Friday, December 31, 2010

Stickin' around and still counting

Well, each year I have a book blog. At the end of the year, I wrap it up and then start a new one. Well, lo and behold, this is the first time I've actually had followers, and I actually followers who comment! I just wasn't sure what to do.

So, I've decided to keep this book blog and start counting my 2011 reads here. I'll change the titles up a little bit, to add the year (to help with my own organization) and I decided that this year I'm going to grade the books. Keeping with the teacher in me, I'll just rate each film with by a letter grade:

A: Excellent (everyone should read it)
B: Good (recommend it)
C: Fair
D: Poor
F: Terrible

So, on to 2011- let's see what books I can accomplish this year!

Thanks to my readers!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book 82- An Abundance of Katherines

In An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, we meet Colin who is a child prodigy whose best friend is Hassan, a fat Arabic kid with a quick sense of humor.

Colin has dated and been dumped by 19 girls named Katherine. After his lasted dumping and after high school graduation, Colin and Hassan take a road trip. Colin is on a quest to write a theorem that will predict a relationship. While on this road trip, anagramming Colin and Judge Judy loving Hassan meet Lindsey, a cute popular southern girl, her mama Hollis and the true story of a dead Arch Duke.

Colin also finds out that a theorem predicting relationships might not work, just like he might realize there are other girls in the world other than Katherine.

This was an off beat read, with tons of footnotes to explain Colin's quirks. It's also humorous and quirky, and a young adult novel.

Book 81- To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is probably my favorite book in the world. I love, love, love this novel. I was very excited that I had a chance to be a in high school freshmen English class where this was being taught. I re-read it. And I was flipping through my blog today and discovered I forgot to post about it!

This Depression era classic by Harper Lee is told by Scout Finch, a 9 year old girl living in Alabama. She and her older brother Jem are raised by their attorney daddy, Atticus, the best father in literary history, and their housekeeper Calpernia also helps with the child rearing.

In this timeless classic Scout tells of her first love and best friend Dill and about the cast of characters around her neighborhood. We hear about the Radleys, specifically "Boo" Radley who is the mysterious stranger living across the street from Scout who hasn't been seen in 30 years. The children are fascinated by the idea of him.

And throughout the second part of the story we hear about the Tom Robinson case, the black man accused of rape and Atticus defending him. The children learn how to be brave, how brave their father is, about innocence lost, about the rights and wrongs of an entire town, about the unfairness of life.

I love this book. I've probably read a million books in my almost 40 years of life, I've taught English for 10+ years, and worked in various libraries, adding up to about 6 years and I can honestly say this is my favorite book in the world. I love this story. I love the voice of Scout, the inflections, her young girl observations reflecting back through her adult woman eyes. I love the descriptions and the words. I love the richness of the story, the use of the word "linin'" and "chifferobe." I cry every time I read this book, certain pages and passages make the tears roll or the laughter burble right out loud. I love this story. As a teacher I could just analyze this story to death but when it all comes down to it, I just love this book for the book itself, for the beautiful story Harper Lee spun.

Here is one of my favorite passages from the book:

"Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer's day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men's stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o 'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum."

How can you not love descriptive writing such as this? "Soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum"... gives me the good chills.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book 80: Heart Shaped Box

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill is a twisted, demented modern day ghost story with an evil twist.

Aging rock star Jude Coyne has young girlfriends and one of those girl's from the past, caused him to be haunted.

Jude is into the occult and he sees an online auction to buy a "ghost." What he gets in the mail is an old man's suit in a heart shaped box. He thinks it's a funny joke until the haunting does begin.

A horrible old man ghost tries to make Jude kill his current girlfriend, Mary Beth, and then himself. Once Jude realizes he's not crazy and convinces his young Goth girlfriend he's not nuts, they go on the run, to save themselves and each other. While on the run, and through the use of a Ouji Board, Jude and Mary Beth realize things aren't what they seem. They must save themselves and destroy the ghost, but at what cost to themselves?

This was a good thriller with a ghost twist. It's deep and dark. This prose is deeply gruesome, and it will haunt the reader.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Early Resolutions for 2011

I can't believe the year is over in just a few days and I didn't hit my reading goal of 100 books for the year. Last year my goal was to read 10 books a month and I capped the year at 117 books, just 3 shy of my goal. It was really rough, to hit that, so I decided for 2010 I wanted to read 100 books for the year. And I'm coming up seriously short.

I hate it when I do that. But I won't beat myself up over it. I give myself permission to be okay with however many I do complete. But I am a goal oriented person so I have a wonderful list of things I want to read in 2011. I've also decided that I'm not going to pick a number of books to read in 2011, though I have a feeling that the number 100 will still lurk in my gray matter somewhere. So, I've decided to set different goals!

  • In 2011 I want to read 10 books that are considered "classics" by the widespread public, or which can be found in the canon
  • In 2011 I want to continue to swim in the non-fiction pool. I'm shooting for at least 12 non-fictions books, and they can't all be memoirs.
  • I want to participate in Food For Thought at least 6 times (or more) throughout the year
Hopefully I'll do better at reaching my reading goals in 2011 better than I did this year. I'm considering these my New Year's Resolutions. At least I LIKE reading and will stick to it, unlike other resolutions!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Book 79- Elsewhere

Elsewhere is young adult fiction. First, I am not going to make this a blog all about young adult fiction just because I now work in a high school library. This was purely a coinky-dink. I swear. But young adult fiction or not, this was a good read.

In this story, Liz dies at age 15. She finds herself, after a brief nautical journey, in a place called Elsewhere. There she meets others who are dead, yet living a life in this place.

This is an "afterlife" story with a clever plot. It's not like others with a perverted version of Heaven or tying in an aspect of hell. It's a sweet story and it could cause "deep thinking", or it could just be taken at face value, just an afterlife story.

I love the voice of Liz, while I don't always like her as a character. I think author Gabrielle Zevin addresses the question of "what happens after you die" in a creative and sweet way. This third person voice, which is so apropos, introduces many strong and likable characters, giving them clear voices as they deal with this sojourn through the hereafter.

Young adult or not, I recommend this novel!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Book 78- Speak

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson is a young adult novel about Melinda.

Melinda is a freshman in high school and she's be labeled a social outcast due to the fact that she called the police which busted a huge party right before school started, at the end of summer. She feels the safest place for her to be is alone, except that's not so good either. There;s something going on in her head which haunts her, too.

She has no friends, everyone hates her, the 1 one she had dumps their friendship, her grades fall except for art class, and her parents fight. She skips schools and hides. She won't speak. she's afraid of what will come out of her mouth.

She thinks if she talks about the tragic thing that happened to her the night of the party, her world will fall apart so she remains silent. Until one day, after school, when something happens, she breaks her silence.

Powerful and captivating young adult novel. I can see why it won awards. It's sad but so true.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Book 77- Based Upon Availability

This dark novel is based on the lives of 8 women who all intersect because of the Four Seasons Hotel.

The first part of Alix Strauss's novel focuses on Morgan, the general manager of the hotel, who had never coped with the death of her younger sister. The other 7 women and their stories swirl around her. Trish has opened a gallery and is throwing a party for her best friend, who had just gotten engaged and lost lots of weight. Ellen thinks she pregnant. Louise is checked into the hotel to dry out and hopefully resurrect her rock star career. Anne suffers from OCDs. Franny is displaced after a fire and has nowhere to go and is so jealous of the lives of her neighbors. Robin takes revenge on her abusive sister. Shelia deals with her affair with a married man.

This is a very dark novel and isn't always full of happy endings. I do like the story and I like the way all the characters are entwined. But it's sure a dark, yet well written, tale.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book 76- The Lake Shore Limited

The novel that went nowhere, is what I consider The Lake Shore Limited. I feel like all the characters began and ended in the same spot. Ugh!

Using 4 different narrators, we see the lives of four people: Sam, Billy, Leslie and Raffe. Leslie lost her brother during 9/11. Billy was his lover. Sam is a friend of Leslie's she tries to fix up with Billy. Raffe is the star of a theater play Billy has written.

Billy wrote a play about a guy who fell out of love with his wife but then he found out she might be dead. Raffe was in the play and was touched by it, because he has a wife that he married, divorced, then remarried again. Three years after they married the second time, she was diagnosed with fatal, long term terminal disease, Huntingtons Disease. Leslie and Sam saw the play, thus begins the intertwining of all four of these people.

I don't find any of these characters very likable and I just don't feel like this book "went anywhere."