March 10, 2014

Books, books, and more books.

Gosh, it’s been way, WAY too long since I’ve put out a book list.  This is the stuff I can vaguely remember from the last year or so (please excuse my lack of details; I am quite capable of forgetting a book’s specifics within two weeks of completing. sigh) …
The Good …
Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potok – this was a re-read for me.  I still love it.  It’s a very well told story.  It’s a deeply melancholy story.  The Teen read it for one of his classes and wrote an essay in response.  He described the book as “a challenging examination of how personal experience affects one’s beliefs and how those beliefs are or aren’t always mirrored in one’s deeds…Davita’s Harp is actually an exhortation for readers to consider what makes a person truly “religious”, beckoning them to juxtapose faith with fellowship, belief with acts, and to thoughtfully contemplate the reasons why people gravitate towards or fall away from any god.”  Good stuff (the book AND my son's essay)

At the risk of sounding “duh” … The Bible.  Reading thru in a year.  Using reading schedule (beginning to end).  I like this simple, read-3-to-4-chapters-per-day, from beginning to end WAY BETTER than the schedules I’ve used in the past that incorporate 2-3 OT chapters + 1-2 psalms or proverbs +1 NT chapter per day.  I feel way less “scattered” when I'm reading, better able to concentrate on 1 narrative at a time.

It Happens in the Dark by Carol O’Connell – I love the whole Mallory series, and I very much enjoyed this latest installment.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (yes, the author of 101 Dalmations!) – totally delightful coming-of-age story. the first person diary-driven voice was ever so likeable.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian - "The Slaughter You Know Nothing About".  Hitler in 1933, chillingly said,  "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"   This is a worthwhile story to read about the little-known Armenian Genocide.  I have some niggling literature/writing complaints about this book, but they pale in comparison to my feelings that this is a history lesson to be inhaled, remembered ... in much the same way that we should never forget the lessons of the Holocaust.

Folly by Laurie King – I really enjoy King’s Mary Russell series.  Folly isn’t part of that.  It was, perhaps, a little darker. A good, stand alone “suspense” novel.

The Squire’s Tales series by Gerald Morris – these are young adult re-tellings of Arthurian tales (with a mix of faerie world thrown in for good measure).  Superduper enjoyable.  Gives you characters to cheer for.  I’m pretty sure I’ll read these again.  Middle Dude has read the whole series 2 or 3 times.

The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline – this is not great literature, per se, but it was an interesting story.  I liked it.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – not my usual genre (fantasy?, modern fairy tale?), but very well-told.  Must admit, I don’t think I totally understood it.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – LOVED. 

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – thoughtful, superbly crafted story that leaves one thinking …

Son by Lois Lowry – finally.  the last book in The Giver series.  totally worth the wait.  beautiful, beautiful story.  and a very satisfying conclusion to the series.

In the Image by Dara Horn – another good story, well told.  I liked it.

Courting Greta by Ramsey Hootman – again, not “great” literature, but an interesting, unusual story filled with well-developed characters.  I liked it.

The Bad …

Divergent – Let me just say up front:  as a reader, I am very happy to extend the courtesy of suspension of disbelief to authors when they are creating a “not real” world.  This courtesy does not extend so far as to embrace nonsense.  I really enjoyed the first 60ish pages of Divergent.  The rest of the book was obliterated with stupidity.  And hokey Twilight-esque romance.  And total implausibility.  I will NOT read the subsequent books in this series.  And I want my Saturday back.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – bleck, phtooey.  interesting beginning concept.  pictures are intriguing.  writing is abysmally bad/immature, as is the story, ultimately. 

I know I read a few other stinkers, but they're not coming readily to mind (thank goodness - y'know how sometimes it takes a long while to "wash off" a bad book???)

And the Book Club selections:

Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte – I’ve now read works by all three Bronte sisters.  Jane Eyre remains my uncontested favorite.  Wuthering Heights was ridiculous – not sure why it was a classic.  Agnes Grey was just ok.

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell – Characters well-drawn.  But I sort of remember being irritated by the author hitting me over the head with the details – show me or tell me, but don’t do both.  Gaskell does Both with a capital B.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas – oh, the narrative machinations.  I have so many grievances against this book, I don’t even know where to begin.  Let’s just sum it up by saying something you NEVER hear me say:  I liked the movie (and the major changes it made to the story) better.

Silas Marner by George Eliot - ‘twas good.  George Eliot has an amazing dexterity with words.  Glad I read it.  Tho, can’t say it was enjoyable

Ethan Frome & House of Mirth by Edith Wharton – Ethan Frome is dark dark DARK and depressing, but fascinating.  House of Mirth is melodramatic, filled with scathing social commentary, and ultimately sad. 

Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson – I think I would have enjoyed this book ever so much more if I hadn’t known the punch line.  Knowing it took all the wind out of these sails…

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – so good.  one of my all time favs.

And the Photography books...

Photographically Speaking by David duChemin - a very thoughtful breaking down of elements of composition.

Ballerina by Bob Carey - a super fun & quirky photography project of a man in a pink tutu in support of his wife going thru chemo.  Book can be purchased at the Tutu Project.

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer (edited by Maloof & Dyer & Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows (edited by Cahan & Williams) - her personal story is intriguing and her prolific photography is awesomely fabulous...


Adrienne Zwart said...

Ooh, I am always looking for a good book recommendation, so I am particularly excited to read this list. Especially since I didn't know there was another book in the Giver series--just requested a copy on the library's website.

Life with Kaishon said...

I felt the exact same way about Miss P's. Not impressed at all. I am not picking up the next book. I haven't read Divergent but I did buy it for Kaish-a-roni.

Which is the book that you were really excited about but then forgot on your trip to I heart faces?

Did you read The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar? It was one of my favorite books of 2013. I loved it so. I am reading another one by her right now and I don't like it nearly as much.

I am having a sad day but your post cheered me up : ). Do you ever feel sad and you aren't sure why? That is how I am feeling today. I am completely perplexed. Perhaps it is because I have a headache.

Anonymous said...

many books on your list I've never heard of ... will have to investigate more. :-) I also absolutely LOVED The Language of Flowers. It gave an amazingly accurate picture of the impact of trauma/neglect, etc. on children, and then their decision making abilities as they grow up. Hit home for me. Even recommended it to my therapist. (cuz I have on of those now. :-) ) Also, LOVED your reaction to Wuthering Heights. We read a few years ago for Book Club, and I also thought it was ridiculous. Pretty sure my family got tired of hearing me say how stupid it was. :-)AmyElder

Beth said...

I just found "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" at a yard sale Saturday! {Along with "At Home in Mitford", which you recommended to me awhile back...}
Thanks for sharing! <3