Saturday, January 24, 2015

2014 Reading List

With my list of books I want to read this year, I thought I might like to also have a list of books I read last year. It's hard to remember, but this is what I have come up with so far apart from the eight cheesy Christmas books I read on my Kindle in December and any kind of Christian Living book:

1) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell -- this was actually my first time reading this book. It will not be the last.

2) To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee -- not my first time to read this, but also not the last.

3) Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg -- I read everything Fannie Flagg wrote in 2014. I have to say, I like her most recent stuff best. To me, this is one of those odd cases where the movie is better than the book.

4) A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg -- this one is one of her better ones, in my opinion. It was sweet and I have even recommended it to some of our customers at the flower shop who love cardinals.

5) Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg -- just no. This is her first and worst book. Don't bother. Her more recent works are so much better.

6) Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg -- now, this is third in a series and I didn't realize it and read it first. It is mostly about old people that live in a small town in rural Missouri. If it sounds boring to you, we have that in common. I probably would've liked it better if I had known who any of the people were beforehand as I think it was written for people who knew and loved the characters from the series (some of whom were dead and revisited in heaven- sort of).

7) Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg -- this is the second in the series and again, I didn't realize it was a series until I began reading this one, and even then, didn't realize there was another one which came first. I think this one is the best of the three and could stand alone.

8) Welcome to the World, Baby Girl by Fannie Flagg -- by the time I got to this book, I was sick to death of Elmwood Springs, Missouri. Yep, this is the first of the series- the first and the worst. It is clear to me that Ms. Flagg has become a better  and better writer and storyteller with time- encouragement for all of us!

9) I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg -- I liked this one. I remember when it came out and was written up in Southern Living because I clipped the article so I would remember to read it because, at that point, I had never read anything by Ms. Flagg. Four years later, I got around to reading this and everything else she ever wrote!

10) The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion -- I also liked this one. This was the first one I read as it had just come out in late 2013. The story follows one of the characters from Welcome to the World, Baby Girl, but again, I didn't realize that at the time. Basically, I read everything out of order. Still, this was my favorite of all of Ms. Flagg's books.

11) The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty --This is the second time I've read this one. There isn't much of a plot; it's more of a character study, I guess. It won a Pulitzer Prize, but I'm not sure I get it.

12) The Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen -- I also read everything Mrs. Klassen wrote last year. And I read these in order of publication though it didn't matter as there were no repeat characters. They were all pretty good in an easy reading sort of way.  These are the ones I said were kind of Ruth stories set in Regency England.

13) The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen

14) The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

15) The Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen

16) The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen

17) The Tutor's Daughter by Julie Klassen

18) The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

19) Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly -- Oh dear. This is most certainly not an endorsement. I can stand neither the subject nor the author. But I love my dear coworker who really wanted me to read this and lent it to me. I tried to find something nice to say about it. Evidently, I did because the following two were lent to me afterward.

20) Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly

21) Killing Jesus by Bill O'Reilly

22) A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander -- This is the book I mentioned that I read because it was set Belmont Mansion in Nashville. It was kinda cheesy.

23) Beauty so Rare by Tamera Alexander -- This is the second book set at Belmont Mansion and it was even cheesier. George and I jokingly referred to this book as "booty so hot" as a misquoted reference to an old SNL sketch (I have since found out that the actual quote was "booty so tight" from "The Best of T.T. and Mario"- fair warning, it is horribly inappropriate!)

24) Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway -- I really wanted to like this series because it combined my two loves of Jane Austen and the South. But they were no good. I read the second one just to give it a fair chance, but they really just aren't worth reading.

25) Emma, Mr. Knightley, and Chili-Slaw Dogs by Mary Jane Hathaway

26) Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry --I think this is probably sacrilege, but I didn't really love this. The writing was lovely, of course. But the characters were all strong, silent types. No one talked about anything or expressed feelings, and that is just a world I could not live in!

27) The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy -- My brother-in-law lent this to me and it was really good. It's chock full of family dysfunction but does have some redemptive elements to it.

28) Homesick: a Memoir by Sela Ward -- This is sort of the first book I read out of homesickness for the South and the list above is what I can remember of what followed! I think it was written at the height of Sela Ward's acting career, but I have not watched either of the shows for which she is famous so I just found myself not caring. For some reason, I expected it be more about love for the South than her very specific story, but I was wrong.

29) The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander -- I read this series, The Chronicles of Prydain,  aloud to the kids over the summer. We enjoyed it, but we were also ready for it to be over by the time we got to the last book.

30) The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

31) The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander

32) Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander

33) The High King by Lloyd Alexander

34) Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James -- I read this because I knew Masterpiece was going to do an adaptation of it and I figured it must be worth reading if it was worth adapting. It wasn't bad, but it's really just so impossible to come alongside Jane Austen. I understand why people try, because we all want more Austen, but we probably need to just reconcile ourselves to the fact that we won't get any more until the new heavens and the new earth.

35) Longbourne by Jo Baker -- See, I need to take my own advice. There is no new Jane Austen. This book really was sacrilege. I hated it. Truly. It was yucky! Yucky! Yucky! Yucky!

36) Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding-- The third Bridget Jones book came out in late 2013 and my library immediately had a wait list for all three books. I didn't get started on these until early 2014. They're pretty much exactly like the movies, only everyone is slightly more charming on the silver screen. I have heard Hugh Grant doesn't want to be in the movie for the third one so I guess it won't get made- at least not until he changes his mind!

37) Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding

38) Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

39) Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella -- I read everything Sophie Kinsella ever wrote (well, not what she wrote under her real name, Madeleine Wickham) in 2013 and then had to wait almost a year for her to put something new out. And now I will have to wait again for the next book! I completely adore her!

40) Wish You Were Eyre (The Mother-Daughter Book Club) by Heather Vogel Frederick -- Oh my goodness! This is the sweetest series that I found for Amabel in 2013. I bought them all for her and read them before she did! But the last volume came out a little later and I didn't get to it until this year. It was so good, but it was the last one and we are a little sad there won't be any more stories about our friends in Concord, Massachusetts.

41) My Life in France by Julia Child -- I had started this a while ago and somehow quit reading it. I think because Mrs. Child was actually really liberal and kind of harsh about a lot of things, despite Meryl Streep's adorable portrayal of her in Julie and Julia.  I love reading cooking memoirs, but this is actually one of my least favorite. Maybe if she hadn't brought her political views in so much. She also had a very bad relationship with her dad and I didn't like hearing about that either, especially because the problems in the relationship centered around differing political views. Can you imagine being so politically minded that you would let it come between you and your family?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

2015 Reading List

Instead of making a New Year's Resolution this year, I made a list of books I want to read. The only thing is, I keep adding to it! A little over two weeks in, here is the list. But I am sure I will add to it as the year goes on- especially because it is a list of 23, and that is an irritating number (I prefer nice round number ending in 5 or 0 or, at the very least, an even number, if you please). In no particular order:

1) As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto by Joan Reardon -- my dear friend Rebekah and I were reading My Life in France together until her children hid her book from her! I finished it on my own, and I have to say, I didn't love it like I thought I would; but I think that maybe Mrs. Child's friendship with Mrs. DeVoto was one of the loveliest things about her. (I also thought her marriage was really sweet too.) As Rebekah is a very special friend with whom I have not long had the pleasure of living in the same place, I thought reading this book about a very special long distance friendship (involving a shared love of food, no less!) would be an apropos follow up read in honor of my special long distance friend with whom I share a love of food.

2) As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes -- Honestly, I am not sure why I am reading this. I believe it started as a book George mentioned to me that he thought I would be interested to know about and then I put myself in line to read it- 15th out of 4 copies on order, I think- and eventually, it arrived and was read by 14 people, and the library let me know it was ready for me. I am three chapters in right now, and it is interesting enough; I just wonder how it will continue to be now that we have met everyone and been through the table reading.

3) Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty -- Oh dear. I had this out from the library for the maximum number of weeks and renewals and still only made it through Chapter 2. It has that Faulkner-like quality of involving quite a few characters of the same family from quite a few generations in a very subtle plot that has the reader feeling like surely there is more going on here than they realize. And, if the reader is me, she will begin seriously questioning her intelligence and ability to follow such a complex and artful saga. I read a wonderful review on Amazon that encouraged me to stay with it after all, but unfortunately, the library would not allow another renewal. I shall give it a few weeks and see if they will let me check it out again. I can't say that I care much at all about Dabney Fairchild and her kin, but I do care about finishing what I started, and, even moreso, about Southern Literature, so it stays on the list.

4) 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson -- This is first on my list of quite a few by Mr. Wilson. What happened was, I read Notes From the Tiltawhirl and was so impressed, I decided I wanted to read his fiction. He reminded me of my husband and his friends- guys that I love! I was really surprised and wanted to hear more! I am sure I have mentioned having multiple problems with Mr. Wilson's parents. I really want to like them and can even allow that they are very nice people, but their writing seems harsh and judgmental and it hurts my feelings on other people's behalf. I am not sure if I had low expectations of Mr. Wilson because of his parents or if Notes From the Tiltawhirl was really that good, but it piqued my interest and earned my respect at the very least.  I will say that I wasn't crazy about 100 Cupboards and have put the next two books in the series off because of that. It's not that it wasn't well written, it's just that it was rather dark. I have heard good things about his newer series so those are also on my list and I hope they are a bit less grey.

5) Dandelion Fire by N. D. Wilson

6) The Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson

7) The Dragon's Tooth by N. D. Wilson

8) The Drowned Vault by N. D. Wilson

9) Empire of Bones by N. D. Wilson -- they don't sound any less grey do they?

10) Belinda by Maria Edgeworth -- This is a book George got me a while back that I have just never stayed with. I always read the introduction in books and the introduction to this book gave away the entire plot, without warning, all the way down to which gentleman wins the heroine's heart in the end! That took some of the wind out of my sails, but I really do want to read it anyway. George thought it would be a fun read for me because the author was one of Jane Austen's contemporaries.

11) The Last Days of Socrates by Plato -- This is another book inspired by Nate Wilson. He is classically educated and knows all this history and philosophy and stuff I don't know. I don't like it that I don't know these things because I feel like I'm capable of knowing, just no one ever taught me. Well, no one ever taught George either, but he's just read all the philosophers. George tells me I can read Plato, and that I would actually like it. So, it's on the list.

12) The Bark of the Bog Owl by Jonathan Rogers -- This is the first in a trilogy (the rest of the series is listed below) that I have been interested in for a while. I guess the reason for my interest is because the author is often linked to Andrew Peterson whose Christmas album is my all time favorite and whose fiction series has long been a favorite of Amabel's (and is listed below this series on my list as she has implored me to read them for quite some time.)

13) The Secret of the Swamp King by Jonathan Rogers

14) The Way of the Wilderking by Jonathan Rogers

15) On the Edge of the Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

16) North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson

17) The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson

18) The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

19) Gilead by Marilynne Robinson -- This is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by an Iowa author. I have dedicated the last year or so to reading almost exclusively Southern authors and you can see that this list is a departure from that. In thinking that we may also depart from Iowa altogether, I decided to read some of Ms. Robinson's works before I go. If I hate the first one, I reserve the right to remove the next two from off the list.

20) Home by Marilynne Robinson

21) Lila by Marilynne Robinson

22) To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander -- Okay, this one is a bit humorous. I read these period novels last summer by a Christian author, Julie Klassen, who loved Jane Austen and wrote stories set in the same time period-- usually about girls who had suffered some misfortune or other that should remove them from all good society, but, because of their character and courage, ended up with a wealthy and wonderful man in the end anyway- Ruth stories set in Regency England, if you will. They were, honestly, page turners, even if they wouldn't win Pulitzers (many of them did win the Christy Award though which is how I heard of them) and I quickly read through her entire body of work. Often alongside Mrs. Klassen as a nominee for the Christy Award was the name Tamera Alexander. Though Mrs. Alexander lost to Mrs. Klassen each time, as they say, it is an honor just to be nominated. And I thought I might like to read what she had written as well. And, as it turns out, she has written several post-Civil War era novels about the historical homes in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, two about Belmont Mansion and two (second one coming out later this year) about Belle Meade Plantation. I read the Belmont Mansion books but my library did not have the one listed here set at Belle Meade Plantation. I have found it at a library in the suburb where I work so I just need to go over there and get a library card.

23) The Princess Bride by William Goldman -- Well, I don't suppose I can very well read a book about the making of the movie without reading the original book as well.

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