2009 Reads: All About The Series

January 24, 2010 at 10:48 pm (Book Thoughts)

After reviewing my 2009 Reads, I decided that the key to quantity is finding a good series. It was a year for the supernatural, Nick Hornby, and Nora Roberts. What an odd combination. Let’s hope 2010 will bring another good series to my attention, as well as a much needed nonfiction book.

1. Twilight – Stephenie Meyer

2. New Moon – Stephenie Meyer

3. Eclipse – Stephenie Meyer

4. Breaking Dawn – Stephenie Meyer

5. Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris

6. Living Dead in Dallas – Charlaine Harris

7. Club Dead – Charlaine Harris

8. Dead to the World – Charlaine Harris

9. Dead as a Doornail – Charlaine Harris

10. Definitely Dead – Charlaine Harris

11. All Together Dead – Charlaine Harris

12. From Dead to Worse – Charlaine Harris

13. Grave Sight – Charlaine Harris

14. Grave Surprise – Charlaine Harris

15. An Ice Cold Grave – Charlaine Harris

16. Shakespeare’s Landlord – Charlaine Harris

17. Shakespeare’s Champion – Charlaine Harris

18. Shakespeare’s Trollop – Charlaine Harris

19. Shakespeare’s Counselor – Charlaine Harris

20. Mister Monday – Garth Nix

21. Grim Tuesday – Garth Nix

22. Shakespeare’s Christmas – Charlaine Harris

23. Sunshine – Robin McKinley

24. Mrs. Mike – Benedict Freedman and Nancy Freedman

25. Dead and Gone – Charlaine Harris

26. Dead Silence – Brenda Novak

27. Dead Giveaway – Brenda Novak

28. Dead Right – Brenda Novak

29. Breathers – S.G. Browne

30. The Polysyllabic Spree – Nick Hornby

31. How to Be Good – Nick Hornby

32. The Song Reader – Lisa Tucker

33. The Shack – William P. Young

34. Miss Lonelyhearts – Nathanael West

35. Mercy – David Lindsey

36. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling

37. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling

38. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling

39. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling

40. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling

41. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling

42. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling

43. Final Warning – Sandra Robbins

44. The Reader – Bernhard Schlink

45. An Education – Nick Hornby

46. High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

47. Juliet, Naked – Nick Hornby

48. Grave Secret – Charlaine Harris

49. Morrigan’s Cross – Nora Roberts

50. Dance of the Gods – Nora Roberts

51. Valley of Silence – Nora Roberts

52. Blood Brothers – Nora Roberts

53. The Hollow – Nora Roberts

54. The Pagan Stone – Nora Roberts

55. Northern Lights – Nora Roberts

56. Montana Sky – Nora Roberts

57. The Summer Tree – Guy Gavriel Kay

58. Birthright – Nora Roberts

59. Angels Fall – Nora Roberts

60. James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl


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Books That Spoil Us

September 30, 2009 at 2:42 pm (Book Thoughts)

My lapse in blogging will be attributed to Harry Potter. I started reading the series in July, thanks to Jesse Jarnow’s article “Of Potter and Proust” published in Paste magazine. Jarnow has a style of writing that makes the reader trust his opinion. He mixes humor with the perfect amount of authority, and before I knew it I was off to pick up copies of Potter and Proust. My time with Proust proved unsuccessful. Many apologies to Mr. Jarnow. I promise to return to Proust at a later date.

I spent three weeks with Harry. In that time, I woke up mumbling about muggles, and struggled over Snape’s loyalty. One day I actually thought I witnessed a young boy with a wand. My glimmer of excitement was squelched when I realized it was a drumstick. Obviously Harry had my attention. Since my immersion I have been dwelling in the afterglow of a brilliant story. It is difficult to compliment a work so widely praised and admired. Doubting my own ability to bring something new to the Potter discussion I’ve decided to avoid commenting on the work. Instead I would like to talk about those novels that spoil us as readers.

Personally, once I’ve finished something so perfect it is almost impossible to move on. Since Harry Potter nothing else has captured my attention and emotions. I realize that coming out of a series is a bit more difficult because I was saturated  in the fictional world for so long, but what is the cure for this reading illness? How do we move on after becoming so attached to certain characters? Or after settling down in another world? I don’t have an answer for this. My usual solution is to spend weeks reading a lot of first chapters until I fall into another relationship with a captivating novel or series. Is there a better way? I’m hitting the bookshelves to find out.

For those of you who haven’t experienced Harry Potter, please read Jesse Jarnow’s article and then proceed to your local library or bookstore. Enjoy.

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The Shack- My Shocking Opinion (about the book I didn’t want to read)

July 8, 2009 at 8:50 pm (Book Thoughts)

You’ll either love it or hate it–that is the general consensus from readers of The Shack by William P. Young. I was so sure I was going to hate it.  Let me tell you why.  In the past when churches have “created” a bestseller with all of their hype, I have not been a fan.

I wouldn’t call myself a book snob because I enjoy many genres, including Christian fiction (by a few select authors), and I generally finish novels whether they are good or not.  My curiosity wins out in the end.

After having many people ask me about the book I finally went out and bought a copy.  To be honest, The Shack is a great novel.  It is well-written, entertaining, and personally, I am not offended by any of the theology.  

While reading I kept thinking of something my dad always quotes.  It is a blurb he saw about the movie Deliverance.   This might be a bit paraphrased: “Twenty minutes into the movie and you are in the canoe with them.”  The same can be said of The Shack.  I was in the forest and in the shack with the main character, Mack.  I cried with him and felt his anger.  Mack is everyone.

Young’s characterization makes it impossible for the reader to separate themselves from the situation and circumstances Mack is going through in the novel.  I had to set it aside  several times, reread a few parts, and haven’t stopped thinking about the novel since reading the first page a few weeks ago.  The only semblance of criticism I can bring myself to say is that the novel can sometimes make the reader feel too much.

Surprising even myself I have already recommended this novel to a friend.  This discovery leads me on a new adventure to try some of the other books I casually scoffed at reading.

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Edward or Eric: Which Is The Better Vampire?

June 26, 2009 at 6:15 pm (Book Thoughts)

I’m not ashamed to admit jumping on the vampire bandwagon.  I read the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer and stay up to date on the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris.  Even though I enjoy the stories in each series I noticed a drastic difference in the qualities attributed to the vampires.  Let’s set aside the fact that Harris writes for more mature audiences.  I want to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the vampires. 

When writing about supernatural creatures authors have to make a decision.  Will they keep to conventional rules or will they create their own?  Meyer chooses to wipe the slate almost clean and rebuild what people know about vampires.  She doesn’t follow previous conventions about turning to dust in the sunlight or being invisible in pictures.  At first this bothered me when I read her series, but I became swept up in the story.  My mood changed when reading Harris’ series because her vampires are more conventional.  They are not around at all in the daylight hours.  They have multiple weaknesses. 

I read the two series back to back and I will admit not liking the Sookie books at first.  After coming off my Twilight high with indestructible vampires who are around to protect you all the time, Harris seemed disappointing.  It took almost a year for me to return to Sookie, but once I did the series was consumed within ten days.

What was the draw?  Besides being well-written, Harris creates life-threatening situations that occur during the daytime.  This poses a problem since the vampires, mainly Eric, will be sleeping—leaving Sookie to fend for herself or receive help from other supernatural characters who are not limited by daylight. 

At least for me, it was exciting to see how Sookie was going to save herself.  She couldn’t rely on Eric or Bill to always be around, even though it does seem like Bill is always lurking.  Obviously both series are fantasy, but Harris’ take is more realistic, if that word can even be applied in fantasy fiction.  She recognizes that sometimes Sookie not only needs to solve her own problems, but she can also help the vampires in dangerous situations. 

The Twilight series portrays humans as fragile, worthless creatures.  Bella is a prime example.  Humanity wasn’t attractive when the Cullen family was the alternative.

I love both series and enjoy the characters.  However, I choose Eric over Edward.  There is more humanity in limitations and weaknesses.  It’s comforting, and still leaves the outcome to be unpredictable.   

(There will probably be more on this topic later.  I must admit, it fascinates me.)

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Promiscuous Reading

June 25, 2009 at 1:13 am (Book Thoughts)

I haven’t posted anything because I’m in a reading funk.  There are too many books being read at the same time.  All seem promising, but none of them have grabbed me and held on.  I want a book that shakes me up and gives me reading fever.

I’ve experienced a reading funk before.  The only way out of it, at least for me, is to find a saving book.  A novel, play, short story, just something that makes me want to read more than anything.  At the moment, the half-read stack beside my bed is overwhelming. 

Each night I find myself in a different story, never finishing anything.  It feels a bit like a series of one night stands.  There is nothing meaningful going on with my reading.  I want more.  I want a relationship.

Originally, I thought the solution could be found by having a relationship with one author. So I bought and checked out some books by one author, and although they are good, they are not what I’m looking for.  I want a relationship with an individual book.  When the last page is turned I want to miss the characters.  The writing should be so good it makes me feel like I can write.  The bottom line is inspiration.  I haven’t stayed up all night reading in a long time.  I miss it.

What is the next book I need to read?  Which characters will drag me out of my funk and restore my reading health?  I don’t know, but I will continue looking.

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I Respect J.D. Salinger

June 19, 2009 at 10:23 pm (Authors Who Influence)

This is not a post about the merits of The Catcher in the Rye.  I read the book in high school and even though I found it entertaining it did not change my life like other books have.  My respect stems from Mr. Salinger’s firm belief in his characters remaining true to form as he created them.

Recently an article appeared in The New York Times about the controversy of a new book being released.  The book is about Holden Caulfield as a 76-year-old man. The author is currently in a court battle over copyright infringement.  Usually I find myself against taking measures as far as the courtroom, but I continued to read the article and realized the lengths Mr. Salinger has gone in order to protect the integrity of his characters.

If you have ever written anything, you know the bond an author has with his/her characters.  The same can be said when you fall in love with characters in a book only to be disappointed by the film depiction of those characters.  You feel cheated.  Many times the film version is a cheap imitation of the people you came to love.

J.D. Salinger has protected the character of Holden Caulfield, and even though he is not one of my favorite characters I recognize his status as a literary icon—I respect that status.  When I read about Mr. Salinger turning down offers by Steven Spielberg and others I fully grasped the level of love he feels for Caulfield.  It seems almost fatherly.  That protection is worth fighting for, and it is definitely worth my respect.

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I Miss Garp, Thank You John Irving

June 11, 2009 at 9:31 pm (Book Thoughts)

Sometimes there are characters we can’t forget.  T.S. Garp is one of those characters.  Last November I read The World According to Garp by John Irving.  Since then not only have I purchased the majority of his books, but I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about Jenny Fields, Helen, talented bears, and Walt with “the undertoad.” 

Even last night as I began a new book with promising characters I wanted Garp. 

We all have favorite characters we miss or even characters we just can’t shake loose no matter how hard we try.  Recently, I read Brenda Novak’s Stillwater series and I’m still feeling creeped out by Joe.  He was just one of those guys you’re thankful you don’t know in real life.  Or maybe some of you do. 

It’s funny how certain emotions will bring back a character.  When I was in high school I read The End of the Affair by Graham Greene.  Now, years later, every time I feel sad I think of Bendrix and one specific line in the book when he’s missing Sarah.

Even vacancy was crowded with her.

That quote always gets to me. 

Now I must do what every reader inevitably does– read the next book.  I will meet new characters, fall in love with them, fear them, hate them, but I will always miss Garp.  He was special.

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Steinbeck and Squirrel Watching

June 10, 2009 at 11:52 pm (Book Thoughts, Inspirations)

A few nights ago I was reading My War with the Ospreys by John Steinbeck.  I should say he is not one of my favorite authors.  I was reading the short story because it was assigned to my mom in her memoir writing class.  As always I’m nosy about reading material. I need to know the reason people choose to assign certain authors.  I decided if the instructor thought it was important, it might be worth my time.  My mind was focused.  I had every intention of giving Steinbeck another chance. 

It wasn’t long before zzzzzzzzzzz…….

My efforts failed.  What is it with authors and nature?  Frost, Thoreau, and many other great writers are inspired by the outdoors.  I don’t get it.  Yes, trees are beautiful, flowers are captivating, and the ocean continues to amaze, but what about nature sends authors to the writing table?

A few nights ago I received my answer.  I was watching a movie when I noticed movement outside my window.  A squirrel was leaping around on a tree.  He wasn’t just any dumb indecisive squirrel.  This guy knew exactly what he was doing.  He was so fascinating I watched him for twenty minutes (totally ignoring the movie) and even took some pictures.  Maybe I should rethink my attitude towards nature.  Perhaps when I’m in need of inspiration I will seek out a nature trail.

Here is the animal that didn’t inspire a book, but a blog post.


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From the Cave to the Meadow

June 3, 2009 at 11:29 pm (Book Thoughts)

After devouring Hornby’s, The Polysyllabic Spree, I decided to try his fiction.  I chose How To Be Good. You might be wondering why I didn’t choose High Fidelity or About a Boy.  I will tell you why.  I’ve seen the movies.  The books are probably better and add much more to the characters than the movies, but I wanted a clean palate when I approached Hornby’s fiction.  I wanted the unexpected. 

I have to say that even with only about thirty pages left in the book I still don’t know what’s going to happen.  This book has been thoroughly enjoyable and worth every minute I’ve spent reading.  There’s nothing worse than a book that makes you feel like you’re wasting your time.

While reading I started thinking about a certain kind of book.  The kind that starts out a little behind where you think it should be, but it takes you with it on the journey.  The kind of books that only get better with each chapter. 

This may sound off the wall, but in the beginning of How To Be Good, I felt like I was walking through a cave.  It was difficult to know where I was headed and I really was kind of uncomfortable as I moved through it.  Then as the characters began to evolve I felt my surrounding cave start to morph, allowing for more light.  I know this sounds strange, but now, towards the end of the novel I’m on the other side of the cave relaxing in a sunlit meadow. 

Does that make me sound corny?  Pretentious?  I don’t intend to be either.  I’m trying to describe something we may all experience while reading.  Surely you’ve encountered a book that gets better with each unfolding scene.  Too many times I’ve never left the cave or made it to the meadow only to discover another cave in front of me.  What a defeated feeling.

 I can only hope Hornby allows me to enjoy the meadow through to the last page.

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Should We Return to the Books We’ve Set Aside?

June 2, 2009 at 11:14 pm (Book Thoughts)

Saturday night I attended the premiere of a documentary on Hurricane Audrey.  The documentary, All Over But To Cry, was produced by Jennifer John Block and Jake Springfield. Block and Springfield allowed survivors to share their stories of that terrible night in 1957 when Hurricane Audrey killed at least 500 people and devastated Cameron Parish. 

The documentary was thought-provoking, emotional, and reminded me of a book I need to return to.  The book is called Isaac’s Storm, written by Erik Larson.  It is about the hurricane of 1900 that destroyed Galveston, Texas.  Larson is well-known for Devil in the White City, his book about the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.  It was after reading the latter that I decided I must read all of his books.  However, it didn’t take me very long to set aside Isaac’s Storm because of all the scientific language.  I have to admit, I felt very intimidated.  After having time away from the narrative I think I’ve decided to give it another go.  The documentary changed my reading mood, pointing me back to something I probably should’ve finished.

Once I decided to return to Isaac’s Storm, I began to wonder what other books I’ve abandoned.  I look on my bookshelves and see index cards, envelopes, and post-it notes popping out of various books.  They remind me of all the half-read stories.  Why did I choose those books to stop reading?  Was it poor writing?  Uninteresting characters?  Or did I become a lazy reader?  There are many reasons, but I must remind myself of why I bought each book.  Obviously something caught my attention. 

Thanks to the documentary I received an unexpected yet necessary nudge back towards my own bookshelves.

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