2010 is Drawing to a Close

At this point, I am likely going to forgo a typical “favorites” list and instead just stick  with this meme that I’ve been seeing everywhere around the blogosphere in the past few days.

Best Book of 2010:
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt; Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese; East of Eden, by John Steinbeck; The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsson, just to name a few.

Worst Book of 2010:
I have quite a few books that I didn’t like, but I wouldn’t say that any of them were “bad”.  It’s just a matter of preference.

Most Disappointing Book of 2010:
The Gravedigger’s Daughter, by Joyce Carol Oates was disappointing because I am usually a big fan of Oates, so my hopes were very high.

I had been wanting to read The Gathering, by Anne Enright, for years since it was a Booker winner, and I ended up absolutely hating it.

The Postmistress, by Sarah Blake and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows because they were so highly touted, so again, my expectations were super high.

Most Surprising (In A Good Way!) Book of 2010:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, because I never thought reading about human cells could be interesting!

Most Recommended-to-Others Book of 2010:

The Hunger Games series! And it’s always a resounding hit.  Even my boss’s seventy year old mom loved them.

Best Series You Discovered in 2010:

There wasn’t a certain series that I discovered in 2010.

Favorite New Authors Discovered in 2010:

Laura Lippman!  I read two of her books (What the Dead Know and I’d Know You Anywhere) and both were phenomenal.

Most Hilarious Read of 2010:

Assholes Finish First, by Tucker Max.  He cracks me up!

Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book of 2010:
Probably the Laura Lippman books.  They aren’t over the top but they are great psychological thrillers. And obviously the Millennium trilogy!

Most Anticipated Book of 2010:
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson.  Unfortunately, I did not enjoy it as much as the first two books in the series.

Favorite Cover of a Book You Read in 2010:

I don’t really like this question.  Nothing sticks out for me.

Most Memorable Character in 2010:

Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander.  They are like Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler with a ton more street cred.

Most Beautifully-Written Book of 2010:

Letter to my Daughter, by Maya Angelou, springs to mind.  Red Hook Road, by Ayelet Waldeman, was a good one too.

Book That Had the Greatest Impact on You in 2010:

Cleo, by Helen Brown, really stuck with me.  I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that it was a true story, and that I could connect with Brown and her family’s bond with Cleo.

Book You Can’t Believe You Waited Until 2010 to Read:
Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters.  I have wanted to read it for the past few years and I am glad I finally got to it!


Book Review: One Day

One Day

David Nicholls


448 pages

Once people know you’re a big reader, do they start suggesting books for you to read?  Because it sure happens to me quite frequently.  Case in point, an attorney in my office, knowing what an avid reader I am, showed up in the office one day with One Day.  I was instantly dismissive of it, although the synopsis, along with Nick Hornby’s seal of approval, started garnering my interest.  I figured I would have to read it anyway, just to be nice.  Besides, I needed something fluffy to read during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew are just graduating college in London on July 15, 1988, when they end up in bed together.  It doesn’t appear as though the deal were sealed, but we’ll still call it a one night stand.  The only difference is the two stayed in contact over the years.  The reader gets a glimpse into their lives every July 15, up until 2007.  I loved that aspect of the book, because there was only so much we, as the reader, could understand or know.  It becomes obvious from the get go though that these two, Dex and Em, Em and Dex, belong together.  They form this unique friendship that seems to stand the test of time, although the timing for a romance is never there.

The two encounter many challenges along the way.  They both have self esteem issues.  Em becomes introspective and it takes her awhile to break out of her shell and go after the things she really wants in life.  For awhile there she is stuck as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant, dating a failing comic named Ian Whitehead, whom she may love but for whom she has absolutely no passion for.  Meanwhile, Dex is living in the fast lane.  Picture a Carson Daly-esque TV host who quickly spirals out of control due to excess women, booze and drugs.  Given the combination, Em and Dex encounter speed bumps along the way and their relationship begins to fray.

Despite what I had been told about this book (said attorney could not put it down), I had a hard time becoming involved.  I was irritated with Dex and Em.  I actually liked Dex and was rooting for him, however corny that may sound.  I knew from the start that he was a likable guy who was just unable to accept himself.  He wanted to be considered cool and accepted.  Em, on the other hand, annoyed me.  I couldn’t understand why she didn’t just grow up and make herself happy.  She had all the tools available, but she was too scared of failure.  Her relationship with Ian annoyed me to no end because I knew she was just settling.

Something happened though, which changed my mind about One Day.  This is definitely a *spoiler*, so skip this paragraph if you’d like.  Emma and Dex come together, realize that they are in love, and get married.  And then . . . Emma dies.  Awful, I know.  It’s a freak accident.  She’s riding her bike along the roadway when a driver, not paying attention, hits her.  On July 15.  The impact this had on me, I cannot describe.  I seriously thought about this book, and Emma’s death, for days afterward.  I was just heartbroken.  And however much I was ambivalent about the book beforehand, how can that not be wiped away when I have such a strong response to the ending?  What a conundrum.

So, as you can see, I had mixed emotions about One Day.  Would I read it all over again for the ending?  The answer, I think, is yes, because if I am so impacted, that has to be an indication of something good.

Other Reviews:

Books and Movies

You’ve GOTTA Read This!

The Captive Reader

I borrowed this book from a coworker.

Book Review: Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone

Abraham Verghese


688 pages

I know I have disappeared again, but I have now returned with a review for a book that will surely be numbered as one of my favorites for the year.  I had wanted to post a review soon after finishing it, but decided to hold off because my book club was meeting last week to discuss it and I often like to include the thoughts of my fellow members when posting my reviews.  Unfortunately, only one other member had finished the book, so a lot of good it did, waiting.

For those members who had not read it, I discovered quickly that providing a synopsis of Cutting for Stone is no easy feat.  Understand this—the book is of epic proportions.  At 600+ pages, I cannot fit any of it in a nutshell, but try it I will.  Mariam and Shiva are twin boys born in Ethiopia in the 1950s.  They are born to a mother who is a nun and promptly dies upon their birth, and a father who is a well revered surgeon in their small village, who quickly flees.  The toy boys are then raised by Hema, the village’s gynecologist, and Ghosh, the physician who becomes the surgeon after the disappearance of their real father, Thomas Stone.

So many issues come into play throughout the novel, and the ties that bind a family are questioned.  Shiva and Mariam, although close as two people can be, due to the fact that not only are they twins, but they also were born attached at the head, have a falling out in their teenage years, and the chasm between them quickly grows.  Shiva is somewhat of a genius, and in that sense he has cut himself off from the rest of the world and is unable to form meaningful relationships.  Mariam seems the more pragmatic of the two, at times, but also relies too much on his emotions.

My synopsis does little justice for Cutting for Stone, and barely gives the unknown reader a glimpse into the soul of this novel, but it’s close enough.  I would hate to ruin the experience for those of you who have yet to read it.  That being said, as you likely deduced, most of my fellow book club members did not make much headway.  A few of them just didn’t give themselves enough time.  In fact, my sister asked to borrow my copy three days before our meeting.  I explained to her that she would never be able to finish it in that amount of time!  There was also a member who put the book down for good midway through.  That was a bit shocking to me, because while I could understand how they beginning was a bit slow, I definitely was in it for good but the hundred page mark.  Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

The medical terminology and descriptions in this book are abundant.  Verghese is apparently a surgeon of some kind, and that is glaringly obvious in reading the book!  I actually was completely interested in the medical aspect of the book though, and I also love to be “grossed out”, so I had absolutely no problem with it.  Surprisingly enough, there was only one member of my book club that did seem bothered by it, and she was the only other one to finish the book.  I think she found it a bit polarizing.

Expect a rollercoaster with this one.  Your emotions will be toyed with (in a good way, I hope), while still being able to appreciate the wonderful writing and the lush landscape.

Other Reviews:

The Boston Bibliophile

Booking Mama

S Krishna’s Books

Farm Lane Books Blog

The Literate Housewife

Caribous Mom

Fizzy Thoughts

A Guy’s Moleskin Notebook

Lakeside Musing

I purchased this book . . . maybe from Barnes & Noble?!

TSS: A Day Late, A Dollar Short

First off, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.  I meant to post over the past week, but decided not to beat myself up over it, and instead just relax and enjoy my holiday.  I got some great stuff for Christmas.  My husband surprised me with a pair of diamond earrings, which he had wanted to buy me for our wedding last May but at the time, we didn’t have the extra money.  My dad surprised my sisters and me with iPads, which was awesome!  I am a bit technologically impaired, so I have yet to figure out how to work the damn thing, but hopefully soon.

I was also lucky enough to get a box full of books from my parents.  My mom bought tons of stuff from my Borders wishlist, and I could barely stop ogling my box of books all of Christmas day.

Three of the books she bought me were from the Penguin Ink imprint, where tattoo artists created the cover art for some rereleased books.  I thought those were completely awesome!

THEN I used some Christmas money to purchase four Persephone books.  I ordered them earlier today, so they likely won’t arrive for a few weeks, but I will post about them when they get here.  I am new to Persephone books but I wanted to start collecting them.  And then, as you can see by the first picture, my mom surprised me with two Persephone Classics!  She saw them in a little shop and decided to buy them for me with the hope that she could borrow them.  How serendipitous is that??

Now that the hubbub from the holiday is wearing thin, I hope I can get back into my reading groove.  I have another three day weekend coming up, and this time I should have a lot more time for rest and relaxation.  I doubt that my husband and I will go out for New Years, for two reasons.  First reason is that my stepdaughter is in town, spending the whole week with us!  A ten year old kind of cramps your style on the bar scene, if you know what I mean.  Secondly, I hate New Years because I feel like it is always a disappointment.  Sad, but true.  So I am perfectly content to spend New Year’s Eve with my family, hopefully reading.  What will you be up to?

The Sunday Salon, 12/19/2010

Happy Sunday everyone.  Can you believe Christmas is less than a week away??? I am ready for it to be here.  Working retail during the holidays is crazy, so I am ready for it to get back to normal!

I have been doing a little better on the reading front, but not much.  I am working at least 60 hours a week, so my reading time is greatly diminished.  I have about a hundred pages left of Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese, and I would like to finish it today but I am not sure I will have the time.  My book club is meeting to discuss the book on Tuesday, so I definitely need to finish it by then.  I am really excited for our meeting because I think Cutting for Stone will make a lively discussion.  Plus, we are going to meet up at El Vaquero so no one has to worry about hosting or cooking so close to the holidays.  Yum!

I have quite a few books stacking up now and I am anxious to get started on them, so maybe I will try and get some reading done now before heading into work.  I hope everyone has a nice day!

Book Review: A Ticket to the Circus

A Ticket to the Circus

Norris Church Mailer

Random House

432 pages

Norman Mailer is an iconic literary figure.  Regardless, I have never read a single one of his books (shameful, I know).  In fact, I really can’t tell you what enticed me to check this book out from my library.  I saw a snippet of it in Bookmarks magazine and I think I was hopeful that it would be reminiscent of Joyce Maynard’s memoir At Home in the World, about her affair with JD Salinger.  A Ticket to the Circus languished on my shelf for months though, as I kept renewing it over and over again, never quite sure if I would actually read it.  The determining fact was that Norris Mailer died last month.  An author doesn’t always have to die in order for me to finally go for it, but apparently that was the extra shove I needed in this case.

Norman Mailer was a playboy.  He liked women and made no bones about it, so when Norris met him in the mid 70s, she knew what she was dealing with.  She was literally half his age, and she left her home in Arkansas , where she was a divorced school teacher caring for her young son, to move to New York with Mailer.  She eventually became his sixth wife and fathered his last child, a boy named John Buffalo, in 1978.

The Mailers, in a sense, were like every married couple.  They had a deep founded love, but they also had their ups and downs, with Norris almost leaving Norman in the 90s after discovering that his philandering ways hadn’t stopped with his sixth wife.  Norris is brutally honest when it comes to detailing her marital issues with Norman , and she has no qualms about revealing her own discretions, which were an attempt to garner her husband’s attention.

There are also a lot of references to a lot of other well know public figures,

The Mailers

including my favorite, Bill Clinton.  Apparently Bill and Norris had their own little fling going on, before either Norman or Hillary entered the picture (or maybe Hillary was already in the picture—not sure that would have stopped Slick Willy!).  Because Norris met Bill in the mid 70s as well, it was fun to see his progression as a wet behind the ears congressman to eventual president.  The charm he is well known for was definitely effective way back when.

Sadly, Mailer passed away last month from cancer at the age of 61.  She made it very clear in her book though that she did not fear death.  At one point, Norman ’s mother is on the cusp of death when resuscitation efforts are successful.  She admonishes her family for their efforts, saying that she discovered she would be reunited with lost family and friends at death, and therefore wished to die.  Norris fully believed this, and for that reason was not afraid of death.

Norris also had many other unusually, “supernatural” type beliefs.  Soon after she and Norman met, she fell pregnant.  Although the two had decided fairly quickly that they would welcome any children between the two of them, the timing was horrendous and Norris was still getting acclimated to her new life in NYC.  She lamented the pregnancy, and soon after discovering her condition, she had an apparition, which she believed to be her unborn child.  Norris explained to the child that they would happily welcome him in a few years time, but it was too early and they weren’t ready.  A few days later, she began to bleed and suffered a miscarriage.  She fully believed that the child that had come to her was John Buffalo, who did not make his reappearance for two more years.

I am not generally a reader of memoirs.  I can’t pinpoint why  . . . maybe there just aren’t enough good ones out there.  When I stumble across an engrossing memoir though, it’s all I can do not to tear through it.  A Ticket to the Circus had that quality for me.  The fact that my familiarity with the Mailers was nonexistent was not detrimental in any way.  I am now only convinced that I must read some of Norman Mailer’s books pronto.  If any of you readers have a suggestion as to which of Mailer’s books I should start with, I am all ears!

Other Reviews:

None that I could find!

I borrowed this book from my local library.