Thursday, November 29, 2012

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Persuasion makes 5 out of 6 in my quest to read all of Jane Austen's novels.  I did not know anything whatsoever about the plot and found it entertaining.  Anne Elliot, our heroine, let the love of her life get away when she was 19 at the advice of a family friend.  Seven years later, as the novel begins, Anne is still single and now dangerously close to spinsterhood.  Lucky for her, circumstances conspire to bring her hero back on the scene.  This was a quick read compared to the other Austen novels and I appreciated that!  Next up, a re-read of Pride and Prejudice!

Read: November 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

This was a good book!  The story picks up pace pretty quickly as Laurel, a social worker in Vermont, tries to uncover exactly how a homeless man's photographs are connected to her life and to Jay Gatsby.  I really enjoyed how the story weaves in The Great Gatsby since I just read it.  The story picked up speed quickly and twisted around in ways that I did not anticipate.  I'm still thinking about how it ended.

Here's the summary from Amazon:

When Laurel Estabrook is attacked while riding her bicycle through Vermont’s back roads, her life is forever changed. Formerly outgoing, Laurel withdraws into her photography, spending all her free time at a homeless shelter. There she meets Bobbie Crocker, a man with a history of mental illness and a box of photographs that he won’t let anyone see. When Bobbie dies, Laurel discovers a deeply hidden secret–a story that leads her far from her old life, and into a cat-and-mouse game with pursuers who claim they want to save her. In a tale that travels between the Roaring Twenties and the twenty-first century, between Jay Gatsby’s Long Island and rural New England, bestselling author Chris Bohjalian has written his most extraordinary novel yet.

Read: November 2012 via CD from the library

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Lots of people were talking about how fabulous this book was and the previews of the movie looked interesting so I downloaded it to my Kindle app.  Honestly, and I know some people will disagree with me, I did not like it at all.  In fact, the only thing I liked was that it was a quick read.  

The book is written in the form of letters from a boy during his Freshman year of high school to an unknown friend.  He is an nerdy kid dealing with puberty and the suicide of his best friend.  Two Seniors befriend him and bring them into their circle of friends.  I just did not connect with the main character and never wanted to go that deep into the psyche of a troubled teenage boy.  I found out after finishing the book that it is on the Top 10 List of books that are protested at school libraries.  And I can see deals with suicide, drugs, alcohol, sex and other stuff.  I just didn't like it.  I don't think I'll see the movie now either, which is a shame because I like Emma Watson...

Read: October 2012 via Kindle

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I decided to re-read The Great Gatsby since it is being made into a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby.  I thought the movie was coming out during the holiday season, but it will actually be out in glad I rushed to read it.  Note to self, check release dates first!  Anyway, I had forgotten a lot of the details of the story since I read it in high school and enjoyed it this time around without the pressure of dissecting it for themes and motifs.  Definitely worth re-reading if you haven't picked it up since 11th grade!

Read: October 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Ooo, this is a hard one to describe because I don't want to give anything away! Amy Dunne disappears on the morning of her 5th wedding anniversary. Things look fishy and her husband Nick makes several mistakes as police and media scrutiny intensifies.  As time passes, Nick begins to look guilty of foul play. Gone Girl is full of suspense as you try to figure out what is really going on. The narrative flips between husband and wife, each telling the story from their perspective. Did Nick kill his wife? He seems innocent, but there are no other suspects...

I couldn't put this one down because I just wanted to know what happened! I also appreciated that it was suspenseful but never scary or anything like that. I will also say that I didn't love the ending, but I'm not really sure that there is an alternative that would have been more satisfying.  Overall, a quick fun read that was a good change of pace from Jane Austen!

Read: September 2012 (on my Kindle)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

The Hobbit really is one of the best books ever.  I mean it.  I read it for the first time in 5th grade (and participated in an adorable re-enactment of sorts...wonder if that is on video anywhere?) and then again in high school or college.  This time I listened to it in my car.  It was even better than I remembered.

Bilbo, a home-loving hobbit, takes off on an adventure to the Lonely Mountain with thirteen dwarves to recover treasure from a dragon named Smaug.  Along the way over the Misty Mountains, the road twists and turns as the adventurers encounter some interesting characters, including creepy-creepster Gollum.  The story is well-balanced with suspense and humor.  

If you've never read it or if you haven't read it lately, do yourself a favor and pick up The Hobbit before the movie, which looks ah-maze-ing, comes out in December!  

Read: August - September 2012 (via CD from the library)

Monday, October 8, 2012

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

I really liked this book! To me, it was a cross between Sophie Kinsella and Emily Giffin - a chick lit novel with substance. The plot is pretty basic. Alice bumps her head at the gym and loses 10 years of her memory. She wakes up thinking she is a 29 year old newlywed about to have her first baby, but in reality she is 39 and her life has not turned out as expected. As Alice learns about what her life has become and tries to remember what has happened, she has to make decisions about what really matters. I highly recommend this one - a well-written story that draws you in from the beginning.

Read: October 2012 (via the library)

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I am enjoying my quest to read all of Jane Austen's novels before I turn 30. Sense and Sensibility was no exception. I didn't know much about the story and so I appreciated all of Jane's characteristic twists and turns as the Dashwood sisters experience love and heartbreak. Of course all ends well - even if it does take nearly 400 pages to get there! Now I just have Persuasion and a re-read of Pride and Prejudice to complete my goal by March!

Read: August-September 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

I thought this book was pretty hilarious.  I listened to it on my way to work - read by Mindy Kaling herself - and it was like having my BFF in the car making me laugh to distract me from all the traffic.  It was fun to hear her perspective about things and learn a little about how she got started on The Office.  Definitely worth picking up if you want a quick entertaining read.

Read: July 2012 via CD from the library

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James

A few years after Pride & Prejudice, Darcy and Elizabeth have settled at Pemberley.  The night before their annual ball - a dark stormy night - Mr. Wickham's friend is found murdered in the Pemberley woods.  And Wickham is the primary suspect!  A murder investigation and trial follows, forcing Darcy to come face to face with his pride.  Or was it his prejudice?  

The lawyer in me enjoyed a peek at how investigations and trials were handled in the 1800s.  And the Jane Austen fan in me loved imagining how Darcy and Elizabeth might have ended up.

Read: July 2012 (via CD from the library)

Monday, July 16, 2012

What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown

Check out this book cover! I never ever would have picked this up, but my mom checked it out from the library and then passed it on to me.  I needed a new book so I gave it a shot.  And it was actually pretty good!  After a bad break up, Eleanor Pottinger goes to stay at an old estate in England.  What do you suppose she finds?  Two ghost sisters who take her back in time to Jane Austen's day.  Her mission: to prevent the two sisters from having their reputation ruined by the dashing Lord Shermont.    Will Eleanor fall in love with Lord Shermont?  Will she get to meet the real Jane Austen?  A light easy read if you happen to run across it.  

P.S. I really don't know why there are abs on the cover.  There are only two bodice-ripping scenes.  

Read: June-July 2012 via my mom via the library

Decision Points by W.

I really enjoyed reading President Bush's memoirs.  The book is structured so that each chapter focuses on a major decision in his life: running for President, choosing his cabinet, reacting to 9/11, initiating the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other things.  I learned a lot and respect him even more for how he handled his time in office.  I can't even imagine the pressures he faced and I hope that his presidency will be vindicated over time.  A good read if you want to learn more about W. and why he did what he did.

Read: May-June 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Bossypants is hilarious!  I listened to the audiobook, which was read by Tina Fey and had lots of little asides, including the audio from some SNL skits.  I especially loved her thoughts on beauty, work and motherhood.  

On crying at work:  “Some people say, “Never let them see you cry.” I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.” 

On beauty: “If you retain nothing else, always remember the most important rule of beauty, which is: who cares?” 

Pretty funny stuff.  Also, now I want to watch 30 Rock and old SNL skits.  A funny read if you don't mind a little language.  I wouldn't mind reading it again someday.

Read: June 2012 (via CD from the library)

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

Ann Brashares wrote Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which I loved, and Summer of You and Me, which was also good.  So I had I high hopes for My Name is Memory.  Unfortunately, it just didn't deliver.  The plot sounded good (from Amazon):

Daniel has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl. Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Sophia (despite her changing name and form) have been drawn together-and he remembers it all. For all the times that he and Sophia have been connected throughout history, they have also been torn painfully, fatally, apart. 

But just when Sophia (now "Lucy" in the present) finally awakens to the secret of their shared past, the mysterious force that has always separated them reappears. Ultimately, they must come to understand what stands in the way of their love if they are ever to spend a lifetime together.

You have to accept the premise that reincarnation is real, but most people don't remember their past lives.  Except Daniel.  It sounded like a nice Time Travelers Wife romance, but it just wasn't.  The past lives weren't developed well enough, the bad guy's motives were non-existent and the ending was the worst one I've read in a while. It was like the author got lazy, didn't want to try to figure out how to describe her complex storyline and just stopped writing (unless there is a sequel, which I doubt).  Don't bother.

Read: June 2012 (via CD from the library)

i've got your number by Sophie Kinsella

I love Sophie Kinsella novels.  They have the perfect mix of being light, funny, entertaining and a little thought provoking, too.  I looked forward to this fun read on my lunch breaks.  Definitely worth picking up if you like Sophie K books - or just a good girly beach read. Here's the summary from

Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry her ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her “happily ever after” begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill but in the panic that follows, her phone is stolen. As she paces shakily around the lobby, she spots an abandoned phone in a trash can. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!
Well, perfect except that the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn’t agree. He wants his phone back and doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading his messages and wading into his personal life.
What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other’s lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls, and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents . . . she soon realizes that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life.

Read: May-June 2012 (from Half Price Books)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

If you've been reading my book blog for a while, you know that I love historical fiction and that I am especially interested in the British monarchy.  For those reasons, I really like Philippa Gregory's books. They are historically accurate, told from a woman's perspective and usually lead me to spend time googling more information about the characters.  The Lady of the Rivers is about King Henry VI and the start of the War of the Roses, which I knew very little about.  Here is the Amazon summary:

Jacquetta is married to the Duke of Bedford, English regent of France, and he introduces her to a mysterious world of learning and alchemy. Her only friend in the great household is the duke’s squire Richard Woodville, who is at her side when the duke’s death leaves her a wealthy young widow. The two become lovers and marry in secret, returning to England to serve at the court of the young King Henry VI, where Jacquetta becomes a close and loyal friend to his new queen.

The Woodvilles soon achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancaster court, though Jacquetta can sense the growing threat from the people of England and the danger of royal rivals. Not even their courage and loyalty can keep the House of Lancaster on the throne. Henry the king slides into a mysterious sleep; Margaret the queen turns to untrustworthy favorites for help; and Richard, Duke of York, threatens to overturn the whole kingdom for his rival dynasty.

Jacquetta fights for her king, her queen, and for her daughter Elizabeth for whom Jacquetta can sense an extraordinary and unexpected future: a change of fortune, the throne of England, and the white rose of York.

Review: A good read if you like historical fiction
Related Books: chronologically prior to The White Queen and The Red Queen
Read: May 2012 (via CD from the library)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Emma by Jane Austen

I'm halfway through my quest to read all of Jane Austen's novels!  I have mixed feelings about Emma - the character and the novel. Unlike most of Austen's protagonists, Emma is wealthy, comfortable and not looking for a husband.  Instead, she is busy trying to set up everyone in the neighborhood but she keeps failing miserably.  Its easy to predict that the love of her life is right under her nose.  What I didn't like was how the plot dragged in the middle for at least 100 pages.  I also got tired of Emma meddling and being so obnoxious about levels of society. That being said it is still Jane Austen and still lovely to read.  Just not my favorite so far!  I'm planning to read Sense and Sensibility next.

Read: April-May 2012

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

I don't even know how to summarize this one.  It focuses on three recent college graduates as they struggle to figure out what to do with their lives.  Madeleine, an English major who is all too normal, falls for Leonard, a troubled loner.  Meanwhile, her old friend Mitchell from freshman year, has decided Madeleine is the perfect girl for him.  It was a decent book with an interesting plot, but I'm not sure I recommend it unless you are prepared for language and obscure literary references.  I read it mainly because his two other books are so highly reviewed but now I probably won't read them.  

The title comes from the "marriage plot" found in the great English novels by the likes of Jane Austen, George Eliot and Henry James.  You know, where girls have to go out and find a husband, preferably one with a good name and some money.  Does the marriage plot work now?  Or is there a modern version?

Anyway, I apologize for this review.  It really gives you nothing to go on.  I just wanted to document that I read it.

Read: April 2012 (via CD from the library)

The One I Want by Allison Winn Scotch

My firm had a table at a Chick Lit Luncheon (doesn't that sound like a fun work event??) so my work friend and I took a few young banker clients with us.  To prepare, we decided we just had to read a book by the speaker.  Allison Winn Scotch has written three (maybe four) books along the lines of Emily Giffin - chick lit but with a serious theme. 

The One I Want is about Tilly Farmer, a girl who married her high school sweat heart, has a great job, lives in her home town and is trying for a baby (sound familiar??).  Then, after visiting a fortune teller's tent at a local fair, she gets the gift of "clarity" and starts to see her life for what it really is.  She questions her choices - examining what she really wants her life to be.  

Overall, good chick lit.  Solid female character, a love interest, relationship drama, some introspection and a quick read.  I might read her other books, but there are a lot of books on my list that have priority.

Read: April 2012

Saturday, April 28, 2012

11/22/63 by Stephen King

My first (and probably last) Stephen King novel!  And that is mainly because this one was not scary.  The premise is that Jake, a teacher in his 30s, finds a portal in a local diner that goes back to 1959.  Every time he goes back, he arrives on the same day at the same time.  Each trip is a complete re-set and only takes him a minute, no matter how long he stays in the past.  Jake learns that he can change things in the past and affect the future.  He decides to go back in time to stop Lee Harvey Oswald from shooting JFK in 1963, a task that will mean living in the past for four years.

I liked the book overall.  It was an interesting premise and Stephen King is a good writer.  My complaint was the length.  The book was 800 pages and did not need to be that long.  It languished in the middle when you just want it to hurry up and get to 1963 already.  But if you are interested in JFK and don't mind a long book, this is a good one.

Read: March 2012 on my iPad

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus - also called the Circus of Dreams - is the site of a competition between two magicians - Celia and Marco - who are bound to each other as children.  As they struggle to determine the rules of the competition, they create a fantastical circus.  I enjoyed the creative story and the descriptive writing style.  It kept me guessing.  But, as other reviewers have noted, the character development was a little lacking, especially for the two main characters.  I also thought the ending was sort of confusing - you need to pay attention to the dates and I found myself needing to flip back to figure out where I was in the timeline.  People have compared this to Harry Potter and I don't think that is accurate at all.  The Night Circus was an entertaining, creative, well-written book, but not the next Harry Potter.

Read: February 2012 via Kindle

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

I have been reading this book off and on for about a year.  Its a memoir of Hemingway's time in Paris and each chapter is fairly independent from the others.  I had a hard time sticking with it because it never felt like much of a story.  But reading The Paris Wife was the perfect motivation to finish the book and see the same story from his point of view. I am just not much of a Hemingway fan, but this was one of his better books, particularly the chapters on F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I'm glad I read the book (if for no other reason than it gets Brian off my case) but I can't say I plan on reading any more Hemingway anytime soon!

Read (or finished): February 2012

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

My husband is a HUGE fan of Ernest Hemingway.  He has read most Hemingway books and will always order a Hemingway cocktail if there is one on the menu.  He even dragged us to Hemingway's favorite bar in Venice on our honeymoon (which sadly required coat and tie so we couldn't go in).  Anyway, The Paris Wife is a fictionalized account of Hemingway's first wife Hadley and their time in 1920s Paris during the heyday of Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Although technically fiction, the novel is based on real events, including Hemingway's memoir and their letters.  I enjoyed the book - the writing was easy and Hadley was a likable narrator.  It did make me sad because from the very beginning you know that Hemingway was a womanizer and that he had two wives after Hadley so you know how it will probably end.  It was the perfect way for me to learn more about Hemingway without actually reading him.  I think this one is worth reading!
Read: January 2012 via Kindle

P.S. This is Brian outside of Hem's favorite bar in Venice on our honeymoon.  You can see why we didn't fit the dress code!

Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig

Scarlett and Rhett are without a doubt one of the most famous couples in literary (and movie) history.  But what about Rhett's side of the story?  Why isn't he accepted in polite society?  What's the deal with Belle?  How did he avoid fighting in the war?  This novel starts when Rhett is a young boy and gives you his background - how he came to abhor slavery, how he was disowned by his family, how he made his name, how he met Scarlett and courted her.  You learn about his motivation for doing certain things and how different events affected him.  The novel ends after Gone with the Wind so you get a little more of the story after that famous line: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.  

Margaret Mitchell's estate authorized McCaig's novel (unlike the other Gone with the Wind sequel - Scarlett) and I thought the novel blended well with Gone with the Wind.  McCaig understood the original characters well and his new characters fit perfectly - providing good insight and balance.  Overall, this was an entertaining read and I'm glad I finally got around to it.  But if you aren't big on Gone with the Wind, this might not be the book for you.

Read: January 2012 via CD from the library

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

I avoided this book for several years!  My mother-in-law lent it to me and Brian recommended it, but I knew it was about vampires (no more Twilight for me, thankyouverymuch) and it was REALLY thick.  In a moment of desperation, I finally picked it up and was instantly hooked.  Three story lines - our narrator's present, her father's past, and his mentor's past - criss-cross through the novel revealing more and more of the history of Dracula, who very well may still be alive.  The book was tense and chilling, but never too gross or scary.  In 600 pages, I only ended up with one bad dream, so that isn't too bad!  It had a few sections of Ottoman/Byzantine history that I skimmed and I didn't love the ending (there were some things that weren't wrapped up neatly enough for me), but overall, this was a very good read and I'm glad I finally picked it up!

Summary from Amazon:

If your pulse flutters at the thought of castle ruins and descents into crypts by moonlight, you will savor every creepy page of Elizabeth Kostova's long but beautifully structured thriller The Historian. The story opens in Amsterdam in 1972, when a teenage girl discovers a medieval book and a cache of yellowed letters in her diplomat father's library. The pages of the book are empty except for a woodcut of a dragon. The letters are addressed to: "My dear and unfortunate successor." When the girl confronts her father, he reluctantly confesses an unsettling story: his involvement, twenty years earlier, in a search for his graduate school mentor, who disappeared from his office only moments after confiding to Paul his certainty that Dracula--Vlad the Impaler, an inventively cruel ruler of Wallachia in the mid-15th century--was still alive. The story turns out to concern our narrator directly because Paul's collaborator in the search was a fellow student named Helen Rossi (the unacknowledged daughter of his mentor) and our narrator's long-dead mother, about whom she knows almost nothing. And then her father, leaving just a note, disappears also.
Read: December 2011 (borrowed from Bette)