Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Year in Review - Books

I was going to wait and write this post after the first because I am determined to read one more book before the end of the year (I have four days, after all!) and I just finished a book minutes ago. But instead, I will write my year in review of the books I've read this year and give them ratings. Some of these are the same as the last book post I did, but this time I will rate them and add comments. I'll give the books stars, four being the best rating. So, one star would mean the book was readable, but didn't capture my interest (i.e. not a book I "couldn't put down"), two stars means it was interesting and I wanted to know what happened, but could also set it aside and not think about it for a day or two. Three stars means I really enjoyed the book and wanted to read it at every opportunity. Four stars means the book was REALLY good and I'd want everyone to read it, because the story and the writing were so amazing. So, here goes:
1. Good Grief by Lolly Winston - This book follows a woman after she loses her husband at a young age. Pretty good read and a good first novel for this author. This was chosen by my book club. **
2. The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. A book from the author of the "Shopaholic" fame, this book was funny and easy to read and had a good story line (also some funny "British" humor). **
3. Absolutely Organized: A Mom's Guide to a Clutter-Free, Stress-Free Home by ??. I can't even remember the author of this one and it was such a lame book. I'm not even sure why I picked it up in the first place and paid full price for it at Barnes and Noble. Suffice it to say, it had NOTHING I haven't heard before about organizing your life and home which is almost always a bunch of BS that never holds up in real life. Ick. *
4. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Now, a lot of people loved this book and it was all Oprah-ish and "spiritual" but I found it boring and irritating to read about this selfish woman's quest to "find herself" and then spew her new-found wisdom to the rest of us lesser beings. Not all of us have the funds or time to travel to three countries in a year and live and spend our time eating, or meditating or riding a goat or what have you. I enjoyed reading about the food in Italy for sure, the part about India bored me to tears (meditating for HOURS a day? HUH?) and the part about Indonesia intrigued me enough to think it might be a nice place to visit. But as for her writing and whatever message she was trying to get across? Guess it wasn't received. This was a book club pick (and I think it was actually MY pick, I'm sorry to say). *
5. Patty Jane's House of Curl by Lorna Landvik. I love this author. I don't know what it is about her but her writing style is so readable to me and her characters so interesting. I first read "Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons" a few years back and it was a book club pick. Several people found it hard to follow, but I found it easy to follow and interesting. So, I picked up a few more of her books and I've been totally satisfied with them. This book is about a young woman who's husband goes missing the night she goes into labor with her first child. She has to carry on without him and she opens her own hair salon. Adventures ensue. ***
6. The Space Between Us by Thrity Umriar. This was another book club pick. It's about India and the caste system and how even today there is a separation between the wealthy and the not to wealthy. Very interesting characters and a surprising twist in the story, leading to a bittersweet ending. ***
7. Whistling in the Dark by Leslie Kagan. Another book club pick. This story follows two little girls as they fend for themselves one summer while their mom is hospitalized, their stepdad is uninterested in caring for them, and a child molester in on the loose. Good writing and very readable. ***
8. Freedom Writers Diaries by Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers. This is a true story of a young teacher who goes into an inner-city school in Long Beach, CA and turns around groups of kids who are separated by race and gang affiliation by encouraging them to write and keep journals. Some amazing stuff happens and many of these kids go on to be successful in life. An inspirational read. ***
9. Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. This is the first in a three-book series by this awesome writing duo. It's basically the story of Peter Pan before he became Peter Pan as we know him now. Tons of adventure and suspense, along with some really good writing and some comic relief (thanks for Barry). Ages 10 and up, but Harrison and I started reading these when he was 8. ***
10. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Truly one of the best books I've ever read! I loved the writing - this book is written from the perspective of a young man and an old man (same man, going back and forth between the decades) and his adventures with the old circus trains of the 30's. Really amazing details based on real-life stories, although this is a work of fiction. I couldn't put it down and immediately handed it off to my husband who also couldn't put it down! ****
11. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. A book club pick. A wonderful, sad story about the Holocaust written in a different way - from the perspective of a boy who's father is the commander of Auschwitz. Very sad but poignant. It's being made into a movie! ***
12. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Another book club pick. This book was very interesting - complex and detailed and mysterious at the same time. It follows a biographer as she tells the story of an eccentric author as she nears death. **
13. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. While the whole Twlight series was all the rage this year, I found this first book to be a good story, but with very mediocre writing. Meyer is a novice and it shows in her writing. The story is good, albeit a bit fantastical, but the writing could have been punched up a lot. It was also made into a movie, to lukewarm reviews, but I can't comment on it because I haven't seen it. Needless to say, I have not been inspired to read the rest of the series! **
14. Peter and the Shadow Thieves by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. The second in the trilogy. Also full of adventure and fun, this story has a new twist and old characters return. Harrison and I read this over several months as a bedtime story (a chapter or two a night). ***
15. The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer. This book was just plain boring. It's about women who take time off work to have kids and then return to the work-force (the ten year "nap"). I would harldy call raising kids "napping". I found the book tedious to read because nothing ever really happens. Again, I'm sorry I paid full price for this one, after reading several great reviews on it. Guess you can't always trust the reviews!! *
16. The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elizabeth Robinson. This one was on my bookshelf for a long time before I finally decided to read it. It's a story about a woman who is dying of cancer and her family's quest to take care of her in her final months. Written entirely in the form of letters, it's easy to read. **
17. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. While this was a trendy "to read" book this year, I really did enjoy it. It's a touching look at a man with terminal cancer and his sage words of wisdom on how to live your life. It gets a little preachy in parts and of course, won't apply to everyone in all areas, but it's very touching and sweet and sad. ***
18. I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron. This book was a funny look at middle age and everything that goes along with it. I didn't thoroughly enjoy it, there were parts that bored me, but mostly I found it a quick, funny read. A good "filler" book when you're between books. **
19. Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos. A sweet story about a waitress, her wealthy suitor, his "surprise" child and her wayward mother. Mostly this was a nice, easy to read story about a relationship with surprises and how it all evolves. I picked this up at the thrift store after reading a review about it in a magazine once. **
20. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. An amazing read, with both excellent writing and tragic but compelling stories. Hosseini is a great writer and the story pulls you in and makes you want to race to the end to see how it all turns out. I would rank this one as one of my top books as well. ****
21. Marley & Me by John Grogan. A very sweet and funny book about the "world's worst dog" this book made me appreciate our bad dog, Shade, more. It reminded me of some of Shade's shenanigans and gave me a new appreciation for dogs in general and how they love us even when we're terribly flawed! It's a movie now, which I'm planning to see before the holiday break is up. ***
22. Oh, My Stars by Lorna Landvik. Again, another good one by Landvik. Interesting characters (she really fleshes them out with quirky details) and a great story. This was hard to put down, because so much was happening and I wanted to know how things turned out. ***
23. The Light of Evening by Edna O'Brien. A book club pick. I actually had to just do a search on this book to remember what it was about! That should tell you something! A writer is chased from her homeland by her "shockingly sensual" novels and goes back to visit her dying mother in her final days, accidentally leaving behind her journals, in which her mother makes a shocking discovery. I can't even remember what the discovery was. I just filched that description from the review I just read. I had rated this a two star, but since I can't even remember it, I'm downgrading it to just one. *
24. Burnt Toast by Teri Hatcher. I picked this book up at the thrift store. It sat on my bookshelf for several months before I read it. But it was actually funny and a quick read. Also full of some really good advice. I liked Hatcher's disarming way to writing as though she was just talking to a friend. She's very self-depreciating in this book which made her more appealing as a person. I enjoyed it but it was certainly just a "filler" read. **
25. Life of Pi by Yam Martel. I kept hearing good things about this book but honestly, it was tedious and kind of boring. It's about a young boy who survives a shipwreck and is stranded on a lifeboat with a bengal tiger. Yeah, right, I know. I mean, the details are pretty good to make it ALMOST believable, but with a flesh-eating island and a crazy blind man thrown into the mix, the story just got weirder and weirder. I was glad when I was done! *
26. Peter and the Secret of Rundoon by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. The third and final book in the series, this one wraps up the whole Peter Pan story with a wild adventure involving a flying ship. Harrison and I really loved these books and I'm sad we've read them all now! ***
27. Free Food For Millionaires by Min Jin Lee. Our latest book club pick. It's a story about a Korean's immigrant's daughter and her life as a law assistant on Wall Street. The story is mostly about the clash between culture and progress, but I found it boring and not really going anywhere. And the end was a disappointment - nothing really happens. Blah. *
28. Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston. Ironically, the last book on my list is by the same author as the first book on this list. This is Winston's second novel and it was interesting but not developed enough to make it really interesting. It seemed a bit contrived and had "TV movie" written all over it. **

So, there you have it! My 2008 reading list (if I am lucky enough to finish another book, I will add that in a few days!). Next post......my "to read" list for 2009! Happy Reading!

1 comment:

Kyle said...

So, only two "4-star" ratings out of 28 books. You keep reading and I'll only get the 4-stars for me to read...thanks for putting forth all the effort. After all, I only read maybe a book or two a year anyway, so it'll work out great!!!!
Good luck in getting that 29th book finished before 2009.