Tuesday, December 30, 2014

December Wrap-Up

December has come and (almost) gone, and a new year is upon us! Before I start thinking about what I'll be reading in 2015, I thought I'd talk a bit about the books I read in the last month of 2014.

The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga
The Sixteen Pleasures

This book was pretty in the middle for me. It follows a female book conservator in I think the 40s or 50s who travels to Italy after a massive flood damages many historical libraries. I heard about this one from one of Nancy Pearl's Books Lust books. It wasn't bad, and it didn't disappoint me, but I didn't really connect with it.

A Prayer Journal by Flannery O'Connor
A Prayer Journal

As an English and Religion double major, this book hits a lot of my interest points. It was really interesting seeing how O'Connor related to God, and chose to present that in her journal. I wasn't a fan of the intro; according to the back of the book he was a close friend of hers, but I didn't like how he seemed to be suggesting that O'Connor's journal was less of a sincere set of letters to God than another dramatized writing exercise of hers. No matter how well you know someone, I'm not sure you can ever make judgments or statements about someone else's faith. So that kind of soured it for me, and I wished I hadn't read the intro. The journal was very interesting though, but be forewarned that it is very very short, so I wouldn't buy this one unless, like me, it really hits your interests.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving

I was pretty sure I would like this book and I was not disappointed. It was so fun to read, but it was sincere and very real. It tells the story of a man who has lost his family and has become a certified at-home caretaker. He starts to care for a teenage boy with muscular dystrophy, and it catalogs their relationship and growth together. The second half of the book consists of a road trip that brings on a cast of quirky characters, but it never feels cheesy or forced. I gave this book 5 stars on goodreads because it was such a pleasure to read.

The End of the Jews by Adam Mansbach
The End of the Jews

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It's one of the few books that I've bought in recent years without hearing anything about it beforehand. It just looked interesting and so I bought it. But then I was reluctant to read it. I finally picked it up and I'm glad I did. It has a similar feel to Zadie Smith's White Teeth in that it follows different members of a family and spans different generations, and focused on the issues of family, belonging, and identity. It was really well-written and I really think this book deserves to be talked about more.

Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs
Knit the Season (Friday Night Knitting Club, #3)

My grandma picked this up for me from a garage sale because she thought I had read the other books in this series. I actually haven't, but after reading the not-so-great reviews on goodreads I decided it would be best to read it right away and get it over with. And unfortunately I really did just want to get it over with. The characters were flat and at times, especially the males, unbelievable, and for a knitting book it didn't have too much to do with knitting. A good piece of knitting fiction makes you want to knit, and inspires you. This one did not, and I would avoid this read.

Etched on Me by Jenn Crowell
Etched on Me

This book was a little different than I expected. I picked it up because I love books about people in mental hospitals (I know, weird) and this book definitely has that element. I didn't realize that it is and LGBTQA book, so if that is something you're uncomfortable with I would avoid this book. Overall, I didn't absolutely love this book, and I've definitely read better books that deal with this subject matter, but this one did offer a unique perspective, and it wasn't predictable. It was compelling and I for the most part enjoyed reading it. I think this one is worth a read.

So, there was my December. I hope everyone had a fabulous reading year, and here's to another great one!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Top 10 Books I Read in 2014

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Now we can all reflect on the fabulous books we read in 2014. For my list, prompt provided by The Broke and the Bookish, I will not be focusing on books that have been released this year because I don't read too many new releases (which is not too fun when it comes time to vote on the Goodreads awards and I realize I've only read one book out of all of the nominees).
Nonetheless, oldies are goodies, people, and I read some great books in 2014. Here are my top 10:

1. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
White Teeth is an incredible book. I think it may be the only book that I read this year that has officially been added to my "favorites" shelf. The story of many characters in modern-day England, this novel gives voice to the experience of colonization. With one family a mix of white British and Jamaican, and another family Indian, these best friends all get a chance to talk about their place, or misplacement, in England.

2. Arcadia by Lauren Groff
Arcadia is an incredibly original novel. Essentially the story of a hippie commune that goes to crap, this book is not exactly a happy one, but it's really worth the read. It gives a vivid portrayal of a community that struggles to adhere to the ideals it was founded upon, and paints a striking portrait of human failure. I highly recommend this book.

3. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
A retelling of the biblical story of Dinah, this is a book that will really stick with you. It touches on everything from family dynamics to gender roles, and if you haven't picked up this highly popular book yet, I recommend you do in 2015.

4. The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison
I just finished this one and I loved reading it. It has that quick, addicting quality that you don't always find in Literary Fiction, and it again touches on a underrepresented topic. The novel consists of a main character, Ben, a man who has lost his family and has recently taken a class to become an in-home caretaker, and Trevor, a teenager with muscular dystrophy. Eventually they embark on a road trip. Heartbreaking but also really funny, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

5. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This book is really fun without giving you a bad aftertaste of bad writing or some other unsatisfying literary component. It tells the story of a Sheldon Cooper-like character falling in love, and it's highly enjoyable. This book made me laugh out loud, which basically never happens, and it's just a really sweet read. This one would make a good holiday gift.

6. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
SO SAD. So sad. If you want to be heartbroken read this book. But I love when a book breaks my heart because that means it really affected me. This is a quick, compelling read, that clearly packs an emotional punch.

7. Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers
This book is not for the faint at heart. I had to read this for a class where I understood about 25% of what was going on. It's so well-written, however, and it really made me think. It revolves around a group of people who are trying to build a computer that can successfully pass the exam for a Master's degree in Literature, it involves a lot of flashbacks and a lot of people who are not what you would call nice. This book isn't for everyone, but I have to say that I was really impressed with this novel.

8. Dracula by Bram Stoker
I was not expecting to like this book, but I have to say I really did. I knew nothing about the Dracula story except the fact that he is a vampire, but the book is so much more than that. It's told in a series of letters and diary entries, and it has a great cast of characters. If you're looking for a classic to try, I think this is a good one.

9. Listening is an Act of Love by Dave Isay
This is a book compiled by the Storycorps group, and organization whose mission is to preserve the history of America through the stories of real people. They have vans set up where a person and a loved one go in and get interview each other. They get a CD with the interview, and so does Storycorps. The book is a compilation of some particularly poignant stories, and I really loved reading it. If you, like most readers, are interested in people and how their lives have been shaped, give this book a read.

10. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
This title is pretty misleading but also entirely accurate. Set in a technology-laden future, this is the story of a pretty sad and pathetic main character and his love for a mean girl. It's also the story of the destruction of our society. It's bleak, but it's good.

So there you have it, the top 10 books I read this year. I hope 2015 yields even more great reads!

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/RachelDoose

Monday, December 1, 2014

What I've Read in the Past 3 Months (September/October/November Wrap-Up)

So, college happened, which means I didn't have much time to read, which means I didn't have much to write about. But, the glorious time that is Winter Break is soon upon us, and I expect to get a lot of reading done in those three weeks. Before that, I figured I should catch the blog up on what I read in September, October, and November. It isn't much, folks, it isn't much.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick, easy read that was also very complex. I appreciate Haddon's choice to present this sort of perspective to the reading world (the narrator is presumably autistic) and it was overall a good reading experience.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Tess of the d'Urbervilles  (Second Edition)

Ah, Tess. This book was different than I expected, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. It's definitely a tragic tale, but I think it's worth reading. It's one of those books, however, that I enjoyed while I was reading it, but looking back on it it doesn't give me that satisfying "I really loved that book" feeling. I'm glad I read it, and would recommend it if you want to read more classics, but it's not a new favorite of mine.

Thinks... by David Lodge
Thinks . . .

I liked this book, but again, it's not one of my favorites. I wouldn't have picked it up on my own, but I had to read it for class (like most of these books) and overall it was an enjoyable reading experience. It made me want to keep reading, and I definitely got immersed in the story. An interesting read, especially if you have an interest in consciousness or the dualist/materialist debate.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

I was not expecting to enjoy this book, and I kind of loved it. I didn't know anything about the Dracula story apart from the fact that Dracula is a vampire, but trust me, there is so much more to this novel. It revolves around way more than just Dracula, and Professor Van Helsing is now one of my favorite literary characters. I highly recommend this one.

Habibi by Craig Thompson

This is the ONLY book I've had time to read for fun lately. One of my professors let me borrow it after I told her I had done a research project on Islamic calligraphy. The art in this book is stunning. The story itself is definitely gritty and a bit graphic, but I really enjoyed it.