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Mary's (bell7) Reading in 2012, Part 1

This topic was continued by Mary's (bell7) Reading in 2012, 2nd quarter.

75 Books Challenge for 2012

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1bell7
Edited: Jan 4, 2012, 11:02pm Top

Happy 2012! I'm looking forward to sharing my reading with you all again this year.

If you don't know me, hello and welcome! I am an eclectic reader, reading in all age groups and most genres. My "go to" genre is young adult fantasy, but I also enjoy contemporary fiction, not-to-gory mysteries, a smattering of science fiction, and classics. Horror is the one genre I will not touch.

Here's a rough guide to my entirely subjective star ratings:

1 star - Forced myself to finish it
2 stars - Dislike
2.5 stars - A solid "meh"
3 stars - Sort of liked it; or didn't, but admired something about it despite not liking it
3.5 stars - An OK read (generally this is a rating of splitting hairs - it's either better than my last 3 star read or worse than my last 4 star read)
4 stars - I liked it, but would only reread under special circumstances (ie., a series book)
4.5 stars - Excellent, a satisfying read, a title I would consider rereading
5 stars - A book that I absolutely loved, would absolutely reread, and just all-around floored me

I've gotten more picky with my ratings, so a four star book from 3 years ago is generally not as good as one from this year. That's just the way it is, I'm afraid.

Here's a new ticker for the new year:




And a couple more tickers:







One of my - er, hopes more than goals - for this year is to read as many of my own books as library books. If the counts don't quite match up with what you see below, that's because I'll be reading some books for judging an award and can't comment on them publicly.

2bell7
Jan 1, 2012, 4:39pm Top

What better way to start the year with a best of 2011? Not including rereads, here are my favorites of 2011:

Fiction
11/22/63 by Stephen King
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Nonfiction
The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede
So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson
Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Little Princes by Conor Grennan
My Reading Life by Pat Conroy

Children's and Young Adult
Coming on Home Soon by Jacqueline Woodson
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Dark Emperor and Other Poems of Night by Joyce Sidman
Dave at Night by Gail Carson Levine
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

3jadebird
Jan 1, 2012, 4:44pm Top

Happy New Year!

4RosyLibrarian
Jan 1, 2012, 4:47pm Top

Good to see you Mary, Happy New Years!

5bell7
Jan 1, 2012, 5:28pm Top

Thanks, Ren and Marie! Boy, you both found me fast. :)

6bell7
Jan 1, 2012, 5:48pm Top

1. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Hazel and Jack are best friends, and have wild imaginations. Hazel can't imagine life without Jack - he gives her a place in the world. Other people - such as her mother and her teachers at the new school - are telling Hazel she needs to be more grounded, but what if stories are more powerful and run deeper than most people realize?

Though meant for a younger audience, some aspects of this reminded me of The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. Ursu drops in "breadcrumbs" of references that I had a fun time looking for to fairy tales and fantasy stories, both new and old. Though the narrative strays at times into too self-conscious cleverness, this was an enjoyable story that will validate those who enjoy fantasy and fairy tales, not as escapism, but as something somehow true. 4 stars.

7Whisper1
Jan 1, 2012, 5:52pm Top

I'm simply stopping by to wish you a Happy New Year Mary!

I also enjoyed Pat Conroy's book My Reading Life

8Donna828
Jan 1, 2012, 5:56pm Top

Hi Mary, I hope your beach trip was fun. Duh! It's good to see you back here. Happy New Year!

9bell7
Jan 1, 2012, 6:13pm Top

>7 Whisper1: Hello, Linda! A Happy New Year to you as well!

>8 Donna828: Thanks, Donna! We had a great time - this was the first vacation in years that my whole family (siblings and parents) has gone together. We had a really relaxed pace, and I read about 3 or 4 books while we were gone. I will post some pictures soon. :)

10DeltaQueen50
Jan 1, 2012, 8:15pm Top

Happy New Year, Mary. Looking forward to following your reading again this year.

11ronincats
Jan 1, 2012, 8:27pm Top

Happy New Year, Mary!

12drneutron
Jan 1, 2012, 9:27pm Top

Welcome back!

13MickyFine
Jan 1, 2012, 11:00pm Top

Dropping off a star for you, Mary. :)

14rosalita
Jan 2, 2012, 12:42am Top

Mary, I like the way you described your 3.5-star rating. I think that's exactly how I tend to award it — it's either a little better or a little worse than the last book.

15alcottacre
Jan 2, 2012, 3:25am Top

Glad to see you back with us again, Mary!

I am adding Breadcrumbs to the BlackHole as it looks like a book I would enjoy. Thanks for the recommendation!

16bell7
Jan 2, 2012, 6:52pm Top

>10 DeltaQueen50: Thank you, Judy, same to you!

>11 ronincats: Thanks, Roni, a happy new year to you too!

>12 drneutron: Thanks, Jim! Glad to be back again. :)

>13 MickyFine: *waves* hi Micky!

>14 rosalita: Thanks, Julia! It's always a little hard to describe or define my ratings, so I'm glad it makes sense. :)

>15 alcottacre: Hi Stasia! Glad to you on the threads again, and I hope you enjoy Breadcrumbs when you get to it.

17bell7
Jan 2, 2012, 7:35pm Top

Oh! Just had to share...I just realized today that I have written my 500th review on LT! :)

18DeltaQueen50
Jan 2, 2012, 8:38pm Top

Congratulations on your 500th review, quite an accomplishment!

19rosalita
Jan 2, 2012, 8:44pm Top

Wow, 500 reviews! You are an inspiration, Mary. That's amazing.

20_Zoe_
Jan 2, 2012, 9:27pm Top

500 reviews! Congratulations.

21RosyLibrarian
Jan 2, 2012, 9:37pm Top

Holy wow! Congrats!

22norabelle414
Jan 2, 2012, 10:38pm Top

Psst

DC Spring Meet-up planning thread

and Congratulations!

23Donna828
Jan 2, 2012, 11:10pm Top

That's great, Mary! And I was crowing about 300 reviews. I'll never catch you. ;-)

24AMQS
Jan 3, 2012, 12:08am Top

Happy New Year, Mary, and congrats on 500 reviews -- that's amazing!

25richardderus
Jan 3, 2012, 12:48am Top

>17 bell7: W00t! Great work!

26souloftherose
Jan 3, 2012, 5:52am Top

Happy New Year Mary!

27bell7
Jan 3, 2012, 9:57am Top

>18 DeltaQueen50:-26 Thanks Judy, Julia, Zoe, Marie, Nora, Donna, Anne and Richard for the congrats and letting me toot my own horn. ;)

>22 norabelle414: Ooh, thanks for the link, Nora. I'll have to look at my schedule and see if I can hit my sister up to stay at her place for one of those weekends!

>23 Donna828: You never know, Donna! Now that I'm working full-time hours I may be slowing down my reading significantly and you could pass me! :)

>24 AMQS: Happy New Year, Anne!

>26 souloftherose: Happy New Year to you too, Heather!

28alcottacre
Jan 4, 2012, 1:21am Top

Wow~ 500 reviews? Congratulations!

29bell7
Jan 4, 2012, 8:53am Top

>28 alcottacre: Thanks, Stasia!

30bell7
Jan 4, 2012, 8:59am Top

So, I finally broke down and bought an e-reader.

It was a combination of things, but most strongly was the fact that I work in a library where more and more patrons have been coming in with questions about how to download library e-books, and saying, "I don't have one and don't know how" wasn't going to cut it. The other part was that I kind of had that $100 price in my head, figuring if I could get one for under that, it would be worth it.

I've been playing with my brand-new Sony reader for the last few days, and it looks like the next book I finish will be my first-ever e-book. The searching for books on a mobile site has been a little annoying, but the downloading and reading itself has been incredibly easy. The reader is nice and light, and I've been finding myself wondering if my mom would like one of these things, since it's a little difficult for her to hold up a heavy book for a prolonged period (she often reads at a table).

I think it'll come in handy most when I'm traveling - though I bought it before we went on vacation, I didn't have time to load books on it beforehand, so left it at home and packed, um, 9 books in my luggage. My family was not amused by my "light" packing job.

31RosyLibrarian
Jan 4, 2012, 9:02am Top

30: Congrats on your first e-reader! I'm sure you already know this, but Project Gutenberg is a really good place to stock up on some free public domain books. That is pretty much all my Nook contains.

32bell7
Jan 4, 2012, 9:09am Top

>31 RosyLibrarian: I expect I will be checking out Project Gutenberg soon, Marie! I downloaded a free Google Book e-book that I'm going to read *eventually* and have almost finished a library book, The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan (2nd in the Ranger's Apprentice series).

33RosyLibrarian
Jan 4, 2012, 10:32am Top

32: How is that series? I always stare at it when I browse my library.

34alcottacre
Jan 4, 2012, 12:55pm Top

Marie mentioned Project Gutenberg and I will throw in Internet Archive as another good place to get public domain books, Mary.

Congrats on the new e-reader! I hope you enjoy it!

35bell7
Jan 4, 2012, 8:29pm Top

>33 RosyLibrarian: I'm really enjoying book 2, though I was a little nervous because I was rather unimpressed by the 1st. I think the writing's gotten a bit better, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

>34 alcottacre: Thanks, Stasia, I'll definitely check it out! I knew they had some .html, .pdf and ebook formats, but now that I'm looking at the main page - I had no idea they had audio as well. hmm...

36alcottacre
Jan 4, 2012, 8:31pm Top

I hope you find something you like!

37bell7
Jan 4, 2012, 9:11pm Top

>36 alcottacre: Thanks, Stasia, I'm sure I will! :) I'm gonna have fun with my e-reader, I think, though I'm going to try to keep it primarily for vacations, at least until I can read some of the physical books I already own!

38bell7
Jan 4, 2012, 9:22pm Top

As promised, here are some pictures from our trip:


One of the lovely sunrises we saw from our balcony.


My parents, sister, and I went to Brookgreen Gardens about 15 miles south of Myrtle Beach. It's a 9 acre property, and I went on a tour of the sculpture garden. This is the oak allee, the view that the owners saw when they purchased the property in the 1930s.


This was one of my favorites - the muses, re-imagined as five male figures (sculpture is off by himself, naturally). Unfortunately, the fountain fish were not spitting water, but you can still catch a flavor of the whimsy in the picture. (Not sure what happened in the upper right hand corner there...)

Finally, we spent one day in Charleston.

From the back of the Fort Sumter information center, this is the bridge we took over to Charleston. What we saw of the city was absolutely beautiful, including a trip to the Battery and through the Charleston Market.

So there's a bit of the flavor of my vacation over Christmas week. :)

39richardderus
Jan 4, 2012, 9:48pm Top

Great vacation pics, Mary! Thanks for sharing.

40bell7
Jan 4, 2012, 10:53pm Top

>39 richardderus: Why thanks! And you're welcome. :)

41DeltaQueen50
Jan 5, 2012, 2:20pm Top

Charleston has long been a city I want to visit. Thanks for pictures, Mary. What a lovely way to both spend Christmas and time with your family!

42bell7
Jan 5, 2012, 6:37pm Top

I enjoyed, Judy! We spent most of the week near a condo we rented for the week in North Myrtle Beach, so the bottom two pictures are from the two day trips we took. We couldn't see all of Charleston in a day, of course, and I'd love to go back to see more!

43bell7
Jan 5, 2012, 6:41pm Top

2. The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan

Will continues to study as a Ranger's Apprentice while Halt, the king, and others prepare for a coming war with Morgorath. Another Ranger, Gilan, asks that Will and a Battleschool apprentice, Horace, help make up a group of ambassadors to another country. Halt agrees, knowing that this will be a test of Will's skills and, perhaps, a way of increasing the boy's confidence. But he has no idea what it will take for both boys to come back alive.

I was so-so about the first book in the series, but I really enjoyed this one. It was the first book read on my new e-reader, and I thought it worked well in that format though it had a few rough patches where I had to figure out some mis-spaced words. The pace builds throughout, and my only real complaint this time was that I felt the ending was a bit rushed. I was, however, left with a strong desire to read the next one, and I've already put the e-book on hold. 4 stars.

44RosyLibrarian
Jan 5, 2012, 7:27pm Top

42: How cool that you came to Charleston! Isn't that the neatest bridge? I'm really loving this city so far. Myrtle Beach looks like a must see too.

45thornton37814
Jan 5, 2012, 8:46pm Top

Charleston is one of my favorite cities. I was there last year and had a blast. I usually stay in a Kamping Kabin at the KOA in Mt. Pleasant. I spent my pre-conference time there and the rest of my time at the conference hotel by the airport in North Charleston. I've been to Charleston enough times that I found myself giving directions to other tourists and conference attendees.

46alcottacre
Jan 5, 2012, 10:14pm Top

Great pictures, Mary! Thanks for sharing them.

47AMQS
Jan 5, 2012, 11:03pm Top

Thanks for sharing your photos, Mary -- that's one place I've always wanted to go.

48bell7
Jan 6, 2012, 5:57pm Top

>45 thornton37814: Hi Lori! Glad you enjoyed Charleston. We actually stayed in North Myrtle Beach and took a day trip down to Charleston, so if I ever make it back to that city I'll make sure to ask you for visit highlights and tips! :)

>46 alcottacre: and 47 Thanks Stasia and Anne!

49_Zoe_
Jan 6, 2012, 6:00pm Top

Great pictures!

50bell7
Jan 6, 2012, 6:13pm Top

>49 _Zoe_: Thanks, Zoe!

51mks27
Edited: Jan 6, 2012, 6:28pm Top

Your vacation pictures are lovely. The trees with the beautiful moss are my favorites! Thanks for sharing.

52richardderus
Jan 6, 2012, 7:05pm Top

>43 bell7: Thumbs-upped your review!

53bell7
Jan 6, 2012, 8:38pm Top

>51 mks27: Thanks, Michelle!

>52 richardderus: Thank you, Richard!

54souloftherose
Jan 8, 2012, 3:10pm Top

Lovely photos and congratulations on the new ereader Mary!

55dk_phoenix
Jan 11, 2012, 2:34pm Top

Just realized I didn't have you starred... well, now that's fixed... hope you're enjoying the new eReader! I find I buy MORE books because of it, as I'm still buying print... oh well, more books, who's complaining?

56bell7
Jan 11, 2012, 8:30pm Top

>54 souloftherose: Thanks, Heather!

>55 dk_phoenix: Certainly not me, Faith! Though I've kept myself from buying e-books, at least - so far I've downloaded library and free Google e-books. Oh, and I also got a coupon for a free book (out of 8 titles), so now I have a digital copy of The Name of the Rose (which I also have in paperback...). :)

57bell7
Edited: Jan 12, 2012, 9:10am Top

3. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Louis Zamperini grew up in California, starting out as a wild child, becoming a talented and successful runner in high school and college, and enlisting in the second World War.

A bare outline doesn't do this story justice. I could keep telling you what the story was about, but it wouldn't even near to describing how incredibly powerful and moving I found this book. Edward Herrmann narrates, and I found the audio so compelling that I messed up my knitting and didn't notice until forty minutes and four rows later. Hillenbrand writes well and has a way of making me sympathize with these people whom I've never met. The experiences of war and POWs were all the more terrifying and heartbreaking because they were true. If I am not the last person to have read this and anyone out there is still wondering if you should read it - do it! 5 stars.

58rosalita
Jan 11, 2012, 10:18pm Top

Mary, Unbroken was one of the best books I read in 2011. You are so right about not being able to sum up its impact in a mere review — I couldn't, either! "Incredibly powerful and moving" is as close as it gets.

59bell7
Jan 12, 2012, 8:41am Top

>58 rosalita: Yeah, it was the sort of book that I just loved so much I couldn't/can't even articulate why. It's already been popular at my library, but I'll be recommending it left and right now.

60RosyLibrarian
Jan 12, 2012, 9:08am Top

57: Oh man, with a review like that it is going on the wishlist. I don't think I've ever read a Laura Hillenbrand book before.

61bell7
Jan 12, 2012, 9:11am Top

>60 RosyLibrarian: :)

Hope you enjoy it, Marie!

62rosalita
Jan 12, 2012, 9:18am Top

Marie, I can also recommend Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit. And no, you don't have to be horse-crazy to find it interesting!

63RosyLibrarian
Jan 12, 2012, 9:24am Top

62: Thank you Julia!

64bell7
Edited: Jan 12, 2012, 6:09pm Top

>62 rosalita: and 63 I haven't read Seabiscuit, either, but I'm thinking I'll take it out of my "give away" pile and read it. :)

Edited to clarify what book I was talking about...

65DeltaQueen50
Jan 12, 2012, 9:56pm Top

I haven't heard of anyone who wasn't totally enthralled by Unbroken, I am definitely going to try to fit it in this year on my non-fiction category of the 12 in 12 challenge.

66bell7
Jan 13, 2012, 7:56am Top

>65 DeltaQueen50: Oh yes, do Judy! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

67bell7
Jan 15, 2012, 8:27am Top

No new books to report, but just had to share:

I have a full-time job!

Starting February 6th I'll be the Adult Services Librarian (ie., reference and programming for adults) in my hometown library and will no longer be working two part-time jobs.

68RosyLibrarian
Jan 15, 2012, 8:57am Top

67: Yay, congratulations!

69thornton37814
Jan 15, 2012, 11:19am Top

Congratulations, Mary!

70norabelle414
Jan 15, 2012, 3:08pm Top

"Adult Services". teehee!


Just kidding. Congratulations!

71tymfos
Jan 15, 2012, 5:54pm Top

Hi, Mary! I finally found you!

Congrats and best wishes on the new full-time job. Great news! Also, congrats on becoming a fellow Sony reader owner. (I enjoy mine.) Kudos for the 500 reviews. And your photos are lovely. We visited Charleston last year, and really enjoyed our time there.

72rosalita
Jan 16, 2012, 12:29am Top

Congratulations, Mary! I have done the two part-time jobs thingy myself, and it is so much less stressful to have one full-time job. It sounds like a good one, too.

73ronincats
Jan 16, 2012, 12:54am Top

Wow, that is so great, Mary!!

74AMQS
Jan 16, 2012, 1:05am Top

Congratulations, Mary! What a great way to start the new year.

75DeltaQueen50
Jan 16, 2012, 1:55am Top

Yes, congratulations, Mary. Having one job sounds much better than dividing yourself up for two part-time jobs. Good for you.

76MickyFine
Jan 16, 2012, 2:33pm Top

Felicitations on getting the full-time gig, Mary! Does the position include collections management duties as well or just reference and programming?

77bell7
Jan 16, 2012, 7:18pm Top

Thanks, Marie, Lori, Nora, Terri, Julia, Roni, Anne, Judy, and Micky!

>70 norabelle414: Yah, I know. Almost as bad as when I was a "library page" - I had to explain what that meant, too, except in this case the double entendre is more awkward.

>71 tymfos: Thanks on all counts, Terri! Glad you found me!

>72 rosalita: and 75 I do hope I will find that I have more free time and a little less stress. We'll see. :)

>76 MickyFine: Right now in my assistant reference position at the same library I will be working in full-time, I purchase the mass market paperbacks and large print books. I'm not really sure if and how that will change.

78MickyFine
Jan 17, 2012, 1:04pm Top

>77 bell7: Cool. Well I hope the position is a fantabulous one for you. :)

79bell7
Jan 17, 2012, 8:28pm Top

>78 MickyFine: Thanks, Micky, I think so! :)

80BBleil
Jan 17, 2012, 8:35pm Top

Hi Mary! I've starred your thread. I also loved Unbroken (and Seabiscuit) by Laura Hillenbrand. Some of your 2011 favorites have been mine as well!

Happy Reading, Beth

81bell7
Jan 17, 2012, 9:05pm Top

>80 BBleil: Hi Beth, thanks for stopping by! I just visited your thread to look over your "favorites" list - looks like our reading tastes overlap in interesting ways. :) Looking forward to seeing what you're reading this year!

82bell7
Edited: Jan 20, 2012, 7:40pm Top

4. Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes

Jerry and Rachel Pye live in Cranbury with their parents and Gracie-the-cat, but Jerry is thinking of adding a new addition to the family: a dog. Another person wants this dog, however, and a mysterious person with a yellow hat keeps appearing.

I loved the Moffats when I was younger, so I was ready to enjoy this Newbery award-winning story by Eleanor Estes. The Moffats are referred to a couple of times, in fact, and I kind of want to go back and reread their stories now. The characters are funny - Rachel with her too-serious way of thinking everything was like a story book, Uncle Benny who is famous because he is three and the Pye's uncle. It wasn't hard for me to figure out where the story was going, but I liked the homey tone of the narration, even when it was going off on tangents. This would make a great read-aloud book. 4 stars.

83bell7
Jan 20, 2012, 11:46am Top

5. Raising the Sail by Nicole Johnson

One of three books based on Nicole Johnson's one-woman performances, Raising the sail is the short story of Maggie, a woman whose fear has turned her into a control freak and hurt her relationship with her daughter as a result.

What works really well in a live performance doesn't translate well to the page. In performance, Nicole Johnson conveys all the deep emotion and spiritual anguish that life can bring. On the page, even a 50-page long (with generous margins) narrative of one woman's thoughts seems overly long and preachy. I'll stick to watching my DVD, seeing her performances instead of reading them. 2.5 stars.

84scaifea
Jan 21, 2012, 7:48pm Top

Congrats on the job! Great news!!
I read Ginger Pye, last year(? Year before last?); at any rate, not too long ago, and liked it very much.

85bell7
Jan 21, 2012, 9:45pm Top

>84 scaifea: Thanks Amber! I really enjoyed Ginger Pye; it's the sort of story I would've loved even more if I read it as a kid, I think. (Come to think of it, I'm not sure that I haven't - I do remember reading a book that impressed me because the uncle was younger than his nephew/niece and I thought that would be really cool...)

86scaifea
Jan 21, 2012, 10:54pm Top

I've been working my way through a bunch of children's books that I didn't read when I was little, for my Charlie's bookshelves, and I've found several that have made me think, "darn it, I wish I'd read this when I was a kid!".
Funny about the uncle/nephew thing; my mom is younger than her nephew, and I'm only a year older than my niece.

87Donna828
Jan 21, 2012, 11:55pm Top

>38 bell7:: Great pictures, Mary. I loved Charleston when we visited there a few years ago. I read South of Broad on that trip. It wasn't my favorite Pat Conroy book, but he did have a fantastic description of Charleston in it.

That is good news about your full-time job. I think it would be difficult to juggle two part-time jobs especially in related fields. I'd probably report to the wrong place on Monday morning!

88bell7
Jan 22, 2012, 9:49am Top

>86 scaifea: There are always such great kids books coming out that I'm afraid I'll be thinking "I wish I'd read..." more than once in the coming years. :) Most of the kids in my family are too close in age to have an uncle or aunt younger than them, though my youngest sister (15 years my junior) is, I think, a little sad that none of us seem inclined to make her a young aunt.

>87 Donna828: Thanks, Donna! Our trip to Myrtle Beach/ day in Charleston was a lot of fun. I want to go back to Charleston for a longer trip; it was absolutely beautiful! And I am more interested in reading South of Broad now that I've been to Charleston, because from what I've read it has a fantastic sense of place. The two jobs thing worked out pretty well for me - my schedule didn't change so unless a Monday holiday threw me off, I could remember where I had to be by what day it was. But I am looking forward to one job, one place, and paid benefits!

89bell7
Jan 23, 2012, 8:38am Top

6. Red Glove by Holly Black

Cassel Sharpe, son of a criminal family and a con man, is back in this sequel to White Cat. His mother is now out of jail, and she and Cassel have been traveling Atlantic City looking for a rich man for his mother, an emotion worker, to use to get money. When Cassel goes back to school, he expects some relief but federal agents show up with a proposition for him.

Like the first book in the series, this story has a really interesting idea behind it, and having the first-person narration be that of a con man who's generally a good guy but who also doesn't want to betray his family, is a brilliant choice. I could really feel for Cassel and understand the way in which he's pulled in several directions as he tries to stay on the straight and narrow (sort of). The mystery aspect of the story held a lot of surprises for me, and if I probably wouldn't reread it just because it wouldn't have the same tension now that I know what happens, I will eagerly look for the next book in the series. 4 stars.

90MickyFine
Jan 23, 2012, 2:25pm Top

I read White Cat last year and was underwhelmed (I figured out the twist AGES before the characters did, to the point where I thought the characters had too and then was irritated when they hadn't). The premise was cool but it just wasn't for me. Glad you enjoyed the sequel though. :)

91bell7
Jan 23, 2012, 3:25pm Top

>90 MickyFine: I figured out the major twist to White Cat pretty early on, too, but I liked the premise enough that I forgave it that. They're definitely not the type of books that you would reread over and over - basically once you know the big twist it's not half as much fun.

92souloftherose
Jan 31, 2012, 1:46pm Top

#67 Belated congratulations Mary!

93bell7
Feb 1, 2012, 9:21am Top

>92 souloftherose: Thanks, Heather! It's not so belated - I don't start 'til Tuesday. ;)

94bell7
Feb 10, 2012, 7:33pm Top

7. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

While reading along with Madeline's (SqueakyChu) tutored read, I was intrigued enough to decide to follow along with her reading. I downloaded the e-book from Project Gutenberg, and never quite caught up but I did finish the book last weekend. I shall endeavor to remember it well enough to write a decent review.

This classic tells the story of Manfred, who is lord of the castle as his father and grandfather before him. An odd prophecy dogs him, and he is determined to marry his son to a young woman, Isabella. But mysterious forces appear to be working against Manfred, beginning with a giant helmet that falls out of the sky, killing his son.

I'm sure the story was supposed to have - and once upon a time did have - a creepy feel to it. Every now and then, I did get a bit of that delicious thrill down the spine that the supernatural elements were supposed to engender. Most of the time, however, I couldn't quite suspend my disbelief enough to really embrace the story, and I found myself laughing (only sometimes when I should have been). I enjoyed the story, and I enjoyed following the tutoring even more, but I enjoyed it more for the analysis as a predecessor of Gothic novels, never really sinking into the story enough to be fully invested in it, but observing it from the outside. 3.5 stars.

I'm having a real hard time describing my reaction to it The Castle of Otranto, and feel like I should reiterate again that I did enjoy it, and I think my response says as much about me and my current reading mood as the story itself. Does that make sense?

95bell7
Feb 10, 2012, 9:07pm Top

8. Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel, the Abhorsen's daughter, has been living across the wall from her home country in the Old Kingdom, living in a boarding school in Ancelstierre. But when her father fails to show up for their monthly meeting, she knows something is dreadfully wrong, and she returns home to find him.

This is the first book in a trilogy that I first read when I was about sixteen or so. I hadn't read much fantasy beyond the classics at that point, and I remember the sort of mixed feeling of enjoyment and dread of reading about necromancy. I was curious to see how I would read it again, after many more years of reading the genre. Sabriel didn't disappoint. It didn't have that same sort of forbidden feeling, and now I can say that it has some of the tropes of the genre (Touchstone's identity, for example, was extremely easy to figure out). But as one of the first representative works of the genre in my reading, even its familiarity was fun. I'd forgotten much of the details in the decade plus since I'd read it, and enjoyed it all over again. 4.5 stars.

I got the e-book out from the library and had been wondering if I'd have time to finish it before it was due. I had such a bad cold today that I stayed home from work and read most of this book, plus I've started Lirael, continuing in the trilogy.

96ronincats
Feb 12, 2012, 1:48pm Top

I think Lirael is my favorite of the trilogy, but I remember my first reading of Sabriel as well, and that feeling of dread as we are thrown in, as she is, feet first with little preparation, that sent a frisson of anticipation down my back. Glad you are enjoying them again.

97jnwelch
Feb 12, 2012, 2:11pm Top

I really enjoyed this trilogy, too, Mary. I've thought about a re-read periodically. The atmosphere was haunting. Loved Mogget in particular.

98bell7
Feb 13, 2012, 1:22pm Top

>96 ronincats: Lirael was a lot of fun, too, though I was a little annoyed by the cliff-hanger ending. Fortunately, I was able to get Abhorsen as an ebook from my library's digital catalog.

>97 jnwelch: Mogget is great! I rather like the Disreputable Dog, too. I've had a lot of fun revisiting the trilogy the past few days.

99bell7
Feb 13, 2012, 1:29pm Top

9. Lirael by Garth Nix

(Second in a trilogy - spoiler warning for Sabriel)

Fourteen some-odd years after Touchstone and Sabriel defeat Kerrigor, all is still not well in the Old Kingdom. Lirael, a daughter of the Clayr, chafes that she cannot See into the future like all her relatives; Prince Sameth, going to school in Ancelstierre, has such a terrible encounter in Death that he fears going back, though he is the Abhorsen-in-waiting.

The third-person narrative moves back and forth between Lirael and Sam's points of view, giving readers a more complete but not whole picture of events going on. An unnamed enemy seems to be doing something that is still breaking Charter stones and blocking the Clayr's sight. Neither Lirael nor Sameth are particularly happy, since they don't seem to fit in with other people's expectations. This was a little annoying at times, but completely understandable (especially as they're teenagers...). Mogget returns, and another talking animal/magical being is introduced - the Disreputable Dog, a character which made me laugh many times by its very doglike behavior. 4.5 stars.

Once again, I couldn't wait to start the next book. I finished Lirael on Sunday morning, I think, and started Abhorsen that same evening.

100souloftherose
Edited: Feb 13, 2012, 5:44pm Top

#94 "Most of the time, however, I couldn't quite suspend my disbelief enough to really embrace the story, and I found myself laughing" - that was my reaction to Otranto too. Someone getting squashed by a giant helmet at the beginning of the book was just too Pythonesque for me to take seriously although I suppose given the dates Monty Python might have been referencing Hugh Walpole?

I read the Abhorsen trilogy for the first time last year and loved it - glad you're enjoying your reread. I keep hearing rumours that Garth Nix might be writing a prequel set in the Abhorsen universe but nothing seems to come of it.

ETA: Hope your cold is better?

101bell7
Feb 14, 2012, 8:55am Top

>100 souloftherose: Glad to find someone understands my reaction to Otranto, Heather. :) I've actually been surprised at how much I've been enjoying my reread of Abhorsen, even to the point of reading each book right on top of the other (usually I like to take a bit of a break between books so I don't get sick of the series by the time I'm done). I never read Across the Wall, which includes a novella set in the same world, and I'm seriously considering getting it out of the library sometime soon.

My cold is much better - I still woke up with a bit of stuffiness, but I'm no longer overwhelmingly tired with glazed eyes. I think I can make it through a full day of work today without exhausting myself, so that's good!

Oh, and I did get one good thing out of Otranto - I made a note of the line where Matilda tells her maid, "Have done with your rhapsody of impudence!" to use on my brother when he's giving me a hard time. I had the perfect time to use it when I was upstairs in a suite while we were away for the weekend, so I didn't get to see his reaction, but there was a sudden silence, and I heard my other brother say to him, "That was pretty good."

102RosyLibrarian
Edited: Feb 14, 2012, 9:02am Top

94: I took a strange art history/architecture class once in college and my professor sang the praises of Castle of Otranto only because the author lived in such a crazy place: Strawberry Hill. So now I can't help help but thinking of that class every time I see that book.

95: All my friends read that series when we were in high school and for some reason I never did. I should fix that. Nice reviews!

Also, glad you are feeling better!

103bell7
Feb 14, 2012, 9:10am Top

>102 RosyLibrarian: Marie, Strawberry Hill looks amazing. I wonder if I could talk my father into stopping if we go back to London/Wimbledon in a few years? Hmm... And yes, definitely pick up the Abhorsen trilogy!

104bell7
Edited: May 10, 2012, 6:59am Top

A belated January in Review:

1. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
2. The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan (e-book)
3. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (audio)
4. Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes Mine
5. Raising the Sail by Nicole Johnson Mine
6. Red Glove by Holly Black

Number of books read: 4
Number of e-books read: 1
Number of audiobooks listened to: 1

Standouts: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Fiction/Nonfiction: 5/1
Children's/YA/Adult: 2/2/2
Library/Mine/Borrowed: 4/2/0

(Number of books read I'm not reviewing - 2. They were adult nonfiction and mine, and this is mainly a note for my counts at the end of the year to add up right.)

105bell7
Feb 15, 2012, 8:36am Top

Graphic Novels/Manga:

1-4. Chi's Sweet Home by Kanata Konami

Fair warning - if you don't like cats or overwhelming cuteness, avoid this manga series like the plague.

On the other hand, if you do like either of the above, this is an adorable story about a cat who is lost but finds a family that adopts him into their home (despite the fact that pets are not allowed, which makes for more than a few funny scenes as they attempt to hide Chi from the super). The pictures are in color and really make the story. Chi's (the cat) expressions are priceless, and I love how the "miya" sounds are in a speech bubble, but we're also given what the cat is actually trying to say and how the people are responding/misunderstanding. I read the first four volumes yesterday, and I've got two more out from the library. I do think after that I will have to read something that is not-so-sweet to kind of balance things out a bit.

106AMQS
Feb 15, 2012, 11:24am Top

Nice review! I've never tried Manga, and have never been tempted, bu this one sounds like it might be a good intro for me.

107bell7
Feb 15, 2012, 8:58pm Top

>106 AMQS: Thanks, Anne! I think Chi's Sweet Home might be a good introduction for you, though I will say I've never before read one in color. Oh, and I should mention I think the artwork may be "flipped," that is, it's been switched to read from left to right, so you're not going to have to "read" the panels from right to left, which should make it a little easier for you, too. In any case, if you try the first volume, I think it took me all of 20 minutes to read, so it's definitely worth taking a look. :)

108bell7
Feb 18, 2012, 7:05am Top

10. Abhorsen by Garth Nix

(Third in trilogy - spoiler warning for Sabriel and Lirael)

When we left Lirael and Sam, they had retreated to the Abhorsen's house, pursued by the Dead. We find them much as they were, preparing to leave, knowing that they have to go up against what is known as the Destroyer, a being that was bound but now is trying to put itself back together, with the help of a necromancer, Hedge, and the unwitting help of Sam's friend Nick. Lirael still has to try to meet Nick, to make what the Clayr Saw become true before it's too late.

The third book in the trilogy is essentially a race against the clock, as Sam and Lirael try to stop Hedge before the hemispheres that are the Destroyer can come together. It also nicely rounds out the world-building that Nix has been doing all along, giving us a fuller picture of the Charter, Free Magic, and the beginning of the Old Kingdom. If I wasn't quite as engaged with this one as I was with Sabriel and Lirael, I know it was primarily because I had read the books right on top of the other and I had more calls on my time in the last several days that distracted me from reading. I would certainly consider this a trilogy worth rereading. 4.5 stars.

109bell7
Feb 18, 2012, 7:23am Top

11. The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow

Rachel lives with her grandmother because her mother, in a fit of depression, pushed her children and jumped off the roof of a nine-storey apartment complex. Rachel survived.

This is the sort of book that I don't necessarily like while I'm reading, but as it lingers in my mind and I turn over elements of it in my thoughts, I realize how powerful and beautiful it was. The structure is a little difficult. Rachel's narrates her parts of the story, while the experiences of Laronne (her mother's boss), Jamie (the boy who witnessed her brother falling), and others are interspersed in a story that covers about five years in non-chronological order.

As if her mother's suicide and her siblings' deaths weren't enough to deal with, Rachel is of mixed race, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black father. But the book doesn't read like an "issues" book, it's just Rachel's story of adolescence, growing up, finding her identity and understanding her past. It's very internal, almost a collection of impressions rather than a straightforward plot. A few sentences made me stop in my tracks because I had to think about them, rather than rush on to the end. The story itself is how Rachel describes the blues: storing up all sorts of sadness, but making something beautiful out of it. 4 stars.

This is the sort of book I had to review before I could rate it, and I ended up giving it a higher rating than I would have otherwise. Would I reread it? No. It's the sort of sad book (and other aspects of it are - I don't know - rougher? than I would normally choose to read) that I would recommend to my brother, who likes that sort of thing much more than I.

110RosyLibrarian
Feb 18, 2012, 10:38am Top

108: *covers her eyes*

109: I've been reading too many sad books lately, but I will keep this one in mind after a few happier ones. I love the cover of this book too.

111bell7
Feb 19, 2012, 12:51pm Top

>110 RosyLibrarian: LOL at covering your eyes, though I totally understand.

The cover of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is a good one. I find I have to be in the right mood for a sad book. I'm not sure I really was in this case, but in the course of writing the review, my opinion certainly rose.

Now...I got a hold of the library copy of Downton Abbey, Season 1, and spent, um, all afternoon and evening watching it after work yesterday. Oops. But good news! PBS is showing the whole season starting in 9 minutes, and I'm housesitting in a place that has DVR! Woot!

112bell7
Feb 20, 2012, 6:57pm Top

12. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This was one of the few books that, when I read the last page, I wanted to start all over again from the beginning and enjoy it just as thoroughly. I didn't, but I came as close as I could - I only finished the print copy in October, and for my reread I listened to the audiobook read by the incomparable Jim Dale. Just excellent.

113Crazymamie
Feb 21, 2012, 7:28am Top

I loved that book as well. I had originally gotten the audiobook from the library when I saw that Jim Dale was reading it because we love his Harry Potter reads, but returned it after the library got a copy of the book in because I was having a hard time keeping the jumps in time in my head. After reading the book, I rechecked out the audio so that I could listen to it all over again, now that I knew the timeline. Then I bought my own personal copy of the book! My thirteen year old laughed at me because she said I was never going to save money by reading the book from the library and then buying it. I said, "Yeah - but now I know I love it."

114bell7
Feb 21, 2012, 7:32am Top

>113 Crazymamie: It was definitely harder to follow the jumps in time in audio than with the book, if only because I could flip back a few pages to remind myself "where" I was now. I do exactly the same thing with library books - I'm much more prone to take a chance with a library book and, once I know I love it and would reread it in a heartbeat, it goes on my wishlist. The books I own and haven't read are generally used - library book sales, garage sales, etc. that I didn't spend $15+ on to take a chance that I'd hate it.

I wish publishers realized that the library crowd is actually quite a good source of revenue for them...

115RosyLibrarian
Feb 21, 2012, 8:08am Top

I wish publishers realized that the library crowd is actually quite a good source of revenue for them...

Cheers to that!

116bell7
Feb 22, 2012, 7:47am Top

>115 RosyLibrarian: :) I can't remember where it was now (Library Journal?) but there was a survey that came out recently showing that people who used their public library frequently as a source of books were also more likely to buy several books in the course of a year.

117bell7
Feb 22, 2012, 7:59am Top

13. The Icebound Land by John Flanagan

*Spoiler warning*

When we last left Will in The Burning Bridge, he had been captured by Skandians, and Halt had promised to come after him. In the aftermath of the battle, Halt and the other Rangers have been chasing after Morgorath's second-in-command, much to Halt's chagrin. Meanwhile, Will and Evanlyn (really Cassandra, the daughter of the king) are on their way back to Skandia as slaves.

So far the series has been a mixed bag for me. The stories are fast-paced and generally exciting. They're excellent when I need a quick, mindless read. Unfortunately, the descriptions of places and characters have all the subtlety of a two-by-four, and I had huge issues with the plot of this book. *here's where the spoilers start* Will is a mindless druggie for nearly half the book. I grant you I don't know a ton about addictive substances, but we see him have have one try of "warmweed" and the next thing we know he's completely addicted. I couldn't quite buy that someone as smart as Will wouldn't have figured out that he'd been tricked into taking a narcotic and steer clear. I give you that the drug in this world could have been particularly strong; apparently, it was since when Will is being weened off the drug, he is still in a daze two weeks after his last fix. Really? Finally, there just wasn't the same sense of urgency in reading this book, because the plot has no definite beginning or end, but is clearly in the middle of a series. 3.5 stars.

118bell7
Feb 23, 2012, 9:06pm Top

14. Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

Charlotte Kinder is not heroine material. She's a divorced mother of two who reads Agatha Christie novels, and after her husband had an affair and left her, her heart's pretty numb. But after she breaks out of her mystery fix to read Jane Austen, she decides to go off to Austenland in which can act like one of Austen's beloved heroines for two weeks while being romanced by a dashing gentlemen - all in Regency-appropriate behavior (and capped with a ball).

Shannon Hale may be better known for her teen fantasy books, but her chick lit is just as much fun. In this book, as in Austenland, she proves how much of an Austen fan she is, even while providing a fun, modern story in its own right. Unbelievable at times? Oh sure, but I didn't really care in the end. I enjoyed the clear references to Northanger Abbey and laughed out loud at Charlotte's "Inner Thoughts" talking back to her. 4.5 stars.

119ronincats
Feb 23, 2012, 11:09pm Top

I really enjoyed Midnight in Austenland too--very clever. At first, I wasn't sure, thinking, Hale has already done this, but then Charlotte became more and more an individual, partly through the little vignettes at the beginning of each chapter, and by the end, I was totally engrossed.

120bell7
Feb 24, 2012, 8:19am Top

>119 ronincats: Such a fun story, wasn't it? It's been awhile since I read the first book, so I didn't have quite the same sense of deja vu because I couldn't remember enough of the details. I liked that it is a sort-of sequel but completely stands on its own.

121DeltaQueen50
Feb 24, 2012, 9:39pm Top

Hi Mary, though I'd drop by and leave the link for Mystery March. Hope to see you there!

122bell7
Feb 26, 2012, 12:58pm Top

>121 DeltaQueen50: Thanks for the link, Judy! I have starred the thread and hopefully will be able to report a book read for it. :)

123coppers
Feb 29, 2012, 1:44am Top

Hi Mary, I'm just catching up on some threads. I also loved The Night Circus and plan on listening to the audio when my turn comes up at the library. I don't think I could have followed the story the first time on audio, but now that I know what to expect, it's a good way to enjoy the book again.

Congrats on your new ereader! I also have a SonyReader, and although I'm not thrilled with the Reader store, I love how easy it is to download library books.

124bell7
Feb 29, 2012, 6:59pm Top

>123 coppers: Hi Joanne! I haven't used the Reader store for much, just a free book that they sent me a coupon for, so I can't really say what my thoughts are on that. I bought it primarily to download library e-books...when patrons come in with their e-book questions, saying "I don't have an e-reader so I don't know how to do it," wasn't going to cut it at the reference desk. ;) Actually I usually do the "finding" of library books on my laptop 'cause I'm not a fan of the mobile site - then I go on my reader, log in to my account and download from there.

125bell7
Feb 29, 2012, 7:20pm Top

15. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (half-audio)

Holling Hoodhood is the only Presbyterian in his class, which means that on Wednesday afternoons when half his classmates go to Hebrew school and the other half go to CCD, he's stuck in the classroom with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. At first, she gives him chores to do, but then she starts having him read Shakespeare.

I'm rather ashamed to say I've been putting this book off, despite the acclaim it's received and the recommendations I've received from others on LT. The truth is, I found Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy depressing, and was afraid I'd be in for the same sort of book. What I didn't realize at all was how incredibly funny The Wednesday Wars is. I listened to quite a bit of it on my commute to work, and narrator Joel Johnstone not only has a pitch-perfect reading sounding like a middle school boy, he also brings out the humor in every situation (I will never think of cream puffs in exactly the same way again...). Though the book is set in 1967-68, and the Vietnam War and politics are mentioned, what is the center of the book is not these historical events, but Holling's growth as an individual. Holling struck me as a typical teenager in his developing empathy, on the one hand seeing how an interaction affected both an adult and his schoolmate and, not too long later, telling his teacher he didn't think she had any problems to speak of. Because of this, even in a first-person narration we get to know several other characters well as Holling comes to understand them better. The only character that seemed rather one-dimensional to me was his father who is, frankly, a jerk. I'm so glad I finally got around to reading this, and will definitely be moving the companion book Okay for Now on my TBR list. 4.5 stars.

126Crazymamie
Feb 29, 2012, 7:25pm Top

The Wednesday Wars is one of my all time favorite books - and all of my kids loved it too.

127bell7
Mar 1, 2012, 8:04am Top

>126 Crazymamie: I'm curious, did your kids pick it up on their own, or was it a read-aloud? As I get farther away from my own childhood (I hesitate to say "get older" when I'm not yet 30), and I don't have kids, I find I'm not a good predictor of whether or not a book will be popular with kids without prodding. This one strikes me as a good read-aloud anyways, but I wonder if your average 6th-7th grader would be put off by the Shakespeare references?

128bell7
Edited: Mar 1, 2012, 8:31am Top

February in Review -

7. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (e-book)
8. Sabriel by Garth Nix (e-book)
9. Lirael by Garth Nix (e-book)
10. Abhorsen by Garth Nix (e-book)
11. The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
12. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (audio)
13. The Icebound Land by John Flanagan
14. Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
15. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (audio)

Number of books read: 3
Number of e-books read: 4
Number of audiobooks listened to: 2
Graphic novels/Manga: 8

Standouts: The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Fiction/Nonfiction: 9/0
Children's/YA/Adult: 5/4
Library/Mine/Borrowed: 8/1/0
New to me/Reread: 5/4

Years published (stealing this from other folks' threads, and counting January, too):
2012 - 1
2011 - 2
2010 - 3
2007 - 1
2005 - 2
2003 - 2
2001 - 1

1995 - 1
1951 - 1

1764 - 1

129Whisper1
Edited: Mar 1, 2012, 8:32am Top

Mary

Back in 2010 I bought 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up. If you haven't read this, you might be interested. Each page contains a photo of the cover and then describes why this is such a wonderful book.

Recently, I revisited this book and systematically added many of them to my tbr list. Sadly, some will be difficult to find because they go way back in time.

130bell7
Edited: Mar 1, 2012, 8:33am Top

>129 Whisper1: I've come across the title, but haven't had a chance to look at the book. Thanks for the recommendation, Linda! I'll definitely have to check it out.

131bell7
Mar 1, 2012, 9:30am Top

16. Ten Little Zombies: A Love Story by Andy Rash

A short book I almost hesitate to count because it was shorter than most picture books. Fans of The Bunny Suicides will probably find it funny, but personally I'd like to have back the five minutes it took me to read.

132Crazymamie
Mar 1, 2012, 12:31pm Top

Answering your Wednesday Wars question - I have four teenagers all very close in age, and when they got to middle school we offered them the choice of staying in public school or homeschooling. We figured, who looks back and says, "Wow, I really loved middle school!" So, they all chose the homeschooling and our adventures began - incidentally, that's how I got my name, cause everyone said, "You're crazy, Mamie!" Anyway, I had read that book and loved it, so I gave them each a copy (and one to my daughter's best friend who joined in the homeschooling with us). They read it on their own, and then we had a group discussion about it. My idea was no big book projects because I really want them to enjoy reading, not dread it. The Shakespeare in the book was great because then they were asking questions about that and I bought the plays in graphic novel version so that they could read the story in a friendlier format and guess what - they LOVED it. They read every graphic novel and my daughter's friend, who had never been a big reader, gave the book to her mom to read and then borrowed the GNs one by one. A magic moment in a shared love of reading.

133jnwelch
Mar 1, 2012, 12:44pm Top

I've just started Midnight in Austenland, Mary, and you put The Wednesday Wars on my radar, too.

134bell7
Mar 2, 2012, 8:16am Top

>132 Crazymamie: I love that story! What a great way to share reading and make it fun. Incidentally, I was homeschooled too (every year but kindergarten). I remember one year my mom read us Lassie Come-Home, and I always wished we'd done more family read-alouds. My high school literature courses were a little odd because they usually had excerpts or a chapter of a book instead of the whole thing, and I only read one Shakespeare play (Macbeth). But I think it worked out, because then the classics I read in high school were in my own time and for my own pleasure.

>133 jnwelch: Hooray! I hope you are enjoying Midnight in Austenland and that you enjoy The Wednesday Wars when you get to it. Whisper1 first put The Wednesday Wars on my radar, and I'm ever so glad she did!

135bell7
Mar 2, 2012, 8:28am Top

17. The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes

*Warning: spoilers follow for the first two seasons of Downton Abbey*

So I don't know about you, but in my library the availability of the DVD of the first season of Downton Abbey meant a flurry of holds and a lot of conversation about the Masterpiece Theatre presentation. I put it on hold to see what all the fuss was about, and the first time I got the DVD I didn't even watch it before I had to return it to the library. Second try was the charm, though, and I not only watched the first season in - ahem - one day, I promptly looked up when the second season was going to be on PBS, and watched that all over the same holiday weekend. I found myself fascinated, loving the picture of a world one hundred years ago, at once familiar (cars, telephones) and strange (servants, class, World War 1). I picked up some of the class differences and societal tensions, but as an American in the 21st century, I know there's a lot going on that I didn't understand, or just wasn't sure about (how normal would it be, for example, if a young woman had run off and married the chauffeur in that era, for her mother to stay in contact with her and want her to visit?).

That, ultimately, is why I decided to read this book. In all fairness, in a book like this covering everything from family life to style to World War 1 to a servants' life, none of my questions are going to be answered in depth. But, if you enjoyed the show, a little bit of everything is explored through its lens, through what we saw the characters experience, plus giving us more period detail from diaries and books about people who really lived then. And then there's the photography. Wow! You can really appreciate the attention to detail when looking at photographs of the sets, of the actors, and of Highclere Castle. There are lots of quotes from the actors and the show sprinkled throughout the text and photographs. The final chapter is more a "making of" than the historical background, and it really made me appreciate all the work that went into making Downton Abbey as good as it is. Finally, the recommended reads at the end (unfortunately for me, since I want to read everything and I have to figure out which books were mentioned more than once) is organized by chapter, so if you are most interested in any one particular aspect of the Downton Abbey world, it's quite easy to follow up on just what you're looking for. Highly recommended to any fan of the show.

4 stars just because having read it once, I don't really see myself reading it again from cover to cover.

136_Zoe_
Mar 2, 2012, 8:39am Top

>132 Crazymamie: Such a great story, Mamie!

137rosalita
Mar 2, 2012, 2:07pm Top

Mary, you've convinced me to put the Downton Abbey book on my wishlist. I love the series, but when I first heard about this book I wasn't sure whether it would add enough information to be worth the time. Thanks to your review, I know it is something I would very much enjoy reading.

138mks27
Mar 2, 2012, 5:12pm Top

Can't wait to get my hands on The World of Downton Abbey!! I am a big fan. Thanks for the review. Also, check out youtube for lots of Downton related information including episodes and some interesting interviews of the cast and the real Lady of this lovely country estate.

139bell7
Mar 2, 2012, 6:27pm Top

>137 rosalita: and 138 It didn't go into as much detail as I'd hoped, but it does give some interesting background. Thanks to coppers for the first mention I saw, and I hope you both enjoy them! :)

And Michelle, I'll definitely have to check out some Youtube of it. I watched a montage on PBS.org of some of Maggie Smith's best moments: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/watch/downtonabbey2_maggiemoments.html

Also, even The Onion mentions Downton. :)

140mks27
Mar 2, 2012, 7:56pm Top

#139 Her (Maggie Smith's) timing and line delivery are perfect in Downton Abbey....such fun to watch. I will check out the link!

141bell7
Mar 3, 2012, 1:36pm Top

>140 mks27: Yeah, she's really perfect for the part, isn't she?

Just for fun...

I figured out the mean and average years of the books I read in January and February (this is one of those stats I will not keep up with all year).

The mean was 2005. The average was 1986.

142bell7
Edited: Mar 3, 2012, 1:36pm Top

*sorry double post*

143ronincats
Mar 3, 2012, 1:40pm Top

Mary, do you mean the mode and the average? As in you read one or two really old books that pulled the mean or average down, but all the rest were thoroughly modern?

144bell7
Mar 3, 2012, 2:49pm Top

>143 ronincats: I meant the median. :) This was my list from message 128:

Years published (stealing this from other folks' threads, and counting January, too):
2012 - 1
2011 - 2
2010 - 3
2007 - 1
2005 - 2
2003 - 2
2001 - 1

1995 - 1
1951 - 1

1764 - 1

145souloftherose
Mar 3, 2012, 3:27pm Top

Hooray for Downton Abbey! Once I've finished Series 2 I will definitely get The World of Downton Abbey out from the library. Luckily I'm behind the times with the DA craze in the UK so there aren't long reserve lists.

I'm trying to decide whether to try the Shannon Hale Austenland series; yours is the third positive review I've seen of the second book but I'm not sure about chick lit and Jane Austen sequels. Hmm, I've downloaded the sample of the first book anyway.

146AMQS
Mar 4, 2012, 2:25am Top

Hi Mary, I am frightfully behind on threads. I really enjoyed your comment on The Night Circus and especially on The Wednesday Wars. Sounds like I need to track down the audio! Hope you're having a good weekend.

147bell7
Mar 4, 2012, 8:27am Top

>145 souloftherose: I was behind, too, but managed to catch up (in the U.S. anyway) in one long weekend, with a little help from DVR! Austenland is less of an Austen "sequel" - more of a modern chick lit with main characters who like Austen. Hope you're enjoying the sample!

>146 AMQS: Hi Anne! I'm afraid I'm behind on threads too...I got mostly caught up reading them yesterday, but I'm sure there's many that I haven't commented on in ages. I hope you enjoy The Wednesday Wars when you get to it - hooray for audiobooks! :)

148bell7
Mar 6, 2012, 8:32am Top

18. Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Young Jack Gantos is growing up in the town of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, a town that was founded by Eleanor Roosevelt as a place where poor people could live with dignity and where folks could trade their services instead of depend on cash. Now, in the decade after World War 2, the Norvelt "originals" are older and dying, and poor Jack is grounded because he let off his father's gun and caused a scare. Miss Volker, his older neighbor with arthritic hands, is Jack's "get out of jail free" card when she calls and needs his help writing obituaries.

This year's Newbery Award winner is the first book I've read by Jack Gantos, but now I wnat to go back and read his other books. His narrative follows a typical summer in that it's more episodic a traditional plot line, though Norvelt has its share of quirky, original characters and more than a few of the events are unbelievable. Jack's parents are great, and their interactions ring true, how they disagree fundamentally about some things, but also love each other as much as they drive each other nuts. I was regularly chuckling or even laughing out loud at some of the events (some of the obits in particular stand out memorably). This story was a lot of fun to read, and I'll certainly be recommending it to kids at the library. 4 stars.

I think the book suffered a bit in the way in which I read it, picking up and putting down a lot instead of being able to read it straight through in a couple of days like I might have done normally. I'm still debating my rating of 4 to 4.5 stars, but at the moment I'm leaning towards 4 because I can't really see myself rereading it right now.

149tymfos
Mar 7, 2012, 4:05pm Top

Thanks for the great review of Dead End in Norvelt. Helpful info about the book, Mary!

150bell7
Mar 9, 2012, 6:01pm Top

>149 tymfos: Why thanks, Terri! The last several years, I've been trying to keep up with the latest Newberys, and though I don't work in children's services anymore I generally 1. find it useful to know about them and 2. enjoy the books myself. :)

151bell7
Mar 12, 2012, 4:14pm Top

19. Timeless by Gail Carriger

**Fifth in a series - spoiler warning for earlier books**

Lord and Lady Maccon have been living in Lord Akeldama's third closet for some time now, as the London vampire has become the adoptive parent of their child, Prudence. At only two years old, Prudence shows every indication that she will be as difficult as, well, either of her parents. All is going as normally as this vampire-werewolf-preternatural alliance could be expected, until Alexia receives a summons to Egypt. It seems that the vampire queen there is very interested in Prudence, a metanatural.

Normally here I would explain what I liked or didn't like about the book, but as this is the fifth book in a series I've been enjoying all along, it's really hard to do that now. If you've liked the series, you'll want to read it for the fun and imagination and wittiness and silliness. If you haven't liked it, there's really nothing I can say about this one to convince you otherwise. Suffice it to say that I found it an excellent distraction from all the other, more serious books that I've had to read lately. These are the sorts of books I could see becoming my comfort reads when I need something to make me laugh. 4.5 stars.

152MickyFine
Mar 13, 2012, 2:09pm Top

I'm first in line for Timeless at my library but it still hasn't arrived yet. I look forward to reading it when it does, and I'm glad you enjoyed it, Mary. :)

153bell7
Mar 17, 2012, 8:37am Top

>152 MickyFine: I hope it comes soon and you enjoy Timeless when you have it in your hands. It was a "drop everything and read" book for me - well, not quite everything, but you know what I mean. The book due in three weeks instead of one? Too bad, it's the one I want. And actually, I've been reading so much nonfiction for an award that it was great to have something light to read before bed.

Speaking of reading before bed, I've been dipping into A Passion for Books here and there for the past few days. One of my favorite essays so far is Clifton Fadiman's "Pillow Books." He talks about the types of books that one shouldn't read before bed, namely, books that keep one up and books that put one to sleep, among other types of books that I am not guilty of using as bedtime reading. BUT then he describes the type of book he says you should read before bed, and I just love his sense of description and the ideas he brings forth. It's enough to justify any "escapism" reading that just hits the right spot, that takes you away from the cares of the world and brings you peace. I felt like his arguments gave me just the right understanding of exactly why reading what I do when I do brings pleasure - because sometimes I just don't want the difficult tome or the hard-to-understand nonfiction or even a good book that makes me think (though I'm not averse to any of those, given the right mood and situation).

Anyway...having only read a third of A Passion for Books, I highly recommend it based on what I've read so far, and I think that it has a lot of moments where avid readers will nod their heads in agreement or recognition, and set off conversation about what would make your list of 100 greatest books, why you lend books (or not), or what kinds of books are the perfect sort of "pillow books" for you.

154souloftherose
Mar 17, 2012, 9:48am Top

#151 Gail Carriger's books are definitely comfort reads for me :-)

#153 A Passion for Books duly wishlisted. Actually there are several books called A Passion for Books on LT and I'm not sure which one yours is? Is it the Harold Rabinowitz?

155bell7
Mar 17, 2012, 8:54pm Top

>154 souloftherose: Yeah, it's the one edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan. I believe they may have come out with another similar book - ah, took me awhile but I found it. It's called Speaking of Books, and I found it here - http://savidgereads.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/speaking-of-books/ - the post and comments made me move A Passion for Books from the long TBR list to the "must request this from the library now" list.

156Crazymamie
Mar 20, 2012, 9:08pm Top

I love reading your reviews! I have added several to my own wish list - such as A Passion for Books, Dead End in Norvelt, and the first of the Gail Carringer books. I have Austenland on my shelf but am not sure when I'll get to it.

157bell7
Mar 20, 2012, 9:59pm Top

>156 Crazymamie: Aw, thanks Mamie! I hope you enjoy all those books when you get to them. I'm still puttering through A Passion for Books (which I'm loving) and The tale of Hill Top Farm which I'm...well, not.

I was just starting to justify why I'm still reading the latter - it's for a library genre game (that ends in a week and I'm not going to finish anyways), I'm halfway through (that's still 100 pages of reading to get through) - and I've decided it's not worth it after all. Oh well...on my returns pile it goes.

158bell7
Mar 23, 2012, 11:47am Top

20. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Elisa is the chosen one. She has a Godstone on her navel, a blue stone that is only given to one person in a century to do something great for God. The only trouble is, she doesn't feel all that special and she doesn't know what she's supposedly called to do. With her marriage and war approaching, sixteen-year-old Elisa will have to find her purpose fast.

Just looking at the cover was enough to make me want to read this book. Elisa is a great heroine - she starts out unhappy, fat, and unsure of herself and grows into a much more self-reliant person. The plot keeps moving in twists and turns as we discover more about Elisa as the chosen one and the Inviernes, the foes which threaten Elisa's homeland and her new kingdom. The God of the world is mysterious, and didn't seem to have any overt, one-on-one correspondence to any one religion in our world. This is the kind of book you want to keep reading late into the night, and though it's the first in a projected trilogy, it's a deeply satisfying ending. 4.5 stars.

159Crazymamie
Mar 23, 2012, 12:05pm Top

Oh man, you got me again! Added to the wish list.

160bell7
Mar 26, 2012, 4:17pm Top

>159 Crazymamie: I have far too much fun damaging other people's TBR piles. :) Hope you enjoy it, Mamie!

161bell7
Apr 1, 2012, 9:21pm Top

March in review -

16. Ten Little Zombies by Andy Rash
17. The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes
18. Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
19. Timeless by Gail Carriger
20. The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Number of books read: 5
Number of e-books read: 0
Number of audiobooks listened to: 0

Pure fun - Timeless by Gail Carriger
Just plain dumb - Ten Little Zombies - I have a weird sense of humor, but it's not this. Other people will like it, I know, so ignore my eye-rolling. It will literally take five minutes to read and decide for yourself.

Fiction/Nonfiction: 4/1
Children's/YA/Adult: 0/3/2
Library/Mine/Borrowed: 5/0/0

Years read to date:

2012 - 2
2011 - 5
2010 - 4
2007 - 1
2005 - 2
2003 - 2
2001 - 1

1995 - 1
1951 - 1

1764 - 1

162bell7
Apr 3, 2012, 9:35am Top

21. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Screwtape, an old demon, writes letters of advice to his nephew Wormwood, who is on assignment tempting a young man with the ultimate goal of bringing his soul to Hell.

This has long been one of my favorites of Lewis' works, and Donna's (Donna828) read of it for a class prompted me to pick it up and reread it along with her. To my surprise, I found that though I've owned a copy for over a year, I have not reread it in the last six years or so (when I started tracking my reading). As a result, it didn't have the same sort of immediate familiarity of a yearly reread; it was more a gradual recognition as I read a letter and thought, "Oh yeah, I remember that now!" I had a lot of fun revisiting the book: it's at once humorous and hard-hitting, even convicting. I've been debating whether or not I would recommend it to someone who didn't share Lewis' faith, and ultimately I would say, if the conceit interests you, then go ahead and try it, but I think that like his apologetic works it would really interest and have the greatest impact on those who already agreed with a Christian worldview. 5 stars.

163Crazymamie
Apr 3, 2012, 9:55am Top

I have always wanted to read that, but somehow I always get busy and forget about it - adding it to the WL!

164Donna828
Apr 3, 2012, 10:12am Top

162: "Humorous and hard-hitting"...a short and apt description of Screwtape. I may have to borrow your phrase for my pithy one-sentence book summary. With your permission, of course, Mary. I'll be posting some class notes on my thread later today.

You've inspired me to read through my copy of A Passion for Books. I bought it for the bookish cover and to add to my collection of books about books...but have only read a pitiful few of the essays. This may be my new bedside book. Thanks for the nudge!

165ronincats
Apr 4, 2012, 9:28pm Top

I read The Screwtape Letters along with Donna too, but it had been a LOT longer since I had last read it!

166bell7
Apr 5, 2012, 8:07am Top

>163 Crazymamie: I hope you enjoy it, Mamie! It's one of my all-time favorites.

>164 Donna828: Perhaps belated, Donna, but you may certainly borrow the phrase. :) I hope you enjoy A Passion for Books. I confess to getting a bit bogged down by one essay that started out OK explaining how a book collector got his start, but at the end was a collection of anecdotes involving various old book transactions and how much they cost. If I were a collector, it would have interested me, but as someone who acquires books primarily so they can be beat up in rereadings, not so much. Oh well! I got past it, and I think I will move along much more smoothly to the end.

>165 ronincats: :) Someday I hope to be looking back on the reads and rereads I've had over the last twenty+ years, but for now the best I can say is what books I've read over the last six or so. There are a few that stand out in my mind as books I first read when I was ___ (fill in age here), but there are many, many more that I've forgotten.

167bell7
Apr 8, 2012, 1:31pm Top

Happy Easter, all!

168AMQS
Apr 8, 2012, 1:32pm Top

Happy Easter to you, too, Mary!

169Crazymamie
Apr 8, 2012, 1:44pm Top

Happy Easter, Mary!

170RosyLibrarian
Apr 8, 2012, 1:49pm Top

Happy Easter to you too!

171bell7
Apr 9, 2012, 2:45pm Top

Thanks, Anne, Mamie, and Marie! Hope you had a wonderful day.

172tymfos
Apr 12, 2012, 5:32pm Top

I hope you had a nice Easter, Mary!

173dk_phoenix
Apr 13, 2012, 7:56am Top

Can't wait to read Girl of Fire and Thorns... I don't think I've seen a bad review for it yet.

174bell7
Apr 13, 2012, 8:25am Top

>172 tymfos: Thanks, Terri! I hope you did too.

>173 dk_phoenix: I hope you enjoy it when you do, Faith. I'll look forward to your thoughts!

175bell7
Apr 13, 2012, 8:37am Top

22. A Passion for Books edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan

The subtitle summarizes this collection better than I can: "A book lover's treasury of stories, essays, humor, lore, and lists on collecting, reading, borrowing, lending, caring for, and appreciating books." The only things in this collection left out in the subtitle are comics and quotes on books and reading.

Do you love to read? (Yes, I know, that's an entirely rhetorical question on this site!) Do you love books just for the feel of them, for their presence in your home? Then this sort of collection, a book about books, is of course the type of read you'd be drawn to whether I had anything good to say about it or not. Fortunately, I found it to be a lot of fun dipping into this collection, whether reading for a prolonged period of time or trying to fit an essay into my lunch break.

I especially enjoyed "Lending Books" by Anatole Broyard, "Pillow Books" by Clifton Fadiman," "Invasion of the Book Envelopes" by John Updike, and "Why Does Nobody Collect Me?" by Robert Benchley. On the whole, the essays on collecting interested me less than others - but then, I'd be surprised if such a collection met my individual reading tastes precisely. This is the sort of book I would enjoy owning so I could simply read a selection of my choosing whenever I wanted and leave the rest behind. Oh, let's be honest, what I'd really love to is to have a hundred such books and select my own favorites for compilation. Recommended to all who would immediately identify themselves as "readers," and even more so to collectors. 4 stars.

176Crazymamie
Apr 13, 2012, 8:43am Top

Nice review, Mary. I have that sitting in my TBR and am really wanting to get to it.

177bell7
Apr 13, 2012, 6:16pm Top

Thanks, Mamie! So, has it made it onto the short list of TBR books? (I think of my TBR piles as the "short list" and the "long list," the former being those books I have out of the library and want to read soon, the latter being, well, about 900+ titles that I'll be lucky if I get to in one lifetime!)

178Crazymamie
Apr 13, 2012, 6:26pm Top

Ha! I am hoping to get to it next month. I think of my piles as To Read and On Deck - To Read is the lifetime pile, so your long list, and On Deck is within the next few months. I try to mix up my month's reading so that I get a mix of old and new, that way there is always something On Deck that sounds good if I need a change of pace.

179bell7
Apr 15, 2012, 2:34pm Top

It's good to know that I'm not the only one who thinks that way about the books I want to read. :) My reading so far this year has been different from normal, since I've been reading for an award (more on that in a few weeks...). This month I will probably finish few books that are not for said award, and in May I'm planning on pretty much giving myself a complete break and reading mostly fun books, fluffy books, and books in series that are coming out (and I'm really excited about... like Insurgent!).

Generally, I try to have about 5 books out from the library (that's more of a guideline than actual rule), and I have a mix of nonfiction and fiction, thought-provoking and fun to fit whatever mood I might find myself in. And I don't like to read too many similar books in a row; I enjoy them all better when I have a variety.

180Crazymamie
Apr 15, 2012, 2:44pm Top

Ohhh, we are waiting for Insurgent, too! Not too much longer - it comes out May 1st!! I like to mix up nonfiction and fiction, too. I tend to read several books at the same time, which can get me into trouble when I get too many going so I try to keep them very different either in subject, genre, or writing style. I have a weakness for detective novels, so that's my "run home to mama" kind of book when I feel I might be heading toward a reading funk. Or just in the mood for some brain candy.

181bell7
Apr 15, 2012, 9:22pm Top

I do the same thing, only my "go to" genre is YA fantasy. I often have about three books going, and I to make sure they are each somehow different - maybe one nonfiction, and two fiction, but different genres - like one fantasy and one mystery that I'm not in any way going to confuse.

Yes, definitely counting down to May 1! (Insurgent is just one of many reasons...) It will probably be the first book I finish next month. :)

182Donna828
Apr 15, 2012, 10:11pm Top

>175 bell7:: Oh goody...I have 3 out of your favorite 4 essays to look forward to. I'm so glad you enticed me to take this book off the shelf, Mary. It's the perfect collection for a book lover to dip into. I'm in no hurry to finish it because I don't want it to end.

>179 bell7:: Award? You are such a tease. Lol. I'm intrigued to know what kind of award one receives for reading books. I'll stay tuned...

183scaifea
Apr 16, 2012, 7:56am Top

Chiming in as another multiple-books-at-a-time reader. I don't think I could have just one going at once; there are just too many books out there!

I'm with Donna - staying tuned for more about this award business...

184RosyLibrarian
Apr 16, 2012, 10:54am Top

181: I'm number two in line for Insurgent come May, yay! I look forward to what you think of it.

185bell7
Apr 16, 2012, 2:22pm Top

>182 Donna828: Donna, glad to know you're enjoying A Passion for Books. It was tough to narrow it down to a few favorites essays, but the four I finally chose stood out to me.

>182 Donna828: and 183 I was a little unclear - I'm one of the judges FOR an award. When the list of 12 "must reads" are announced in May, I can finally list the books I've been reading all month!

>183 scaifea: I'm with you, Amber! I can't keep myself to only one book when there are so many out there calling to me! (Though I have been known to pause all while I focus on one for a day or two...)

>184 RosyLibrarian: I look forward to seeing what you think, too, Marie! I'm number 2 in line as well - though that's in my whole library system, so I am hoping dearly that my library gets it in and online the day of May 1, because if that's the case, I'm pretty sure I get it first. :)

186DeltaQueen50
Apr 17, 2012, 1:43am Top

Hi Mary, just dropping by to say Hi and catch up. The Girl of Fire and Thorns is being added to my wishlist as well.

187scaifea
Apr 17, 2012, 7:45am Top

#185: I do that too (staying on one book for a day or so), especially near the end of one, until I've finished it.

188bell7
Apr 17, 2012, 8:06am Top

>186 DeltaQueen50: Hi Judy! Hope you enjoy The Girl of Fire and Thorns.

>187 scaifea: Yep, or if I've been reading a couple that I'm not too into and I suddenly get one that I really want to read now... :)

189bell7
Apr 17, 2012, 8:26am Top

23. The Best American Short Stories 2011 edited by Geraldine Brooks

This book presents 20 stories originally published in US or Canadian periodicals between January 2010 and January 2011, culled from 120 by author Geraldine Brooks. After a foreword and an introduction, by the series editor and the book editor respectively, in which they both discussed the "sameness" of short stories, I knew I was in for a unique collection.

Like any collection, there were some that I hated and some that I loved. Most I liked, in some form or another. Mostly, I admire the form of the short story and how an author can say so much in so little space where every word counts and not an image is wasted. So while I never rate a collection highly if I rate it at all (because I wouldn't read the whole collection from cover to cover again), I really enjoy the time spent dipping into these collections. Even if I really hated a story, I've discovered an author to stay away from.

Of the stories that stood out to me, I enjoyed "Property" by Elizabeth McCracken, which was bittersweet but the first story I really connected to, and "Phantoms" by Stephen Millhauser, which was deliciously creepy without being horror. Honorable mention goes to "The Sleep" by Caitlin Horrocks about a town that decides to hibernate, and which just begs for discussion - I asked by English major brother to read it because I wanted to see what he came away with. But my absolute favorite of the collection was "To the Measures Fall" by Richard Powers. Its format is really unique, using second person and questions at the end of each section that are reminiscent of English tests. This could have distracted me from the story itself, except for the premise: you discover a used book that eventually becomes part of your life, even though its meaning and your responses change over time. I could relate so well that it doesn't matter that the "you" in story is quite a bit older than me and has a life ultimately different from mine. That experience is one I can understand.

190Crazymamie
Apr 17, 2012, 8:33am Top

Nice review. You make we want to read it just to enjoy the ones that you mentioned!

191bell7
Apr 17, 2012, 8:41am Top

Thanks, Mamie! My reactions to short stories are much like those to poetry - I don't read much, but when I finally do read a collection, I come away thinking "I should really read more of that..." So with that caveat, I'll say I've been thinking of using the library databases to read some short stories in periodicals. :)

192Crazymamie
Apr 17, 2012, 8:44am Top

I am reading Binocular Vision right now by Edith Pearlman. It is a collection of her short stories, and I must say it is very good. Like you, I don't often read short stories, but this book is well worth the time.

193alcottacre
Apr 17, 2012, 7:41pm Top

*waving* at Mary

194bell7
Apr 17, 2012, 8:41pm Top

>192 Crazymamie: I shall have to look into it when I have my own reading time back. :)

>193 alcottacre: *waving back* Yay! Stasia came to visit me!

195tymfos
Apr 20, 2012, 4:36am Top

I'm another reader who has multiple books going at a time -- a minimum of 2, 1 fiction and 1 non-fiction, and usually an additional book on audio, and a devotional book . . . I try to have something going for every mood, though when one is moody as I am it's a tall order sometimes. ;)

I look forward to seeing what books you've been judging, Mary!

196bell7
Apr 21, 2012, 8:02pm Top

>195 tymfos: I look forward to being able to share, Terri! It's killing me not being able to talk about much of what I'm reading... haha

Oh, but a book I can talk about is one I started a couple of days ago to fit in between all the nonfiction reading - Gentlemen of the Road. It's expanded my vocabulary quite a bit so far, and it's an interesting tale. Hard to describe, but fun!

197DeltaQueen50
Apr 22, 2012, 11:05pm Top

Hi Mary, I just finished Gentlemen of the Road as well. I thought it was pretty good, but there was a small disconnect there somewhere. I like the fact that you mentioned it expanded your vocabulary, in my review, I said that I had to read it with a dictionary close by. :)

198ronincats
Apr 22, 2012, 11:10pm Top

As I just wrote on Judy's thread, Gentlemen of the Road has been sitting in my tbr pile for a couple of years--too many books, too little time!

199bell7
Apr 23, 2012, 10:05am Top

>197 DeltaQueen50: Judy, I had the same sort of disconnect. I never had that moment where I was so completely engrossed that I practically forgot I was reading, and I'm not entirely sure why.

>198 ronincats: Hi Roni! I sympathize with "too many books, too little time!" A few days ago when I was looking for something to read, it just seemed to call to me from my shelves. I still have 98 books owned and unread, and a good 900+ (probably nearing if not surpassing 1,000 now) titles on the ever-growing TBR list. I will attempt, with the remainder of my reading year, to read some of the titles I own and have not read, but I'll see how long that resolution lasts with pretty new books calling me from work...

200bell7
Apr 23, 2012, 10:35am Top

24. Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon

Two swash-buckling Jews, Amram and Zelikman, travel in search of adventure - or perhaps adventure/trouble is in search of them - in the region of the Caspian Sea in the 10th century. I hesitate to say more, because the fun is in seeing how their story unfolds. I can just imagine Chabon unwrapping his story, a sort of homage to the old-fashioned adventure story but one that is delightfully unique. I seem to remember putting it on my ever-growing TBR list when it was brought up at a Readers' Advisory library workshop as a title that is particularly hard to categorize: Is it adventure? Historical fiction? Literary? Yes.

Though it is a fairly short novel (less than 200 pages), and I turned pages quickly, I never did have that moment where I was so engaged and involved that I practically forgot I was reading. Perhaps it was because it took me until halfway through to realize that this was set in a real place and time (Khazaria, 10th century). Perhaps it was because I had to have my dictionary out - not just because I wanted to learn the new words, but because I sometimes couldn't picture what was described without it. Perhaps I am just not the right reader in the right mood for this book. Gentlemen of the Road was a fun story that made me aware of a part of history I'd never known before, and while I may not be inclined to read this particular title again, I'm certainly intrigued enough to try the other Chabon titles on my TBR list sooner rather than later. 3.5 stars.

201bell7
Apr 23, 2012, 11:23am Top

25. And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou (technically book 24 - I forgot I'd read through this on Saturday)

Poetry. You know those books or genres or classics or - fill in the blank here - that you always feel like you *should* read more of, but don't? Poetry is my "fill in the blank" in that category. I generally read one book of poetry for National Poetry Month, and the rest of the year I bemoan my lack of poetry and my general lack of interest in reading it (despite the fact that most of the poetry collections I've chosen to read, I like). Sometimes I'm wowed, other times I'm confused, but always I feel like I should begin any review with the caveat that I don't read much poetry and - despite the fact that I was an English major - I quake in my boots when asked to interpret it.

In this collection, Maya Angelou's poems are strong and vibrant and clear - I didn't feel like I needed to pick them apart to interpret them. Unfortunately, I didn't connect with them emotionally the way I imagine one should connect with poetry. Some of them made me sad, but most of them left me feeling like I'd missed something, that I didn't get it in some fundamental way. I loved Angelou's memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. But for some reason, this poetry collection didn't resonate in the same way, and I'm not sure why. 3 stars.

202bell7
Apr 25, 2012, 7:31am Top

>197 DeltaQueen50: I read your review before writing mine, and found that a lot of my thoughts reflected yours, Judy. You stated very well some of the same experiences I had reading.

203bell7
Apr 25, 2012, 7:46am Top

26. Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen

Received through Library Thing Early Reviewers program.... and very, very late with said review!

Yangzom Brauen's memoir follows the lives of three generations - her grandmother, her mother, and herself - from Tibet to exile. Along the way, she highlights her grandmother's Buddhist faith as a nun, and the plight of Tibet under Chinese rule.

Memoirs can be a powerful way of talking about universal topics, like oppression, faith, family, poverty. I knew very little about Tibet before reading Brauen's family story. The part of the book where she focuses on her grandmother taught me the most about Tibetan society and Buddhism. From there, she moves to their flight and exile in India and focuses on her mother's experiences there. Finally, her section of the book shows their freedom in Switzerland, though because of her activism parts of it read as a political statement for an autonomous Tibet. Sometimes the writing had the slightly uneven sound of a translation. Even so, her story of one family's experiences, trials, and the changes that each generation must deal with is powerful. 3.5 stars.

204bell7
Apr 28, 2012, 11:14am Top

27. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

This particular edition of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's masterpiece is a tall, not quite oversized book, that has stanzas from the poem on the lefthand page, and is adorned by the woodcuts of Gustave Dore on the right. I enjoyed my reread of the poem, made even more enjoyable by the fact that I remembered it well enough that I did not have to piece together the meaning as I read (just putting something simple in verse format can be enough to confuse me). Perhaps more importantly, I did not have to analyze the poem for English class afterwards. I could just enjoy the words and the images Coleridge produces. There were other poems at the end - the fragment of "Kubla Khan," "Epitaph," and others, but they were in smaller print in two columns per page, not as lovingly produced as the main poem of this work and, in my opinion, not as good anyway. With the exception of "Epitaph," I retreated in my normal verse mode and rather hurried through them.

"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is a truly excellent poem; I'm not sure I realized how much I liked it before this reread.

205Crazymamie
Apr 28, 2012, 11:16am Top

Oh, I love that poem - now you make me want to reread it! Your edition sounds lovely.

206bell7
Apr 28, 2012, 11:27am Top

28. A manuscript from a library patron

*Dispensing with description of the story since I'm not really sure how much I should say*

I have, on occasion, had patrons ask me to read their manuscripts, and I generally turn them down as I'm not an editor and not really qualified to give that type of advice (also, the other patron I talked to was under the impression that librarians could do this while they were on the clock...). But this particular patron's approach was different. She wanted us - a co-worker and I - to read it more as readers than editors/librarians. Also, she approached the co-worker first, and she had said I read a lot of the genre (fantasy) that she was writing. I told her that I wouldn't be able to get to it until after my nonfiction reading was done, and she was OK with that.

So I didn't really know what to expect. There are certainly errors - primarily grammatical - and some clunky dialogue and a need for some rewriting and polishing. But I was really impressed with the story overall. If I really turned my editing brain off (I told myself to treat the grammar like I would in an ARC - it's going to be fixed, and I don't have to do it), I enjoyed the story immensely. She did a great job with the interactions of the characters as family and friends, and I found myself tearing up or smiling at all the right moments. I think with some vigorous rewriting, it could be a really fantastic book, and I hope she pursues it.

207bell7
Apr 28, 2012, 11:28am Top

>205 Crazymamie: Mamie, unfortunately it's a library copy that I'll be returning after the weekend. :)

208Crazymamie
Apr 28, 2012, 11:51am Top

Okay, bummer that you have to return the Coleridge, but exciting about the patron's story.

209lkernagh
Apr 28, 2012, 10:10pm Top

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a poem we had to memorize back in junior high. Today, I can still recite Part 1 of that poem even though I memorized it decades ago. I agree.... an excellent poem!

210bell7
Apr 29, 2012, 8:12am Top

>208 Crazymamie: A lot of my reading is borrowing from the library. It's generally a good thing for me, because most of the books I buy new tend to be books I've already read and know I want in my personal library. (I still manage to have 100 books that I haven't read, but these were primarily bought used - apparently I have more justification when I spend less than a dollar for a book I haven't read than when I spend $15).

>209 lkernagh: That's neat that you still remember some of the poem. In grade school, my spelling books had poetry in the back intended for memorization, but much to my relief at the time my mom never made me do it. Looking back on it, I kind of wish I'd done more.

211scaifea
Apr 30, 2012, 7:37am Top

Ooooh, I *love* Dore - sounds like a wonderful edition!

212bell7
Apr 30, 2012, 3:28pm Top

>211 scaifea: I did really enjoy it, and if I saw it at a tag sale or book sale, I'd consider purchasing it.

213bell7
Edited: Apr 30, 2012, 3:38pm Top

Speaking of book sales.... my library's book sale started today, and I picked up some lovely books:

Home by Marilynne Robinson (oops, now I really need to read Gilead, which comes first)
Spook by Mary Roach (actually for my sister in Maryland)
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
1715637::Stories by Doris Lessing
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Help by Katherine Stockett
Lady of Quality & Charity Girl by Georgette Heyer (omnibus)
Middlemarch by George Eliot

All for $5. I have already read The Help and The Scarlet Letter. I have been meaning to read both Great Expectations and Middlemarch and was thrilled to pick them up here, because they're both titles that I need longer than a library borrow to get through, I think. The Mary Roach book, as I mentioned, is for one of my sisters, who was really interested in ghost stories and things growing up, so I think she'll enjoy this "grown up" version of science and the afterlife as well.

I'll be going back at the end of the week for the fill a bag for a dollar day, I'm sure... :)

Edited to fix touchstone.

214bell7
Apr 30, 2012, 8:12pm Top

April in review -

21. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
22. A Passion for Books edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan
23. Best American Short Stories 2011 edited by Geraldine Brooks
24. And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
25. Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
26. Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen
27. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
28. Manuscript

Number of books read: 8
Number of e-books read: 0
Number of audiobooks listened to: 0

Standouts - The Screwtape Letters is one of my all-time favorites
Memorable - reading my patron's manuscript was pretty cool

Fiction/Nonfiction: 6/2
Children's/YA/Adult: 0/1/7 (This is a tough one - I'm putting the manuscript as YA even though it kind of wasn't)
Library/Mine/Borrowed: 4/3/1

Publication dates I've read to year-to-date:

*undated* - 1
2012 - 2
2011 - 7
2010 - 4
2007 - 2
2005 - 2
2003 - 2
2001 - 1

1998 - 1
1995 - 1
1978 - 1
1951 - 1
1943 - 1

1764 - 1

This topic was continued by Mary's (bell7) Reading in 2012, 2nd quarter.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2012

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