Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rory Gilmore's Reading List

It's pretty awesome when a television show sparks a list of books as long as "Gilmore Girls" did. I didn't watch this show, so I had no idea that the daughter on the show, Rory, was a voracious reader. There are book clubs out there because of this, and people are still challenging themselves to reading all of the books on the list. Awesome!

The list is below, and I have highlighted those books I have already read. I am a bit disappointed that the titles starting with "The" are in the T-section, but we can't have it all. Overall, I was shamed by the number of books unread. I need to get on the stick!


The List
  • 1984  (George Orwell)
  • A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole)
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Dave Eggers)
  • Mencken Chrestomathy (H.L. Mencken)
  • A Month Of Sundays: Searching For The Spirit And My Sister (Julie Mars)
  • A Passage to India (E.M. Forster)
  • A Quiet Storm: A Novel (Rachel Howzell Hall)
  • A Room of One’s Own (Virginia Woolf)
  • A Separate Peace (John Knowles)
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
  • American Tragedy (Theodore Dreiser)
  • Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
  • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank)
  • Atonement: A Novel (Ian McEwan)
  • Autobiography of a Face (Lucy Grealy)
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Dai Kijie)
  • Bee Season (Myla Goldberg)
  • Bel Canto (Ann Patchett)
  • Beloved (Toni Morrison)
  • Beowulf
  • Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
  • Brick Lane (Monica Ali)
  • Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
  • The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (Eudora Welty)
  • Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems (Edgar Allan Poe)
  • Cousin Bette (Honoré de Balzac)
  • Crime and Punimensht (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  • Daisy Miller (Henry James)
  • David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)
  • Dead Souls (Nikolai Gogol)
  • Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller)
  • Demons (Fyodor Dostoevsky)
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Robert Louis Stevenson)
  • Eleanor Roosevelt (Blanche Wiesen Cook)
  • Ella Minnow Pea: A Progressively Lipgrammatic Epistaolary Fable (Mark Dunn)
  • Emma (Jane Austen)
  • Empire Falls (Richard Russo)
  • Ethan Frome (Edith Wharton)
  • Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door 2007: The Travel Skills Handbook (Rick Steves)
  • Extravagance: A Novel (Gary Krist)
  • Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)
  • Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World (Greg Critser)
  • Flowers for Algernon
  • Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
  • Franny and Zooey (J.D. Salinger)
  • Galapagos (Kurt Vonnegut)
  • Hamlet (William Shakespeare)
  • Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
  • Holidays on Ice: Stories (David Sedaris)
  • How the Light Gets in (M. J. Hyland)
  • How to Breathe Underwater (Julie Orringer)
  • Howl (Allen Ginsberg)
  • Inherit the Wind (Jerome Lawrence)
  • Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)
  • Just a Couple of Days (Tony Vigorito)
  • Leaves of Grass (Walt Witman)
  • Letters to a Young Poet (Rainer Maria Rilke)
  • Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
  • Little Dorrit (Charles Dickens)
  • Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
  • Living History (Hillary Rodham Clinton)
  • Lord of the Flies William Golding)
  • Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert)
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day (David Sedaris)
  • Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (Simone de Beauvoir)
  • Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides)
  • Moby-Dick (Herman Melville)
  • Monsieur Proust (Celeste Albaret)
  • Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)
  • My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath (Seymour M. Hersh)
  • My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru (Tim Guest)
  • My Sister’s Keeper (Jodi Picoult)
  • Nervous System: Or, Losing My Mind in Literature (Jan Lars Jensen)
  • New Poems of Emily Dickinson (Emily Dickinson)
  • Night (Elie Wiesel)
  • Dawn Powell: Novels 1930-1942 (Dawn Powell)
  • Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)
  • Old School (Tobias Wolff)
  • Oliver Twist (Oliver Twist)
  • On the Road (Jack Kerouac)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey)
  • Oracle Night (Paul Auster)
  • Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood)
  • Othello (William Shakespeare)
  • Out of Africa (Isak Dinesen)
  • Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk (Legs McNeil)
  • Property (Valerie Martin)
  • Pushkin: A Biography (T.J. Binyon)
  • Pygmalion (George Bernard Shaw)
  • Quattrocento (James Mckean)
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books (Azar Nafisi)
  • Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories From a Decade Gone Mad (Virginia Holman)
  • Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare)
  • Rosemary’s Baby (Ira Levin)
  • Sacred Time (Ursula Hegi)
  • Sanctuary (William Faulkner)
  • Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay (Nancy Milford)
  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend (Laura Hillenbrand)
  • Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen)
  • Siddhartha (Hermann Hesse)
  • Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut)
  • Small Island (Andrea Levy)
  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories (Ernest Hemingway)
  • Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos (Julia de Burgos)
  • Songbook (Nick Hornby)
  • Speak, Memory (Vladimir Nabokov)
  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (Mary Roach)
  • Swann’s Way (Marcel Proust)
  • Swimming With Giants: My Encounters With Whales, Dolphins, and Seals (Anne Collett)
  • Sybil (Flora Rheta Schreiber)
  • A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
  • Tender Is the Night (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Michael Chabon)
  • The Art of War (Sun Tzu)
  • The Awakening (Kate Chopin)
  • The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath)
  • The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews (Peter Duffy)
  • The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
  • The Code of the Woosters (P.G. Wodehouse)
  • The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexander Dumas)
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Mark Haddon)
  • The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America (Erik Larson)
  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (Tom Wolfe)
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven (Mitch Albom)
  • The Fortress of Solitude (Jonathan Lethem)
  • The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
  • The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy)
  • The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
  • The Group (Mary McCarthy)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
  • The Holy Barbarians (lawrence lipton)
  • The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (Victor Hugo)
  • The Jungle (Upton Sinclair)
  • The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar (Robert Alexander)
  • The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
  • The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 (Gore Vidal)
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)
  • The Little Locksmith: A Memoir (Katharine Butler Hathaway)
  • The Lottery: And Other Stories (Shirley Jackson)
  • The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
  • The Manticore (Robertson Davies)
  • The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov)
  • The Meaning of Consuelo (Judith Ortiz Cofer)
  • The Metamorphosis (Ovid)
  • The Naked and the Dead (Norman Mailer)
  • The Name of the Rose (Umberto Eco)
  • The Namesake (Jhumpa Lahiri)
  • The Nanny Diaries (Emma McLaughlin)
  • The Opposite of Fate (Amy Tan)
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)
  • The Polysyllabic Spree (Nick Hornby)
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker (Dorothy Parker)
  • The Portable Nietzsche
  • The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill (Ron Suskind)
  • The Razor’s Edge (W. Somerset Maugham)
  • The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
  • The Rough Guide to Europe 2006 (Various Authors)
  • The Scarecrow of Oz (L. Frank Baum)
  • The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
  • The Second Sex (Simone De Beauvoir)
  • The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
  • The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon)
  • The Song of Names (Norman Lebrecht)
  • The Song Reader (Lisa Tucker)
  • The Sound and the Fury (William Faulkner)
  • The Story of My Life (Helen Keller)
  • The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway)
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
  • The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters (Elisabeth Robinson)
  • Unabridged Journals (Sylvia Plath)
  • The Year of Magical Thinking (Joan Didion)
  • Time and Again (Jack Finney)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  • Truth & Beauty: A Friendship (Ann Patchett)
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
  • Unless (Carol Shields)
  • Vanity Fair (William Makepeace Thackeray)
  • War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)
  • When the Emperor Was Divine (Julie Otsuka)
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Edward Albee)
  • Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Gregory Maguire)
  • Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (Rebecca Wells)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

Psychiatrist Andrew Marlow, devoted to his profession and the painting hobby he loves, has a solitary but ordered life. When renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes his patient, Marlow finds that order destroyed. Desperate to understand the secret that torments the genius, he embarks on a journey that leads him into the lives of the women closest to Oliver and a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism. Kostova's masterful new novel travels from American cities to the coast of Normandy, from the late 19th century to the late 20th, from young love to last love. THE SWAN THIEVES is a story of obsession, history's losses, and the power of art to preserve human hope.

My take: 2 looks

I read over 400 pages of this one and finally put it down, so glad that it was over, at least for me. The book was not a difficult read, but it was j-u-s-t t-o-o l-o-n-g.I don't care for rambling tomes of feelings, perspectives and ideas when they have already been set and delivered. I know. I get it. I understand. I comprehend. I caught on. I grasp the situation. I register. 10-4. Roger. Wilco.

See? You understand quite well what I am saying, and you got it the first time, but I went on and on and it gets a bit old, doesn't it?

By the time I put the book down, I could not care less what happened to the obsessed, self-absorbed, artificially-repressed-with-life painter Robert Oliver. I had no sympathy for the angst felt by the rejected Mary. I was glad that Kate was shed of the albatross that Robert had become to her. I was convinced that Andrew needed badly to have sex since he seemed to fantasize about every woman he ran across. I was not impressed by the love affair of Beatrice and her uncle-by-marriage.

Honestly, I rolled my eyes so much at this story I probably should make an appt with my opthomologist, but really wanted to finish it. However, I started to feel that it was sucking days from my existence. Deciding to put it down unfinished was a relief. I have also decided to remove another book by Kostova, The Historian, off of my TBR list.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner

In the novel that won her the Booker Prize and established her international reputation, Anita Brookner finds a new vocabulary for framing the eternal question "Why love?" It tells the story of Edith Hope, who writes romance novels under a psudonym. When her life begins to resemble the plots of her own novels, however, Edith flees to Switzerland, where the quiet luxury of the Hotel du Lac promises to resore her to her senses. But instead of peace and rest, Edith finds herself sequestered at the hotel with an assortment of love's casualties and exiles. She also attracts the attention of a worldly man determined to release her unused capacity for mischief and pleasure. Beautifully observed, witheringly funny, Hotel du Lac is Brookner at her most stylish and potently subversive.

My take: 3 looks

I am giving this book three looks because I found it easy to read and I loved Brookner's writing style The story was mediocre. Brookner assumes her readers are intelligent and uses the language to its fullest flourish. I adore reading books that drive me to the dictionary!

I felt quite like I knew these characters, as seen through the eyes of the protagonist, Edith Hope. As an author, she is a very astute observer of people, and the hotel gives her a small but interesting menagerie. Interestingly, she is keen on looking at others with a critical eye while dismissing her own indulgences until late in the story, where her self-reflection takes her to a crossroads. 

It is worth the read, in that the less-than-200 pages will cost you only a few days. Brookner's writing style is a delight and this winner of the 1984 Man Booker prize will hold its own on your TBR list.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I have the answer

Dear Books a Million, I have the answer as to why you are closing stores.

I visited the Books a Million in Huntsville today to spend my two giftcards and left in a state of complete dissatisfaction.

To begin with, there were not enough sales personnel to help customers. You know how Barnes & Noble ALWAYS has at least one person in the customer service section in the center of the store? BAM has a customer service section, too; but, it was empty the entire time I was in the store, unless someone was paged to go there. That meant that a customer had to ask for assistance in order to get attention. I don't like that.

I waited for the customer service person to help me with a few author's names. They didn't have either book I was looking for. So, I perused the sale aisles until a few more books came to mind. I went back to customer service. No one. I went up to the checkout and asked her to help me. She paged the customer service person. I waited there while she helped someone with a vampire series. They chatted until the loudspeaker said, "Tammy, please come to the front for a void." She PASSED me to go to the front. There were two people waiting behind me by this time...well, you get the idea. I had to wait. Then, I couldn't find either of those books, either, even though she assured me that they were both available.
So, time to check out. No one to pay. No one for any of the five registers at the front. I waited. And waited. And waited. So did everyone behind me. Evidently, the woman manning the cash registers had to go over to the coffee bar (Joe Muggs) to fix an issue with a coffee machine.

So, BAM, here is the issue: you are losing money so you cut hours and personnel. Customers come in to buy and become frustrated because they can't get the help they need. It's difficult to find items and there is no one around to assist. So, the customers go to another book store. Because we don't care where we go, we just want our books in the shortest amount of time for the l
east amount of money. You are not meeting at need and you are going to go out of business.

The End.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A fun video!

Ever wonder what books do overnight? Here is a peek!

The Joy of Books


The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

St. Elizabeth's is a home for unwed mothers in the 1960s. Life there is not unpleasant, and for most, it is temporary. Not so for Rose, a beautiful, mysterious woman who comes to the home pregnant but not unwed. She plans to give up her baby because she knows she cannot be the mother it needs. But St. Elizabeth's is near a healing spring, and when Rose's time draws near, she cannot go through with her plans, not all of them. And she cannot remain forever untouched by what she has left behind ... and who she has become in the leaving.

My take: 4 looks
This was a pleasurable book to read. The writing was robust and clever. I can see why Patchett has so much buzz about her right now. I found the book to be easy to read and hard to put down.

However, keeping me from giving this one 5 looks was the character around whom all others revolved: Rose. I found her to be a bit shallow and one-dimensional. I don't think this was the intention at all, in that I believe Patchett intended this character to be complex, brooding and unpredictable. I found her to be just the opposite. Rose was fervent in her lack of feeling and emotion, running when she got the good chance, and you knew she was going to run. Toward the end of the book, I found myself wondering if perhaps the author meant to give the impression that Rose suffered from Schizoid Personality Disorder. I was never compassionate toward Rose, and perhaps that was not the point, but by the end of the book, I didn't care at all about her.

Son, Cecilia and Sister Evangeline saved the story. They were all very compelling, complete and full characters. I felt Son's trepidation, sorry and joy. I ached for Cecilia to find her own way, first at St. Elizabeth's, then a way out of the grand hotel. Sister Evangeline was the mother/grandmother/confidant we all wish to have. The way they all interacted with Rose and because of Rose was a good tale.

I liked this book, and will read more by this author.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Dressmaker by Elizabeth Birkelund Oberbeck

In this romantic debut novel, a reserved provincial French tailor falls head over heels in love with a woman who’s hired him to create her wedding dress. Claude Reynaud is a bit of a throwback, an old-fashioned dressmaker working in a cluttered studio outside modern-day Paris, quietly designing his famous gowns by hand. Every spring he ushers pretty young society brides into his studio, measures them, and designs their dresses without ever contemplating for himself the sort of romance that will lead these ladies and their grooms to the altar.

But one afternoon a woman arrives who shatters his composure: Valentine de Verlay is charming, beautiful, a lady of society, and, of course, engaged. She comes with no instructions for her wedding dress, just a beautiful figure, a long graceful neck, and total faith in her dressmaker. Claude, forty-six years old, devoted to his work, and long since deserted by his wife, finds himself smitten.

As Valentine’s wedding approaches, his commitment to her dress makes it impossible for Claude to keep a safe distance, and everything he’s come to rely on in his small, focused life looks ready to collapse. Worse still, as he is welcomed into her circle of friends and family, it appears that the betrothed Valentine may share his feelings. The Dressmaker is a perfect gem of a novel, an enchanting portrait of another world, and, above all, a sly and irresistible love story.

My take: 3 looks
This summary really misses the mark, in my opinion. At no time did I feel that Valentine shared Claud's feelings for him. He was instantly smitten, quickly morphing into obsession, to the point that he almost forces himself on her at one of their last meetings. Their relationship is not sweet, simple or heartfelt. It is all lust for him, and all father-complex for her.

Adding to this plot is the estranged wife who suddenly appears after 8 years of silence, just in time for Claud to become a famous designer at one of France's most sought-after design houses. Overbearing, over-the-top, greedy, manipulative and grating ... this woman should have been turned on her heel. However, Claud succombs to her omnipresence and allows her to spend freely. Oddly enough, while his actions prove otherwise, he continues to make it clear to her and others that they are separated and getting divorced...all while signing check after check at her whim.

Then there is Lebrais, the owner of the design house. I could never figure out if the house was all-the-rage, or perhaps it had fallen out of favor with a fickle fashion market. In any event, Lebrais was the male version of Claud's wife: verbal, pushy, condescending and manipulative. Once again, Claud talks a big game, but falls in line with Lebrais' demands.

One bristling character I could have overlooked, two I could have handled, but three? I felt no compassion whatsoever for Claud by the end of the book. He deserved to be miserable, alone and a doormat. The saving grace of this book is the descriptions of fashion: the colors, the fabrics and the textures combining to create fabulous outfits.

This was the author's first book, so I will probably give her one more try.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

If any contemporary author deserves to wear the mantel of Jane Austen, it's Goodman, whose subtle, astute social comedies perfectly capture the quirks of human nature. This dazzling novel is Austen updated for the dot-com era, played out between 1999 and 2001 among a group of brilliant risk takers and truth seekers.

Still in her 20s, Emily Bach is the CEO of Veritech, a Web-based data-storage startup in trendy Berkeley. Her boyfriend, charismatic Jonathan Tilghman, is in a race to catch up at his data-security company, ISIS, in Cambridge, Mass. Emily is low-key, pragmatic, kind, serene—the polar opposite of her beloved younger sister, Jess, a crazed postgrad who works at an antiquarian bookstore owned by a retired Microsoft millionaire. When Emily confides her company's new secret project to Jonathan as a proof of her love, the stage is set for issues of loyalty and trust, greed, and the allure of power. What is actually valuable, Goodman's characters ponder: a company's stock, a person's promise, a forest of redwoods, a collection of rare cookbooks?

Goodman creates a bubble of suspense as both Veritech and ISIS issue IPOs, career paths collide, social values clash, ironies multiply, and misjudgments threaten to destroy romantic desire. Enjoyable and satisfying, this is Goodman's ( Intuition ) most robust, fully realized and trenchantly meaningful work yet.

My take: 3 looks
While this was a very entertaining and compelling book, it was in no way like a Jane Austen novel. For a reviewer to state such is unfair to the author. I liked the characters and the story, but found a bit too much going on at times, and several rabbit chases that left me unfulfilled. They story was heavy on Judaism, which was a bit confusing to me. It didn't seem to be a vital part of the story, but merely a fact (albeit important fact) of Gillian's past. Her daughters discovered the secret, each dealing with it in her own way, but that part of the story came too late in the book to explore or pursue. The fact that they were related to the family living behind their father was a little too tidy, or a little too creepy, for me to believe.

And what happened to Orion? Did he and Sorel just ride off into the sunset? What became of Molly? Did she continue to live in their apartment and become a doctor? Did she, too, become disenfranchised with her path and change it completely? Did Leon finally save the trees?

These are the reasons I give three stars instead of four. I will, however, read more by this author.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cape Refuge by Terri Blackstock

When Thelma and Wayne Owens are found murdered in the warehouse where they held their church services, their son-in-law Jonathan is arrested for the crime--but his wife Morgan and her sister Blair, Thelma and Wayne’s daughters, are confident that he didn’t do it and set out to find the real killer.

My take: 3 looks
I really enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. It is Christian fiction, for which I normally do not care. There are a few things that kept me from giving this one 4 looks, and 2 looks (for that matter).

All of the typical trappings of Christina fiction are there: constant undercurrent of belief and talk of God and Jesus Christ; believers trying to convince nonbelievers (although Blackstock is not heavy-handed about this one, thank goodness); getting through hard times on faith and prayer. Pretty standard stuff for Christian writers.

The one thing that caused me to almost give 2 looks were the irritating characters. Blair is a pain in the rear. She is so opinionated, headstrong, stubborn and prideful that she is almost a caricature rather than a personality. Morgan whined through 3/4 of the book about not having her husband around. Jonathan was just an ass for most of the book.

What saved this book for me was the last half. The story was so compelling, fast-paced and surprising that I literally could not put it down. I found myself smiling at plot twists, raising my eyebrows at revelations and was completely satisfied at the end.

Another saving grace is that not everything in this book was tidy, much like life. Everyone didn't live happily ever after, but continued with trials and tribulations. Too many Christians like to portray perfection once you accept Jesus as your Savior, but that's simply not true. Jesus provides a way to get through life, not escape from it. Blackstock understands this and uses it well in this book. I will read more by this author.