whole town (already absurd). She goes to school expecting to be a big hot shot and acts like the most self-absorbed person in the history of the world. She meets a boy, named Edwart Mullen, who is the dreamiest person she has ever laid eyes on whom she is convinced is a vampire because he’s pale, has bags under his eyes, doesn’t like blood, and won’t date. Plus she thinks he saves her life when he jumps in front of a snowball destined for her (that part was actually pretty funny but she was ridiculous about it). She finally wears him down and he takes her hiking to see his freak robot that can only stand up and fall back down (that will be important later on). She tries to get him to carry her out of the woods because he is so fast and strong but he can’t do it he is barely breathing by the time he finishes the five foot walk. She also meets his family including his plastic surgeon father who admits to doing illegal surgeries on his family. Yet she relentlessly insists he is a vampire (is that some sort of commentary on teenage girls today?) and not just the weird nerd he really is, and keeps hoping he will turn her into one of him. She insists on them walking her home through the cemetery, which he is terrified of, because it is the perfect setting for her transformation. He makes her stop and they sit down on this grave and it opens up to reveal an actual vampire, Josh the Leather King, who was also in her class but she ignored for her fake vampire boyfriend. Belle isn’t worried because she thinks Edwart will save them because he is a vampire, but he sits her down and assures her that he is not and then runs away. Belle however now falls in love with the actual vampire who thirty seconds ago wanted to eat her but now wants to take her to the vampire prom. They go, and due to her terrible dancing and a dress mishap the vampires decide they want to eat her. I won’t spoil the ending (the robot saves the day) but I assure you it’s just as absurd as the beginning.
Now don’t get me wrong it was funny, I did laugh out loud at multiple parts, but I felt like they were trying too hard and forcing the comedy. They took terrible writing and made it worse, they took barely likeable characters and made them unlikeable (except Edwart was way more likeable than Edward Cullen), and took the already confusing musing of a lovesick teenager and made it even more muddled and weird. It was a funny storyline at first but as it went on I enjoyed it less and less. It is worth a quick read if you got time to kill in a bookstore but not worth the $15 you would have to pay for it.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book is the story of Hanna Heath an Australian rare book expert specializing in Medieval Hebrew manuscripts. She is tasked by the UN to preserve and conserve the Sarajevo Haggadah, a book with gorgeous illuminations and telling the story of the Passover Haggadah, that has a past as storied and arduous as the Jewish people themselves. The book was created in Spain in the 14th or 15th century and then smuggled out in the Jewish expulsion in 1492, it then resurfaced in Sarajevo during the bombings of the Bosnian War in 1992 where it magically survived the bombing of the museum it was housed in. Hanna is called in admits all the artillery fire to work on the manuscript. While investigating it she finds some interesting things including an insect wing, a white hair, wine stains, saltwater, and missing clasps. She investigates further and learns not only about the books history but about those people who created and helped save the book over its 500 years.

The book was a really good piece of historical fiction. Everything is purely fictional but like all good historical fiction is rooted in fact. The book actually existed and the author based most of the people and trials of the book on what real historians believe actually happened. For example the book really was miraculously saved during the bombing of Sarajevo and historians believe it was hidden from Nazis in a mosque in the mountains thanks to a brave librarian. I did sometimes have to remind myself that it is fiction as I wondered how Hanna knew such minute details about these people and their connections to the book. But then I guess that is a good sign in a fiction piece that it makes its readers believe this really happened. Plus I learned a lot about the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people during the modern era.

The book goes back and forth with past and present which can be a little confusing, but this was not. It flowed well. Every time Hanna learned a new fact about a strange thing she found out about the book there was a section outlining its significance. It was pretty short and engrossing and I read it relatively quick (although I can’t remember when I started it so I guess it may have taken me awhile). My only criticism is that there was a pretty needless story about Hanna and her parents. Not that I don’t care about her and her life but I wanted to learn about the book and this stuff just felt like filler, but it didn’t take me out of the story completely and it was really good regardless.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Four Months of Catchup

I’m a negligent blogger. It has been months since I last posted. No one really cares, because no one really reads this but still I feel bad. I haven’t stopped reading of course, just blogging. So to make up for it, here is a list of the books and a brief explanation of everything I’ve read since November.
1.) Reread The Twilight Saga: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer: Not the best book literary wise but when you work with teenage girls they talk of few other things (Justin Bieber, lip gloss, and boys) besides how dreamy Edward Cullen is and whether I am Team Edward or Team Jacob (the latter). So a year ago I took the plunge and read the books to see what the hype was about and to gain some street cred, taking many other twenty year old girls with me. I found the books are far better than a lot of people give them credit for. While Stephanie Meyer isn’t the best writer she does get in the head of a lovesick teenage girl and the storyline is pretty engrossing. If you’re looking for unintellectual y/a chicklit definitely read them. They get better as they go on.
2.) Gossamer by Lois Lowry: A short but pretty good story. It was about dream givers. An old woman serves as foster parent for a young boy who has terrible dreams that the Sinisteeds a group of evil horse-like creatures (I think there is a Doctor Horrible reference in there somewhere) who inflict nightmares on this sensitive subject. But luckily for him he also has his dream-givers to help, Littlest a dream giver-in-training who has Thin Elderly then to teach her. It was a quick read. It took only a few days to read and relatively little brain power but when it ended I felt happy all over.
3.) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle: A series I call, Books I Missed From Childhood. (I promise I read books meant for my age). It was a little bit to me like a less complex version of the His Dark Materials trilogy with its combination of science fiction/fantasy with spirituality and physics. In the story Mr. Murry a physicist exploring time travel goes missing. His children (and a random boy named Calvin) meet three strange women who tell them they need to help save their father and that they will aid them in traveling across time and space to do so. It ended a little abruptly for me and I wished there was more, but there are three more books in the series. It is another quick read (meant for kids). I read it in two days. I really liked it. I definitely wish I had read it when I was little but it’s never too late.
4.) Finished reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates: The story of the Wheelers is a new take on 50’s nostalgia. It is very long however. I started reading it a long time ago and stopped reading it. I can’t remember why I stopped. That says something for me. I rarely stop reading a book, especially if it’s good. But the fact that I can’t remember why I stopped reading it is a good sign. Over Thanksgiving I left the book I was reading on the train (I wasn’t all that upset I didn’t really like it) so all I had for the trip was A Wrinkle in Time for the five days I was home which included two six hour drives and two three hour train ride. So at my parent’s house I looked at my old books to see what I could read. I found this remembering I never finished reading it. I grabbed it and completely forgot why I stopped reading it in the first place, immediately drawn back into the story. It is slow but with a good ending. If you like a dark realistic take on suburban life or the 1950’s I recommend reading this.
5.) The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin: Another book I missed from childhood. The story of the sixteen people who are summoned to the home of Samuel Westing where they hear that he has died and that they are all heirs to his fortune, but that one of them is also his murderer. They must play this ridiculous game he created to win his fortune and figure out who the killed it. A quick read but seriously confusing. I wanted desperately to figure out the mystery and I got most of it but they threw me for a loop in the end and I had to think way too hard for a book meant for kids half my age. The characters are really interesting and it reads well no matter your age, I liked it and would recommend it if you like mysteries.
6.) Life of Pi by Yann Martel: Someone recommended this to me way back when and I never read it. It is the story of Piscine “Pi” Patel a vegetarian Indian boy who studies zoology along with religion. He practices Hindu, Islam, and Christianity. His family owns a zoo but decide to move to Canada and sell all the animals. On the trip to move and transport the animals he ends up shipwrecked and the only human survivor with a Bengal tiger and other animals. In order to survive he must come to terms with the fact that he has lost his whole family and train the tiger so it doesn’t kill him. Not to mention do all kinds of things he probably would not have done normally. It is a story of animal training, psychology, and the things people will do to survive. It ends a bit weirdly but was a relatively quick read and I definitely recommend it.
7.) The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff: I’m a huge fan of Winnie the Pooh. Ask the stuffed Classic Pooh I’ve had since I was a child. If he could talk he would tell you. Or ask my brother and sister who both bought me this book for Christmas. This is a book about how Winnie the Pooh is an Eastern Philosopher because instead of worrying, over-thinking, pontification, not living up to what he says, or being depressing like all the other creatures in the Hundred Acre Wood, Pooh just is. The book is a quick read and is a lesson on how to live happily plus it includes many of the original illustrations from the A.A. Milne classic. I found myself analyzing my character in the other characters (I’m a Rabbit). If you like philosophy and/or Pooh I recommend this.
8.) Reread Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling: I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. It’s like the Twilight of my adolescence. This book came out two and a half years ago and the first time I read it in two days, which is huge for me. This time I wanted to take my time and let it all sink in. This time I saw the signs I should have seen before, sure I knew what to look for but still. It was definitely more enjoyable this time around. On a related note, my Mom read it for the first time recently and she thinks she is so brilliant and the queen of mystery solving because she figured some key mysteries out. To which I say, it’s a kid’s book. But really I’m jealous.
9.) College Girl by Patricia Wietz: The story of Natalie Bloom, a bookish college student at UConn who is jealous of the bourgeois kids for their money and sad that she won’t leave college with her M.R.S. or better yet with her V-Card. She throws herself into her studies as a Russian History major because it’s something she can control. She meets a guy named Patrick who seems ideal because he’s smart, not in a fraternity, and interested. They begin dating and she eventually gives it up to him (even though when he first tries she isn’t ready but shortly afterwards she changes her mind). But then her world falls apart. Her grades start slipping, she becomes nothing more than a friend with benefits to Patrick, and feels even less adequate. I found this book seriously realistic and heart-wrenching. Not the mindless chicklit I was thinking but really good!
10.) The Giver by Lois Lowry: Another book I missed from childhood. The story of Jonah who lives in a Utopian society where there is no color or pain, you share your feelings at dinnertime, children are given out to those whose applications are approved (and only one boy and one girl), you are assigned a career, and just about everything else (including your name) is decided for you. Jonah gets the unlikely job of being the new “receiver” the one who does know pain and sadness and becomes the keeper of the memories. It was very deep and interesting story especially with what Jonah decides to do with this new job and the privileged information he learns. Mostly I found myself thinking that this Utopia society seemed really odd and that I wouldn’t want to live in it. I’m not sure how I would have felt about it had I read it when I was little but at this age I liked it.
11.) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larrson: A thriller and mystery set in Sweden. It is the story of the journalist Mikael Blomqvist who is disgraced by the being sued and convicted of libel for printing a story about an industrial mogul. He is then higher by a new industrial mogul, Henrick Vanger, to solve the mystery of his niece Harriet who disappeared years ago and he suspects she was murdered. It also tells of Lisbeth Salander the PI/Hacker who teams up with Mikael. They then undercover even more sinister murders. It was a page-turner from start to finish. I figured out a key part of the mystery but as per usual I did not figure most of it out. Definitely good if you like murder mysteries. I’m going to hand this book to my mom the next time I see her and see if she can figure it out because she is the self described queen of mysteries (see Harry Potter entry). The ending came out of nowhere and set things up for the next book in the series but it was a good book as a stand alone book.

I think I may have left some books off (I can’t remember at all what I read in the end of January and the beginning of February) and they may be out of order. But still eleven books in four months is a pretty good accomplishment even if half of them are found in the kid’s section of the library. In a few days I’ll have a real post on the last book I read, People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks and hopefully I will keep up with it this time.