Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Review

My New Year's Resolution last January was to read two books a month for a total of 24 books a year. I ended up with 38 total books read, and since it is highly unlikely I'll finish anything by midnight tomorrow, here's a list of what I've read this year.

38.The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (5/5)
37.The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald (4/5)
36.Up in the Air by Walter Kirn (3/5)
35.The Other Queen by Phillipa Gregory (2.5/5)
34.A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon (2/5)
33.Extremely Loud and Incredibility Close by Jonathan Safran Foer* (5/5)
32.Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger (4/5)
31.Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (3.5/5)
30.Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (3/5)
29.The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (3.5/5)
28.The Wild Things by Dave Eggers (4/5)
27.Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery (1/5)
26.The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (2/5)
25.The Farewell Waltz by Milan Kundera (3/5)
24.The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory (4/5)
23.Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier* (5/5)
22.Slowness by Milan Kundera (2/5)
21.Ignorance by Milan Kundera (4/5)
20.Netherland by Joseph O'Neill (4/5)
19.Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling* (5/5)
18.Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling* (5/5)
17.The Further Adventures of a London Call Girl by Anonymous (Belle De Jour)(2/5)
16.Belle De Jour by Joseph Kessel (1.5/5)
15.Immortality by Milan Kundera (3/5)
14.The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera (3/5)
13.The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (5/5)
12.Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote (4/5)
11.We Thought You Would Be Prettier: True Tales of the Dorkiest Girl Alive by Laurie Notaro (1.5/5)
10.The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (2.5/5)
9.Romance of a Shop by Amy Levy (4/5)
8.The Five People you Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom (4/5)
7.Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (3/5)
6.Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (4/5)
5.When the King Took Flight by Timothy Tackett **
4.North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (2.5/5)
3.Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (5/5)
2.When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (4/5)
1.Animal Farm by George Orwell (3/5)

Most Read Author - Milan Kundera (6)
Favorite New Reads - the Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Bell Jar, Pride and Prejudice
Least Favorite Reads - North and South, We Thought You would Be Prettier, The Further Adventures of a London Call Girl, The Lost Symbol, Gourmet Rhapsody
Longest - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Shortest - Breakfast at Tiffany's

Ratings are out of 5
** Academic Reading that I can't judge on an unbias level

Sunday, December 27, 2009

December Reading 4/2

The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath

Esther Greenwood is an overachiever who is quickly losing her mind. She has a scholarship to her college as well as summer internship at a magazine in New York City. She has some quarkie traits and weird opinions of men, especially of her kinda sorta boyfriend, Buddy. When she doesn't get her second summer scholarship to take a writing class she goes off the deep end, thinking about suicide, being unable to eat, read, write and sleep.

I seriously enjoyed The Bell Jar. It was like falling down the rabbit hole with Esther. Her actions, while not always rational don't often make the reader question them as they are reading. This incredibly solid decent into madness had me questioning my own sanity a few times. She's not annoying, which is a rarity on the crazy characters front. It was a quick, funny and thoughtful read that left me amazed. Some of the minor characters were annoying, but since everything was through Esther's prospective it is understandable. The progression of the story was very natural, just enough time passed so that one was aware it was happening, but there weren't huge gaps of time missing and all relevant information that didn't happen in the linear storyline was told in flashback or new headlines. There is obviously so much of Plath in this novel and it's really heartbreaking that she died so young. Definitely worth the read.



Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December Reading 3/2

The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Nick Carraway, originally from Minnesota has spent quite a bit of time on the east coast. After fighting in World War Two and going to Yale he decides to spend a year in New York. He winds up living in a bungalow near his second cousin once removed, Daisy and her husband Tom, a man he went to Yale with. He also lives next to door the mysterious Jay Gatsby, who is throwing elaborate parties ever weekend. Tom is the witness to a summer's worth of drama in Long Island with secrets, old loves and huge tempers.

When I picked up The Great Gatsby for the first time four days ago I didn't really know what to excpet. Recentlly many people had told me I would enjoy it, but never gave me a reason why. When I got the book as an early Christmas gift a few days ago I was more interested in what was the big deal with this 'classic' then with the story or the characters but that quickly changed. There is something very simple and beautiful in the way Fitzgerald made these characters. They're all so tragically flawed, but you feel for most of them at one time or another. Gatsby is intriguing, it's hard to tell when he is being honest, but that doesn't really matter, it's just who he is. it's a short book, but it moves quick. It's refershing to see the 1920's in a way that doesn't focus on the family, World War One (well, more than it does) and music. A great read.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

December Reading 2/2

Up In the Air
Walter Kirn

Ryan Bingham's job as a Career Transition Counselor - he fires people - has kept him airborne for years. Although he despises his line of work, he has come to love the culture of what he calls "Airworld," finding contentment within pressurized cabins and anonymous hotel rooms. With a letter of resignation sitting on his boss's desk, and the hope of a job with a mysterious firm, Bingham is agonizingly close to his ultimate goal, his Holy Grail: ONE MILLION FREQUENT FLYER MILES.

Up in the Air isn't the gem that I was hoping it would be, but that being said it was still a quick, enjoyable read. Ryan is a fairly average character that even a light reader would recognize. He doesn't form lasting attachments, reminisces about his childhood and has odd qualities that makes the reader relate to him and think he is a bit odd all at once. The real momentum behind Up in the Air is the Airworld Ryan lives in. It is vibrant and something that I have rarely seen explored in fiction. Even Ryan's job is interesting, and watching him read people is fun and engrossing. However, about 3/4 of the way through the book everything slows to a glacially pace and the ending leaves a lot to be desired but overall a decent read. Looking forward to seeing the film.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

December Reading 1/2

The Other Queen
Philippa Gregory

In the last novel of Gregory's Tudor series we follow Mary Stuart (Mary Queen of Scots) as she is captured by the English and left with George and Bess Talbot, a newly married high noble couple. We follow them from castle to castle, running from possible raids and war, and under Queen Elizabeth's advisors Cecil constant watch. The reader follows Mary on her quest for freedom, George's inner turmoil over serving one Queen while loving another and Bess's worries over status and finances.

I guess you could call me a loyal Gregory reader. I've read the majority of her Tudor series and have read the first book in Plantagenet trilogy. Usually I can find more than a few faults with her novels, but the story is usually enough to overlook large historical inaccuracies and underdeveloped characters. Unfortunately every character in this novel is grating. Mary is pompous, vain, and irritating as she repeats the same choirs of "you must free me, you can't kill me, aren't i pretty". Bess is the stereotypic nagging wife, who can not go a section without worrying about her land, and talking about the money that is being lost, and all the while George is gripping with his love for Mary, while serving Elizabeth and making stupid choices the entire time. Between the three of them there is not one redeemable quality, and that is really the tragedy of this story, not the massive number of executions, the religious persecutions or the historical inaccuracy's. Not one of Gregory's best works.