Friday, December 31, 2010

A look back at 2010

So we're all of 23 hours away from the end of 2010, and now as as good a time as any to admit to myself that no, I will not finish that last book*, and that last review probably won't be written by tomorrow night. So here is a look back at all of the books I have read in the past year.
This year my goal was 50 books, and I made it to 59. Next year I'm aiming for 75.
27.The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes - Gaiman
30. Intimations of Austen - Greensmith
35. This Mitchell and Webb Book
50. A Streetcar Named Desire - Williams
59. Holiday on Ice - Sedaris
60. The Shadows of the Wind - Zafon*
2010 was a really good year for me, reading wise, and I hope you found it to be the same!

*JK- I finished The Shadows of the Wind today

Monday, December 27, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday - Books of 2010

Christmas is over and I hope everyone got lovely bookish things over the holiday! With less then a week left in 2010, the lovely ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish dedicated this Top Ten Tuesday to the Top Ten Books we're read in 2010. Fitting, right? 
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. I'm sure they'd love to share your lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten list.

I feel, like quotes are a better argument for all of these books then my musings, so when they were within reach, or had a zillion posted online, they got a quote. 
"It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It's like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting "Cathy" and banging your head against a tree." 

(couldn't find a quote and my copy is in Chicago)
really hits the heart of Birbiglia's comedy. Some of his stories have been used in other shows, but having them all here in this very personal and hilarious book is amazing. 

"Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, "Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?" 

A charming story of loss, and what makes life worth living - set at the Tower of London. 

Oh. Em. Gee. There were so many delectable recipes in this memoir, and also the hope that not every guy is a total asshole. 

I wish I had my book here. There were so many lovely quotes and I can't find any of them online. In short, a stories of the young impressionists, and the love of Claude Monet's life. Totally worth a read. 

I fell in love with Carol Goodman this year. Her novels are very similar, and the twists rarely suprising, but I love what she's writing about. Here it's art, fairy tales and a run down boarding school. It fit me to a tee, and I loved the fairy tale she invented to be intertwined with the main story. 

"Dumbledore says people find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right." 

"I have always been a reader; I have read at every stage of my life, and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy. And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child. I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book. Yet it is not the same. Books are, for me, it must be said, the most important thing; what I cannot forget is that there was a time when they were at once more banal and more essential than that. When I was a child, books were everything. And so there is in me, always, a nostalgic yearning for the lost pleasure of books. It is not a yearning that one ever expects to be fulfilled." 

"It’s a small story really, about, among other things: 

* A girl 
* Some words 
* An accordionist 
* Some fanatical Germans 
* A Jewish fist fighter 
* And quite a lot of thievery"

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Great House - Nicole Krauss

Nicole Krauss

In Nicole Krauss's latest 'novel' she combines 8 short stories, of four people/families into a timeline of ownership. These people range from a writer haunted by the desk's previous owners, an antique dealer and his children, a widower who has always been haunted by his late wifes past and a man trying to communicate with his distant son.

I love Nichole Krauss, well, at least I love The History of Love. Great House felt forced to me. I had known I was getting into a collection of short stories, and that presumably there would be a lot of loss and pain being dealt with between it's yellow hard cover. However I wasn't prepared for how loosely everything came together.    The stories themselves are all pretty good. I wasn't a fan the two All Rise stories, but I think that had more to do with being generally uninterested in the character than anything else. I would have actually loved to see a whole novel, and a real novel, not short stories, about the Weisz family. They were slightly odd, but really interesting and just the type of family I'd love to see Krauss tackle.

One thing that Krauss can never be faulted for is her use of the English Language. Her poetic roots are always obvious, but not imposing. It's easy to get lost in her words, and in turn they like to hang around, tugging on heartstrings and planting seeds of ideas. For me, the writing was the only reason I ended up finishing Great Houses. In fact, i had made it through all of part 1 before getting frustrated with the entire collection and setting it down for two months. 

Overall, not one of my favorite reads of the year, and I'm sure my high expectations didn't help.

Have you read Great House, or anything else by Nicole Krauss? What did you think of it?

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Literary Hop - Underrated Love

Christmas is almost here! I have my shopping done, a few presents left to wrap and a bit of reading to do, but all in all I'm ready and excited for the upcoming festivities!
To add to my excitement this week is a Literary Blog Hop week! As always, the Literary Blog Hop is hosted by the lovelies over at The Blue Bookcase, and just requires that you're blog have a certain literary quality to it (for their definition of literary, follow the link!)
Literary Blog Hop
This weeks questions is one of my favorites!
What literary title do you love that has been under-appreciated? We all know about the latest Dan Brown, and James Patterson isn't hurting for publicity. What quiet masterpiece do you want more readers to know.

I'm a huge Tracy Chevalier fan. I wouldn't necessarily conceder all of her work literary genius, but I feel that a few of her books definitely fall under the category of literary, especially in the terms most of us have been defining it.  For me, her third novel, Falling Angels is a work of genius. Told from multiple perspective, it offers great insight into turn of the century England. Maude and Lavinia are brilliant characters, and their cemetery antics  have created in me a fascination that has stuck with me since I first read Falling Angels eight years ago.

While most people shoot right for Chevaliers's Girl with a Pearl Earring, or her newest novel Remarkable Creatures, Falling Angels is a hidden treasure. It's crafted with love and care, and has a life to it that is sometimes hard to find in historical fiction. Really it is a strong piece, and is ascetically beautiful.

Okay, this really just turned into me gushing about one of my favorite books, but since I've been afraid to pick up my copy of Falling Angels in the past two years for fear of it disintegrating in my hands and taking all of my fantastic memories with it, I haven't really had a chance to write about it!

Happy Holidays and Happy Hopping!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Starter For Ten - Nicholls

David Nicholls 
(received from goodreads)

Brian Jackson has high ambitions for university. He wants to be brilliant, and have a real girlfriend, and maybe, if he's lucky end up on the University Challenge team. Starter for Ten follows Brian as he lumbers through his first year of school, making friends, not making friends and overall being a self conscious 19 year old.

David Nicholls (One Day) is really good at making full fleshed characters. While I admire this quality in him, sometimes I find his characters a bit trying. Brian Jackson is one of them. Since the story is driven by Brian's life, it's kind of a requirement that he be interesting. For me Brian is that friend everyone talks about behind their back. Sure you'd be there for them in a heartbeat, but you just don't really like them, much less want people to see you actually being nice to them. I spent the entire novel pitting the acne faced protagonist and wanting him to just get a clue.

I probably wouldn't have finished Starter for Ten if I hadn't gotten it for review. For me the day to day activities and sob stories were really dull. This really just wasn't a book for me. It's well arranged, and I genuinely like Nicholls writing style. Really, I feel like if you can relate to or at least sympithyze with Brian you're in for a mostly enjoyable story of unrequited love and teenage oblivion, but if he makes you cringe you're best putting the novel down.

Top Ten Tuesday: Letter to Santa edition

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. I'm sure they'd love to share your lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten list.

Dear Santa, 
in the words of Victor Hugo, This year I have committed more faults then ever, and I have never been a better person. Because of this, or maybe just because I discovered this awesome quote I feel I deserve to be on your nice list. There is a list of ten books that I'd love for you to bring


1. Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel - I'm a huge historical fiction fan, even if my readings for this year don't really show it. While I've heard the length is an issue, I've rarely heard bad things about Wolf Hall. Plus I'd love to see Tudor England from a view that isn't a wife or lover of Henry. 

2. Innocent Traitor - Alison Weir - I tried to read The Lady Elizabeth, and I wasn't a huge fan. However I have chalked this up to my slight hatred of Elizabeth as a character and plan on jumping into Innocent Traitors with an open mind. Like I sad for Wolf Hall, I'm really looking forward to reading something about the Tudor era from another perspective. 

3. Holidays On Ice - David Sedaris - This is one of the two Sedaris books I haven't read. I love David Sedaris. So much. Honestly, this is probably the one book that I'll be a bit sad if I don't get it.

4. The Shadow of the Wind  - Carlos Ruiz Zafon - Everything I've heard about Shadow of the Wind is that it's a book for book lovers. Plus, amazon keeps telling me I'll like it, and sometimes Amazon is right.

5. Squirrel Seeks Chipmonk - David Sedaris - See #3. I really had to restrain myself from buying this the day it came out. I could go on more about how I love David Sedaris, but nobody needs to hear that. 

6. Black Swan Rising - Lee Carroll - I'm a big fan of Carol Goodman. Well, by big fan I mean I read her books and they stick with me for a really long time and effect my moods. They're not always the most interesting stories or the best characters, and I usually can figure out the twist before I'm a quarter done with the book, but I do really love her. I'm interested to see what this collaboration with her husband reads like, especially since it sounds very much like something Goodman would write. 

7. Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman - Okay, so my mom took me to Borders over Thanksgiving and told me to pick out a few books for my grandma to give me. Oh, and they couldn't be on my list already. I'd finally picked up Stardust (which I bought last January) and was really into it so I meandered over to the G's and added a bunch of his books to my pile, then narrowed it down to Neverwhere. I literally remember nothing about what it is about, just that it sounded interesting at the time and that I am getting it for Christmas    

8. Distant Hours - Kate Morton - Alright, I haven't gotten around to The Forgotten Garden yet, but it's near the top of my TBR pile. Regardless, after reading the blurb on amazon I was sold. Somebody please get this for me? I promise I'll make time to read it!

9.Catch 22 - Joseph Heller - I read Catch 22 my junior year of high school and really loved it. I lent it out sometime later and was given back a copy with some kind of hawaiian punch staining the pages. I never bought another copy, but every time I flip through it I'm given a good reason why I shouldn't lend books to unreliable people. I really love this edition. really, I love the whole set, but if I had to pick one, it would definitely be a replacement for my well loved classic. 

10. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy - my 50 cent copy of Anna Karenin (literally what is on the cover) is a less then stellar translation. Plus I'm kinda on a cover craze right now and really love this cover. 

Happy Holiday's, Everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

End of the Semester Hop

I just finished my last class of the semester and I can't think of a better way to celebrate then a book blog hop
Book Blogger Hop
I haven't been around lately, but since I have 6 weeks of before spring semester starts I promise to dedicate myself to being a better blogger, and of course reading more. 

This weeks hop question is a good one!
What do you consider more important in a story: the plot or the characters. 

I've been thinking a lot about this in 2010. Obviously, the ideal is to have both. However I can live without a good plot. For me characters are really important. I can read through some pretty contrived and boring things if the characters are interesting, and at least one of them is likable and or relate-able. For instance, I hated The Heights. The story itself wasn't very original, but it had it's decent points, however the characters were just intolerable. I've been having the same problem with Lolita for months. Not a bad story, but not a likable character in the bunch!  
I just finished Stardust, and I really enjoyed it, however the more I think about it the more I wish there was more to the plot. I liked the main characters and thought they were interesting, so I liked the book. This has really been a trend this year. I like the characters and I like the book (more or less).

I'm heading back home this weekend, so between the train ride and just general free time I'll be reading a lot, and posting more frequently!

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stardust - Gaiman


Neil Gaiman

Thristran Thorn doesn't belong in his small hometown of Wall, and when a promise to retrieve a fallen Star in the promise of love from Victoria leads him through the hole in the wall (in Wall, kinda how it got its name) into the land of Faerie he finds adventures bigger and more perilous then he could ever imagine. When he finally reaches his fallen star he is surprised to find it is actually a woman, and with that he changes the course of his life forever!

I'm a big fan of what I like to call Adult Fairytales, and Stardust easily fits into this category. Gaiman has a knack for creating really interesting 'other' worlds. After reading The Graveyard Book last year I'd been really interested in trying something else by Neil. I was really impressed with Stardust. I saw the film when it came out several years ago and remembered liking it, but very little about the story.

Overall I really enjoyed Stardust. The story was solid, with enough suspense to propel the plot forward, and really interesting scenario's. I mean people turned into animals? Magical glass flowers? Ships in the sky? It was nice to see a fresh fairytale. My only real problem was with minor characters. I remember watching the film years ago that the old witches were really fantastic, and the caption of the sky ship hilarious, and really, most of the people Thristran encountered were full characters. In the novel they fall flat. Thristran is a fully developed character, as is his star counterpart, but other then that people, or animals come and go, and they have no existence outside of the story. It would have been nice, especially with three intersecting stories to see more of the potential Stormhold Earls or of the Witches. Even with this complaint I would wholeheartedly recommend Stardust. It was a quick read, and really drew me in.

So, I guess that's my short review of Stardust. I've got my second to last day of classes for the semester today! I'm super excited to get back to really reading, because I've been slacking these past few months

Friday, December 10, 2010

Things Fall Apart

Chinua Achebe

Okonkwo is a great man. Not that his father had anything to do with this. He is self made, a warrior and is set to one day be the most powerful man in the entire tribe. His biggest regret is his girly son Nwoye. Being so one minded can have it's disadvantages though. Okonkwo's constant effort to appear the  most manly and capable has him participating in the death of a young boy, and eventually setting banishing himself from the tribe. While more an insight look into the Ibo people and the effects that the British empire had on it, Things Fall Apart is still a tale of family, and what one does to keep their good name.

This is the last book we read for my Family in Literature class. I wasn't really excited to pick it up, but had heard mostly good things about. Overall I was surprised. I like Achebe's style. The entire book feels like a long folk tale, occasional dialogue punctuates a story that one could easily imagine being verbally passed around a campfire. It was a very quick read, and easy to follow, which I must admit was something I worried about in the beginning since I had never read any African literature before.

My only issue with Things Fall Apart is with Okonkwo himself. As a character he just rubbed me the wrong way. At first I thought it was a cultural difference, but the more families Achebe showed, the more I realized that Okonkwo was an extreme. No one else was as fanatic about planting yams, about wrestling, about raising his sons and being a tough guy. While it's easy to follow his logic after a few pages with him, that doesn't make his decisions any more reasonable. His second wife Ekwefi and his most beloved daughter Ezinma were far more interesting, to me, and I was always happy to see a sub plot featuring them.

I'm really glad a class finally required me to read Achebe. Things Fall Apart had been on my shelf for four years and I'd never thought once about reading it for pleasure. Silly me! I probably would have enjoyed the story even more without the confines of an incompetent professor to 'guild' my thinking!

One last thing, I've been really into covers lately, and while this isn't the edition I have (which also keeps setting off those detector things in stores) I really love the this cover.

Have you read Things Fall Apart, or anything similar? What did you think about the story? I'd love to hear your opinions!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Literary Pet Peeves

I'm back in the blogging world! I know I said this Tuesday, but there was one more paper to do,and Tuesday seems like such a long time ago. Regardless I'm excited to get to participate in the Literary Book Blog Hop (Hosted by the Blue Bookcase) again, since I was to busy to last week
Literary Blog Hop

This Week's question:
What is one of your literary pet peeves? Is there something that writers do that really sets your teeth on edge? Be specific, and give examples if you can. 

I don't really have any really big pet peeves. Usually my major reading problems are story based, but I do have a few things that really bother me when I'm reading. For starters I hate the same, or similar name in the same book. While my tastes are pretty eclectic, I do read a lot of historical fiction, so I come across this problem a lot. I know that in these cases it is done more in the name of being 'accurate' then anything else, but still - the next time I see a William or Mary I am going to scream!

My other big pet peeve is footnotes. Not in academic work or non fiction, but in general fiction. I put up with the footnotes in House of Leaves, and while I'm glad I did I know I will never put that much work into reading a just decent story again. I've started Infinite Jest twice, and can't get past the pages long footnotes. They just take me out of the story, and that's the last thing that I need when I'm really getting into a reading groove. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Top Ten (okay, Six) Tuesday!

It's Tuesday, and I'm so excited because not only do the lovely ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish have an awesome Top Ten Tuesday topic up, but I actually finished all of my homework last night and I'm not scrambling to finish an essay before class - so that means I actually had time to come up with a semi thoughtful entry!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. I'm sure they'd love to share your lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten list. 

Top Six Favorite Places to Read:

1. My Bed - Now I know this isn't anything special, and really, the bed in my apartment is intolerable without a really thick mattress pad, but I love reading in it. Actually, on it would probably be better terminology. I spend a lot of time laying on top of my comforter reading, facing the foot of my bed. I don't really like reading under the covers because I tend to fall asleep!

2. My Not-So-Comfy Purple Chair - I got a misleadingly plush purple chair from a garage sale this summer. Over the past few months it has started to fall apart in a serious way, but I still love sitting in it. I'm a big fan of chairs I can curl up in, and if nothing else, my not-so comfy purple chair is massive. It's great to sink down into it as I sink into a good story

3. My Balcony - As much as I love winter, it breaks my heart to be stuck inside for all of my reading. From spring through fall I spend about an hour a day outside reading. My apartment has a nice little balcony that is perfect for reading.  I can't wait for the weather to warm up so I can get back outside and read in the sunlight!

4. On the Dock - I spend most of my summer weekend at my family's cabin. It's on one of Michigan's many lakes, and we have a really nice deck/dock combination. There's a huge bench, and a few really big steps that a really nice to sit on. Plus you can't beat the view for the world.

5.Anywhere I Can Hear the Rain - If it's raining, I want to be reading. Storms have always been really soothing to me, and the pitter patter of rain really just makes me want to snuggle up with a book and wait it out. Or to go jump in puddles, but that's a bit more dangerous here in Chicago then it was at home.

6. On the Train - Let me clarify - I love reading on the Amtrak train on the few occasions a year I make the five hour journey home to see old friends and family. The scenery is amazing and there's never a better time to read then when you have nothing but free time and limited space.  However I can rarely bring myself to read on the CTA, so I guess that makes me weird.

Sadly, my list ends here. I'm a creature of  habit so I don't move around all that much when I'm reading

Thursday, December 2, 2010

November in Review

As always I borrowed the month in review post from Lily's Bookshelf, because she's awesome. 
Books Read:
Sleepwalk With Me - Birbiglia (review)
Persian Letters - Montesquieu (review)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Kundera (review)

Total Number of Books Read This Month: 

Total Number of Books Read This Year: 54 
Books Unfinished:
Things Fall Apart

Most Anticipated:
Sleepwalk With Me

Biggest Let Down:
Persian Letters

Favorite Read:
The Unbearable Lightness of Being 

Overall Reflection:
Finals are here in full swing. Novemeber was a really busy month for me. Between being sick, making several Harry Potter Scarves and the ever-growing mound of homework I haven't had a ton of time to read. My TBR list is ever growing, so I'm looking forward to December. After next week all of my major assignments will be turned in and I'll be free to read as much as I want. 

What about you, read any good books this month?