Yearly Archives: 2008

100+ Reading Challenge

January 1 – December 31, 2008

UPDATE DECEMBER 31, 2008 – CHALLENGE COMPLETED!!

Yes!!! I did it…I read 101 books in 2008, surpassing the magic number of 100 by ONE BOOK. This was a goal last year and I fell short by 5 books, but I was not to be denied this year. YAY! To see my list with links to reviews and ratings, visit this post.

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Okay, yes, I know I just wrote a post saying I was overwhelmed and would be eliminating some of my reading challenges. But this one isn’t really a new challenge – I had a goal in 2007 to read 100 books and missed it. I said to my bookie friends (you all remember this, right?) that I would be shooting to read 100 books in 2008. So this just makes it formal. The challenge is hosted by J.Kaye at this site. And there is a Yahoo group too (but I won’t be joining that because I truly am trying to cut down on all the groups I’m in – really!).

I’m keeping track of the books I read in this post.

The Middle-Aged Man & The Sea & Other Stories – Book Review

middleagedmanthe-sea The large screen leaps to life, basso profundo, showing the red carpet canyon leading into the Shrine Auditorium with columns of Oscars bigger than Buicks. Hillary Swank in an olive gown, a chandelier of jewelry, and all those teeth, hugs her husband Chad Lowe and says that “the role afforded me an understanding of humanity.” I wish I had that. An understanding. – From Academy Award Afternoon & Evening, page 13 –

Christopher Meeks’ first collection of short stories is chock full of humanity. The stories are quirky, accessible and insightful and tackle a variety of themes. In the first story – Academy Award Afternoon and Evening – a couple envies another couple’s home and expensive furnishings, only to discover there may be more important things in life than material possessions.  Likewise, a character’s ruminations on his mortality in the title story seems to put things in perspective for the narrator who is on a fishing trip with his brother-in-law.

As he spoke, the words “one fine morning” came to me. One fine morning, what? It occurred to me that at our best moments, on our fine mornings, our future is golden. “Soon” we will buy the right IPO and get rich on stock. “Soon” our spouse will recognize how brilliant we are. “Soon” our lives would make sense. Year-by-year, though, we have less future, and the current always is against us. If we can’t be golden or can’t be recognized or can’t find sense this year, when? Or how? I wish I knew. Bert looked unusually content, as if he knew but couldn’t explain. Maybe, I surmised, only when you are dying do you know what is truly valuable. – from The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea, page 29 –

Another theme that recurs throughout the collection relates to the idea that we may not always really know someone. Meeks examines relationships, specifically those of girlfriend/boyfriend and husband/wife and reveals the doubt and secrets hidden beneath a seemingly perfect exterior.

As Darryl lay back, staring into the afternoon sky, he wondered could Cheryl have an affair?  No. She was a work junkie and too cynical to have another relationship. If she were having an affair, she’d have to schedule it. Spontaneity was not her suit. – from High-Occupancy Vehicle, page 123 –

Meeks’ ability to reveal the very human traits of his characters is one of his strengths. Behind the confident exteriors of some of his male characters lies doubt, fear and vulnerability.

He hadn’t had any sex for several months, and he wondered if he were no different than salmon, swimming up the river to Ralphs. His genes put him in jeans and had him troll among wedges of cultured milk products to woo the way pilots needed planes or Rustoleum needed rust. Who would want him: Awkward, so damn needy, and with a cowlick? – from The Fundamentals of Nuclear Dating, page 137 –

Throughout the collection, the reader is treated to Meeks’ black humor and sharp eye for the foibles of humanity. His characters are flawed and at times a bit eccentric.  For example, in Shooting Funerals a young woman named Vicky begins to question her relationship with her boyfriend who is resisting marriage. In an effort to establish her independence, Vicky decides she will turn her love of photography into a funeral based business.

On the way home, Vicky pictured in her mind all the shots she invented but did not get: the executor’s cutting of the cake at the reception, the widow’s tossing of a faded rose – both of which she thought might become standard shots at funerals. Her best creation would have been having the family stand in two rows, their backs to each other to create a corridor where no faces could be seen. The main bereaved person, in this case the widow, would then solemnly walk down the aisle of backs, throwing rice on everyone’s shoulders, symbolizing, Vicky felt, tears as well as the idea of rebirth. – from Shooting Funerals, page 79 –

My favorite story in this collection was The Rotary which is narrated by a young man who is sitting at the bedside of his dying grandfather. He reflects on his grandfather’s “possible past” which also leads to him imagining how his parents met and married.

Should I shout from the sidelines, “No, no, no?” That you will marry and divorce and marry and divorce, like yo-yos searching for the perfect spin? Should I say that Henry, my father, is a wonderful man, but they’re not right for each other, and my sister and I will be confused? That we, too, as adults will join the spin of serial marriages? Then my own biology, too, impulsively calls: marry, marry – make me be. Let me grow up and sail with my grandfather and learn about running with the wind. – from The Rotary, page 64 –

In this beautiful story about a man’s love for his grandfather and the fragile connections between people Meeks writes: Our lives turn on the stupidest things.

Yes. A simple truth which resonates through each of Meeks’ short stories.

Christopher Meeks has written a collection of stories which appeal in their simplicity and honesty. As with his second collection (Months and Seasonsreviewed here), The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea is a book I can recommend to readers who love short stories.

4Stars

To read more about Christopher Meeks and his work, visit this site.

To buy The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea, readers may visit these on-line stores:

Amazon

Powells

Barnes and Noble

Mailbox Monday – December 29, 2008

mailboxmonday A new year is just around the corner…and I am quickly creating new stacks of books to read. Here is what arrived in my mailbox this week:

help The Help, by Kathryn Stockett arrived from Matthew Boyd,  Marketing Coordinator for the Penguin Group. When Matthew asked me if I wanted an Advance Reader’s Edition of this debut novel, I jumped at the chance. The Help is a southern novel and is described on the flap as follows: ‘Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women. Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter, a new graduate of Ole Miss, who returns home to find that her beloved maid has disappeared; Abileen, a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child; and Minny, Abileen’s best friend, perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. Seemingly as different as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? For what? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.‘ Doesn’t that sound great? The Help is due for release in February.

everyoneisbeautiful Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center came to me from Laura Ford at Random House (Ballantine Books).  Earlier this year I read Center’s first book and loved it (read my review), so when Laura asked it I’d like an Advance Reader’s Edition of this book I jumped at the chance. Everyone is Beautiful will be released mid-February 2009.

Visit Marcia’s Mailbox Monday post for today to leave a link to YOUR postal arrivals and see what other people got in their mailboxes this week.

2009 ARC Reading Challenge

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December 17, 2008 – December 31, 2009

Teddy from So Many Precious Books, So Little Time is once again hosting the ARC Reading Challenge. Given the vast amount of ARCs I keep getting, I figured I HAD to join this one. The rules are if you have more than 12 ARCs, you must read and review at least 12. No problem!

Here is my list (so far) with publication dates in parenthesis:

  1. The Good Thief, by Hannah Tinti (2008-08.26) – COMPLETED July 29, 2009; rated 3/5; read my review.
  2. Firmin, by Sam Savage (2008-12.30) – COMPLETED December 28, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review.
  3. The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister (2009-01.22) – COMPLETED April 17, 2009; rated 4/5; read my review.
  4. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, by Tiffany Baker (2009-01.09) – COMPLETED February 3, 2009; rated 3.5/5; read my review.
  5. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (2009-02.10) – COMPLETED September 3, 2009; rated 5/5; read my review.
  6. Everyone is Beautiful, by Katherine Center (2009-02.17) – COMPLETED April 14, 2009; rated 4.5/5; read my review.
  7. The Local News, by Miriam Gershow (2009-02.24) – COMPLETED June 29, 2009; rated 4/5; read my review.
  8. The Brightest Moon of the Century, by Christopher Meeks (2009-03.07) – COMPLETED March 6, 2009; rated 4/5; read my review.
  9. The Long Fall, by Walter Mosley (2009-03.24) – COMPLETED August 11, 2009; rated 3/5; read my review.
  10. Buffalo Lockjaw, by Greg Ames (2009-04.01) – COMPLETED April 6, 2009; rated 4/5; read my review.
  11. Follow Me, by Joanna Scott (2009-04.22) – COMPLETED April 25, 2009; rated 4/5; read my review.
  12. The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, by C.M. Mayo (2009-05.05) – COMPLETED May 1, 2009; rated 3.5/5; read my review.
  13. Beach Trip, by Cathy Holton (2009-05.12) – COMPLETED June 5, 2009; rated 4/5; read my review.
  14. Last Night In Montreal, by Emily St. John (2009-06.02) – COMPLETED June 1, 2009; rated 4.5/5; read my review.
  15. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe (2009-06.09) – COMPLETED April 12, 2009; rated 3.5/5; read my review.
  16. The Promised World, by Lisa Tucker (2009-09.01) – COMPLETED September 21, 2009; rated 4/5; read my review.
  17. Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving (2009-10.27) – COMPLETED November 1, 2009; rated 5/5; read my review.

Firmin – Book Review

firmin I am convinced that these masticated pages furnished the nutritional foundation for – and perhaps even directly caused – what I with modesty shall call my unusual mental development. – from Firmin, page 18 –

One dark night, a rat named Flo flees from humans into the basement of a bookstore in the Boston neighborhood of Scollay Square. There she makes a nest from the pages of discarded books and gives birth to thirteen baby rats…one of whom is Firmin. Firmin consumes books – literally – and grows into a rat who loves to read and philosophize about life. He explores the bookstore at night and watches its patrons from a ceiling fixture by day. Firmin longs to be human and to be able to communicate with the people he sees each day…especially Norman, the bookstore’s owner who later proves to be less than friendly to Firmin.

Life is short, but still it is possible to learn a few things before you pop off. One of the things I have observed is how extremes coalesce. Great love becomes great hatred, quiet peace turns into noisy war, vast boredom breeds huge excitement. It was the same with Norman and me. – from Firmin, page 80 –

As the months of Firmin’s life pass, the neighborhood he calls home become threatened with imminent destruction (in fact, the real Scollay Square was demolished between 1960 and 1963 – the time period of the novel), and Firmin comes to meet a lumbering, largely unknown author named Jerry.

Firmin is alternately funny, insightful, and sad. Firmin’s observations of humans (and his love of literature) were the most enjoyable parts of the book.

Sometimes the books were arranged under signs, but sometimes they were just anywhere and everywhere. After I understood people better, I realized that this incredible disorder was one of the things that they loved about Pembroke Books. They did not come there just to buy a book, plunk down some cash and scram. They hung around. they called it browsing, but it was more like excavation or mining. I was surprised they didn’t come in with shovels. thy dug for treasures with bare hands, up to their armpits sometimes, and when they hauled some literary nugget from a mound of dross, they were much happier than if they had just walked in and bought it. – from Firmin, page 26 –

Sam Savage’s slim novel about a literary rat tackles the larger issues of life and death, including seeking our dreams despite recognizing our limitations. For a reader like myself who loved Sylvester the Mouse with a Musical Ear by Adelaide Holl and The Borrowers by Mary Norton, this little book was quite an enjoyable and imaginative read.

Recommended.

4Stars

Sunday Salon – December 28, 2008

Sunday Salon

December 28, 2008

2:00 PM

Ah, the last Sunday of 2008 and I am feeling tired and contemplative. Yesterday I had a house full of people for a family Christmas dinner. It was a lot of work – both prepping for it and carrying it out – and I am happy now to have a quiet house with the fire going and the animals snoozing around me.

Since last Sunday I finished reading The Eye in the Door (read my review) and The Ghost Road (read my review) both by Pat Barker. The Ghost Road was by far the best book of this WWI trilogy (and it won the Booker Prize in 1995). If any of you are thinking of reading just one book of this series, I would suggest re-thinking. All three books should really be read (in order) to gain the full impact of what Barker is trying to do. I thought Barker’s writing was great – but the story is a dark and sad one…and disturbing. It is not for everyone.

I finished reading an Advance Readers Edition of Firmin by Sam Savage and illustrated by Fernando Krahn this morning – and that means I have completed my goal of 100 books this year! I’ll be posting a review later today.  I enjoyed this slim novel about a rat living in a bookstore in Boston. For as long as I can remember I have loved books where creatures live secretly beneath floorboards or in the walls of stores or houses.

sylvester One of my favorite childrens books was Sylvester the Mouse with the Musical Ear by Adelaide Holl which is about a mouse who lives in a music store. Firmin reminded me of this book, although it is a darker (more adult) story. Another book which is similar in flavor is The Borrowers by Mary Norton (read my review)…a story of miniature people living beneath the floorboards of a English country home.

I may get one more book in before the end of 2008 and then I’m going to be writing up a summary of my 2008 year of reading. I read so many fantastic books this year – most by new to me authors – and I am looking forward to more great reading in 2009. I’m thinking of sitting quietly amongst my TBR stacks later and sorting through my books.

Wherever you find your yourself today, I hope it is with a good book.

Reading from 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die

Last week two readers decided to host similar challenges revolving around the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. I’ve been slowly picking off books on this list, and these two challenges will give me some added incentive.

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UPDATE DECEMBER 26, 2008: CHALLENGE COMPLETED!!

I completed this challenge on December 25, 2008. My favorite book of the challenge was a tie between The Poisonwood Bible, The Colour, Rebecca and The Robber Bride – all of which I rated a 5 stars out of 5. My least favorite (and one I could have skipped) was The Reader which garnered a 1.5 stars – lousy.

Many thanks to Michelle for hosting this fun challenge. There will be a 1% Well Read challenge for 2009 as well…and I’ll be joining in!

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Michelle’s 1% Well-Read Challenge runs from May 1, 2008 – February 28, 2009. The goal is to read 10 books (or 1% of the books) from the list.

  1. Independent People, by Hallodor Laxness – #625 on the list (COMPLETED May 5, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
  2. Atonement, by Ian McEwan – #42 on the list (COMPLETED June 17, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)
  3. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel – #49 on the list (COMPLETED June 23, 2008; rated 3.5/5; read my review)
  4. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver – #86 on the list (COMPLETED July 12, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
  5. The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink – #116 on the list (COMPLETED August 15, 2008; rated 1.5/5; read my review)
  6. The Colour, by Rose Tremain – #15 on the list (COMPLETED August 25, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
  7. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier – #603 on the list (COMPLETED November 7, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
  8. The Robber Bride, by Margaret Atwood – #145 on the list (COMPLETED November 23, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
  9. Regeneration, by Pat Barker – #170 on the list (COMPLETED December 21, 2008; rated 3.5/5; read my review)
  10. The Ghost Road, by Pat Barker – #105 on the list (COMPLETED December 25, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)

Possibilities (for Michelle’s challenge):

  • (#18) What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt
  • (#19) The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
  • (#24) Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters
  • (#31) In the Forest, by Edna O’Brien
  • (#43) The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen
  • (#50) The Feast of the Goat, by Mario Vargos
  • (#52) The Devil and Miss Prym, by Paulo Coelho
  • (#82) Cloudsplitter, by Russell Banks
  • (#93) Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
  • (#99) American Pastoral, by Philip Roth
  • (#105) The Ghost Road, by Pat Barker
  • (#116) The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink
  • (#117) A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry
  • (#135) Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks
  • (#145) The Robber Bride, by Margaret Atwood
  • (#170) Regeneration, by Pat Barker
  • (#205) Oscar and Lucinda, by Peter Carey
  • (#223) Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  • (#297) A Bend in the River, by V.S. Naipaul
  • (#365) The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
  • (#387) Cancer Ward, by Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn
  • (#399) One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • (#440) The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing
  • (#588) Native Son, by Richard Wright
  • (#603) Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
  • (#609) Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
  • (#625) Independent People, by Halldor Laxness
  • (#717) Siddharth, by Herman Hesse
  • (#741) Of Human Bondage, by William Somerset Maughan
  • (#770) House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
  • (#788) The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
  • (#810) The Kruetzer Sonata, by Leo Tolstoy
  • (#837) The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostovsky
  • (#880) The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins
  • (#890) Bleak House, by Charles Dickens

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UPDATE October 31, 2008: I did not  manage to complete the 10 out of 100 Out of 1001 Challenge. I did read 7 books from the top  100 books listed on the 1001 Books List…not too bad, actually. I’ll keep reading from the list for Michelle’s challenge (above).

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Mee’s 10 Out of 100 Out of 1001 Challenge runs from May 1 – October 31, 2008 and requires reading 1 book from each block of 10 in the top 100 books on the list. She allows participants to skip a block of 10 if they’ve already read one book in that grouping.

I’ve decided to combine these challenges. Below are the books from which I will choose my reading for these challenges.

Block 1-10 (skip) I’ve already read Slow Man, by J.M. Coetzee (read my review)

Block 11-20

  • (#15) The Colour, by Rose Tremain (COMPLETED August 25, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
  • (#18) What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt
  • (#19) The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time, by Mark Haddon

Block 21-30

  • (#24) Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters

Block 31-40

  • (#31) In the Forest, by Edna O’Brien

Block 41-50

  • (#42) Atonement, by Ian McEwan (COMPLETED June 17, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)
  • (#43) The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen
  • (#49) Life of Pi, by Yann Martel (COMPLETED June 23, 2008; rated 3.5/5; read my review)
  • (#50) The Feast of the Goat, by Mario Vargos

Block 51-60

  • (#52) The Devil and Miss Prym, by Paulo Coelho

Block 61-70 (skip) I’ve already read The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood (read my review)

Block 71-80 (skip) I’ve already read Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee (read my review)

Block 81-90

  • (#82) Cloudsplitter, by Russell Banks
  • (#86) The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver (COMPLETED July 12, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)

Block 91-100

  • (#93) Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
  • (#99) American Pastoral, by Philip Roth

8 Books in 8 Categories in 2008


January 1, 2008 – December 31, 2008

December 26, 2008: UPDATE on Challenge

It is evident I will not complete this challenge – BUT, I am happy with how I did. Out of the 8 categories I chose to read from, I completed half of them (Books Around the World, Books on my TBR shelf for more than a Year, Non Fiction Books and Notables). For the other categories, I completed the following: 2 out of 8 Pulitzers, 5 out of 8 Bookers, 4 out of 8 Banned Books, and 5 out of 8 Classics. Next year I will be focusing more on the award winning  books on my shelf. Many thanks to Michelle for hosting this complex, and rewarding challenge!

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3M Michelle has come up with a great personal challenge that was so embraced by A Novel Challenge Yahoo Group members, that she created a group blog for other obsessed readers to share THEIR 8 books in 8 categories in 2008 lists.

Here are my current categories and picks for 2008 (overlaps are in red):

8 Pulitzers

  1. The Known World, by Edward P. Jones
  2. The Magnificent Ambersons, by Booth Tarkington
  3. So Big, by Edna Ferber (COMPLETED January 17, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
  4. Breathing Lessons, by Anne Tyler
  5. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner (COMPLETED April 17, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)

8 Bookers

  1. The Ghost Road, by Pat Barker (COMPLETED December 25, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
  2. Hotel Du Lac, by Anita Brookner (COMPLETED July 22, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
  3. G, by John Berger
  4. Oscar and Lucinda, by Peter Carey
  5. Sacred Hunger, by Barry Unsworth
  6. The Gathering, by Anne Enright (COMPLETED March 9, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
  7. Life and Times of Michael K, by J.M. Coetzee (COMPLETED February 17, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)
  8. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel (COMPLETED June 23, 2008; rated 3.5/5; read my review)

8 Books Around the World

  1. Independent People, by Halldor Laxness (COMPLETED May 5, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
  2. The White Mary, by Kira Salak (COMPLETED July 16, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)
  3. Atonement, by Ian McEwan (COMPLETED June 17, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)
  4. The Colour, by Rose Tremain (COMPLETED August 25, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
  5. People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks (COMPLETED July 4, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
  6. The Translator, by Daoud Hari (COMPLETED February 15, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
  7. Alentejo Blue, by Monica Ali (COMPLETED February 22, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
  8. Laughing Without An Accent, by Firoozeh Dumas (COMPLETED May 17, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)

8 Books that have Sat on my TBR Shelf for More than a Year

  1. The World Below, by Sue Miller (COMPLETED April 26, 2008; rated 3.5/5; read my review)
  2. Regeneration, by Pat Barker (COMPLETED December 14, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)
  3. Lost and Found, by Jacqueline Sheehan (COMPLETED April 21, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
  4. The Reader, by Bernhard Schlink (COMPLETED August 15, 2008; rated 1.5/5; read my review)
  5. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver (COMPLETED July 12, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
  6. The Eye in the Door, by Pat Barker (COMPLETED December 21, 2008; rated 3.5/5; read my review)
  7. Before You Know Kindness, by Chris Bohjalian (COMPLETED May 31, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)
  8. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier (COMPLETED November 7, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)

8 Non Fiction Books

  1. An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, by Elizabeth McCracken (Completed October 24, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
  2. Black Wave, by John and Jean Silverwood (Completed November 11, 2008; rated 3.5/5; read my review)
  3. The Zookeeper’s Wife, by Diane Ackerman (COMPLETED May 12, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)
  4. Laughing Without An Accent, by Firoozeh Dumas (COMPLETED May 18, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)
  5. Gifts From The Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Completed October 28, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
  6. Have You Found Her: A Memoir, by Janice Erlbaum (COMPLETED January 14, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)
  7. Ships Without A Shore, by Anne R. Pierce PhD (COMPLETED September 16, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)
  8. Alpine Americas, by Olaf Soot and Don Mellor (COMPLETED November 2, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)

8 Banned Books

  1. The Women of Rome, by Alberto Moravia
  2. The Toilers of the Sea, by Victor Hugo
  3. Moll Flanders, by Daniel Defoe
  4. The Giver, by Lois Lowry (COMPLETED January 1, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
  5. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison (COMPLETED February 25, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
  6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini (COMPLETED June 13, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
  7. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe (COMPLETED March 21, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)

8 Notables From This Site

  1. The Secret River, by Kate Grenville (Completed October 13, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
  2. The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by Moshin Hamid (Completed January 11, 2008, rated 4/5; read my review)
  3. The Gathering, by Anne Enright (COMPLETED March 9, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
  4. After Dark, by Haruki Murakami (from NYT Most Notable – 2007) – Completed October 28, 2008; rated 2/5; read my review.
  5. Let The Northern Lights Erase Your Name, by Vendela Vida (COMPLETED September 30, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
  6. Bridge of Sighs, by Richard Russo (COMPLETED June 7, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review)
  7. On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan (from NYT Most Notable – 2007) – Completed August 11, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review.
  8. The View From Castle Rock, by Alice Munro (from NYT Most Notable – 2007) – Completed September 28, 2008; rated 4/5; read my review.

8 Classics

  1. Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens (Completed January 25, 2008; rated 3.5/5; read my review)
  2. Home of the Gentry, by Ivan Turgenev (Completed June 19, 2008; rated 3/5; read my review)
  3. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier (COMPLETED November 7, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)
  4. The Ghost Road, by Pat Barker (COMPLETED December 25, 2008; rated 4.5/5; read my review)
  5. Emma, by Jane Austen
  6. Wuthering Heights, by Emil Bronte
  7. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
  8. Gifts From The Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Completed October 28, 2008; rated 5/5; read my review)

The Ghost Road – Book Review

ghostroad Hallet was lying on his back, hands clasped behind his head, nothing much visible from Prior’s angle except his chin. How appallingly random it all was. If Hallet’s father had got a gleam in his eye two years later than he did, Hallet wouldn’t be here. he might even have missed the war altogether, perhaps spent the rest of his life goaded by the irrational shame of having escaped. ‘Cowed subjection to the ghosts of friends who died.’ That was it exactly, couldn’t be better put. Ghosts everywhere. Even the living were only ghosts in the making. – From The Ghost Road, page 46 –

The Ghost Road is the third and final book in Pat Barker’s WWI trilogy – and it is by far the best of the series. The novel takes place in the waning months of the war and continues the story of Billy Prior who has returned to the front lines in France along with Wilfrid Owen (who previously spent time with Prior at Craiglockhart recovering from a breakdown). Neither man believes in the war, but are there out of duty to fight side by side with their comrades in arms. Psychiatrist Dr. Rivers continues to play a prominent role in this novel, seemingly safe from the war at his post in a London hospital. Dr. River’s memories of a time spent studying headhunters in the South Pacific run parallel to Billy’s story.

Barker weaves these two story lines together, deftly showing a culture of death and war amongst the South Pacific tribe linked to the  mentality of modern society which supports the war in France.

Head-hunting had to be banned, and yet the effects of banning it were everywhere apparent in the listlessness and lethargy of the people’s lives. Head-hunting was what they had lived for. Though it might seem callous or frivolous to say so, head-hunting had been the most tremendous fun and without it life lost almost all its zest. This was a people perishing from the absence of war. – from The Ghost Road, page 207 –

Barker’s prose is harsh yet poetic – a ying and yang style which draws the reader into the lives of the characters.

The roar of the approaching train startled the birds. They rose as one, streaming out from under the glass roof in a great flapping and beating of wings, wheeling, banking, swooping, turning, a black wave against the smoke-filled sky. Prior and Sarah watched, open-mouthd, drunk on the sight of so much freedom, their linked hands slackening, able, finally, to think of nothing, as the train steamed in. -from The Ghost Road, page 85 –

Billy Prior is a largely unlikeable character with his gritty, sardonic view of life – and yet he becomes a sympathetic symbol of all that is wrong with war. And as the reader turns the final pages, it is with the conviction that war is not worth it.

The Ghost Road is a simply wrought, yet beautifully constructed anti-war novel which is graphic and disturbing. Barker spares her reader nothing and shows the violent nature of human beings in the depiction of loveless sex and ruthless battles. This novel – which won the 1995 Booker Prize – should be read as part of the larger trilogy to gain its full impact.

Highly recommended with a caution that some readers may be offended by violence,  graphic sexual scenes and realistic language.

4hStars

Friday Finds – December 26, 2008

fridayfinds

December 26, 2008

I hope those of you who celebrate Christmas had a wonderful day yesterday and found many books under the tree. As usual, I am always on the hunt for the next great book to add to my towering TBR mountain and over the last two weeks I’ve found some promising titles. As always, clicking on the title will take you to Amazon to read more about the book, and clicking on the referenced blog will take you that blogger’s review of the book.

From the book bloggers:

Company of Liars by Karen Maitland as featured on Amy’s blog Passages to the Past. I just recently discovered Amy’s blog and I immediately noticed this book’s beautiful cover. And then I read Amy’s review where she wrote this: ‘There’s not a better way to end the year of great reads in 2008 than to end it with Karen Maitland’s first book, Company of Liars. This book has everything: love, death, friendship, witchcraft, deception…it’s a little historical fiction mixed with a little fantasy rolled in to one yummy nugget of a novel.‘ Wow, sounds like a book I would love.

A Death in the Family by James Agee as featured on Laura’s blog Musings. You may not know this, but Laura and I are true bookie-soulmates. What she loves, I usually do too.  And so when I saw that she gave this book a rare five star review, I immediately added it to my wish list. Laura writes: ‘This book is well written, and immensely powerful. Agee takes the reader deep inside the hearts and minds of his characters; I could identify with everyone in some way.This one will be on my reading list for 2009.

In The Convent of Little Flowers by Indu Sundaresan as featured on S. Krishna’s Books. I have learned to trust this blogger’s reviews – she reads fantastic literature – so when I read her thoughts about this short story collection, I added the book to my wish list: ‘[the stories are]…simply written and utterly beautiful.‘ AND ‘ Each has its own quality that recommends itself to the reader. As such, there is not one bad story among them, not one lesser tale. That is quite a feat for an author, to write stories of such depth and magnitude that they are all equally moving.High praise indeed. By the way, S. Krishna recommends all of this author’s work which is mostly historical fiction.

Train to Trieste by Domnica Radulescu as featured on My Literary Travels. This blogger writes: ‘What a beautifully written novel… exquisite prose, vivid description and a delicate love story all wrapped into one wonderful story. And the book cover is wonderful too (just another bonus!). I’m reading around the world, and this one would fit perfectly for Romania.

A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam as featured by Teddy on Historical Tapestry. Teddy writes: ‘Tahmima Anam writes with poetic prose that makes her characters come alive. I felt as if I was living the war with them step by step. This is Anam’s first book and is to be the first in a trilogy.She gave this one five stars. Teddy is another blogger who shares my interests in reading…I’m going to trust her on this one and add it to my wish list!

As if all these books were not enough temptation, my Bookmarks Magazine arrived the other day and I found even more books I’d love to read:

The Vagrants, by Yiyun Li. Li apparently won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for his book A Thousand Years of Good Prayers. The Vagrants is set in a small town in Communist China in 1979. This novel will be released in February by Random House.

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. This novel has twin protagonists – brothers – who grow up in Ethiopia. It is classified as an epic and follows their lives which are torn apart by love for the same women…but as in all great epics, there is a dark past which re-unites them. This is being published by Knopf in February.

Visit Jenn’s Friday Finds post each Friday to leave a link to YOUR finds and see what other readers are adding to their wish lists.

**WHOOPS, I should have visited Jenn before I wrote this – there is NO Friday Finds this week due to the Christmas holiday. Oh well, I’m posting mine anyway!