Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The man wrote the best books of his generation.

Time to take a look back at the best books of the year. See last year's list here.

So I'm looking at last year's list and thinking, "Wow, I read some really great books in 2011." And then I'm looking at this year's list and ... well... I'm less impressed. Perhaps this is because I have an absolute stand out favorite that I am already well aware of (since I've read it twice).

I feel like I need a drum-roll.

Best Fiction Book that I read in 2012

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Best Non-Fiction Book that I read in 2012

Best Classic Literature that I read in 2012
Last year I had a much larger selection of classic literature because I was setting up my American Lit class. This year I had less, but my favorites were the Sherlock Holmes stories. 

And a list of all the books I read this year. The total number at the moment is 43, but I just finished one today, so it's really 44. 

Cutting for Stone
The Weird Sisters
The Witches of East End
The Night Circus
The Art of Racing in the Rain
In the Bleak Midwinter
The Cubicle Next Door
Elizabeth Street
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Any Bitter Thing
Once a Witch
Always a Witch
A Brewing Storm
Anna Dressed in Blood
A Study in Scarlet
Dreaming of Mr. Darcy
The Sign of Four
Unaccustomed Earth
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Hundred Foot Journey
The Grapes of Wrath
Frozen Heat
A Bloody Storm
A Raging Storm
Seeing Things
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Thirteen Moons
Gone Girl
The Masqueraders
The Grand Sophy
Life of Pi

Same Kind of Different as Me
Driving Mr. Albert
Mao's Last Dancer
Getting Rid of It
The Money Class
The Woman Who Wasn't There
Beauty Gone Wild
Little Princes

Sunday, December 16, 2012

If I had known the world was ending, I'd have brought better books.

I haven't updated my blog in forever. Or my goodreads account, or my facebook, or anything else for that matter. It isn't just the blog. So, here's an attempt at getting back at it. And naturally the attempt is all about books. Yay for books. I love books.

A Bloody Storm by Richard Castle
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A Raging Storm by Richard Castle
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The Story:
Two new short stories in the Derrick Storm set "inspired by" the TV show Castle. We follow former CIA Derrick Storm and FBI agent April Showers around the world as they try to discover who is the head of some kind of plot.

The Review:
Seriously, how do you not love a book where the main character is called Storm and his love-interest is called April Showers? It's hilarious!
And the whole thing is just that way. I find it lovely mindless entertainment.


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
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The Story:
Oskar is a 9 year old boy whose father died in the World Trade Center. He is still struggling through the loss 2 years later and embarks on a "Reconnaisance Mission" to connect with his father.

The Review:
I chose this book as the most recent novel for my American Lit class. The idea of the class is "The Great American Novel" and while this can't be labeled that yet, it has a lot of very interesting things to discuss. And we had great discussions about it.

For me personally, I love Oskar's voice as the narrator. He is a thoroughly charming narrator. And I get so caught up in Oskar's story that I cried both times I read this (yeah, I read it twice already. That's what happens when you have to teach it).

Seeing Things by Patti Hill
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The Story:
Our old lady narrator Birdie is suffering from macular degeneration and falls in her home and goes to live with her son and his family to recuperate. While she is there, she starts seeing Huck Finn. So she goes through a series of adventures accompanied by her hallucinations of Huck.

The Review:
This was a totally charming story. Birdie is a fun narrator who tries to help her family, be independent, and goes on adventures with Huck Finn of all people. It's also a well-designed story. I started the semester with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in my American Lit class, so I had finished reading that just a month or so before I started this, and the author actually parallels Mark Twain's construction of Huck Finn. So Birdie, the narrator, starts off speaking to the reader in the same way that Huck starts. I found it cute and clever.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
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The Story:
More short stories recounting Sherlock Holmes' adventures.

The Review:
I still love Sherlock Holmes stories. I actually was reading this mostly on the treadmill at the gym, and when I got to the final story, I totally teared up that Sherlock "died."

And I was totally thinking that next I should start reading some of the James Bond stories. But then I got distracted from that by these other books.

Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier
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The Story:
A man, Will Cooper, recounts his life on the frontier with Native Americans.

The Review:
Yeah, I didn't finish this one. I got halfway through (250 pages) and decided that since nothing had happened up to that point, nothing was going to happen at all in the story. And I was bored, so I stopped. According to my book club friends, it was the right call.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
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The Story:
A woman disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary and her husband quickly goes from worried and grief-stricken to the prime suspect.

The Review:
Wow. This book totally had my attention from the first page. It is told in scenes from Nick, the husband, in the present and Amy, the wife, in journal entries. It moves super fast, is really smart, and had me on the edge of my seat. And I was totally taken in.

That said, the caveats to the glowing review are that it is really really really dark. And the language is really rough, which is to say more than just there are some bad words, but they are used really viciously.


The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer
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The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
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The Stories:
The Masqueraders is about a brother and sister who dress up as different people to fool everyone. And The Grand Sophy is about Sophy who comes to stay with her cousins and turns their world upside down.

The Review:
After the darkness of Gone Girl, I needed something light and fluffy and happy. So I asked a friend if I could borrow a couple books (knowing that she loves happy, cute romance novels) and she gave me these two. They were exactly what I was looking for, but they are not anything stellar. Just light fluffy entertainment set in Edwardian England.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
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I've already reviewed this book (quite at length, actually) here. But I've decided to put it here again, because I just reread it. I suggested it for my bookclub, because now that we have hit December I am willing to say that I think this book is the best book I have read this year. And I must tell you that I loved it even more the second time. The story is beautiful and told so well. I love it.


Life of Pi by Yann Martel
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The Story:
A young Indian boy is sailing to Canada with his family and the animals from their zoo when the ship sinks. Pi is thrown onto a lifeboat with an assortment of animals and winds up stranded in the lifeboat with an adult Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

The Review:
I read this book about seven years ago, but my bookclub picked it this month because the movie came out. None of them had read it before. So I picked it up and reread it. I liked it just as much. Because Pi is stranded on a lifeboat for most of the story, it is a very internal, philosophical type of story, but it is very compelling and Pi is a charming character. I totally recommend the book.

We did go see the movie as well, and I recommend that with reservations. First you must know that it is long, and philosophical, and most of it is one boy on a boat with a tiger. It gets a little long and requires thinking. But it is visually stunning and very interesting from that perspective. Oh, and it gets a little trippy. Like "Yellow Submarine" trippy. Which is weird.