Saturday, April 30, 2011

April - This Month in Reading

Work went crazy in the last 2 weeks of April for me and it seriously curtailed my reading. In my post for March, I said I wanted to read at least 10 books on top of rereading as many of the Harry Potter books as I could to make points for the Hogwarts Challenge. In April I actually managed to read 18 books (really? I didn't think it was that many), only 1 of which was a Harry Potter book. I did read a few books for a few challenges, but didn't read any for others and I even got behind on the War and Peace challenge. 

So for May, I want to finish up the library books I currently have checked out, and definitely read at least one book for every challenge, as well as reading multiple Harry Potter books and other books for the Hogwarts Challenge. I also want to get and stay caught up in War and Peace. My goal is to do another library ban for June so as to read more books that I have managed to bring home and/or books that have been around for a while and need reading. 

How was your reading this month? 

Friday, April 22, 2011

When We Were Orphans - Kazuo Ishiguro

This book's narrator frustrated me quite a bit. I did some Googling and discovered that my suspicions about Ishiguro's use of unreliable narrators was in fact based on reality, and found this interview that had some interesting information. I still really like this author as a whole, and will continue to seek out his books in particular (a nice, and unplanned, tie-back to the Book Blogger Hop topic this week).

Book Blogger Hop

Thought it was about time I participated in this again, it's a lot of fun!

Book Blogger Hop (linked above) sponsors this and there is a weekly question. This week's question is:

 "If you find a book you love, do you hunt down other books by the same author?"

My answer: totally! The first thing I do when I love a book is see what else the author has written. This year alone I have been reading more Kazuo Ishiguro books, because I had read and fallen in love with The Remains of the Day a couple years ago and had been meaning to do just that. I also read my first Graham Greene book this year and adored it, so I am also reading more books by him. Of course, if there is a series and the first book is great, it stands to reason that I'll read the rest of the series.

On the other hand, sometimes an author has one amazing book and the rest just aren't quite as transcendent. This happened to me with Tracy Chevalier - Girl with a Pearl Earring is one of my favorite books, so I've read all her others, and while I've liked them all, none has been as satisfying as GWAPE. Another example is Anne Rice - once Interview with a Vampire takes off, it's good, and The Vampire Lestat is amazing, but the rest of the vampire chronicles are just OK to me. And I tried to read her other series and just couldn't get into them. I'll still try though, it works out well more often than not!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling

I had an annoying and frustrating couple of days and wanted to read something that was comforting. What better thing to read than Harry Potter - I've been meaning to reread the series for ages, and because I am participating in the Hogwarts Reading Challenge, I get Hufflepuff house points for reading them too. Win on all possible fronts.

I love this series. It's well done, well thought out, and the author is obviously working from a plan (or worked, now that the series if complete, but you reader[s] know what I mean), rather than just making things up as they occur to her (i.e., the Series of Unfortunate Events, um, series, and other substandard series that are supposedly designed for kids/young adults). On this reread I realized just how much I love and admire the character of Neville Longbottom. I identify with him in many ways and I just love him for who he is. I also absolutely adore the Weasley twins. I wish I had had cool schoolmates like them when I was Harry's age. Such a wonderful series of books for a reader of any age. And 6 more to go, hooray! :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pretty in Plaid - Jen Lancaster

If you recall, I mentioned recently that I am a stickler for reading a series of books in the order of their original publication. So I read 3 previous Jen Lancaster books not only because they were recommended to me, but because this particular one had "plaid" in the title and would therefore count for the Color Coded Reading challenge - bonus! Strangely, the cover shows a pair of legs wearing argyle tights (very cute), but I had to Google to determine that argyle is technically a kind of plaid and originated with Scottish kilt patterns. Interesting! This book wasn't as funny to me as the others, but still enjoyable.

Shadow Life: A Portrait of Anne Frank and Her Family - Barry Denenberg

I wanted to like this book, I really did. When I first read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl as a kid, I immediately connected with it on an emotional level and I went on to try to get any information I could on her, not so easy back in the pre-internet days. Her diary also spurred me to read about the Holocaust in general. Over the years I have accumulated a small library of books related to her, including the critical edition of the diary, and an edition of the diary in the original Dutch purchased at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, although for the past decade or so there seem to be many more books about her surfacing, and many I have not yet had a chance to read. From time to time I look for new books about or related to her when I'm at the library and/or bookstore, and I recently found this one.

It was a real disappointment. It's really just a rehash of information in books I already own. Much of the book is taken up by the author's recreation of Anne's sister Margot's diary, which is mentioned once in Anne's diary but has never been found. This recreation was mainly just a rewrite of Anne's diary. I realize that it would have been difficult to not rely on Anne's diary in creating a fictionalized version of Margot's, but it just didn't add much to the story that couldn't be better found in other places. The rest of the book gives information that is mostly found elsewhere, so the general impression of this book is like one of those "clip shows" that reality TV shows use toward the end of the season, showing the highlights of the season with a few "never before seen" moments to make things seem fresher. To add insult to injury, the writing was clunky.

I'm sorry to say I would not recommend this book. There are many good books that would be much better sources if one wants to read more about Anne Frank, her family, etc.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

How Dolly Parton Saved My Life - Charlotte Connors

Another random find at the library that turned out to be a book for the ROYCZ Challenge! I scrutinize books for potential religious content but this one sneaked up on me. Sometimes it's hard for me to relate to mothers in fiction, as I don't have kids, and it's also hard to relate to the way things are sometimes done in the south of the U.S., as I am from the northern part and it can seem like a different country altogether, but at the same time there are universal themes I can relate to. I particularly liked the character of Daisy and any book that has a link (however tenuous) to Dolly Parton is OK in my book, as Dolly seems like a cool lady. Overall it was an OK chick lit type book (another genre I don't normally read), despite the religious content.

Feed - M.T. Anderson

Scary and sad at the same time. In a way it was like a cross between Brave New World and A Clockwork Orange and seems scarily on the mark of where society is going. "Brave new world" indeed. I really like M.T. Anderson.

Choker - Frederick Ramsay

When I was searching the library catalog for Choker by Elizabeth Woods, this book came up as the other search result, and I figured maybe it was a sign from the universe that I should read it too, so I checked it out. I hit a snag when I got home and realized that it was actually the fifth book in a series with the same main character, Ike Schwartz. I haven't mentioned it before, but I am a fanatic about reading any series from the beginning. Normally I wouldn't even open this book without reading all the previous books in order. So I had a dilemma - get the first four books and read them first, or just read this book out of order in case I wasn't thrilled with it anyway?

Well, I obviously chose to read the book and I am glad I did, I enjoyed it. It was a serviceable mystery, although it had a silly subplot about Satanists that I thought was kind of out of place and might have been some leftover preaching from the author's days as an Episcopal priest. I would go back and read the other books in this series, I liked the main characters and I am curious to see what happened with them before the events in this book.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Choker - Elizabeth Woods

I am the perfect audience for mystery-type books and movies because I can not only suspend disbelief for days, I am usually the last person to figure out what is going on. I liked this book, but I figured out something important right away and that lessened the suspense, etc. Overall, I enjoyed it as a fast read but there were a few inconsistencies in details here and there and the overuse of a couple words (and not for a specific literary effect).

How I Paid for College - Marc Acito

I stumbled on this book while browsing the library and I'm glad I did. I was in a couple plays in high school but I don't sing well enough to have been in any musicals, and this was a fun reminder of the "Play People" and youthful hijinks. I didn't realize until I started reading and then read the author info that it counts for the GLBT Challenge too - bonus! Apparently there is at least one sequel, so I'll have to read that one too. A fun book.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

GLBT Reading Challenge

I'm so blog-challenged that I think I joined the GLBT Reading Challenge, but I'm not even 100% sure! D'oh! I really need to get with the program and become less of a dingbat about blog-related things. The challenge calls for reading books about GLBT topics and/or by GLBT authors (as you may have guessed). I know it's kind of late to join a challenge, but what the heck. I'd like to read 15 books for this challenge, and I'll add them to a list in this post to keep track. I happened to read one already, and I have another that I didn't know was applicable when I got it at the library, so I am on my way. Yet another excuse to read more and probably find more good authors that I will enjoy too!

1. Tales of the City - Armistead Maupin (GLBT author/topics)
2. How I Paid for College - Marc Acito (GLBT author/topics)
3. More Tales of the City - Armistead Maupin (GLBT author/topics)
4. Attack of the Theater People - Marc Acito (GLBT author/topics)
5. Gingerbread Girl - Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover (GLBT topics)
6. Push - Sapphire (GLBT author/topics)
7. The Forbidden Apple: A Century of Sex & Sin in New York City - Kat Long (GLBT author [?]/topics)
8. United States of Americana - Kurt B. Reighley (GLBT author)
9. Calli - Jessica Lee Anderson (GLBT topics)
10. Blue Boy - Rakesh Satyal (GLBT author/topics)
11. Someone Killed His Boyfriend - David Stukas (GLBT author/topics)
12. Welcome To My World - Johnny Weir (GLBT author/topics)
13. Room - Emma Donoghue (GLBT author)
14. The Red Tree - Caitlin R. Kiernan (GLBT author/topics)
15. Stay - Nicola Griffith (GLBT author/topics)
16. Annie on My Mind - Nancy Garden (GLBT author/topics)
17. Ash - Malinda Lo (GLBT author/topics)


Monday, April 11, 2011

The End of the Affair - Graham Greene

The thing that strikes me most about Graham Greene is that I can't read him quickly. As a usually fast reader, I can zoom through short books, or books that are written in a contemporary voice, but in both this book and in Brighton Rock, his writing demanded that I read it slowly, taking my time, lingering over certain words and phrases and descriptions. I'm both sorry I didn't start reading him sooner and glad I waited, as I might have a different feeling about his writing if I were younger and had less life experience. I read the introduction to this book after I had read the book, as in my experience the introductions almost always give away everything about the book, and the author of the introduction seems to have had a problem with some of the events that take place at the end of the book. Strangely, I didn't, I was able to view them in the light of the story and they didn't bother me, but it was interesting to read another point of view. Another book that I think will live in my mind for quite a while.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Nanny Diaries - Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

This book was scarier to me than any actual horror-genre book could have been. Not only because it had some descriptions of very poorly behaved kids, but because it described how some wealthy "families" have children that they can't wait to pawn off on underpaid strangers 24/7. I like to think there is a special place in Hell for people that are so cold to their own children, not to mention for people who treat other people like objects. I know this book is a work of fiction and all, but I would be willing to bet that it's painfully accurate in many ways, and explains how so many people who come from a wealthy background and seem to have "all the advantages" in life turn out to be sociopaths (or worse). I guess I read this book too soon after reading this one and the idea that there are people in this world that have all day, every day to spend at the spa and/or buying pair after pair of $500 shoes while other people die from easily treatable illnesses because they can't afford lifesaving medicine is just hard to reconcile.

On the plus side, this book's writing was decent and MUCH better than the overrated, poorly written, and ludicrous The Devil Wears Prada.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Book Blogger Directory

Found out about this cool new Book Blogger Directory, so I added this blog to the Fiction -> Everything category, as I guess I tend to read fiction with some non-fiction thrown in here and there. There's even a cool button:

Parajunkee Design

(I hope I did this right and it is showing up!) I will definitely be looking through the listings to find more cool book blogs. Have you joined?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dealing with Dragons - Patricia C. Wrede

What an adorable book! I enjoyed this book, it was a fun, fast read, and I liked the dragons - maybe because they were actual characters, instead of just "creatures." I also really liked the heroine. I would definitely read the other books in this series. Thanks to Danya for recommending it to me :).

Bitter Is the New Black - Jen Lancaster

A cool coworker has been recommending Jen Lancaster's books to me for a while and I finally managed to remember while at the library. This book was a fun read, and there were a lot of things that made me laugh. I look forward to reading the other books she's written too.

As a side note, who knew there were so many books that have "black" in the title? Luckily one of her more recent books has "plaid" in the title, so I can use it for the Color Coded Reading challenge - hooray!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Out of Sight - Elmore Leonard

I love the show Justified on FX and particularly the character of U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, so I figured I should check out Elmore Leonard's writing, since anyone who can create a cool character like that must be OK. I randomly chose Out of Sight since I had seen the movie and I liked the character of Karen Sisco. The book was good, I enjoyed it as a fast read, and the movie, from what I remember, was very close to the book. After some research I found out that there are actually 2 books about Raylan Givens as well as the short story that the TV series is based on, so I will have to specifically look for those soon.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Everything Is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer

The movie version of this book was recommended to me recently and I still haven't managed to watch it, but when I saw the book at the library last Friday I thought I'd read first. There was a feeling of sadness and dread that I got from this book, something that hasn't happened to me when reading another book. I absolutely loved the character of Alex (Sasha). I want to see the movie now and see how the book was translated into images.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn - Alison Weir

This is a really well researched and well written non-fiction book that details the events that led up to Anne Boleyn's execution. I read The Other Boleyn Girl a while back, and it piqued my interest in this period of history, and this book was fascinating. I now want to read other books by this author, as she apparently has a book devoted to the wives of Henry VIII, another to Henry VIII's court, and a book about Elizabeth I, which I would like to read too. One of the many reasons I love the library is just stumbling on a good book like this while browsing.