Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Year End Round Up

I just barely hit the 52 mark for books I read in 2016.  And now I will list them and rate them. In many ways, this is an unfair rating system because I may recommend something to someone that I didn't like, and I can certainly recognize that some of these are very well written even if I didn't enjoy them, but because I am tired of always trying to be objective and wasting time on stuff I don't like to read, this is going to be my personal enjoyment rating, aptly done with a thumbs up or thumbs down emoji, to show the whimsical nature of the rating process. I am not interested in a serious comment based system for now because that is how books like The Scarlet Letter and Moby Dick keep making lists- they are inarguably well done, but hold no enjoyment factor. This is purely whether I liked it or not. The thinking face means I do remember the book, but I had mixed feelings (which is a better rating, in my opinion, than just flat our not remembering the book much at all).

1) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith πŸ‘Ž

2) Adam Bede by George Eliot πŸ‘

3) Ethan Frome by Edith WhartonπŸ‘Ž

4) Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell πŸ‘Ž

5) Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen πŸ‘

6) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen πŸ‘

7) Mansfield Park by Jane Austen πŸ‘

8) Emma by Jane Austen πŸ‘

9) Persuasion by Jane Austen πŸ‘

10) Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen πŸ‘

11) Jane Austen by Peter Leithart πŸ‘Ž

12) Jane Austen's First Love by Syrie James -- I honestly don't remember anything about this book at all.

13) Stonewall by John Dwyer πŸ‘Ž

14) Life in Motion by Misty Copeland πŸ‘Ž

15) Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole πŸ‘Ž

16) Uncle Fred in Springtime by P.G. Wodehouse πŸ‘

17) Cocktail Time by P.G. Wodehouse πŸ‘

18) Service with a Smile by P.G. Wodehouse πŸ‘

19) After You by Jojo Moyes - I don't remember if I liked this one or not.

20) The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay πŸ‘Ž

21) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling - πŸ€”

22) Smith of Wootten Major by J.R.R. Tolkien πŸ‘Ž

23) Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross πŸ‘Ž

24) Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro πŸ‘Ž

25) The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough - πŸ€”

26) Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe πŸ‘

27) Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry π ˆπŸ‘

28) The Nesting Place by Miquillyn Smith πŸ€”

29) The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins πŸ‘

30) The Matchmaker by Elin Hildebrand πŸ‘Ž

31) Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty πŸ‘

32) A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman πŸ€”

33) Belgravia by Julian Fellowes πŸ‘Ž

34) Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling πŸ€”

35) Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan πŸ–’πŸ‘

36) Born Standing Up by Steve Martin πŸ‘Ž

37) This is a Book by Demetri Martin πŸ‘

38) In Such Good Company by Carol Burnett πŸ‘Ž

39) Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo πŸ‘Ž

40) The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate πŸ€”

41) The Green Ember by S.D. Smith πŸ‘

42) The Black Star of Kingston by S.D. Smith πŸ–“πŸ‘

43) Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle by N.D. Wilson πŸ€”

44) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle πŸ–’πŸ‘Ž

45) Winter Street by Elin Hildebrand πŸ‘Ž

46) Winter Stroll by Elin Hildebrand πŸ‘Ž

47) Winter Storms by Elin Hildebrand  πŸ–’πŸ‘Ž

48) The Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber πŸ‘Ž

49) On Christmas Eve by Ann Martin πŸ‘Ž

Here are four more - #50-53- that put me just over one book per week for the year. I have read much more in years past, but I picked some really hard titles this year -- a few that I will have to finish now in the next year!

50) A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay - I may be done with Katherine Reay. I really loved Dear Mr. Knightley, her first novel, but none of her subsequent offerings have been nearly as good. One thing that even Dear Mr. Knightley had in common with her others is a female lead that I could in no way relate to. I wonder if this is another Elin Hildebrand situation- sounds promising, people I know may love, but just a little too different for me to make a connection- ooh, I also feel this way about Emily Giffin.



51) Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum - I heard about this one because it was on the top rated Young Adult list for Amazon for the year. I decided I wanted to try a little more YA coming up because a good friend of mine has a daughter who will be releasing her first YA novel next summer! I really enjoyed this book but I wasn't sure if the "secret identity" of one of the characters was really supposed to be secret- because it was pretty obvious to me. So did the author way underestimate her audience's intelligence? Or, because it was written in first person, was it just that the other character didn't know and of course the reader knew? Or, I suppose a third option is that the intended audience is a young adult audience and I am not a young adult so perhaps I have a higher intelligence than the intended audience? It's hard to remember what I did and didn't grasp as a teenager- maybe I wouldn't have gotten it back then. I would kind of like to have someone else I know read this book to tell me what they think! It's the kind of book I would think a lot of people would really enjoy- recommended for sure!



52) Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center - In some ways, this is neither here nor there, but people have got to quit putting cupcakes on the front cover of books that have nothing to do with cupcakes. This is really weird to me. I don't understand why it keeps happening. I liked this book. It was hard for me to read because I felt the tension and went on the emotional journey with the characters to some extent. For me, if the ending works, it is all worthwhile, so this really could've gone either way- I could've either thrown it across the room or let out the breath I was holding for the last fifty pages or so and felt okay about it. In the end, I felt okay about it. But it was definitely a journey.



53) The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen- This book is definitely one that falls into the magical realism category. It wasn't quite as strong for me as Tell Me Three Things or Everyone is Beautiful- by which I mean that I wasn't as drawn into the story and feeling the characters were real people-- I was always aware that I was reading a story and never quite as able to visualize the people and places. I will say that that is not uncommon for me- I just noticed it a lot more coming right after Everyone is Beautiful where I was so drawn in. And maybe because there was so much "magic," it was harder to be drawn in. Still, all of the people in this book, without exception, behaved unlike any people I've ever known. That doesn't mean they weren't likable or the story wasn't interesting, it just means the reader really has to suspend the "yeah right" voice in her brain- so anyone's enjoyment of this book is probably going to depend on how loud that voice is inside her head.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

5 for Christmas

I didn't like any of the five Christmas books I read recently, but I just kinda wanted a record of reading them.

The first three were Elin Hilderbrand's Christmas trilogy- Winter Street, Winter Stroll, and Winter Storms. Honestly, I just find her characters to be unlikable. I think she is just on a seriously different page than me- like, we just look at life differently. So she just writes characters that I don't get at all.

I also read a Debbie Macomber book. I watch so many Hallmark Christmas movies that it just seems like I would enjoy a book by one of the people who writes the books that inspire them. I didn't. It was just too over the top cheesy. The dialogue was so bad. The tension was so manufactured. The characters were so over the top. Ugh, enough said. The Twelve Days of Christmas was really bad.

The last book I read was one I had picked up for a dime at a library sale a while ago, On Christmas Eve by Ann Martin. I can't decide how I feel about it. I threw it across the room when I finished so I definitely didn't like it. However, that was not the first time I have done that with a book by any stretch. But it was heavy on the Santa Claus and I am just not a real fan of the Santa story. At what point did Santa become a deity? He sees you when you're sleeping? He knows when you're awake? He has the power to grant wishes? Are we confusing him with God?! However, many people are a fan, so would they like it? Was it okay as far as Santa stories go? Maybe? The proverbial "Christmas magic" was related to the First Christmas. But it was more about animals talking. But it sort of reconciled some Christmas impossibilities to help further kids' belief and I did kind of like that. I just wish I could enjoy Santa or knew someone I could pass the book along to.

Anyway, I give up. As they say on The Tonight Show, do not read, do not read, do not read these books, these books. Maybe I'll find some good Christmas reads in time for next year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

5 for Children

This is the last list of five that are not from lists, at least for a while. I have enjoyed reading off my list because my list was a bit overwhelming this year. I am pretty sure I will have at least five titles that spill over into next year. So many of my titles were dense and heavy and historic- so very adult. It was great to pick up a book a child could read. Although even there, I managed to pick up some heavy subject matter!


1) Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo- Can someone tell me what has happened to our culture that we think disrespectful kids who treat adults like they are idiots are adorable? I think it started with Saved by the Bell. I truly do. Mr. Belding was an idiot, Zach was impertinent, and the formula began. Almost every Disney Channel show has this formula. And way too many children's books have this formula. It makes finding appropriate reading or viewing for my children really difficult. Finding good books for Elspeth is where this is the most annoying. Elspeth doesn't like to read classics very much. I don't know what it is about books that make them feel new, but I sense it too. And she just likes how newer books read. (She does take an exception with the Betsy Tacy books. But honestly, who wouldn't love Betsy Tacy?!) Anyway, Flora and Ulysses is a book about a young girl who treats all adults like they are stupid. Now maybe the adults in the book are stupid. (Some of them are- her parents seem to be particularly idiotic.) I don't care. Why are adult writers continually writing stupid adults? What does this teach children who read and watch these stories day after day? That adults are stupid? That stupid adults don't deserve respect? There is also a squirrel who flies and writes poetry in this book. I have never been able to find squirrels endearing, but somehow the insolent main character and the not so super squirrel find friendship and she does eventually also seem to appreciate the people, including the adults, in her life. Needless to say, after pre-reading, I decided this would not be a good book for Elspeth.

2) The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate- This one was a little better, but it was kind of sad. It was about a gorilla who lives in a cement cage at a shopping mall and performs in circus acts. It has the true happy ending of the gorilla's story it was based on, but much of the story is made up. That's not to say that it isn't a cute and sweet story. I think I just always feel conflicted over embellished truth. I think I'd rather the whole thing be made up- then I don't have to wonder about what did and didn't happen or how what actually happened actually happened. I didn't think Elspeth would enjoy this one so I sent it back to the library when I finished. However, I can see that many kids would enjoy it very much.

3) The Green Ember by S.D. Smith/ The Black Star of Kingston by S.D. Smith- My dear friend Rebekah sent these books to my children after George and I visited and left the children with grandparents. Her children love these two and rightly guessed that mine would as well. Smith is a contemporary Christian fiction writer not unlike Andrew Peterson and N.D. Wilson. I love that children's adventures after the fashion of Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia are newly available for young readers!

4) Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle by N.D. Wilson - There's a lot of time travel in this. It was a bit confusing to tell you the truth. August read it this summer and was very confused. I think some of it was because he didn't want to wait for answers to come. Even with the answers that did come, I was still a little confused. I wanted to like it more than I did. But I am still eager to read the next ones in the series as they are written and released. The most interesting unanswered question to me was the reason all of Sam's friends share names with Jesus' disciples. Perhaps this will become clearer as the story develops.

5) A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle - ugh. I had this on my next to read list, had put in a request for it at the library, and then apparently Chelsea Clinton mentioned the book in a speech she gave at the Democratic National Convention and everyone started snapping it up. Little do they know that L'Engle is a Christian author. Or maybe they do. But my purpose in reading it was because she is a Christian author and because I remember loving the book when I was about Elspeth's age. I didn't particularly love it this time. I didn't hate it, I just didn't feel like it had as much to it as it needed to. But it's a classic and I am not an expert, so I am probably wrong. Also, I'm not a big sic-fi person, so that's another reason I didn't love it.

Monday, November 21, 2016

5 by Comedians

This is another list of five not on any list books I read this year. I love comedy more than any other genre. I don't often read books by comedians though because I'd rather read a funny story. However, most memoirs have good stories, and comedians have the habit of looking at the humor in stories- so memoirs by comedians are usually chock full of good, funny stories.

1) Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling -I enjoy Mindy. She is smart and doesn't take herself too seriously. But I fear that she may start to as so many famous people do. I can't remember where I read a short piece about her recently where she endorsed Hillary Clinton. I mean, I don't expect any less from a woman in Hollywood, but because I don't read news of any kind, and because she is not professionally qualified to comment on news in any way, this strikes me as the beginnings of her taking herself pretty seriously- a comedian/writer/actress discussing politics in a fashion magazine? Of course she's going to have an opinion, but I'd rather see her joke about the election than seriously weigh in on it- there's way too many celebrities already doing that and it's getting old. Anyway, if you can get past Mindy's emphatically liberal agenda, she's a fun one to read.

2) Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan - This is more or less his material about his family life from his shows put into book form. It's great! But it's not new if you've seen his specials a bunch of times. It's still good for laughs though- and especially if you haven't seen his specials a bunch of times.

3) Born Standing Up by Steve Martin - This was published in 2007 which means Martin would've been about sixty years old as he was writing. I did that math because I feel like the tone is sad, and I hope that over the coming years, he will be in the way of more joy. He says he grew up Baptist and I know he is a dad now when he wasn't at the time the book was written- I guess I just think of faith and parenthood as being two big time sources of joy for me. Anyway, I have always really liked Steve Martin, mostly because of his SNL appearances and The Jerk, but also because of his role as George Banks. I think I watched Father of the Bride almost once a week in high school. Something about Martin always reminded me of my own dad, not just when he played a dad, but always. Besides that they were both funny, and probably even something in their appearance, there was something else intangible- something I might even have called volatility, though now I'm not sure that's fair to Martin. Reading a little about Martin's life, I think maybe a more fair correlation might be drawn from the shared struggle with anxiety and the lack of a loving relationship with their fathers. Anyway, this wasn't a funny book, it was a book about comedy and about being a comedian. It definitely shows the exhausting and heartbreaking side of what makes the rest of us so delighted and forgetful of our own troubles for a while. I am grateful for comedians. I think I always have been, I just have a new appreciation for what they go through.

4) This is a Book by Demetri Martin - I have really enjoyed Demetri Martin's comedy specials that George and I have seen together and I got this book for him when it came out a few years ago. I think I must have been in the thick of reading through a list because I never read it myself until this summer. I laughed out loud a lot of times, but I think my favorite bit was "Megaphone."

5) In Such Good Company by Carol Burnett - I think I mostly chose this title to round out this list of five. I did love The Carol Burnett Show as a kid though. I think the comedy shows I watched as a kid made a big difference in my life. I'll have to think more about how. But anyway, this book was a little more than I wanted to read about a show I haven't seen in quite a while. But it really was fun to hear about all of those great guest stars and all from the perspective of a genuinely sweet lady who had all good things to say. It makes me want to track down the show to watch again now. It also makes me want to watch Jimmy Stewart movies- her story about her first meeting him had me reading out loud to George as we both laughed heartily; her other stories about him were sweet and endearing. I said above that Steve Martin always reminded me of my dad; Jimmy Stewart always reminded my mother of her own dad. Carol Burnett never reminded me of anyone though- she always was so uniquely and delightfully her. I think I may look into reading another of her books sometime soon.

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