Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This Has Been a Wonderful Couple of Book Weeks

So I obviously posted this morning but it wasn't about anything I've read lately.  Honestly, I haven't had time to update in a while because I've been hurrying home to read more.  Fall is officially here (well, back at home winter is officially here but down here in Kentucky, I'm content with fall for now) and I've spent lots of nights laying on the couch with a fire going, a glass of wine in my hand, Lady Bug curled up on my feet and wonderful read spread out in front of me.  I know I mentioned that in one of my last real post but seriously.  I am so incredibly content with my life lately that it was worth mentioning again.

So in my post about The Thirteenth Tale, I went on and on about what a good book it was because I loved reading other people's stories.  That book, combined with some recommendations from friends and family, has gotten me a new genre trend - books about libraries or books.  I read three in a row that fit that bill and I loved each and every one of them. 

The first book after The Thirteenth Tale that I devoured (well, it was really brownies or cookies that I was devouring probably but the book was just as delicious in it's own way) was The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  Add it to the book club recommendations.  It's about a woman, Nell, and her granddaughter, Cassandra, and their separate journeys to discover who Nell really was.  As a child, Nell was discovered on a boat dock in Australia and brought up by a family that was not her own.  Life, and later death, intervened before she could solve her own mystery so her granddaughter picks up when she left off and ultimately discovers her family heritage after her grandmother's death.  The book does a wonderful job of telling the story from all of the perspectives and time periods involved and conjures up incredible images of stories that are waiting to be deciphered.  One of the only things that Nell has to help solve her mystery is a book of fairy tales that she arrived with in Australia.  The fairy tales themselves are a clue and tell the stories of lost princesses, scary old witches, homely but kind hearted crones... It gives me chills just thinking of how artfully these stories are crafted into this book.

After finishing that book cuddled in my bed on Saturday morning, I opened up The Shadow of the Wind, yet another book that tells the story of a mysterious book.  This story talks about a magical, if not sad, place that I wish really existed - the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.  I want a job someday guarding those books so they are not forgotten.  Seriously.  Anywho, the eerie tale that follows about a boy who "adopts" one of these forgotten books and subsequently goes on a quest to discover why it has all but disappeared is one that will suck you in on a rainy Saturday night and not let you out of its grasp until you reach the end and learn all of the gritty details sometime in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday.  I loved this book.  Very rarely do I read a book and think that I need to own it so that I can pass it along to everyone who is willing to read it, but this is one of those books.

Alright, that was sort of brief but it's 5:30 and I don't want to sit at my desk any longer.  Just wanted to mention a couple of wonderful reads for those of you who are going to be settling for the holidays and want something to read.

Oh yeah!  And I couple of movie recommendations too...
  • 27 Dresses - So cute that I went out and bought a copy... 
  • Avatar - I've been putting off seeing this because my tv isn't worthy.  Well I watched it last weekend anyway and hello, AMAZING.  I don't care who you are, watch it.  My mom even loved it and my mom is not a movie person.  That was the fastest 2.5 hours I've spent watching a movie in a long time.  Beautiful, political, and heartwarming all rolled into one.
  • My Sisters Keeper - Yeah, no.  Not a bad movie if you haven't read the book but I am not surprised that Jodi Picoult hated it so much.  Terrible adaptation of a great story.  Skip the movie and read the book.
  • The Queen - How did it take so long for me to see this movie?!  It was so royal, and British, and somehow comforting and uncomfortable all at once.  And I love Helen Mirren.  Wonderful.
Clearly I've been a busy lady lately.  Or a homebody... ha ha

Happy Thanksgiving friends!

100 Books...

This thing is going around Facebook, and while I don't usually do things like this, I had to laugh at how many of these books I've read. I already added the rest of them to my reading list. Anything bolded below are books that I’ve read… The italicized are those that I started but didn’t finish. Wow.

The BBC believes that most people will have read only 6 of these 100 books.  I read 68 of them.  That either means I'm really well read or have no life.  Either way, for your viewing pleasure, here's my 100 books list.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible (I read the whole thing in middle school and high school.)

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (Close, but not the whole thing… I own it though so maybe that’s a good project for Thanksgiving break. Ha ha)

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma -Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne (Yes Dad, I read them without you!)

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Just finished it! Review coming soon!)

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Inferno - Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web - E.B. White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tales Untold

As you know, everyone has a story.  Whether it's interesting or not is another thing.  But bottom line, everyone has a story.

Some stories are sad.  Some are joyful.  Some make you pause.  Some make you appreciate the life you've had or wish you'd made some different choices or been born into a different time, place, or family.  Some stories do all of those things.

I think that's part of why I love books so much.  I love people's stories too, but people are much less likely to just lay it all out there in black and white and tell you their story.  There are always parts omitted because they don't think that bit is important or because they're embarrassed or they simply forgot.  With books, it is the author's job to make sure every little important detail is included (if the details are omitted, it's probably not a very good book.  And authors can't allow their characters to be embarrassed by their stories - if the character is not willing to share, it's simply not a part of the story.  And of course, authors can't forget details!  They've never get published if they skipped whole parts of the story.

This month is National Novel Writing Month and everywhere I look, someone is trying to write some sort of story.  Those of you who get through it will probably have a product that might some day be worth reading with a lot of editing.  Not that that's a bad thing!  I used to write and I've pretty much given it up.  Apparently my characters are too embarrassed to tell their tales.  But unless you can get it just write, you're going to have a hard time satisfying both yourself and your readers.

Of course there are hundreds of books published every year by authors that simply just missed the point, so really this rambling is going no where.


I just finished a book that was a fabulous story.  The Thirteenth Tale is about an elderly reclusive author who decides to finally tell her story to a little known biographer.  The biographer is no professional but, due to some interesting circumstances, is able to treat the story with such tenderness that the sheer ridiculousness of it doesn't phase her at all.  The author of The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield, did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of each of her characters and the story within a story within a book is so richly woven that I found myself complete engrossed.  Miss Winter, the elderly author, has a story that simply doesn't seem plausible - wealth, incest, twins, mysterious deaths, and on and on and on - but somehow in the end it comes together and you're left puzzling over how you didn't see it before.  And the narrator, the biographer, has a nasty mess of a life herself that you are easily drawn into.

Clearly, I found this a wonderful read... Highly recommended.  And it's a great book club book for all my lady friends out there.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for a day on the beach but for snuggled up next to the fireplace with a mug of hot cocoa, it couldn't be more perfect.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An addendum to the last post...

So I finally finished the Edgar Sawtelle book I mentioned in my last post.  Wow, I shouldn't have spoken so soon.  That book was wonderful until the last 30 pages and it fell flat on it's face.  I can't help but take back my recommendation.  The ending of that book was awful.  Truly awful.

Sad.  I hate when my books disappoint me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My lack of blogging has nothing to do with not having anything to write about and everything to with not having time to blog while I'm sitting at my desk during the day.  By 5:00pm, I usually just want to run home.  Considering that I've spent pretty much every night for the last two weeks laying on the couch reading a book or watching movies, with the cat curled up at my feet or on my lap, a fire going in the fireplace, usually with a bowl of popcorn in my lap and a glass of wine or mug of steaming hot cocoa on the coffeetable within arms reach... Well, needless to say, I have plenty of books and movies I should have taken the time to write about.  There just aren't enough hours in the day where I have internet available.

I'm thinking of canceling my cable now too.  Me... who is terrible-television obsessed.  It hasn't been on in almost a week except to watch football, Wheel of Fortune, and the morning news - both which I can watch without cable.

This fast moving city girl, who needs to know that she can go grocery shopping at 2:00am if she wants to (nevermind that I usually grocery shop on Sunday afternoons like civilized people these days), who sometimes wants ice cream at 1:00am on a Tuesday just because (except that I'm too lazy to get out of bed and actually get it now), who still doesn't sleep well (although lately "not getting enough sleep" means I only got 6 hours... which I was lucky to get in 3 nights during college and grad school), is slowing down.  Between the aforementioned fireplace, the cat, the frozen soups in the freezer, and the closet of comfy sweaters that were a requirement for growing up in the Midwest, I could stay home and doze on the couch all winter and not complain about not seeing anyone for weeks.  Seriously, I have turned into an old lady.  Or else the years of running like a chicken with my head cut off have caught up with me and my body is finally catching up on all of that rest I've been skipping since I was 12.

October feels like it was a blur.  Honestly, everything since about July has felt like a blur.  So much has changed in the last few months, even more if we go back a year, and I think I've just been coasting along until I got to a place where I felt comfortable examining my mistakes (honestly examining them, not just glossing over them and moving on), learning from them, and moving forward with my life.  The hours at home alone give me so much time to think and for the first time in my life, I'm not terrified of those thoughts.  In fact, it's been nice to be alone with my thoughts lately - I may be an old lady but I'm certainly not the crazy person that I always thought I was.

And I'm happy.  Sounds simple but we all know that it isn't always as simple as we'd like it to be.

Alright, on to the book and movie reviews.  It's been a while so I know I'll miss a few and these will be brief but it's worth it to share some of the great (and awful) things I've discovered lately.

  • "The Lost Symbol" (Dan Brown)
    Finally got around to reading this one.  I loved "The Da Vinci Code"  until I read "Angels & Demons" and I still think A&D is the best one.  The twists aren't twists anymore if they're pretty much the same in every book.  And this one was obvious (at least to me) but I read it in one sitting so I guess I shouldn't complain too much.  I mean, Dan Brown has a style.  If that's what you're looking for, you'll like it.  If it's not your thing, don't bother. Rating: Meh...

  • "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" (David Wroblewski)
    Ok, so I'll admit I haven't finished this yet but the fact that it's taken me almost a week to get through is a big thumbs up in itself.  It's not that it's difficult or boring or anything - it's that I want to savor it.  Yes, this book was on Oprah's list and I don't particularly like Oprah (ok, can't stand her) but it's a book about a mute boy growing up in Northern Wisconsin and his family who raises a fictional breed of dog.  As someone who (obviously) loves her pets, I find it truly awesome.  Plus, the fact that he feeds his dogs cheese curds multiple times throughout the book certainly helps me cure homesickness a bit.  It's so touching and so real (although not all at the same time) - perfect for the nights curled up on the couch that have become the norm.
    Rating: LOVE IT
  • "In the Bedroom" (2001)
    Truly awful.  I'm sorry, but it was terrible. I waited for weeks to get it from Netflix (for some reason it was always on a wait) and when I got it, it took me three tries to get through it because I kept falling asleep.  Terrible.  Netflix described Sissy Spacek & Tom Wilkinson's performances as "stunning" - bullshit.  They were flat and boring and while I understand that the story of a boy who dies while having a love affair with a single mother isn't supposed to be exciting I do expect some life.  They didn't deliver.  And Marisa Tomei only made it worse.  It got nominated for a number of Academy Awards but I couldn't stand it.  Maybe something is wrong with me.  Whatever - I don't recommend wasting your time.
    Rating: Awful
  • "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" (2010)
    LOVED IT - If you have children, they will love it.  If you are a parent of children, you will love it.  Even if you just like silly movies that make you feel like you're in 6th grade and incredibly awkward again, you will also love it.  So cute.  So child friendly.  Rent it.  Two child-sized thumbs up.
    Rating: So cute
  • "The City of Lost Children" (1995)
    I should have known better than to think a 1990's French "thriller" would be thrilling.  I'll give it this much - the disjointed special effects were enough to throw you off your guard and it creeped me out a bit... but it was just weird.  Again, got great reviews, I just wasn't feeling it.  I think maybe I was just expecting too much and forgot how far cinema has come since 1995.
    Rating: It's 1995 French... what do you expect?
  • "The Changeling" (1980)
    So I didn't expect much from this movie.  "Horror" movies from the 1980's don't usually turn out quite the way I planned - they're usually so terribly made that I end up laughing instead of shuddering.  Not so much with this film.  It genuinely freaked me out a little.  I mean, it was bad 80's acting and not great cinematography BUT they followed the number one rule of horror movies (at least my number one rule) and didn't really show the "ghost."  The only time you saw a figure at all was when they showed how the boy died.  Otherwise, it was just eerie things happening and that freaks me out more than some shadowy figure.  So glad I took a chance on this one.  I think my aunt recommended it - if she happens to read this, thanks.  Well done!
    Rating: Pleasantly surprised
So there you have it friends.  The life according to me... lately at least.
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