Sunday, January 29, 2012

I just learned in Entertainment Weekly that Kenneth Branagh is going to be directing Kate Winslet in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie. I LOVED that book. If you haven't read it and you like WWII books that focus more on domestic life than actual fighting, this is an absolute gem. I love that Branagh is directing Kate Winslet. Love them both!

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Art of Fielding Review

I finally finished The Art of Fielding. At 500+ pages, it's clearly on the longer side, but what a good book. It got a lot of buzz last year, but I hesitated to read it since it's about baseball and I'm not exactly a sport's love, so I stuck it on my wishlist and left it there until I saw my dad carrying it around. He loved it because it's all about "baseball and academia". So I gave it a shot, and to my surprise, it grabbed me pretty quickly.

It's not really even about baseball. It's most about talent and failure and how one gets past failures. It's about relationships between a variety of different people. It's about how five people's lives are woven together over the course of one baseball season at a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin. Baseball serves as a mood, a setting and even feels oddly like a character.

The characters are fully dimensional. The book opens with Mike Schwartz, a catcher for the Westish Harpooners, who immediately spots the prescient talent of a young shortstop over the summer before his sophomore year. Mike works some magic to get Henry into Westish as a freshmen to play on the team, where he spends his first two seasons as an incredible player. The book skips over those two years and centers the action around what goes wrong in Henry's junior year and what happens from there.

The other two main characters are Guert Affinlight, the college's president, and his damaged daughter, Pella (named after Alexander the Great's birth place?). A final character, Owen, is Henry's gay roommate. He never gets his own point of view like the other protagonists, but he is a strong presence throughout the entire story.

Some people have compared the author to John Irving. I haven't read enough of Irving's books to comments on that, but the book has intensity and weight to it even when discussing a baseball game, which reminded me a bit of Irving. I gave it a 4 out of 5 stars because there were some moments that were a little too obvious, especially towards the end. You could definitely see what was coming for some characters. I admit that I get a little impatient with downward spirals because I'm not the kind of person who gets lost in depression. Overall, though, I liked the interactions between the various characters. I especially liked a scene when Henry's parents expressed concern over him having a gay roommate. After he gets off the phone with them, he thinks to himself that Owen is the perfect roommate since he keep the place very clean and is also usually out with his boyfriend, giving Henry lots of time alone. Something about that just made me laugh, but also I appreciated that Owen's sexuality was really a non-issue for the hyper-manly baseball players, although it does play a big role in the book. 

I think the last third of the book slowed down a bit but in general, I'm really glad I finally read this. Harbach's debut was strong and touching. Even if you're not a sports person, it's definitely worth checking out.

Here's an except from the book. Apparently Harbach had a difficult time getting it published, which is the subject of an e-book written by a Vanity Fair writer. I'm curious to read this at some point. 

Anyway, I started reading my next book, Pilgrim of the Sky by my friend, Natania Barron and I'm already on page 79. I'll probably have a review up early next week!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Female Writers

I'm still plugging through The Art of Fielding. I have about 25% more to go. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, The Huffington Post ran this article this morning about gender bias in the New York Times book reviews. Jennifer Weiner, one of my favorite authors, was featured heavily in the article. I don't always read the Times book reviews, but I found it interesting that Weiner pointed out that Jonathan Franzen's book Freedom was given a glowing review when it came out and many women who write similar books about families are dismissed as "chick lit" authors. Do you agree with Weiner?

Friday, January 20, 2012

10 Great Fantasy Series to Read While You’re Waiting for George R.R. Martin’s Next Book

My husband posted this list on facebook a couple days ago. Fantasy books tend to get a bad rap, although with the success of HBO's Game of Thrones, it seems like the genre is slowly getting more respect and growing more popular. The downside of fantasy is that the books are often dragged down by cliche story lines and archetypal characters. Tolkien is considered the "father of modern fantasy" in a lot of circles, but that doesn't mean that every fantasy series needs a token elf or dwarf character. George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" books are outstanding because the plot is fantastic and (mostly) well paced. Every character is fully realized and whether you love them or hate them, they act according to their own motives and you have to respect that. Yes, his books are long and (sometimes) overly detailed, but they are truly excellent.

In terms of the list above, I've only read a couple: The Kingkiller Chronicles and Shadowmarch. I got out of reading fantasy for a long time because of the issues I mentioned above, but I think the Kingkiller Chronicles are pretty solid. There are some stretches towards the end in both books that drag a bit and feel either unnecessary or too long. Shadowmarch, on the other hand, was insufferable. I quit halfway through the second book and I almost never stop reading books in the middle. I was pretty disappointed because I absolutely loved Tad William's other major fantasy series called Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, which I highly recommend. I really want to read The Way of Kings (the Stormlight Archive books) by Brandon Sanderson, but haven't gotten around to it yet. On one hand, I think he's done a fantastic job of finishing up The Wheel of Time books after the original author, Robert Jordan, died, but then again he's planning on writing 10 books in this series and I just don't think I have it in me to start another set of books that takes up fifteen years of my life. I'm going to try and wait until he's done the series.

I've read all of The Wheel of Time (starting when I was 15) and loved them. Granted they slowed down in the middle a bit as Jordan dragged the story out too much, but the first two are solid and three through seven are awesome. Sanderson's completion of the books are great. He's making things happen in the world and I'm really happy that he was chosen to complete the saga. The last volume is due to come out in the fall so this is the perfect time to pick them up. I've been contemplating rereading the entire series, but again, I just don't think I have it in me to start from the beginning and read all fifteen (I think that's how many there are).

One of my other favorites series is David Eddings' Belgariad. Eddings, who is now deceased, created a classic story. Poor farm boy gets swept into an adventure and is clearly destined for bigger things. The characters are definitely archetypal but the story itself is good. The sequels and prequels are weaker, although it's still nice to see the characters come back. He wrote a couple other series, but I didn't really get into them. There were too many similar characters between his worlds and they felt repetitive, although I did like the Sparhawk series a lot.

The best stuff happening in fantasy these days (in my opinion) exists in the young adult world. Growing up, there weren't a ton of options like there are now. But even then, I loved Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles and think they held up really well. I also read and re-read M. M. Kaye's The Ordinary Princess and Lynne Reid Bank's The Farthest Away Mountain. These days, kids can read so much more in the fantasy genre from Cornelia Funke's Inkheart Trilogy to Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. These stories are fun, well written and have kids walking around with thick books in their hands like I haven't seen in years. Of course Harry Potter remains popular, as does Twilight and Eragon, neither of which I think are any good at all, but overall, if you are interested in fantasy, keep an eye on young adult lit. There's a lot of great, inventive stories being written and published all the time. And if you're looking for something grittier, like George R. R. Martin's books, see my recommendations above.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Obamas' Winter Reading List

I'm not going to be reviewing The Art of Fielding until probably next week since it's about 500 pages. I'm 150 or so pages in and I really love it so far. I'm looking forward to finishing it.

Until then, here's a list of what the Obama family is reading this winter. It was great to see The Phantom Tollbooth on there, as well as several other great books for the whole family.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Death Comes To Pemberley Review

So Death Comes to Pemberley... well initially the story sucked me in. What Austen fan hasn't wanted to see what happened to Elizabeth and Darcy after Pride and Prejudice ended? PD James is clearly a fan and wrote this novel out of her own vision of what happened next for the whole P&P crew. I've never read any of James' other books so I'm not familiar with her writing. I read a few reviews that suggested that people who were not already fans of the author or Austen would enjoy this, but what non fans would even be interested?

So the story begins with six years after P&P ends with the Darcys (now parents to two boys) preparing for an annual ball. Soon enough Lydia Wickham arrives freaking out about how Wickham and Denny left their carriage and disappeared into the woods, after which shots were heard. Wickham is later found (this is all in the very beginning of the book) over Denny's body and faces a trial for murder.

I found the inquest and trial to be repetitive and boring. Austen's books typically tell more than show; often explanations are made in length and through letters before the plot can happily conclude. James tries this technique as well but it does not quite work. Explanations of events were reiterated through the trial and too much time was wasted reexplaining events that the reader already knew.

Also we barely saw the Bingleys or any other characters. We caught up with everyone from the original books, even briefly, and I enjoyed those sections although Charlotte Lucas was portrayed in a rather negative light. Elizabeth and Darcy hardly interacted. The reader spends most of the book in Darcy's head for scenes pertaining to the trial, which again were not super interesting. Then there were random chapters narrated by minor characters that felt out of place.

The mystery in the end was a bit obvious. I figured most of it out early on so there were few surprises. Also towards the end, Darcy and Elizabeth have this long conversation where they basically rehash the events of P&P, which again was repetitive and boring for a fan of the original. James had her own take on the events of P&P and I didn't really like some of her interpretations. There were a couple cute moments. As an Austen fan, I always wished that she would have characters from one book appear in the other. Couldn't the Darcys and Knightleys ever cross paths in London or something like that? Clearly I'm not the only one who wished for this. I caught a mention of the Eliot family from Persuasion and the Knightleys (and Harriet Martin!) from Emma. My mom said there was a Sense and Sensibility reference in there too but I must have missed that one and then she wasn't sure if there actually was one.   

Next up is The Art of Fielding. I'm not really a big sports person but I've heard a lot of good things about this book, especially from my dad, who loved it. It's on the longer side, but hopefully won't take me more than a week. Stay tuned for the review!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Wrinkle in Time

1962 was clearly a creative year for writers. The Phantom Tollbooth is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year and I just found out that it's also the fiftieth anniversary of A Wrinkle in Time. I am a huge Madeleine L'Engle fan. I still remember sitting outside and hearing my mom read the book out loud to my brother. She did all the voices for Mrs. Whatit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which and I couldn't help but listen. I ended up reading the entire Time Quintet not long after that and absolutely loving it.

As a character, Meg really spoke to me. She was geeky and felt out of place in her world. She was stubborn and quick to anger, but she would do anything for her family. And Calvin (the first tall adorable red head that I fell for before meeting my husband) recognized how special and smart and beautiful she was despite how her adolescent personality. Meg is completely three dimensional and easy to relate to. Her angst has a cause and over the course of the series, you really see her grow up and mature.

I started collecting Madeleine L'Engle books at some point. I loved the Austin family and Camilla. Recently I read her previously unpublished book, The Joys of Love, which was wonderful. I rarely read anything besides fiction, but I adored her memoir about life with her husband, Two Part Invention. I was even fortunate enough to hear her speak twice, and even got to meet her in person and had her sign my copy of Wrinkle.

Starting this month, Macmillan is running a year long celebration of A Wrinkle in Time and Madeleine L'Engle, which includes a graphic novel edition of Wrinkle and a brand new web page dedicated to Madeleine. I can't wait to see what else they come up with!

If you like Downton Abbey, Part II

Yesterday the New York times published their own Downton Abbey inspired book list. They also recommended Nancy Mitford, which I did in my original post earlier this week. What I didn't know is that Julian Fellowes had anything to do with Downton Abbey. I've had all of his books on my wishlist for ages and now am dying to read one of them next! Plus I like that Wade Davis was recommended. I just got his book The Serpent and the Rainbow for my elective class on zombies.

Anyway, it's a good article. Check it out!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Digital Library Books

I got a NY public library card years ago because there was a branch in my neighborhood, but I rarely ended up using it until the library's e-books became compatible with amazon earlier this year. Of course my card had expired and I needed to renew it, but since then I've taken out a lot of books.

Anyway, the New York Public Library is really embracing digital books. Their titles are available for a variety of e-readers and while they don't stock every book, they have a pretty solid collection that is growing every day. It saved me a lot of money on books this fall!

NYPL just put out a press release about the launch of their new page called eBook Central where you can find books, but also get in touch with librarians and see a schedule for in-person assistance with taking out books with an e-reader. 

Most libraries around the country are making e-books available, which is a great alternative to buying books constantly for avid readers!

Monday, January 9, 2012

If you love Downton Abbey...

I love most things British, from Monty Python to Pride and Prejudice, so Downton Abbey is right up my alley. I'm loving the premiere episode so far, especially because it reminds me of some books that I also love.

One of my favorite authors, Kate Morton, wrote a great book called The House at Riverton, which focuses on an upstairs/downstairs story set before and after World War I. Ethel the maid in Downton Abbey talked in the premiere about the world changing because of the war, which certainly affected everyone, but especially changed the life of people in service. The House at Riverton is a mystery and a family drama rolled together. It was fantastic and I can't recommend it enough!

My second recommendation is Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series. These are mysteries set after WWI, which focuses on the generation that survived the horrors of the war. Maisie was in service herself, but was a nurse during the war and after begins a detective agency. There's one book that centers on the white feathers that the women handed out during the war to any men not in uniform, which happened in the Downton Abbey premiere. I enjoyed the first few Maisie Dobbs' books a lot but never finished the series, although my mom still reads the books regularly and loves them.

Finally, A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book takes place in the years leading up to WWI. It features a Bohemian family living in England. The mother write's children's novels and the plot revolves around the various children, as well as the artistic types that fill their world, from Oscar Wilde to German puppeteers. It's a hefty book and I definitely read it with my phone opened to wikipedia to read about all the historical figures, but it was worth it!

I saw a lot of Brendan Coyle, who plays Bates in Downton Abbey, over the summer in another series called Lark Rise to Candleford. It also takes place in England, but earlier in history and features a lot of regular British actors that show up in a lot of the BBC productions, like Julia Sawala, from Absolutely Fabulous (which also premiered last night). It's about a young girl named Laura who moves from the tiny, poor hamlet of Lark Rise to the town of Candleford where she works in the post office with her cousin, Dorcas. I actually read about this series in an interview with Modern Family star Ty Burrell, who loved it. I've only seen the first three seasons (out of four), but Brendan Coyle is great (and infuriating sometimes) as the father of the family.  If you like that show, also check out Cranford, starring the fabulous Judy Dench and featuring Michelle Dockery in the last season, who plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey.

Happy reading and watching!

Hunger Games Quotes

The Huffington Post published this list of inspiration quotes from The Hunger Games, one of my favorite series of the last couple years. Love it!

Also, I was skeptical about Death Comes to Pemberley, but it kind of grabbed me so far. Clearly it isn't Austen, but so far I'm enjoying it for it's own sake.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

World War Z Review

My goal for the day was to finish World War Z, by Max Brooks.  I started it on New Year's Eve, so it took me a little longer to finish it than my normal five day average for a book. I know when I slow down a bit that I'm not fully engaged in what I'm reading. But today, my husband went to work, so I settled in to finish the last 25%.

Since it was Sunday, I went to spin class at 11am and had the rest of the day pretty much free, so I finally got to relax over a cup of tea, in my Anthropologie Homegrown Mug. How cute are these?! Yesterday we went to an opera matinee and then shopping so I never got to enjoy reading over tea.

Anyway, then it was time to get comfortable on the couch, with one of my favorite Christmas presents (I should really say two of my favorites - see the photo below) to finish the book.

So Max Brooks, the unofficial king of zombie literature, wrote this novel as a collection of personal narratives from a world wide war against zombies. I was intrigued by the premise, but had put off the book for a while because I had read Robopocalypse over the summer and read that World War Z was pretty similar, except with zombies instead of robots. Of course Robopocalypse came second and I have to admit that I wasn't really interested in robots, although it was scary to think about our technology like smart cars going against us. What I did like about Robopocalypse was that the same group of characters were revisited in each section so that you saw the war through a small group of people's recollections.

Max Brooks created dozens of characters and rarely revisited any of them, except towards the end. On the plus side, this meant that if there was a character that you didn't like, you probably didn't see them again, but of course if you were intrigued by someone's survival story, you never got to follow through on what happened to them during the war to explain why they were alive "today" when the narrator was collecting the stories. It also was difficult to remember characters from the very beginning who showed up again much later on.

The book is divided into eight sections: Warnings, Blame, The Great Panic, Turning the Tide, Home Front USA, Around the World and Above, Total War and Good-byes. Each section features various characters and their interactions with zombies. Some were military, the rest were civilians from various places around the world.

Some of the vignettes were excellent. I got pretty choked up during a story of a guy who lived out the war in Windsor Castle and talked about how the queen refused to leave and go into safety. He also talked about how medieval castles were used in Europe for protection, which made me start thinking about the Cloisters  or the barn at Hancock Shaker Village, which are some of the closest buildings to castles that I have around me. There was another story about a handler for the dogs who were used during the war and how these tiny dachshunds were used to sniff out zombies. One of the best was about a blind survivor from the atomic bombs in Japan who lived in a state park during the war and fought off zombies using his other senses. His story briefly gets revisited at the end, which was nice. The one character that was revisited the most, Todd Wainio was the most interesting to me because we saw the most from him. So I guess that was the book's biggest failing. At first it was fascinating to read about all these little moments from various parts of the war,  but then since there were so many characters, it was hard to care about the story overall. I saw this review, which I completely agree with: "Keith Phipps of The Onion'The A.V. Club stated that the format of the novel makes it difficult for it to develop momentum, but found the novel's individual episodes gripping."

Brooks never states when the book is supposed to take place. It's obvious that the initial outbreak took place sometime in our present (because of all the pop culture references: Waterboy, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Michael Stipe) and I'm pretty sure at one point it was stated that the narrator was collecting stories from twenty years after the war was over. So the WWII survivor would have been crazy old, and probably not up to killing zombies in a park. As a history teacher, I like clear timelines, so I found this a bit frustrating.

A couple things really stood out. There was this thing called the Redeker Plan, which was developed by an ex-apartheid government official in the book. The plan called for the government, military and a select group of people to be secured in a safe zone in South Africa, while the majority of people were left outside as living targets for the zombies. That plan ended up being adapted in most of the world, which is a scary thought. As an East Coaster, I was a bit freaked out by American running to hide behind the Rocky Mountains. Another things I found interesting was that many of American's immigrants became the saviors of society. In California, there were all of these white collar people who had no concept of how to labor for a living, while the immigrants ended up being used to teach the former 1% how to live. Brooks made the point that the blue collar workers and immigrants knew how to fix things and how to survive without a lot so they ended up rebuilding society. And of course, being an apocalyptic book, the whole theme is that the world needs to work together in order to survive as a species.

The wikipedia page for World War Z summed that up well:

Reviewers have noted that Brooks uses World War Z as a platform to criticize government ineptitude, corporate corruption and human short-sightedness.[5][6] At one point in the book, a Palestinian youth living in Kuwait refuses to believe that the dead are rising, fearing it is a trick by Israel. Many American characters blame the United States' inability to counter the zombie threat on low confidence in the government due to conflicts in the Middle East.[7] Brooks also shows his particular dislike of government bureaucracy. One character in the novel tries to justify lying about the zombie outbreak to avoid widespread panic, while at the same time failing to develop a solution for fear of arousing public ire.[8][9] Alden Utter, a reviewer forThe Eagle, notes similarities between the government's response in the novel and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: "Early warnings are missed, crucial reports go unheeded, profiteers make millions selling placebos, the army equips itself with tools perfect for the last war they fought and populations ignore the extent of threat until it is staring them in the face — this is, surprisingly, a post-Katrina zombie tale."[10]
Brooks has also criticized American isolationism:
I love my country enough to admit that one of our national flaws is isolationism. I wanted to combat that in World War Z and maybe give my fellow Americans a window into the political and cultural workings of other nations. Yes, in World War Z some nations come out as winners and some as losers, but isn't that the case in real life as well? I wanted to base my stories on the historical actions of the countries in question, and if it offends some individuals, then maybe they should reexamine their own nation's history.[1]

While reading, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could survive a zombie apocalypse or other world wide disaster that cannot be controlled or reasoned with, which was what drove Brooks to write this: "The lack of rational thought has always scared me when it came to zombies, the idea that there is no middle ground, no room for negotiation. That has always terrified me. Of course that applies to terrorists, but it can also apply to a hurricane, or flu pandemic, or the potential earthquake that I grew up with living in L.A. Any kind of mindless extremism scares me, and we're living in some pretty extreme times."

I am interested in how this is going to be a movie. I read the other day that it was going to be a trilogy, which means that the writers are going to have to create a stronger narrative and stand out characters that last beyond one scene. Brad Pitt is going to be the narrator, traveling the world after the war to collect stories. It will be release on (of course) December 21, 2011... when I will be too busy hiding out from whatever end of world stuff is going to be happening to go to the movies. haha

Next up is Death at Pemberley by P.D.  James. I'm usually opposed to authors writing sequels to famous books. I really enjoy Jane Austen (I've been reading one Austen a year for the last two years) but not so obsessively that I wouldn't read this. I've never read any P.D. James but I do like mysteries. Plus my mom really liked it so I'm giving it a shot. Stay tuned for the review!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Twelve

Just saw this posted on author Christopher Moore's facebook page. It's an interesting list of what books inspired one author to start writing. I've only read half of them (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Dirty Jobs and The Help), but enjoyed them all. Actually, my mom read me A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was growing up and I really should read it again. It's on my shelf but I always have new books that I want to read... plus the husband won't let me count rereads on my books of the year list. Lame.

Speaking of book lists, here's a picture from last week's Entertainment Weekly. Justin Cronin's The Twelve is listed as one of the most anticipated of 2012. I seriously can't wait for this book. I thought The Passage was one of the best books I read in 2010 and I'm dying to know what happened after the major cliffhanger at the end!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Drink like the authors

I personally like to read with a glass of wine (red inside on a couch in the winter, white on the porch in the summer), so I liked Flavorwire's list about drinking like your favorite authors. My dad just sent me this article about American authors and American cocktails. Enjoy!

Speaking of things that I like, Vanity Fair did an article on Johnny Depp, who is quite a book collector. Check it out!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I'm now on goodreads! Thanks to Abbey, who checked out my blog through Rhys Bowen's goodreads site.

I've seen this site before but did not really explore what it was all about. Social networking about books is definitely something I think I'll enjoy.

Does anyone know if I can link my blog reviews to my goodreads site? Or should I just copy and paste reviews from here to there?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


If famous writers had written Twilight...

When/Where I Read

I realize that 79 books might sound a little crazy. I've always been a fast reader but I also read a lot during the day. I read over breakfast in the morning, when I'm brushing my teeth, on the subway to and from work, at the gym and in bed at night before going to sleep. We actually have a 30 minute reading block built into the day at school, although I rarely get to use that time since I usually have to check homework or emails or post assignments and plan lessons. At the gym I alternate between magazines (I subscribe to US Weekly and Entertainment Weekly - my guilty pleasures), but I get through those pretty fast. I used to get more magazines, but couldn't really keep on top of them. Reading actual books at the gym was touch. I needed one of those plastic things to hold the book open on the elliptical, but even then, it was pretty irritating. Fortunately, my kindle changed that, which is probably why I read more books once I got it. It's SO much easier to read at the gym without worrying about the book not staying open. Now the only thing I have to worry about is not forgetting the kindle at the gym if I end up reading a magazine or playing on my phone instead.

I also travel a lot. My parents live in Massachusetts and my husband's family lives in Pennsylvania, so we are constantly going from one place to the next. I read in the car constantly, as well as on various trains and buses that I use to get around. That's another reason why the kindle is so convenient (can you tell I am obsessed with it?). It's light and I have tons of books loaded on it.

Speaking of the kindle, while I'm working on reading World War Z, I'm planning on reviewing the Kindle Touch. Stay tuned!

Monday, January 2, 2012

What started it all...

So yesterday my former babysitter and current friend, Suzy, asked me to contribute to her blog through Glamour magazine. She wanted to do a post on books for women to read this year and since I'm a huge reader, she asked me for my recommendations. She asked if she could link to a blog, but I didn't have one. The Kindle lets you link a finished book to facebook or another social network, so I've been doing that for a few months and some friends have mentioned that they like seeing what I read and getting ideas from it. I had no idea people would respond to those little posts. I didn't even do reviews - just listed what I'd read. The Kindle Touch lets you rate a book out of five stars, but again, I never wrote any kind of review. Anyway, I mentioned that Suzy suggested that I do a blog to my husband, who immediately told me that I should. So anyway, I set this up and plan to post reviews for the books that I read and maybe other things that strike my interest. I love writing, so it's good for me to write something that isn't involved with school work. Anyway, Suzy posted my book recommendations and I'm really excited to be posting more in the future!

New Books

I very rarely get books as gifts anymore since I got my Kindle, but this Christmas, I was very happy to get two interesting books.

The first is The Phantom Tollbooth,one of my all time favorite books. I have a much loved paperback copy, of course, but this is an annotated, fiftieth anniversary edition. I flipped through it a bit over the holiday and got a little teary. Clearly I'm an emotional person. Anyway, this book it awesome. It's about a little boy named Milo who is completely dissatisfied with life until he takes a journey through a magical tollbooth. What's really brilliant about it is Norton Juster's word play and adorable illustrations. It's a great book for both young and adult readers!

The second book was a surprise from my dad. It's a signed edition of an anthology of zombie themed stories authors like HP Lovecraft, Steven King and Edgar Allen Poe. I have a zombie thing, apparently. I figure that zombie apocalypse books beat out sparkly vampires any day of the week (I do love vampires, but only the Joss Whedon and True Blood variety). Anyway, my husband and I did a zombie themed run this year and I'm teaching an elective called An Apocalyptic Adventure this year. I haven't read any of the stories yet, but it will definitely help with my class, since it's only three weeks so I really need short reading material. And it's signed by the author, which is not something I care about like my dad (an avid book collector) does, but it's still pretty cool. I'm sure it'll be worth a read!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

1. World War Z by Max Brooks



My 2011 list was longer, probably because I had a Kindle the whole time... except for the last two months, which slowed me down. I take a spin class on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. I always do about 15 minutes on the elliptical before the class and stupidly, one Thursday, I left my Kindle on the shelf below the machine. Because I was in the class and then had a magazine to read on the way home, it wasn't until around 9pm that I realized I didn't have my Kindle. I called the gym but no one had turned it in. Clearly, this was a bad sign. I had previously left it at my local gym and someone turned it in right away. The spin class was not at my regular place and clearly they have a less honest clientele. The manager was great. He tried to get into the security feed, but because of where I was, he just couldn't see if someone picked it up. This was right before Thanksgiving, so I spend about five weeks reading regular books that I got out of the school library where I teach. I have tendinitis in my dominant hand, so holding books isn't easy for me. Luckily, on Christmas morning, I got a Kindle touch, which I love. And hopefully won't leave anywhere. Seriously, who really wanted my Kindle? Anyway, here's the 2011 list:

1. The Radleys, by Matt Haig, (January 3-January 6)
2. The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise, by Julia Stuart (January 6-8)
3. Reckless, by Cornelia Funke (January 9-January 11)
4. Her Royal Spyness, by Rhys Bowen (January 12-January 14)
5. In the Name of the Wind, by Patrick Ruthfuss (January 14-January 24)
6. Looking for Alaska, by John Green (January 25-29)
7. A Royal Pain, by Rhys Bowen (January 29-30)
8. Royal Flush, by Rhys Bowen (January 30)
9. Towers of Midnight, by Robert Jordan (January 31-February 8)
10. The Matchmaker of Perigord, by Julia Stuart (February 8-14)
11. Royal Blood, by Rhys Bowen (February 15-February 19)
12. A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness (February 19-February 27)
13. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum (February 26-Mach 3; mini-term)
14. The Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists, by Gideon Defoe (February 27- ; mini-term)
15. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro (February 27-March 3)
16. Murphy’s Law, by Rhys Bowen (March 3-March 5)
17. The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Ruthfuss (March 6-18)
18. Twenties Girl, by Sophie Kinsella (March 18-20)
19. The Carrie Diaries, by Candace Bushnell (March 20-22)
20. The Postmistress, by Sarah Blake (March 22-23)
21. Death of Riley, by Rhys Bowen (March 23-24)
22. Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, by Ayelet Waldman (March 25)
23. The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag, by Alan Bradley (March 25-26)
24. The Sherlockian, by Graham Moore (March 26-31)
25. Sweet Valley Confidential, by Francine Paschal (March 29)
26. For the Love of Mike, by Rhys Bowen (March 31-April 1)
27. The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald (April 1-April 6)
28. Red Hook Road, by Ayelet Waldman (April 6-April 10)
29. In Like Flynn, by Rhys Bowen (April 11-April 15)
30. Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (April 15-18)
31. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (April 19-28)
32. The Miracle Inspector, by Helen Smith (April 28-May 2)
33. The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown (May 2-May 9)
34. An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green (May 9-May 15)
35. Three Girls and Their Brother, by Theresa Rebeck (May 15-May 19)
36. The Hangman’s Daughter, by Oliver P√∂tzsch (May 19-May 25
37. A Red Herring without Mustard, by Alan Bradley (May 25- June 2)
38. Sisterhood Everlasting, by Ann Brasheres (June 14-17)
39. Miss Peregrin’s School for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs (June 17-June 19)
40. The Magician’s Assistant, by Ann Pachette (June 20-June 30)
41. Dead until Dark, by Charlaine Harris (June 30-July 2)
42. Decades, by Ruth Harris (July 2-7)
43. Godchildren, by Nicholas Coleridge (July 7- 11)
44. A Dance with Dragons, by George RR Martin (July 12-17)
45. Mini Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella (July 25-27)
46. The Plucker, by Brom (July 31-August 2)
47. The Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles (August 2 – 5)
48. Then Came You, by Jennifer Weiner (August 6-7)
49. Roboapocalypse, by Daniel Wilson (August 7-9)
50. The Magician King, by Lev Grossman (August 10-15)
51. Room, by Emma Donoghue (August 17-18)
52. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, by Mark Haddon (August 18-20)
53. Something from the Nightside, by Simon Green (August 24-27)
54. Maine, by J. Courtney Sullivan (August 27-29)
55. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (August 29-September 4)
56. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern (September 4-10)
57. Naughty in Nice, by Rhys Bowen (September 10-13)
58. This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper (September 13-17)
59. The Abstinence Teacher, by Tom Perrotta (September 18-21)
60. The Midnight Palace, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (September 22-26)
61. Girls in White Dresses, by Jennifer Close (September 26- 28)
62. The House of Tomorrow, by Peter Bognonni (September 29-October 3)
63. Miss Timmins School for Girls, by Nayana Currimbhoy (October 3-9)
64. The Lords of Discipline, by Pat Conroy (October 9-20)
65. Commencement, by J. Courtney Sullivan (October 20-22)
66. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling (October 23-26)
67. The Infernals, by John Connelly (October 27-November 1)
68. I am Half Sick of Shadows, by Alan Bradley (November 2-6)
69. Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry (November 6-7)
70. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place II: The Hidden Gallery (November 7-11)
71. Matched, by Ally Condie (November 11-16)
72. The Messenger, by Lois Lowry (November 20-21)
73. I see you Everywhere, by Julia Glass (November 22-27)
74. The City and the City, by China Mieville (November 28-December 7)
75. The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides (December 8-18)
76. 22 Britannia Road, by Amanda Hodgkinson (December 18-23)
77. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury (December 23-26)
78. The Pursuit of Love, by Nancy Mitford (December 27-29)
79. The Fairy Tale Detective, by Michael Buckley (December 29-31)

I read a bunch of graphic novels over the summer, but my husband won't let me count those in my books of the year list. He tries to read one book a month, but reads a lot of graphic novels, so really, he should let them count since he reads more comics than books.

There were lots of good 2011 books, but my favorite was The Night Circus, but Erin Morgenstern. It was so beautifully written. I've recommended it to a bunch of people who didn't love it like I did, but that's okay. It literally made me cry.


My co-worker has been keeping track of the books that he reads every year since the 1980s. He has a running Excel document with the book title, author and a little review. I started keeping a list of my own books in January of 2010 just to see how many books I read during the year. I got a Kindle in September, which increased my reading by a lot. I was able to read at the gym without having to hold a book in place on the elliptical, plus the Kindle was much easier to carry around.

Here's my 2010 list:

1. The Child Thief, Brom (January 3-January 12)
2. The September Society, Charles Finch (January 12 –January 17)
3. Roman Blood, Steven Saylor (January 18-January 27)
4. Shades of Grey, Jasper Fforde (January 27-February 5)
5. Nanny Returns, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus (February 5-February 10)
6. Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead (February 11-February 13)
7. Frostbite, Richelle Mead (February 13-February 15)
8. Shadow Kiss, Richelle Mead (February 15-February 21)
9. Blood Promises, Richelle Mead (February 21-March 1)
10. The Magicians and Mrs. Quent (March 3-March 19)
11. Hood, by Steven R. Lawhead (March 19-April 1)
12. The Help, by Kathyrn Stockett (April 1-April 5)
13. Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen (April 5/6-April 16)
14. Hand of Iris, by Jo Graham (April 17-May 2)
15. Fool, by Christopher Moore (May 1/2-May 11)
16. Scarlet, by Steven R. Lawhead (May 12-May 31)
17. La’s Orchestra Saves the World, Alexander McCall Smith (May 31-June 2)
18. Paper Towns, John Green (June 2-5)
19. Odd and the Frost Giant, Neil Gaiman (June 6)
20. The Ice Dragon, George RR Martin (June 7)
21. Water for Elephants
22. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
23. The Girl who played with Fire
24. The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest
25. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley (July 3-July 13)
26. Queen Bees and Wannabees, Rosalind Wiseman (July)
27. The Magicians, Lev Grossman (July 14-July 21)
28. The Mahabharata (finished September 8)
29. Fly Away Home, Jennifer Weiner (July 21-July 25)
30. One day, David Nicholls (July 25-August 1)
31. The Fleet Street Murders, Charles Finch (August 2-August 8)
32. The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood (August 8-12)
33. Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood (August 13-24)
34. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (August 24-September 8)
35. Indigo and Ink, Natania Barron (September 8-September 19)
36. The Hedge Knight I, George RR Martin (September 20)
37. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (September 20-22)
38. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins (September 22-24/25)
39. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins (September 24/25-28)
40. The Gates, John Connelly (September 29-October 4)
41. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe (October 4-October 11)
42. The Prince of Mist, Carlos Ruis Zafon (October 11-October 13)
43. The Tale of Halcyon Crane, Wendy Webb (October 13-October 16)
44. The Passage, by Justin Cronin (October 16-October 26)
45. The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton (October 26-October 31)
46. The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson (October 31-November 9)
47. A Stranger in Mayfair, by Charles Finch (November 10-November 14)
48. The House in Riverton, by Kate Morton (November 15-November 20)
49. Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart (November 21-November 27)
50. The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton (November 27-December 3)
51. Daisy Miller, by Henry James (December 3)
52. Matched, by Ally Condie (December 3-9/10)
53. The House on Durrow Street, by Galen Beckett (December 9/10-December 20)
54. The Children’s Book, by AS Byatt (December 20-January 2)

I'm not going to review these at this point. The ones that took me longer to read were probably ones I wasn't very into. The Hunger Games series, the Passage and Kate Morton's books were probably my favorites from the year.