Books Read 2012

Books I Read (Minus the DNF) with random commentary.
JAN 2012

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Comments: Incest is icky, but this is a heartbreaking love story between siblings.  And I say this with absolute seriousness. Remember in V.C. Andrews’ Dawn when Philip Cutler is all ‘It’s not incest if we turn the lights off’? and that was um, gross, but in Forbidden, I was really rooting for Maya and Lochan and hoping they’d run away (but not procreate). I felt so TORMENTED after this read.

FEB 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Comments: Pretty Cover!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Comments: Hazel’s quest to meet that Peter Van author dude mirrors my Christopher Pike stalking. I can relate. Unlike Peter Van Mumble Mumble, Christopher Pike is really nice and HE WROTE ON MY FB WALL WISHING ME A HAPPY BIRTHDAY ONE WEEK BEFORE MY ACTUAL BIRTHDAY WHICH MEANS HE HAS ME MARKED ON HIS CALENDER. ZOMG I’VE BEEN MARKED BY THE PIKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! To quote Hazel: What is this life?????

MARCH 2012

Misery by Stephen King

Comments: The book is much freakier than the movie. I learned a new word: man gland. And when Annie Wilkes threatened to cut off Paul Sheldon’s man gland, I was secretly worshipping Stephen King’s sick mind.

APRIL 2012

Cujo by Stephen King

Comments: Rabid dogs are scary. That’s all. Read with some liberal skimming as there were lots of exposition on ad agencies and whatnot. Could use a ‘man-gland’ now and then.

MAY 2012

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott.

Comments: Stopped page 195. Reason: Library book due. Aspiring dressmaker on Titanic. I liked the pacing and rapid scene breaks, but when my copy went back to the library, I felt like I could live without finishing it. I’d probably pick it back up again when the Titanic mood strikes.

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

Comments: Derek Craven is one sexy gambling kingpin. And he speaks with a cockney accent, much like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, except Derek gets it ON with mousy romance novelist. Not that Dick Van Dyke doesn’t get it ON now and again. If you recall his Penguin dance, he is very flexible and… feral.

JULY 2012

Cracked by K.M. Walton

Comments: The bully and the boy he bullied become roommates in a psych ward. This is neither here nor there, but I kept imagining Biff and George McFly as roommates.

AUGUST 2012

Phantom by Susan Kay

Comments: This is one big mother of a book, but I am obsessed with The Phantom of the Opera and sort of want to marry the man behind the mask. This book is about his life and is so scrumptiously written that I actually looked up from the text to mouth “Wow.” Oh Phantom, you are like the most perfect man EVER. Master architect, magician, composer, tortured genius—who cares about your face? Christine doesn’t deserve you…Please take me to your secret lair and let me play with your mechanical monkey (oh how wrong this sounds).

SEPTEMBER 2012

The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell

Comments: Gothic-y middle grade involving a tumbledown mansion and an aviary filled with creepy birds. Birds freak me out. Feathers. Beaks. Scaly feet. Nasty avian scum! I once saw a man at the beach with two parrots on his arm and nearly tossed my cookies. Do not EVER ask me to pet your pigeon.

God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie Debartolo

Comments: This book is like a love letter to LA from characters who hate LA. This book is hilarious and the voice, my God the voice…Since this is blurbed as “This generation’s Love Story” on the cover, I already knew what was coming and yet, the end felt like a million daggers into my heart all the same. And when I finished picking up the shattered pieces of my heart off the floor, I thought about all the tragic endings I encountered this year. The Phantom. This book. A Fault in Our Stars. Forbidden. It’s the year of tempestuous love and untimely deaths. P.S. I pictured Jacob and Trixie as Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke circa Reality Bites.

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The Ever-Evolving Bookworm, Library Loot, and Flavors of the Week

I’m a slower reader this year and I’ve succeeded in culling the amount of books read in the first half of 2010. This is something worth bragging about. Let me explain. During my first two years of blogging, I was a slave to numbers. The goal: 100 titles/year. In short, I morphed into a speed reading demon who abused her library card carrying privileges. It’s like I was on crack (the nerdiest crack in the world) and my librarian was my corner tamborine man. Finally, my mind atrophied and I realized that there really was a limit to how much you could read before your head exploded. Not that my head exploded but I was in the middle of a conversation with my co-workers and they were all, “Sometimes I could feel the liquid slosh around in my head” and I’m all “Oh yeah. I know how that feels like. Ha. Ha.” *Shifts eyes* Secretly, my brain never sloshes about in my head like a sailboat on tempestuous waves, in fact, my head feels too big for my scrawny neck and I often wonder if others see me as a walking candy apple. Anyway, this year, I’ve started pacing myself and savoring the words on the page. The soundtrack of my reading habits has changed from zany circus hijinks to slow jazz, preferably jazz to make love to…

Onward! My library loot for the week.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle : I’ve read this twice: once in the 6th grade, once when I was 16. And I don’t remember a thing about it.  In order to read the next book in the series, I must reacquaint myself with the first one.

The Stand by Stephen King: According to Amazon, this is Stephen King’s most popular novel to date. Gotta see what all the fuss is about.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi: The title and cover art drew me in. I like the idea of steampunk but always found the novels disappointing (too much world building, not enough STORY building). Fingers crossed this will not be a disappointing read…

The Flavor of the Week…

This week I’m addicted to The Big Bang Theory. Aside from my Jamie Fraser (i.e. Scotsman) fetish, I’m sure you know about my thing for nerds. This show is a veritable nerd-fest and if I can’t have Jamie, I’ll take Sheldon Cooper who is nothing like Jamie Fraser which goes to show how much my fangirl tastes flip flops toward polar ends of the spectrum.

I am Bookworm, Hear Me Roar!

I’m usually proud of how much I read. To friends, family, and any passing acquaintance, I like to flaunt my numbers. You’ll often hear me brag that I average 80 books a year and I’ve got the book blog to back up my statement. For the most part, non-readers are impressed or at least they pretend to be in my face. Sometimes they get snippy. Once my cousin proclaimed that my reading was a waste of time. In response, I smacked said cousin upside the head with the book I had on hand and my only regret was that it was a paperback and not a 1,000+ page hardback. Let this be a lesson to one and all: you hurt my books, I hurt you.

As much as I marinate in the awesomeness of my favorite hobby, comments like “reading is a waste of time” or “I don’t read because I don’t have that kind of time” or “I don’t read because I have better things to do” puts me on the defensive. In all likelihood, the speaker didn’t mean anything harmful, nevertheless, I’m secretly thinking, “Are you implying that I have nothing better to do?”

While I’m used to such remarks jabbing me from all directions, I’m usually able to shrug it off. My love of reading is like an impenetrable fortress and the fact that I want to write to publish one day is even more justification for my excessive reading habits. But every once in a while, a snide remark slips through the cracks and pierces at my very core. You’d probably recall (or not) that earlier this year I tried to cull the amount of time I spent on reading and use that time to break out of my cloistered existence and get a life. So I’ve lived life and what did I conclude? I’d rather read.

Being without a book for even a week has made me realize how much I depend on fiction to color my reality. Perhaps I even use books as a respite from reality. But when I was bookless and miserable, I saw that my reality was a bleak and barren place; the only way I could force myself to stand it was through spinning brightly colored images in my head, and these images I derived from stories. Okay, I’m the first to admit that I walk through life like a sleepwalker with a big gossamer veil over my eyes but that’s the way I prefer it … for now.

The fact that I seem to have an endless amount of time to read comes about from forgoing television, sleep, conventional cooking, and sometimes social outings in order to accommodate my passion. It may seem incomprehensible to some that I would choose to stay in and read rather than go out and have fun. But I think reading is thrilling!  In fact, I’d much rather prefer a quiet night with a book and a cup of hot chocolate to a night at the club.  I am a bookworm, I am an Emily Dickinsonesque homebody, and I’m proud of it.

This post topic was inspired by Nymeth’s fantastic Making Time to Read post.

Litmus test of time

I’ve read a lot of books. More than the average person, more than what’s deemed sane by society’s standards. Sometimes I’m proud of this achievement and flaunt my numbers. In my darker moments, my gluttonous reading habits are a cry for help and I wonder if it’s healthy to live a large portion of my life in a fantasy land. But let’s wax existential another day.

One of the perks of shifting through story after story is perspective. I’ve encountered every plot and character archetype imaginable. Unless the book is blissfully good or pukeably bad, I never feel compelled to blog about it right away. I like to sit on the story, allow it sufficient time to marinate in my head for a few days to a year. This allows me to put the plot and characters through the litmus test of time. And sadly, the conclusion I’ve drawn after two years of intensive reading is that only a few novels are memorable while the rest read like amnesia.

For instance, I read a book (title omitted) last month that I remember liking enough to recommend to my friends. I vaguely recalled that I liked the dramatic situation, the setting, but if pressed to recount a detailed description of the main characters, I can’t do it. I don’t remember a darn thing about the protagonist other than his angst and even that is recalled through a dense fog. Which brings me to this heavy thought: if you read a book and can’t remember it, did you read it at all?

While I was in the grips of this year’s blogging ennui, I started to look back all the hundred or so books I read during ’08-’09— some I enjoyed reading in the lukewarm sense, some I wish I could erase from my mind, some that struck a chord with me and changed my life for the better—and I asked myself: “What makes a book memorable?”

I assumed the Thinking Man pose, compared a sampling of my favorite books that I’ve read and re-read, and fashioned a random mini list of traits that all memorable books have in common.

  • A compelling protagonist. According to the laws of good storytelling, the protagonist must have a goal. The better the goal, the better the story. The more the protagonist wants this goal, the more invested we become in the protagonist’s fate and the more disappointed we’ll be if the protagonist fails. In short, we must want the main character to succeed almost as badly as the main character, if not more. A novel is stronger if it has a proactive protag whose desires and ambitions are driving the plot as opposed to a reluctant protag who is dragged along by the will of a stronger character.
  • It’s not enough to have a sympathetic protagonist. You need to want to BE the protagonist and in order to do that, said protag must do extraordinary, larger-than-life and sometimes crazy, but more often than not badass deeds that you wish you could do in real life but you can’t because you are just not as cool as these fictional people.  For example: Claire trying to stop a war and change the course of history in Outlander, Captain Ahab trying to kill the whale who made him a gimp, the Don taking it to the mattresses, Scarlett vowing to “never go hungry again!”

Agree? Disagree? What, in your opinion, makes for a memorable book?

Childhood Books: Part II

Before I continue to chronicle my life in books, I’d like to say a few words about the weather. It’s hot: brush-fire igniting, eyeball searing, cataract inducing, turn up your oven, burn your hands on the steering wheel, heat wave mania. I’m typing this in the early morning, so I’m not baking yet, but in an hour, my booty will be sticking to the seat of my cheap leather chair, so I better reminisce in record time.

Speaking of hot, I think it’s time I fill you in on my R-rated, bodice ripping 8th grade reading experience. This was when I learned about the birds and the bees via historical romance novels and V.C. Andrews….

8th grade. 1997-1998.

By the time I turned 13, I had read my way through all the Fear Streets and Christopher Pikes and Stephen Kings worth reading. So one afternoon—I remember this vividly—I was browsing the library for something to read when I stumbled upon V.C. Andrews. V.C. Andrews claimed a large chunk of the General Fiction section, so her name was hard to miss. I’ve just never felt the desire to check her out. But that afternoon, I was desperate for something scary to read, which made me more receptive to trying out new authors. I plucked Tarnished Gold off the shelf and saw this stepback:

Is this illustration pee-your-pants creepy or what? Naturally, I assumed V.C. Andrews specialized in horror. As I read my way through the convoluted family dramas, I realized that these books were more mushy “horror romances” than “ghoulish or supernatural horror.” The mushy angle is all in the sickening sweet narration of the V.C. Andrews heroines and there was a point when one of them (I forgot which one) said something about magical woodland creatures which made me wonder if she was nibbling magical woodland mushrooms. In fact, my entire V.C. Andrews reading experience was like some acid trip. The horror part? Pervert/rapist stepfathers/half-brothers/cousins, swamp bums, psycho grandmas locking children into attics, nympho twin sisters trying to steal your identity. Tell me that’s not freaky.

And you know what I consider the creepiest element? When the heroine and her half-brother/half-uncle/half-cousin did the deed, she would dub his equipment his “manhood.” I remember reading these books during silent reading and being bombarded with “manhoods” left and right. I thought the word was lame even then, but hey, who’s going to put down a book with this high of a “manhood” count? Not I.

V.C. Andrews aside, this also seemed to be the year I kept stumbling upon romance novels that I thought (after reading the back cover blurb, mind you), were supernatural/suspense/horror. Which brings me to my first adult romance: Catriona by Jeanette Baker.

In Catriona, lawyer Catherine Sutherland journeys to Scotland to spread her mother’s ashes. In Scotland, she is hounded by lucid dreams of a past life as a 15th century English lady named Catriona Wells, who is forced to marry a studly Scottish border lord, Patrick McKenzie. You should know that I’m summarizing this plot off the top of my head and I for one am impressed that I’m able to remember this much from such an obscure book.

Catriona was responsible for my initiation into this whole past lives/paranormal/time travel genre, which just so happens to be big in romance novel land.

Granted, my romance novel reading only lasted a year and a half. I stumbled upon Jude Deveraux in the same way: “Whoa, someone goes back in time? Trippy. I shall read on!” and finally ended the romance period with Nora Roberts.

In between big names like Jude Deveraux and Nora Roberts were one or two obscure Medieval Romances with plots I can’t recall for the life of me. There was one (The Falcon and the Sword) that had a bad ass midget (okay, to be politically correct, “little person”). I don’t remember what purpose the little person served. Was he a sidekick? I do remember, however, that the hero–whose name escapes me—was the sword. Yeah…

And while I’m on a rambling streak, I remember this other novel, This is All I Ask, where the hero had some lame-o nickname like “The Dragon.” And the heroine was grotesque, not that it matters, because The Dragon was blind. This makes all the groping necessary because it was the only way he could see into her soul…

Okay, my booty is officially stuck to my seat. Scrape me off with a spatula. I’m done.

A Striped Armchair Reading Meme

The following questions are from Eva of A Striped Armchair. This will be my first meme as a book blogger! My official initiation!

1. Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. I know some readers will murder me for saying this, but this book is overrated. Before I slander this critic’s darling, I would just like to point out that I don’t slander blindly. I’ve heard glowing reviews—even Roger Ebert is a fan—and I decided to read it. I was excited. I love Westerns. I heard it was the most violent book ever written, but violence is a cake walk for me (I grew up reading Stephen King and watching Terminator 2 before bed—I am completely desensitized). No, the violence didn’t bother me: it was the writing style and the pace.

Maybe I’m a traditionalist, but I’m fond of dialogue attribution. I’m fond of quotations around dialogue and the simple “……..,” he said. There are no dialogue attribution in Blood Meridian. There are no quotations. So I spent the first few pages pondering who said what. It would have been helpful if the characters had names…but they didn’t. They are not characters at all but abstractions and aptly distinguished as ‘the boy’ or ‘the man.’

Pacing. Let’s just said I read 30 pages but I felt like I read 200. I’m all in favor of ornate language…when used sparingly. I’m sure McCarthy has literary pyrotechnics, but does every sentence have to be one long, glorious sonata? There’s something to be said about the simple sentence and literary restraint. At the end of each page, I was screaming for the appearance of a blessed three word sentence. Just because you have a trunk full of fireworks doesn’t mean to have to blow up the world.

Blood Meridian is abandoned. It’s dead to me.

Cormac McCarthy lovers, please see my About page for information on where to send hate mail.

2. If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

For any event, I will always breathe life into the male characters I’m in love with: Jamie Fraser (Outlander series), Nat Eaton (The Witch of Blackbird Pond), and presently Edward Cullen (Twilight series).

If we were on a world cruise, Nat Eaton would be my number one choice as he’s already a seasoned sailor. He has many years of experience on the rigging and since I’m a poor swimmer, he could save me from drowning should our ship enter troubled waters.

Edward Cullen for clubbing in the city because he has a sweet ride (silver Volvo) and a taste for nightlife; with his pristine vampire good looks and seductive, mind-reading charisma, we could get into all the exclusive clubs.

Jamie Fraser is perfect at everything. I’d want him specifically for a tea party or a dinner party because he’s the best storyteller and has an uncanny flare for dramatics.

I realize my boy craziness extends to literature too. Just for fun, if I had to bring a heroine to life, my choice would be Scarlet O’Hara (the heroine I most admire and strive to be like). Of course, she would probably steal all the male attention, so we would be fierce rivals.

Maybe a witty Jane Austen heroine at a tea party would pose less of a threat.

3. (Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. I felt like I wanted to die when I read it and it should no doubt propel me into the land of eternal slumber if I ever pick it up again…which is NEVER!

4. Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

After all my talk about my secret, 16 year-old crush on young Ernest Hemingway, I might have given the impression that I’m well-read in Hemingway.

Confession: I’ve only read The Old Man and the Sea and nothing else. Of course I tried to read The Sun Also Rises and Farewell to Arms. Both abandoned. Maybe I just like the idea of Hemingway more than his writing.

5. As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book?

William Shakespeare’s King Lear. I was convinced that I’ve read all the Shakespearean tragedies, but I guess this famous play may have slipped by me. I’m sure I began it, because some names and scenes are familiar, but I can’t really tell you what happened other than some characters die. You wouldn’t expect Shakespeare to read like amnesia so I must have abandoned it.

6. You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (if you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead of personalise the VIP).

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind. This tops my list as one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s the perfect combination of great writing, inventive storyline, unique characterization, and page-turning pace.

7. A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

French. So I can read Les Miserables as it was meant to be read and tackle all the French dialogue in the Brontë novels.

8. A mischievous fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. Since I was assigned to read it in the 6th grade (age 11), I’ve reread this book once a year and I plan to continue the tradition in the future. This book makes me so happy; it’s my safety blanket. My world would be bleak indeed if it disappeared from publication…

9. I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?

I’ve rediscovered and developed a new respect for YA literature. My most thrilling discoveries: the Twilight Series (Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse) by Stephenie Meyer. After reading copious blog reviews of Twilight, I decided to jump on the popular bandwagon and see if the book is really worthy of all the hype. I never expected to continue with the series, in fact, I never expected to like it. I knew I was not reading enough in the YA department so I began reading Twilight to broaden my horizons. What eventually developed was a full-blown obsession. As a result, I’m branching off into other YA books that I might have previously ignored. A good story is a good story no matter what genre it is marketed in.

10. That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

I’m a visual person so my perfect library has to be beautiful and creatively designed. If there is some special chemical to prevent books from aging into that vile yellow color and giving off that musty, mildewy scent, then it would be applied to all my library books to preserve them from decay. I like the smell of new books!

There will be an abundance of DVDs and even a screening room/movie theater to watch them.

I’m stealing from Disneyland, but what if there were sections of the library designated as the “Jane Austen nook” or the “Mark Twain corner?”

Hmmm, am I creating a library or a literary theme park. I think the latter.

Now I tag four people: Adventures in Reading, Girlebooks, Maggie Reads, and Between the Covers