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Archive for the month “January, 2014”

Stairway to Book Heaven?

More and more, I’m finding friends online posting wonderful photos of people across the world incorporating books and book love into their lives in unique ways. The below photo is no exception. Why shouldn’t your favorite authors and books be displayed as a kind of art? In this case, the homeowner gives new meaning to “book case”. Love it!

book staircase

Book Review: “Sharp Objects” by Gillian Flynn

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This is a gross book. Not saying it is bad by any means, but it’s just plain icky and cringe-inducing, filled with disturbing, dirty, and awfully sick people. Oh, and Gillian Flynn should probably not sit on the tourist board for Missouri anytime soon, as this is the second novel I’ve read of hers featuring a Missouri locale and she doesn’t paint it in any flattering light. Also, fair warning: If you involuntarily shudder and throw up a little bit in your mouth any time someone mentions “teeth pulling”, do not read this book.

However, all of my above initial thoughts aside, I give admirable praise to Flynn for having the guts to create such unlikeable main characters and for refusing to wrap her stories up in a tidy bow. I do not say this sarcastically, either. She excels at writing flawed people, and it’s truly refreshing to read books by a female author writing about the anti-heroes. One of the reasons I enjoyed “Gone Girl” so much was not that it was the best book I’d ever read, but that Flynn was willing to flip aside the mystery genre “rule book” and go for broke. I hated Nick as much as I hated Amy and I wasn’t too fond of his sister or her parents, either. Same goes for “Sharp Objects”- Camille Preaker is only one step above the rest of her wretched family, but she’s just as disturbed as nearly everyone else in her broken and Stepford Wife-esque home-town. She’s dismally depressed, a heavy drinker, a poor judgement of character, and has a dark and jagged (wink wink) past. So what’s to love? She and almost she alone feels genuine sorrow for the murdered girls and is doing her darnedest to uncover the truth. I do end up garnering some sympathy for her, as I did with Nick in “Gone Girl”, albeit grudgingly.

But again, I must stress that “Sharp Objects” is by no means awful, even though it’s filled with awful folks doing terribly awful things. Flynn veers into traditional mystery genre formula territory near the end of the book, and it got painfully slow and repetitive somewhere near the 3/4 of the way gone mark. Although I (strangely) found it interesting to read about such flawed and damaged main characters, the author does fall into the trap of having Camille appear as too much of an outsider. She’s nearly always the smartest gal in the room and there is much commentary on how the other Wind Gap, MO town folk- most of whom having never left after high school- are immature, self-centered, uncultured, and stuck in the past. It gets to be insulting after a time. While Camille is no way near perfect (as the reader quickly discovers) she’s also not a fair judge to anyone else, and I quickly tired of having to listen (I read this via audio book) through endless interviews with her former school mates that ultimately resulted in peevish and childish trips down memory lane. Having never kept up, really, with anyone from high school, I couldn’t identify with this reminiscing and the absurd assumption that Camille could possibly be the only one who literally and figuratively “moved on” from high school drama.

As for the “whodunnit” aspect of the book, I guessed early on who the true culprit was. This isn’t necessarily a disappointing thing; as I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of awful side stories to go around and Flynn does make good use of diversionary tactics. The unfolding of the mystery is very slow going at first but after a while the speed picks up and I was hooked. I don’t think I have ever wanted to sit in traffic so much in my life, just to get one more smidge of story. And, one of the perks of listening in my car versus reading the actual book, was that I could not skip ahead or peek to the end! A huge (and sometimes incredibly frustrating) feat for me! I had to actually work out the crime myself and couldn’t take a tiny quick look at the end of the book to see if I was right!

The epilogue attempts to wrap up the story, but Flynn keeps things from steering into a fairy tale ending. I actually loved the ending a lot. Camille finally reaches a starting point where peace can potentially be achieved and there are just desserts for the killer. Nothing ever gets resolved, really. But I think Flynn is a smart writer- when does anything in real life ever get a “completed” stamp? The journey never truly ends for these characters, which ultimately makes her books so engrossing and thought-provoking, even when the stories and characters are not always shocking or pleasant.

First bookless library opens in Texas.

For a girl with some thoughts, I remain slightly thoughtless over this news. The nation’s FIRST bookless public library just opened in San Antonio. Completely designed for e-readers only!

 lat.ms/1bNYUd6

I’m all for reading, but what will this do to our current libraries?

2013 Reading Challenge- Done and Done!

So I didn’t make my goal. I still read 41 books out the 55 projected and funnily enough, 40 books was my original estimate, which I technically completed considering “The Adventures of Augie March” was a partial read.

I read several great books this year and only a few duds. For 2014, I have already signed up to read 45 books. I can’t wait!

Lessons from 2013:

  • I will not pre-fill my list with must-reads before I can add more books to the list. This idea was just plain crazy and too limiting. So many new books came out that I was dying to add to my “To-read” list and now I’ve forgotten what they were!
  • I will be more selective about what goes on my “To-read” list. Many books ended up being hard to get from the library, or missing altogether. A few books were so obscure that I would have to order them from Amazon and I didn’t want to spend $15 plus on a book.
  • I will use the Goodreads Recommendations function a bit more judiciously. Granted, none of the recommendations were awful, but more than a few ended up being quite dull or just too hard to find.
  • Cookbooks do not make great reading material.
  • If I’m not into a book, I shouldn’t feel the need to finish it. Life is too short.

Below are all of the books I read in 2013. Asterisks (*) indicate I reviewed the book on this blog. Any books highlighted in bold I considered to be particular stand outs.

Enjoy the list- I certainly did!

1.  The Women– T.C. Boyle

2. Gone Girl– Gillian Flynn

3. The Alienist- Caleb Carr

4. A Spot of Bother- Mark Haddon

5. Flight Behavior- Barbara Kingsolver

6. The Last Days of Dog Town- Anita Diamant

7. Bossy Pants- Tina Fey

8. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly- Anthony Bourdain

9. Let the Great World Spin– Colum McCann *

10. Wolf Hall– Hilary Mantel *

11. The Red House- Mark Haddon

12. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter- Seth Grahame-Smith *

13. Starting Now- Debbie Macomber

14. Girl Walks into a Bar…- Rachel Dratch *

15. Started Early, Took My Dog- Kate Atkinson *

16. On Writing– Stephen King *

17. A Ticket to Ride- Paula McLain

18. Bright Lights, Big City- Jay McInerney *

19. 11/22/63– Stephen King

20. The Partly Cloudy Patriot- Sarah Vowell *

21. Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions on cooking for one- Jenni Ferrari-Adler

22. Murder Below Montparnasse- Cara Black

23. One Thousand White Women- Jim Fergus * (under post “The Discerning Reader”)

24. Bohemian Paris- Dan Franck

25. Restless– William Boyd *

26. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth- Reza Aslan

27. City of Thieves– David Benioff

28. Human Croquet- Kate Atkinson

29. The Night Circus- Erin Morgenstern

30. Lies That Chelsea Handler Told me- Chelsea Handler

31. River of Darkness– Rennie Airth

32. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1)– George R. R. Martin

33. Time and Again- Jack Finney

34. Water Music- T.C. Boyle

35. The Drunken Botanist– Amy Stewart

36. Great Tales from English History– Robert Lacey*

37. The Adventures of Augie March (a partial read)- Saul Bellow

38. Among Wolves- Scott O’Connor

39. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald- Therese Anne Fowler*

40. Fraud- David Rakoff

41. Boom!- Mark Haddon

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