Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE reading. I was an English major in college and so for years I was forced to read the dull tomes of Dickens, Dostoevsky, and Dunne. For ten years (no kidding!) after my college graduation, I did not read a single book. I fell in love with magazines, full of gossip and the season's best fruit recipes, short little snippets of information that could be read in, say, the space of time it took to take a pee. Reading a novel? No thanks, been there, done that, need a break. Soon after graduation, children came along and my days were full of Dr. Seuss and Disney. Books from my childhood were resurrected, and new ones made their way to the "favorites" list. I can still recite the first few pages of "Horton Hears a Who" by heart, and for all the times I read "Goodnight Moon", I could have earned another college degree. And while those pages of children's fantasy and rhyme delighted me, I longed for a book to take me away - from diapers, runny noses, sleepless nights and "how to" parenting guides. So, I started reading again. And now that many more years have passed, I've read countless books (being in a book club really helps - I highly recommend it!). But this year I decided to keep track of the books I read in the hopes that I could start a "reading" list for, well, life, I guess. Something that shows what I read, when, and whether or not I would recommend this book for someone else. My usual MO is to read a book and pass it on. I rarely keep my books now, and that's partly because I keep buying more books! I've discovered the thrift store for picking up more reads, and I make frugal use of my coupons at Barnes and Noble and Borders. I could spend HOURS in a bookstore (especially now that most have coffee shops - thank you Starbucks!). So, here's a list and review of what I've read this year:
Currently reading - "I Feel Bad About My Neck" by Nora Ephron. This is a collection of essays about getting older. I'm on chapter three and so far I've had a few laughs (although the chapter on cooking failed to keep my eyes from shutting and opening so heavily that the words became skewed and blurred). I'll let you know about this one. Probably going to pass this one on to my mom! (HAHA Mom, no offense!)
"The True and Oustanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters" - an account of a movie producer and her sister who is diagnosed with leukemia. The entire book is written in letters from the narrators point of view. Interesting. Predictable, but still a nice read.
"The Ten Year Nap" by Meg Wolitzer. I was so disappointed with this one. This is an account of several women friends and their trials and tribulations after taking the "ten year nap" (read- taking time off work to have kids - HARDLY a "nap"). It got rave reviews but I found it a bit jaded and boring. The "scandal" is not scandalous enough for me and I left it feeling flat. Blah.
"Peter and the Shadow Thieves" by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. This is a series by the popular comic writer Dave Barry and renowned author Ridley Pearson. It's designed for children ten and up, but I've been reading this series to Harrison at bedtime. The backstory is that it's the story of Peter BEFORE Peter Pan, the story we all know. Full of adventure, fantasy, twists and turns (and a bit of adultish humor), we have both loved these books equally and are currently at work on "Peter and the Secret of Rundoon" - the third and final installment.
"Twilight" by Stephanie Meyer. This is the first in a three-part vampire series that is sweeping the nation, especially popular with the teen set. Hayley is totally addicted to them, has re-read them several times, and plastered her door, walls, binder and computer with references to the series. She just dyed her hair a dark reddish/brown - like Bella, the lead character in the stories. Coincidence? I think not. I found the books somewhat amateurish in writing (the author is, in fact, a newbie, a Mormon housewife who said the idea for the books came to her in a dream). I don't feel compelled to continue the series, but I may reconsider.
"The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield. This is a very good "ghost" story set in perhaps the early 1930's. The story of a very dysfunctional family and a set of mysterious twins sets the scene for this book, which takes several turns and leaves you asking more questions at the end.
"The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" by John Boyne. A very different story of the Holocaust told from the point of view of a Nazi officer's child. The ending is surprising and unexpected and it's a sad and poignant tale of the Holocaust through a child's eyes.
"Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen. One of my all-time favorites. I picked this book up a year before I ever opened it. I thought it was about Africa. Wrong - it's about the circus around the turn of the century and all the depravation surrounding it. The story is told from the point of view of one man, both when he's young and when he's old and it's done in such an amazing way, considering the writer is a woman. A really good story with a great ending. Loved it and it got two thumbs up from Jeff, too.
"Peter and the Starcatchers" by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. Again, the first in the series mentioned above. I totally recommend these books - for a parent/child combo or just individually. This story "starts" the story of Peter Pan and involves mysterious "starstuff" that holds special powers.
"Freedom Writers Diaries" by Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers. This is a book/movie. I had seen the movie and loved it - very compelling and a true story. It's pretty amazing. The book was equally good, and was better able to paint a portrait of teenagers trying to make it through high school in Long Beach's gang-infested neighborhoods. A novice teacher with idealistic principles comes in and tries to make a difference, and, amazingly, does! Teens should read this one.
"Whistling in the Dark" by Leslie Kagan. This was a book club pick. I enjoyed it a lot. It's the story of two young girls who are basically left to their own devices one summer when their mother becomes sick and is hospitalized. Their teenage sister is busy with her own life, their alcoholic stepfather is uninvolved and there is a child molester on the loose. The girls set out to find out the molester's identity, and pray for their mother to get better and come back.
"The Space Between Us" by Thrity Umrigar. This is a story of modern-day India and how the castes are still so divided. It's not unusual for the middle class in India to have "servants" and household help, and this story constantly tests the lines between friendship and the caste system. Sad, but a good read.
"Patty Jane's House of Curl" by Lorna Landvik. Like her other novels ("Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bon's", "Your Flame at Oasis Lake") this is a quick read about a girl who's dad goes missing in the hours before her birth and how her mom makes it all work out. There are some good surprises, too. Easy, quick read.
"Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. This was a hyped-up, Oprah-recommended book (always a mistake!) that ended up being disappointing. The book is written in three parts - Italy, India and Indonesia and is about a woman who travels through all three in a year, basically indulging her selfish self (in my humble opinion!). The first part, about Italy, is nice and the descriptions of the food made me want to visit there (yum!), the part about India was decidedly boring (she studies in an Ashram, blah, blah), and the part about Indonesia described the beauty of the country nicely, but in all, the book left me feeling like I was ripped off. Never a good thing.
"Absolutely Organized: A Mom's Guide to a Clutter-Free, Stress-Free Home". I can't even remember who wrote this one but suffice it to say she's an idiot and NO HOME WITH KIDS can ever be clutter or stress free. Enough said.
"The Undomestic Goddess" by Sophie Kinsella. She's sort of the queen of "chick-lit" so this was a quick and easy read. A story about a London lawyer who makes a major mistake, walks out of her office and into the lives of two rich people where she mistakenly gets a job as a domestic servant who can't cook or clean. It's funny.
"Good Grief" by Lolly Winston. A woman's husband dies, and this is the story of how she deals with it, dealing w/ her mother in law and finding new love. Another book club pick and a quick read. I enjoyed it enough to want to read another one of her novels.
So, that's it so far. Now, I'm being "paged" (rudely, I might add) by Hayley to "get going" to take them to a movie. I will sign off now. More later!