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What did you read last month? > What I read January 2012

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message 1: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments This is the thread for you to list your books read in January 2012.

It would be helpful to others if you would:

- provide a GR link for the book title & author
- A few sentences telling how you feel about the book
- Give a rating

Thanks.


message 2: by Michele (new)

Michele Weiner | 160 comments I have read the following:

11/22/63 by Stephen King GR won't give me a link for this one. I didn't like it, some of my good friends and my husband did. They liked the 1950's and '60's references, I thought it was a bad time travel story.


A Singular Woman The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother by Janny Scott She was indeed a singular woman. I have mixed feelings about the extent to which she remains a mystery, as does her son.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami Another sci-fi story about travel between worlds. I loved it, but it was very long. In my review, I offer the translator some suggestions for making it shorter.

Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1) by Louise Penny Searching for another detective I want to follow. Didn't find him in this one about death in a French Canadian village and a hero named Gamache.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes It's about a man who learns that he is not always who he thought he was and that memory can't be relied upon. The best part is when he is shown a copy of a letter he wrote many years earlier and has to revise his understanding of himself.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell Muddy. About fake Indians and an alligator theme park in Florida. Of course, death and secrets are involved. Best part; the description of the mainland theme park that must be Evil Disney.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach This book uses baseball as a metaphor for life, but I didn't really buy into it from the beginning, although I'm a big baseball fan. The characters didn't seem true, the plot was too much. I liked the Buddha, though.

My ratings and more stuff about each book are in my reviews, which you are welcome to read if you have time. One has a spoiler alert, I believe. Looking forward to hearing about what you all are reading. I need some new books!


message 3: by Julie (new)

Julie (readerjules) | 1203 comments The Sense of an Ending - 2 stars. This book tried to make some good points but used a boring plot in order to do it.

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells - 4 stars


message 4: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahreader) | 68 comments January 2012. I had a full month of reading. Although most of these books had some flaws, I enjoyed the reading very much. Here are some of the highlights.

Why New Orleans Matters, Tom Piazza. Piazza, a music writer, has written a passionate long-form essay about the quirky, brilliant, life-loving communities of New Orleans and how they were damaged by the failure of the levees after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There is also a 2008 afterword. Piazza was obviously grieving and angry when he wrote many of these passages, but the take-away message is that New Orleans can and will recover.

Curse of the Pogo Stick, and The Merry Misogynist, Colin Cotterill. These are two more mysteries about the adventures of Siri Paiboun, the sarcastic, elderly coroner of Laos, in the aftermath of the Communist take-over of Laos in 1975. Pogo Stick is set largely in the mountainous Xieng Kouang region among the Hmong people. The Merry Misogynist is about a serial killer of young women in remote country villages. It is hard to find fiction (or non-fiction, for that matter) with a Lao setting, so I read these eagerly. The crime stories are not very satisfying, but I enjoy Cotterill’s cynical take on politics, coupled with his affection for Lao culture.

Killed at the Whim of a Hat, Colin Cotterill. This is a departure for Cotterill, with a new setting (contemporary southern Thailand) and a new protagonist, a young female journalist. Again, even though the actual crime story is fantastic and unconvincing, the characters are eccentric and lively and charming, and the cultural details fascinate me.

Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward. As Hurricane Katrina approaches coastal Mississippi, a pregnant black teenager and her family are dealing with their hopes and fears. When the storm surge of the hurricane arrives, they struggle to survive. This novel is raw and difficult to read at times, due to its portrayal of poverty, sex, dogfighting, drugs, etc., but I came to admire and care for the family deeply. This novel won the 2011 National Book Award for fiction. Although it is about Katrina, it has no connection to New Orleans.

The Tiger’s Wife, Tea Obreht. Beautiful lucid writing about the aftermath of the most recent, never-ending conflict in the region of Croatia, Bosnia, etc. There is a moving story about the relationship of a young doctor and her beloved grandfather, and meditations on the role of memory, lost loved ones and loved places. However, Obreht includes extended sections about some allegorical legends (the tiger’s wife, the deathless man) that bogged down my reading after awhile. The story was told in the jumpy back-and-forth style that is so popular nowadays, so I hesitate to recommend it. Obreht is a very young writer, and I look forward to reading more from her.

The Brutal Telling, Louise Penny. Although I see that Michele (above) did not enjoy the first novel, I think Louise Penny’s smart, funny mysteries set in a village in Quebec are my new favorite mystery series. The ongoing characters are quirky and modern, and the tone is sweet and positive despite the underlying crime motif. I think this is the 5th one. I do recommend that they be read in order.


message 5: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments Thanks you for sharing your reads with us. I am hoping to fit one more book in before the end of the month.


message 6: by Michele (new)

Michele Weiner | 160 comments Sarah wrote: "January 2012. I had a full month of reading. Although most of these books had some flaws, I enjoyed the reading very much. Here are some of the highlights.

Why New Orleans Matters, Tom Piazza. ..."


It looks like we have similar reading interests, Sarah. I enjoyed your take on Cotterill, who is so funny, and on Louise Penny, whom I didn't enjoy quite so much as you did. Maybe I'll try one more!! I'm definitely going to put Salvage the Bones on my ever-lengthening list of things I have to read, though.


JoAnn/QuAppelle | 669 comments I read a lot of books this month....10 in all. Some winners and losers....

I read three books that I rated 1-star this month. I must have been crazed. These books had no redeeming features:

The Odds by Stewart O'Nan
The only reason this book is in my "read" list is because I skimmed it to the end. I had such high hopes since I loved O'Nan's last book, Emily Alone.

I should have known that when The Odds was compared to his other book, Last Night at the Lobster, I would not like it. I really did not like Lobster at all. I cannot believe the same author wrote these books. Emily Alone was so wonderful, so insightful, and the reader cared so much about Emily. I could have cared less about the characters in "The Odds" or "...Lobster". They should have been published as short stories.

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger
Only good thing about this was the title! Illustrations were amateurish and repetitive. Story was ....not really a story. It was all doom and gloom. Depressing

Lethal by Sandra Brown

AWFUL. I was listening to the audio and if I had had another DVD in the car, I never would have listened to this. It was boring with corny dialogue and the excruciating sex scenes were embarrassing to listen to. Just plain terrible.

I also read two 5-star books:

American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson
EXCELLENT memoir - and I am not a fan of memoirs! This was heartbreaking and funny and most of all, inspirational. I loved how he reflected on his checkered past and how humble he remains about his success. What a guy!

An added treat was that I "read" the audio and Ferguson was the reader!

The World of Downton Abbey
Not only incredibly interesting but gorgeous too. I would recommend this to any fan of the show/series and anyone looking for background information about this time period and WW I, especially in England.

I really enjoyed these two 4-star books:

The Drop by Michael Connelly
I am so glad Harry Bosch is back - Connelly's last book was disappointing....this one was the old style that I really like. This was an excellent police procedural and showed how a case is investigated and built.... and I enjoyed every word, finishing it in record time.

The Underside of Joy by Seré Prince Halverson
This book had an incredible amount of advance press, starting last fall. I read this in one day....it has been a long time since I did that. To say that it grabbed me and sucked me in is an understatement. Lots of advance rave reviews which I must say that the book DID live up to. Good story, good characters, and I learned something interesting (Italians were put in internment camps during World War II and forced to move away from the coastal areas in CA).

Ending seemed a bit rushed. Why do authors do this? Do they just get tired of writing?

Then there were the 2 and 3-star books:

The Next Always by Nora Roberts
First of a trilogy that I will not be reading. It was just ok-----too dragged out. But I do love books that talk about building and construction and design.

The Language of Secrets by Dianne Dixon
Good idea for a story but was poorly executed. I really disliked the way there were flashbacks within flashbacks. Totally unnecessary and awkward at best. Some things were "out of time" in the story and did not fit in with the time in which they were written. The characters were shallowly drawn and the dialogue was amateurish and it was repetitive. Not a good read.....2 stars only because I finished it.

Georgia's Kitchen by Jenny Nelson
Not bad for a light book about food and restaurants (two of my favorite genres!). The author does not seem to have a background in these areas, but still did a pretty good job portraying the NY restaurant scene, before moving the main character to Tuscany (be still, my heart) and then back to NY again.

The book ended in a satisfactory way, but no recipes were included ;-(

A decent enough book, although it did drag a bit in places.


message 8: by Julie (new)

Julie (readerjules) | 1203 comments Somehow The Language of Secrets got on my to-read list, although I don't remember coming across anyone else who has reads it (until now). I guess I won't be in a hurry to get to that one! :-)


JoAnn/QuAppelle | 669 comments Julie wrote: "Somehow The Language of Secrets got on my to-read list, although I don't remember coming across anyone else who has reads it (until now). I guess I won't be in a hurry to get to that one! :-)"

I have no idea how it got on my list, Julie! Someone used to post on our AOL board and she always kept a record of where her recommendations came from. Wish I were that organized.


message 10: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments As always, it's neat to see these lists and read the comments. Thanks to everyone who shares. Good or bad, we learn from these lists, imo.

In January i read the following:

The Rector; And The Doctor's Family by Margaret Oliphant. These are the first of 6 novels about the fictional British town of Carlingford, set in the 1800s. Oliphant was a prolific writer who was mostly dismissed by literary critics because her writing was as refined as those who had the time. Because she was supporting her family, which expanded when other family members died, she knew her reputation but also knew she had to work. These novels were good, as far as i'm concerned and i learned things. For instance the first, which is more a short story, was about a man whose skills as a rector didn't fit the town and what happened as a result.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, read on my iPad. This book went quickly, partly because it's a fast paced adventure. The plot is about people who are on a search for clues & keys in the ultimate contest. The winner earns the multi-billion dollar empire of a video creator. The contest features the creator's life, focusing on his favorite years, the 1980s. It's akin to revisiting that decade. Fun book, imo.

Elizabeth Taylor: The Last Star by Kitty Kelley. Cutting myself a LOT of slack here. I was stuck at my dad's house & this was the ONLY non-religious book in the house. Once begun, i finished, but what a pathetic excuse for writing. The book ends with her Broadway debut in Little Foxes, while still married to John Warner.

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller. This latest installment of Fuller's life ostensibly focuses on her parents, but really is about her mother. Their lives in Africa was nicely explained and helped me understand choices people make to live in war torn areas.

Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura. Set in a medieval Japanese coastal village, i originally saw it as a sort of "Little House" book, as he explains the village customs & livelihood. However, it took a fascinating dark turn & liked it even more. Slowly we learn how the village, which is starving when the book begins, has survived for centuries. The POV is a 9 year old boy whose father sold himself into indentured servitude for 3 years.

War Dances by Sherman Alexie. I like the humor Alexie employs to explore the issue of reservation-raised tribal members living in urban areas. The stories are entertaining and the hidden depth insightful. Another keeper from Alexie!

deb


message 11: by Alias Reader (last edited Jan 31, 2012 09:54AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments I was hoping to squeeze anther book into January, but it doesn't seem to be happening.

The only book I enjoyed reading this month was Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 However, since I am still reading it (a chapter a week - Buddy Read) I won't list it until I am done.

I didn't have a good January reading wise. I hope February will be better.

Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington~Richard Brookhiser
Nonfiction
Rate: Did not finish
I found it to be too disjointed and thus I abandoned it.

Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever~Bill O'Reilly
nonfiction
Rate: 2/5
I found the writing style to be melodramatic and overblown. So much so it spoiled the book for me. The first 75 pages are all Civil War battles, which didn't engage me. After that it became somewhat more interesting. The writing style coupled with the well publicized errors in the book make this a book I wouldn't recommend.

The Irresistible Henry House~Lisa Grunwald
Fiction
Rate: 1
I read this for my F2F book group. I found the initial premise for the book promising. The notion of orphan babies being loan for a period of time to a college Home Economics class for them to "practice" on is intriguing. Though I felt the author did not develop the story well. I also thought 400 pages was way too long. I think this would have made a good article in a womens magazine.
I will say the majority of the book club thought the book was okay, though a light read.


message 12: by Shay (new)

Shay | 61 comments When Elves Attack A Joyous Christmas Greeting from the Criminal Nutbars of the Sunshine State by Tim Dorsey by Tim Dorsey. 192 pages. I like this mystery series- it's like a funny Dexter. Sort of.
The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell by Sarah Vowell. 254 pages. Overall, entertaining. But the inaccuracies and distortions really ticked me off. Not, of course, the whole book. First, implying that Martin Luther was the first to propose people read the Bible in the vernacular. Wrong. At least one group, namely the Lollards, beat that by over a century. Second, implying that the electoral college was some kind of foolish oversight by the Founding Fathers. Wrong, for so many reasons. Among which, the balance of powers between the small and large states, the difficulty of counting individual ballots. Most importantly, most of the writers of the Constitution were not really big believers in democracy. I'm not an expert, but I'm not writing a non-fiction book about history.
Misery by Stephen King by Stephen King. 340 pages. Not supernatural. No ghosts, evil clowns, etc. But I think it stands as one of his creepiest books.
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh by Evelyn Waugh. 351 pages. One of the joys of a truly great novel is that it seems to grow with you. That with age and experience, you find nuances and surprises in a book you've read quite a few times. This is one of those novels. One that has enchanted me from age 12 onward.
I'm the Vampire, That's Why (Broken Heart Vampires, #1) by Michele Bardsley by Michele Bardsley. 321 pages. Read this book for a few challenges. Wow, it's awful. Just utter garbage. I'm giving it 2 stars. The only reason it's not a 1 star book is that I don't like the whole genre- paranormal romance- and think that a lot of my dislike is because I just wouldn't like any book in the genre.
Caesar's Women (Masters of Rome, #4) by Colleen McCullough by Colleen McCullough. 943 pages. This remains my favorite HF series ever. Must not wait 15-20 years to reread it again. This book finds McCullough moving us into the more well known period of Roman History- for the average person. I.e., the rise of Julius Caesar. But, she does it in an interesting and detailed way. First, by bringing him into focus via the women in his life- his mother Aurelia, daughter Julia, wives, and mistresses. One of my favorite things is that you can tell the research for this book was the author's passion, joy, and must have consumed her life. She's always stated that she couldn't begin to list all of her sources. A far cry from the handful of books many HF writers cite in their bibliographies.
The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell by Sarah Vowell. 196 pages. Vowell stands in good company with this book. She joins the many good to great authors who cannot really write a short story or essay. In her longer form books on American History topics, she's witty. Some of that does come through in these short essays, but it's very uneven. You'll get an interesting essay about a restaurant in Carlsbad Caverns followed or preceded by a clunker that's trying too hard.
Bridget Jones's Diary  by Helen Fielding by Helen Fielding. 271 pages. What is it about the British that even swearing sounds charming? This is a book that feels very dated. From the references (like Princess Diana being alive) to its attitudes about career women. And yet, being a teen at the time this book came out, that is how many women felt. Very tired, confused, etc. about trying to have it all- marriage and career. I skipped the book and movie when it first came out. But, it's on the BBC list and worked for another challenge, so I've finally broken down and read it. Funniest part of the book: when Bridgit is asked about the Hugh Grant hooker episode. (Because he was in the movie version of this book. Which I now want to see to see if they left it in.
The Girl in the Steel Corset (Steampunk Chronicles, #1) by Kady Cross by Kady Cross. 473 pages. I got this book because I thought the cover and title were interesting. I didn't know what it was about except it was set in the Victorian Era. So, it was shocking when the book opens and a few pages in an attempted rape occurs. (Plus it's a YA book) But, that was a reality for some girls working as servants in that Era. Despite a dark beginning, it becomes a kind of YA League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. (Movie, not graphic novel.)
Mr. Monk on Patrol by Lee Goldberg by Lee Goldberg. 289 pages. If you didn't like the TV series, you're not going to like the books featuring the series. But, I really do miss this show.
Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1) by Marissa Meyer by Marissa Meyer. 387 pages. One of those books I had no desire to read- until I got bombarded with the ads on GR. So, I got it. I actually held out no great hopes for the book. Assumed it would be yet another overhyped piece of garbage. It was good for what it is. Not great and certainly not great literature. But a pretty enjoyable YA read.
Lost on Planet China The Strange and True Story of One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid by J. Maarten Troost by J. Maarten Troost. 382 pages. I love travel books. Maybe because I hate traveling. What really makes me shudder is the thought of visiting foreign countries where people don't speak English and have normal toilets. Obviously, this is not a thorough and detailed account of modern China. Just a travelogue. But an enjoyable one.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs by Ransom Riggs. 352 pages. This book is bad and disappointing in so many ways. It would almost be easier to start with what's good about it. Well, the premise is interesting... okay, that's it. That's all that's good. What's bad? Pretty much everything else. The gimmicky pictures that are a substitute for telling a fleshed out story. The lack of characterization of any of the secondary characters. Well, lack is the wrong word. It should be the absence of any real characterization. I rarely say, "Don't read this book." But, really, don't.
Happy Accidents by Jane Lynch by Jane Lynch. 304 pages. Celebrity memoirs are my guilty pleasure. This one was okay. I'm not a fan of hers through Glee, but I loved her in all of the movies she's been in that I've seen. A scene stealer, definitely.
Who Do, Voodoo? (A Mind For Murder Mystery #1) by Rochelle Staab by Rochelle Staab. 304 pages. Not as good as I've heard. I don't think she did a good job of making the supernatural believable in this book.
Three-Ten to Yuma and Other Stories by Elmore Leonard by Elmore Leonard. 198 pages. There were a few passable stories. But, overall, I didn't like it. I don't like Westerns, but Western short stories? Short stories are not Leonard's strength; he isn't able to develop the characters very well in a short time. Just not his gift and this renders this collection truly mediocre.
A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass by Wendy Mass. 218 pages. Just because you put someone with a disability (or syndrome, disease, etc.) doesn't make something a good book. Sure, there's a built in level of sympathy for the character. But unless you do something with it, it feels exploitative.


message 13: by Shay (last edited Jan 31, 2012 06:37PM) (new)

Shay | 61 comments 1984 by George Orwell by George Orwell. 298 pages. I'm reading 1Q84, so I thought I would dig this book out and compare. In my mind, it remains a great book. I know that I appreciate a lot of the references more now that I'm older. But, also, a lot of Orwell's technical flaws are more apparent now that I have 1000's more books to compare to 1984.
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis by Bret Easton Ellis. 399 pages. Patrick Bateman= Evil Holden Caulfield. A technically brilliant book that I just don't like. One of the best uses of first person ever, much like Catcher in the Rye. This is a book that begs to be read again due to its complexity; yet, it's a book that will probably be impossible for me to ever read again.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer by Jon Krakauer. 207 pages. On the surface this is the story of a foolish, young man who died of starvation in Alaska. But, due to Krakauer's sympathetic treatment, it's as much about our collective follies of youth. How often times who lives and dies through youthful mistakes is a matter of luck.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott by Louisa May Alcott. 528 pages. I've always liked this book. Although, I can understand how its constant moralizing puts off a lot of people. This is the first time I've read it in years and I must say I dislike Mr. March, the father. Jo says that one of the ways she would use money would be to "indulge in the luxury of charity." I think that the way Mr. March impoverished his family and yet asks them to continue to deprive themselves is really awful. He's just such a weak non-entity in this book.
Buttercream Bump Off (Cupcake Bakery Mystery, #2) by Jenn McKinlay by Jenn McKinlay. 240 pages. I didn't really like the first book in this series. But, I love baking so I gave the series another chance. I thought this one was good even though the mystery part was kind of lame. It would be a spoiler to say why- but it involves the "unmasking" of the murderer.
Where Men Win Glory The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer by Jon Krakauer. 416 pages. An excellent account of not only the life of Pat Tillman but also of the history of the west's failures in Afghanistan. According Russian general's estimates, during their involvement, to "take" Afghanistan would have required the commitment of 650,000 soldiers on the ground. All at once. Never during Russia's war did they commit this level of manpower and subsequently lost. Horribly and expensively. Afghanistan has been called the "Graveyard of Empires" and rightly so, looking at its history.
The Submission by Amy Waldman by Amy Waldman. 300 pages. This was a great book...right up until the ending. It read almost like the author had written themselves into a corner and then abruptly decided to end it. Maybe a 3 1/2 star read.
An Invisible Thread The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny by Laura Schroff by Laura Schroff. 288 pages. It started off well, but really faltered at the end. I don't know how to explain why, specifically, without giving something away.
John Dies at the End by David Wong by David Wong. 376 pages. What is this thing recently with books I read? Intriguing premise, starts out great, then ends up blah? I think, maybe, in the case of this book it's the format- simply being a book. Maybe, when it was purely an internet story, having a chapter or two posted every few weeks or a month it was better? More sense of mystery, anticipation? Anyway, 2 stars.
Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn by Kate Quinn. 470 pages. I'm struggling to figure out my feelings about this book. This reads like a "gateway" historical fiction book- HF for people who don't normally like or read HF. Like Phillipa Gregory books. I think that overall, the perspective is too modern. It probably also doesn't help that I'm currently reading probably the best HF series ever- Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome. So, of course, how can I help comparing the two?
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami by Haruki Murakami. 925 pages. Had I read this last year, as planned, this would have been my favorite book of 2011. Any description would fall short of what this book is. So, just, wow. This book changed the way I read and how I'll judge the quality of any novel I read from now on.
The Godfather by Mario Puzo by Mario Puzo. 448 pages. Seen the movie- never read the book before. I'm surprised at how good this book is. Not a typical crime book.
Everneath (Everneath, #1) by Brodi Ashton by Brodi Ashton. 370 pages. A 2 1/2 star book- if it weren't a debut I'd round down to 2 stars instead of up to 3 stars. Not really horrible in terms of idea and concept. More like a faulty execution of concept because of structural problems. For example, the moving back and forth in time, flashbacks, etc. doesn't work- too choppy, initially confusing because of lack of background, etc. Hopefully, she'll improve her next book.
Eclipse (Twilight, #3) by Stephenie Meyer by Stephenie Meyer. 629 pages. I'm pretty in the middle about this series- I neither love it, nor hate it. I think it's okay for what it is. However, I don't really feel compelled to finish off this series- I pretty much will only read one if fits for a challenge.
Rabbit At Rest by John Updike by John Updike. 512 pages. I really hated this book when I read it 20 or so years ago. When I was young. I think this is one of those books that you appreciate more as you get older. A fitting end to the series.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer by Jonathan Safran Foer. 326 pages. I liked the main character, the little boy who lost his father on 9/11. Other than that, found the book kind of gimmicky and manipulative. Barely 3 stars.


message 14: by Lesley (last edited Jan 31, 2012 06:30PM) (new)

Lesley | 239 comments I'm surprised I read 10 books with the fortnight of the Australian Open tennis!

Chronicle in Stone: A Novel Fiction. Set in old town of Gjirokaster, Albania during Italian and Greek occupation. Too much magic for me, but liked the setting. 2 stars.

Agaat Fiction. A heavy read for me involving the relationship between a servant and her employer in Sth Africa in the 50s. Very long as well. 3 stars.

Avalanche! Non-fiction. I found this an interesting read on the devastating effects of the '54 avalanche on the small community of Blons in the Austrian Alps. 4 stars.

The Last Sky Fiction. A sad tale set mainly in Hong Kong in the handover period but also Shanghai, with parallel marriages dissolving. 4 stars.

The Last King of Scotland Fiction. Idi Amin's doctor's 'account' of his time in Uganda. I expected more about the regime, and less of the Dr's personal demons, but interesting all the same. 3 stars.

The Happiest Refugee: A Memoir Non-fiction. An interesting account of the comedian's journey from poverty in Vietnam to a successful career in Australia, including the hazardous boat journey undertaken by his extended family. 4 stars.

Finding Valentino: Four Seasons in My Father's Italy Non-fiction. Great writing from someone who travels with an open mind in an endeavour to connect with her Southern Italy heritage. Includes some regional recipes which look good. 4 stars.

Unto Death Fiction. Two short stories; the first involved alot of blood and the second, alot of lonely ramblings. 1.5 stars.

My Name is Asya Fiction. A young Russian woman's daily life as an interpreter in early 60s. I think something may have been lost in the translation of this one. 2 stars.

A Painted House Fiction. A young boy growing up on an Arkansas cotton farm witnesses some horrific events before his family moves north in search of greater opportunities. I really enjoyed this boy's perspective, and his sense of humour in some difficult moments. 4.5 stars.


message 15: by Lesley (new)

Lesley | 239 comments Deb, I have added Shipwrecks to my list of books to read before I head to Japan in late March.
Thank you.


message 16: by Niki (new)

Niki D. (nikidarling) | 6 comments Wow you guys are putting me to shame here haha I only have 6 books I can credit to January.

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella I give it a 3 1/2 star rating. It was a quick, fun read with a twist. I'm usually not a fan of what I call the "chick/romancey/quirky" novels, but this one was seriously great. I think most women in some way would enjoy it. It was a great way to start off the year, and the book challenge as well.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk A Modest Bestiary by David Sedaris Not my favorite Sedaris novel, but if you like his other works you would probably appreciate the humor of this one.

Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks Re-read for the first time since I was a High School Freshman. It seemed to hit me harder the second time around; it's hard to watch someone struggle so much, try so hard to pick themselves up only to watch them fall harder each time. Whether or not this was an actual diary or a penned work of Fiction, it's still a good lesson for young adults and drugs.

Nanny Returns (Nanny #2) by Emma McLaughlin Boring. Still not sure how (or why) I got through it, but I was thoroughly disappointed. I enjoyed the first book so much, but this one just fell flat on its face.

Zero Girl by Sam Kieth

and

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Another re-read I began in College and didn't finish until about a week ago. Slow-going, but it definitely fits with the other classics in the history of Romance novels.


message 17: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments Shay wrote: "1984 by George Orwell by George Orwell. 298 pages. I'm reading 1Q84, so I thought I would dig this book out and compare. In my mind, it remains a great book. I know that I appreciate ..."

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Shay, I am in total astonishment. You are an amazing reader !

I really enjoyed reading your reviews.


message 18: by Alias Reader (last edited Jan 31, 2012 08:42PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments Niki wrote: "Wow you guys are putting me to shame here haha I only have 6 books I can credit to January.

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella I give it a 3 1/2 star rating. It was a quick, fun read with a twist. ..."

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I think you had a great month, Niki. Shay has put us all to shame. :)

It's funny, someone just yesterday mentioned Go Ask Alice in my f2f book group.

I read it back in I think it was either junior high school or high school. I do want to read it again. Just to see why they made us read it.


message 19: by JoAnn/QuAppelle (new)

JoAnn/QuAppelle | 669 comments Shay wrote: "I love travel books. Maybe because I hate traveling. What really makes me shudder is the thought of visiting foreign countries where people don't speak English and have normal toilets...."

Shay, this made me laugh so hard. I must admit to feeling very helpless when in a country where English is not spoken. France was much worse than Italy, but at least both had normal toilets. I have no desire to visit any place where I have to pee in a hole in the ground!


message 20: by Michele (new)

Michele Weiner | 160 comments Shay:

I started The Submission and decided life was too short. I'm glad it wasn't worth the effort. I also loved 1Q84. Currently reading an advance copy of Losing Clementine, which will be released next month. And The Obamas and John Kennedy, Elusive Hero and Rule and Ruin. Next up, a well-reviewed book about Mitt Romney.


message 21: by Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) (last edited Feb 01, 2012 07:08AM) (new)

Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) I wish I could read like Shay too!

This month I read only one five star book and it was a repeat.
Wuthering Heights! My most favorite of any classic book. I am always amazed at the depth of its characters, the pain of the setting, and the sorrows of lost love it encompasses.

Two of my books were four star novels.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was a scathing novel on the state of Vivtorian marriages and the way women were perceived and treated in that time. Kudos to Anne Bronte for having the courage to write about it so eloquently. Of course the book was bashed by society.....no surprise there...
World Without End I have wanted to read this book for ages. It was, after a two hundred year span a continuation of the people and times of Kingsbridge with all their deceits, cunning, women with spunk, and priests who were certainly no credit to their ranks. A good solid read and since I like Ken Follet a pleasing one for me.
IQ84 (for some reason GR says there is not such book!) I would have given this a higher rating but for the very disappointing Book 3. Having read other Murakami books, I knew what to expect and was for Book 1 and 2 blown away. Unfortunately, I was pulled back to earth (with only one moon) and felt the last book to be unfocused, written quickly, and certainly seemed like an afterthought.

My three star reads were:
Villette Another Bronte book written by the sister who wrote Jane Eyre? I felt it was a fine character study of a very cold, unemotional woman, one Lucy Snowe. The drawback was that there was much rhetoric on religion. The age of question of Catholic versus Protestant was addressed way too much in this book. Give me one chapter on religion and I am fine, interspersed in a whole book, not so fine.
Bunner Sisters This was another of Edith Wharton's well written and perceptive novls. It was not one of her best, but interesting in the fact that when all else goes awry, one always has family to fall back on.(in this case a devoted sister)
The Remains This book was really a borderline three, but it did hold my interest in this tale of murder and mystery with a bit of the otherworldly thrown in on the side.
The Tranlator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur (another book GR couldn't find) This was an ok read, but it left you with that kind of bereft feeling. We all know of the awfulness of that situation in Darfur and the author just was sort of factual and I guess I wanted emotional. The three was because I am always partial to memoirs of horrid times.

My two star book was
Brideshead Revisited I just could not figure out what this author was trying to say. Were we for homosexuality, Catholicism and being a dedicated Catholic, or against theses elements? If in fact the story was about homosexuality I am befuddled. There was so much beating around the bush that figuratively there was no bush left to beat. I thought the writing was engaging but the innuendoes got to me big time.

My abandoned book was
Notes from Underground What is it with these Russian authors? Didn't anything good ever happen in Mother Russia? Dark, gloomy, and big time boring are words to describe this novel. Zeesh, they are are a depressing lot!


message 22: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments JoAnn/QuAppelle wrote: The World of Downton Abbey
Not only incredibly interesting but gorgeous too. I would recommend this to any fan of the show/series and anyone looking for background information about this time period and WW I, especially in England.

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Still waiting on this from the library. Glad to hear it was a 5 star book.


message 23: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments Marialyce wrote: IQ84 (for some reason GR says there is not such book!)

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The title is the #1 not the letter I

When you can't find a title on GR, you can put the author's name in instead. That will give you a list of their books


message 24: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments Marialyce wrote: My abandoned book was
Notes from Underground What is it with these Russian authors? Didn't anything good ever happen in Mother Russia? Dark, gloomy, and big time boring are words to describe this novel. Zeesh, they are are a depressing lot!

---------------

I read Notes from Underground. I did finish it, but I can't say I enjoyed it. I don't know if I totally got the point of it.

On the other hand, I thought Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment was very good. Though one must read it with commentary notes to get all the references. It is worth the effort. I hope a group like the classics board here at GR selects it one day. It would be great to read it with a such a group.


message 25: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments Michele wrote: 1Q84 Another sci-fi story about travel between worlds. I loved it, but it was very long. In my review, I offer the translator some suggestions for making it shorter.
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I am not into sci-fi, so I can't see myself attempting this huge book.
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Michele wrote: The Art of Fielding This book uses baseball as a metaphor for life, but I didn't really buy into it from the beginning, although I'm a big baseball fan. The characters didn't seem true, the plot was too much. I liked the Buddha, though.
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I like watch professional baseball. However, I don't like to read about it. I was on the fence about this book. I guess I'll take a pass for now.


message 26: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments Julie wrote: "The Sense of an Ending - 2 stars. This book tried to make some good points but used a boring plot in order to do it.
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Sorry to see you only gave it 2 stars. I was going to give this a shot as it's only 176 pages. Maybe if I see it at the library I read a few pages to see if it grabs me.


message 27: by Alias Reader (last edited Feb 01, 2012 09:03AM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments Madrano wrote: Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller. This latest installment of Fuller's life ostensibly focuses on her parents, but really is about her mother. Their lives in Africa was nicely explained and helped me understand choices people make to live in war torn areas.
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Having read, and enjoyed, her other two books I'll read this one.

I do love the titles she gives books.
I also like the pictures on the covers.

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller


message 28: by Shay (new)

Shay | 61 comments Alias Reader wrote: "Michele wrote: 1Q84 Another sci-fi story about travel between worlds. I loved it, but it was very long. In my review, I offer the translator some suggestions for making it shorter.
-------------

I..."


I think 1Q84 was more in the magical realism genre. Although, you could also describe it as a metaphysical or epistemological mystery. I think, though, that the repetition may have been deliberate. One reason may be that sometimes I would overlook a reference, but having the author bring it up again later made me think of something. For example, the town of cats. Mentioning it after certain events or in a slightly different way made me think of the way the cat, the Chinese Zodiac, and the setting up of alternative worlds come together.


message 29: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments Shay wrote: "I think 1Q84 was more in the magical realism genre.."
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That is probably one of my least favorite genre. They say that One Hundred Years of Solitude belongs in that genre.

I tried to read this book 3 times. Once with Oprah's group, another time when President Clinton named it a favorite. One time making it to 300 pages. I just couldn't do it and in order to keep my sanity I quit.

I did like 1984 though I don't know if I would call that magical realism. I don't know what genre it belongs in.


message 30: by Shay (new)

Shay | 61 comments 1984 is dystopian which is usually considered a subgenre of science fiction, I believe.


message 31: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments Shay wrote: "1984 is dystopian which is usually considered a subgenre of science fiction, I believe."
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Thanks. I wrongly assumed that 1Q84 was a book that sort of paid homage to or had some connection to 1984.

I don't mind dystopian at all. Flying carpets not so much.


message 32: by Shay (new)

Shay | 61 comments Alias Reader wrote: "Shay wrote: "1984 is dystopian which is usually considered a subgenre of science fiction, I believe."
------------

Thanks. I wrongly assumed that 1Q84 was a book that sort of pai..."


It does have a connection to 1984. Not in terms of style and technique, though. I think Murakami keyed in on 1984 in the sense of what is truth vs. collective truth vs. experiential truth, etc. More about the nature of how we construct reality and define what is real.


message 33: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments Okay, now I get it. Sometimes it takes awhile with me !

Thanks for explaining it to me.


message 34: by Michele (new)

Michele Weiner | 160 comments Shay wrote: "Alias Reader wrote: "Michele wrote: 1Q84 Another sci-fi story about travel between worlds. I loved it, but it was very long. In my review, I offer the translator some suggestions for making it shor..."

I'm sure Murakami had a purpose, but I've never seen anything like this technique before, and I can't figure it out. First, he'd explain a concept or event in several paragraphs. Then, immediately following the long form explanation, he would summarize the idea in several italicized sentences. Finally, and again IMMEDIATELY after the italics, he wrapped the whole thing up a third time in a single boldface sentence. What's up with that?


message 35: by Lesley (last edited Feb 01, 2012 06:22PM) (new)

Lesley | 239 comments Gosh, I would find that confusing and unnecessary.


message 36: by JoAnn/QuAppelle (new)

JoAnn/QuAppelle | 669 comments Michele wrote: "First, he'd explain a concept or event in several paragraphs. Then, immediately following the long form explanation, he would summarize the idea in several italicized sentences. Finally, and again IMMEDIATELY after the italics, he wrapped the whole thing up a third time in a single boldface sentence. What's up with that? .."

I really hate "devices" like this that I believe authors use to get attention. grrr


message 37: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments That doesn't sound like something I would enjoy.


message 38: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments Michele wrote: "Then, immediately following the long form explanation, he would summarize the idea in several italicized sentences. Finally, and again IMMEDIATELY after the italics, he wrapped the whole thing up a third time in a single boldface sentence. What's up with that? ..."

This sounds more like an exercise in writing than a completed work. Interesting. I know i'll still read it, just at a later date.

deb


message 39: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments I cannot begin to tell you how much i am enjoying this month's roundup of "Books Read". It's great to read the commentary, so we can decide if we want to explore more, bypass or just run & get that book! It's also a pleasure to briefly learn something about the book or genre, too. A big THANK YOU to everyone who has offered titles & info.

deb


message 40: by Madrano (last edited Feb 02, 2012 08:10AM) (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments Marialyce wrote: "My three star reads were:
Villette Another Bronte book written by the sister who wrote Jane Eyre? I felt it was a fine character study of a very cold, unemotional woman, one Lucy Snowe. The drawback was that there was much rhetoric on religion. The age of question of Catholic versus Protestant was addressed way too much in this book. Give me one chapter on religion and I am fine, interspersed in a whole book, not so fine...."


I vaguely recall the religious part but the story and Lucy's character overcame my dislike for that topic, i suspect. She was a character i didn't expect to see in literature of that era, so that fact intrigued me more than anything else.

Marialyce, (view spoiler)

deb


message 41: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments Lesley wrote: "I'm surprised I read 10 books with the fortnight of the Australian Open tennis! ..."

I'll bet! Meanwhile, your books must help you feel as though you've traveled the rest of the month. So many of your books were about different countries. Neat.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Deb I (view spoiler)

As I said not a wow book for me like The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was.


message 43: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments Alias Reader wrote: "Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington~Richard Brookhiser
Nonfiction
Rate: Did not finish
I found it to be too disjointed and thus I abandoned it...."


How disappointing for you, Alias. Will you try another Washington bio any time soon? When i complete Moby Dick, i am going to read John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, a Private Life by Paul C. Nagel.


message 44: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments Marialyce wrote: "Deb I [spoilers removed]

As I said not a wow book for me like The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was."


Marialyce, your group's discussion sounds good. The religious aspect regarding their proposed marriage wasn't mentioned in mine. Or, rather, not that i recall. Also, (view spoiler)

Thank you for sharing those thoughts. I agree about the similarities between Lucy and her author. Near the beginning of the novel, when her voyage across the channel was described, i thought more of Emily, as i more often associate her with one who would treasure the experience of the storm.

deb


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Deb, some in out group felt that the shipwreck was an analogy.

(view spoiler) This was one opinion, Deb.


message 46: by Madrano (new)

Madrano (madran) | 3732 comments Interesting, Marialyce. I can see why a person would think along those lines. I'm not awfully good with seeing things like that, so every bit helps.

Thank you for sharing these bits with me. It is a book i'd like to reread someday, mainly because it needs refreshing in my mind. When there isn't a filmed version, one tends to lose some details. (Of course sometimes the filmed version omits the very details i recall, but that's a horse of a different color.) Oh, there was a '70s filmed version, apparently not out on video. Never saw or heard of it until now.

deb


message 47: by Candi (new)


message 48: by Michele (new)

Michele Weiner | 160 comments What did you think of Technical Virgin?


message 49: by Alias Reader (last edited Feb 03, 2012 01:39PM) (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 16279 comments Candi wrote: "I read Technical Virgin: How Far is Too Far? in January!"
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Welcome to Book Nook Cafe, Candi. Thanks for sharing your January read with us.

Thank you for providing the GR link. That really helps others learn more info on the book/ author.

As noted in post #1, it would be helpful to others if you would also:
- Write a few sentences telling how you feel about the book
- Give a rating

Thanks !

I look forward to chatting about books with you.:)


message 50: by Joie (last edited Feb 03, 2012 03:13PM) (new)

Joie | 6 comments In during my 10 day summer beach holiday in January I read A Weekend with Mr. Darcy which was simply ok. As a fan of Jane Austen I am venturing further afield by reading some derivative novels like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Another book I read was Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks [see below]]. Wonderfully written but the ending kinda left me high and dry. Not what I predicted at all but that in itself added to its appeal. The characters (semi fictional) were interesting and simply described which made them come to life in my imagination. Descriptions of scenery was just right (too much sees me scanning ahead for dialogue) and so the pace of the book was quite well timed. Don't get me started on the feminist issues in this book - that's a whole other chapter!Caleb's Crossing


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