Here is what I've read so far this year. I'm always on the prowl for new authors--if you think we share the same taste in literature, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org with your favorite authors/books. Happy reading!
Books listed in order read
The second in the Niccolo Rising series of books. I'm blown away by how much this author knows about history. Unfortunately the Ann Arbor Library doesn't have the third book of the series so I'm waiting for Inter Library Loan for a copy.
Wow--beautifully written story about finding your self, perceiving reality, fuck ups and second chances. I'm gonna stick with it in the hope that the depressing as hell part won't be the entire book. The story has some tragic and depressing parts to it, but the overall trajectory is one towards hope and forgiveness.
The third in the Niccolo Rising series of books. I was annoyed with how one of the main female characters died in this book (too passive and saintly) but otherwise another romping good read.
The fourth book in the Niccolo Rising series. What can I say? I'm turning into a Dunnett junkie. I liked the fact that there was finally a female character that was a match for Nicholas in this book.
I was absolutely blown away by Joyce Carol Oates's epistolary story. I also liked Kelly Link's "Stone Animals" which ballanced the wierd and the real.
The fifth book in the Niccolo Rising series. I feel a little annoyed by Dunnett's decision to make the main character a "diviner". I think it takes away from the interest to give him mystical powers rather than simply excellent strategizing skills.
A collection of non-fiction pieces. I loved the essay about language use, despite the fact that I am one of the people he bitches about who never really learned grammar.
I'm on a quest for good kid-lit. This one was ok, but nowhere near as appealing as her other book listed below.
A wonderful example of kid-lit. Doesn't talk down to the kid, uses words like "perfidy" and tells you if you don't know the word to go look it up. And the characters from the mouse, to the dull-witted serving girl, to the various rats are all remarkably complex for uncomplicated prose.
A favorite book from when I was about 12 years old. This re-read made it very clear what appealed to me back then: a main character who has trouble controlling her temper and some very nice descriptions of food. Oh, and the adventure plot is fun too.
Smith's homage to E.M. Forester. She attempted a present day "Howards End" set in the Boston area. The only character that came alive for me was Charlene Kipps--the character based on Mrs. Wilcox. Unfortunately she is also the least present character, as far as the number of pages she graces. Smith's editors should be scolded for all the gaffs in American English in the book--they were very distracting. Made me want to go read the original "Howards End" to get this one out of my head.
If you don't get enough of the Yarn Harlot's almost daily posts in her blog, then read this.
What is this, book 6? Yup another Niccolo Rising book.
A pretty amazing display of what it means to be the working poor.
Re-read for book group. I'm still blown away by how Russo manages to pack a whole ton of depressing subjects into a book that is not at all depressing.
Whew! End of the Niccolo series. What a ride!
I was prepared to hate this since I once tried to read another of Maguire's re-telling of fairy tale books, the wicked step-sisters one, and hated it for its cutesy tone. But Wicked wasn't bad (I read it because my book group chose it). I thought the first half was much better than the second--once Elphaba and Glinda leave school, I thought the book lost steam. But I did think the book had some interesting scenarios and I did like the ending with the accident that Dorothy makes with the water bucket. It advertises itself as a having big things to say about the "nature of evil" which I don't think it really had the chops to take on fully, but for contemplations on "evil-light" I thought it was entertaining.
Fantastic, wistful, beautiful meditation on what it means to be human, how community brings meaning to life and how following rules can bring comfort, even when those rules result in death.
Absolutely lovely story about learning to love and how feeling love means you have to be able to feel pain. Meant for children, but a good reminder of what matters for adults too.
I generally love Goodman's writing but found the subject matter, data manipulation in scientific research, to be a little chilly. The characters never came alive for me.
What fun! I keep reading that the book is the Miss Marple of Botswana, but maybe because I am much less familiar with the culture, it struck me as less trite than Agatha Christie. Mma Ramotswe is such a full, wonderful character and McCall Smith writes without frills, knowing just what to include and what to leave out. The book struck me as rarely ever "telling" the reader and did tons of "showing". Can't wait to read the next in the series.
More lovely stories about Mma Ramotswe.
Atwood's trademark acidic prose employed to re-tell the story of Penelope, Odysseus' long suffering wife.
The book is more interesting if you have read her first book, Liars and Saints since it references that book in many ways. I thought it started off well, but got unfocused and a little dull by the end. I also thought there were too many extraneous character--I kept forgetting who a few of the men were and what they were doing in the story.
You won't look at your food the same way after reading this book.
Can you tell that I am hooked on Mma Ramotswe?
A sequel to Gibbons' book Ellen Foster. The first book was excellent, this one is not. Half the time I couldn't follow who was saying what to whom. And the story line was just too twee for me.
Absolutely fantastic book--ostensibly for young adults but should appeal to anyone who loves words. Set in an alternate 18th C. England, the book achieves that rare ballance of stimulating thought and humor.
Decent, though not terribly memorable, contemporary fiction. I liked the pessimism of the main character.
Kind of annoying, but kind of compelling. Kept scratching my head saying "Why am I continuing to read about over-privileged teenagers and the middle class kid who wants to be one of them?" and yet I kept reading.
A lovely little quirky book. A fantastic chapter near the end from the point of view of a parrot.
Pretty stupid, gimmicky mystery book. Supposedly has some clues that tie to the TV show "Lost" (which I confess I enjoy) but beats the hell out of me what they are.
Exquisite--a new member of my Top 10 favorite books. Best summarized by a quotation from the book: "I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant."
It has been a while since I read any Allende--I got a little tired of the magical realism. I also prefered the secondary character, Tao, to the title character.
Beautiful book. Loads of complexity lying beneath a simple surface plot of a year in a 13-year old boy's life.
Not one of her best. Fragmented and high use of violence to advance plot. Didn't help that my edition didn't have the family tree.
Clean prose and an amazing tenderness that doesn't get sentimental and sappy. Couldn't help comparing it in my head with Prep (#32 above) due to the New England boarding school setting and realizing how superior this book is.
Best memoir I've read in ages. I'll probably re-read it; it's that good.
A beautiful novel, though I think the title is a little misleading--it seems to be much more about O'Neil with a little about Mary and I wish the author could have come up with a better title for the book.
WWII Britian and Jamaica. Really enjoyed reading it though the ending was a little bit of a stretch for me.
Wonderful historical fiction about free black slave owners before the Civil War. Incredibly well drawn characters.
Not sure why this was published under Lippi's name and not under her Sara Donati name. It is essentially a romance without the historical setting of her Wilderness novels. Couldn't be more different from Homestead, the only other novel she has published under the Lippi name. I was pretty disappointed by it, and perhaps I wouldn't have been as disappointed if I had been expecting a romance rather than literary fiction.
Wow. Breathtaking intertwined tales that go from 18th C to explorer to futuristic clone to post-apocolypse primitivism. Romping good adventures combined with exquisite meditations on being and the search for meaning in life.
Lovely novel about three siblings coming together for their father's death. Some of the best writing about the pleasures and pains of parenting.
Best story I've read about a boy's longing and love for his dead father. Funny and yet heartbreakingly sad.
A nice empowered retelling of the Cinderella story for young readers.
Sparse prose in this enjoyable collection of stories. The author trusts her readers and doesn't feel the urge to over-explain anything.
A fun sequal to her book Case Histories. Again, the stories appear disparate and then turn out to be tightly entwined. The book isn't in the class of Behind the Scenes at the Museum, but is an enjoyable read.
I hated this book. I still can't believe that NYTimes Book Review named it one of the top 10 of the year. Navel gazing with no purpose.
A fun thriller. Haven't read one in a while. I happen to love stuff about WWII and immediately post WWII history and appreciated all the research into the state of Berlin while it was being divied up. But I can't imagine it as a movie.
In Progress reading--check to see if they make it to the first list or get dropped down to the abandoned list....
The sad list of abandoned books....
I tried (again). I really tried. But I found the character Briony excruciating to read.
I read a few of the stories in this collection but none of them approached the quality of her story "Stone Animals" that was in the 2005 Best Short Stories collection I read recently.
Very nicely written, and an interesting mix of biography and autobiography about some very unique people. But soooooo slow. I lost interest about 1/2 way through.
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