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Showing posts from December, 2009

Top 10 Books of 2009

Another year gone, another stack of books read and shared.  The books listed below are a good cross-section of titles on my reading list.  A few of them were provided by Carole and Kathy, two of my most trusted book critics, and a few titles I stumbled upon on my own.  Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order.



Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society — A compelling story that also serves as a history lesson.  I knew people suffered, did without during World War II, but I never stopped to think of what exactly that meant.  This book tells that story with heart, wit and engagement — and a few interesting voices.

Drood — Long, but oh so good.  I loved every page of this tale of Charles Dickens' last years of life, told by his friend Wilkie Collins (himself an author of great repute: The Woman in White, anyone?).  I was absolutely smitten by the second chapter. 

Beginner's Greek — I re-told this lovely, charming and breathtaking tale of star-crossed love over and …

Can You Recall Your Favorite Books of the Year?

This has been a great year for books, and I'm sure it's easy for you to identify your favorite books.  Get those lists ready to compare with my "best of" list to be published at the end of the year, and see how our lists compare.

Can you guess my faves? Check out the books reviewed in 2009 not only on this blog, but also on Book Lovers, Get Your English On!, another blog on which I worked this calendar year.  See if you can guess my top 10.

If you have a blog, e-mail me your URL and I'll try to guess your favorites of 2009 in return. Maybe we read the same books.... you never know.

When I publish my "best of" list, be sure to chime in and share your ideas and opinions. I'm always looking for a new great book to read!

Review: The Lace Reader

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I can sum up The Lace Reader in one word: disappointing.

I don't mind an unreliable narrator, especially if it's one who identifies herself right off the bat as a liar.  I don't even mind a delusional, psychotic one. 

I don't mind when the narrator shifts from first person to third person — and from one character to another — in the middle of a section, then shifts back.  All with no explanation or preamble.  Toss in yet a third narrative with no preamble or explanation: a journal written in the first person by someone who is writing fiction — or not.  (Despite Brunona Barry's best attempts to derail me, I usually could figure out who was telling the story.  Usually.)

What I do mind is surprises that come out of nowhere.  When a book changes course, a story has a shift, it has to make sense or be explained to where it makes sense in that universe.  In this case, the shifts were incongruous with the storyline.  We are tooling along, the story is ambling in a certai…

Reading a Classic for the Villain

When asked why someone reads a classic story, the answer often is that the characters are memorable.  Often, characters are redemptive, loving, loveable, attractive.

But what if they're not?

Listverse intrigued me with a recent list of the 10 Vilest Villains in Literature.  I now am revising my classics reading list to include one or two of the more interesting villains.

I am already familiar with more than half of the villains on the Listverse list.  (I'm not sure if I should be pleased or concerned.)  I have met the Wicked Witch of the West courtesy of two different authors.  I'm also intimately familiar with Sauron, thanks to my recent obsession with The Lord of the Rings (thank you, Peter Jackson and J.R.R. Tolkien!).  I know I read Beowulf in college, but I claim no ability to retain anything I was scheduled to discuss in excruciating detail at 8 a.m. on a Monday.  I also know Satan, though not on a first-name basis.

However, I have yet to meet the Transylvanian count…

End of the Year Listmania Examined

December starts the rush for year-end "best of" book lists.  Every reader, reviewer and publisher with a publication (e or print) has an opinion about every category of every book.

I am no different.  I identified my Top 10 books in 2007 and 2008.  I most likely will do the same this year — if only to help me re-live the good books and banish the bad (and, alas, there are always, always bad books).  I make my list at the end of December, so I can include all books for the calendar year.

I understand that newspapers and magazines don't have the same flexibility as I do, but every year I feel bad for the December books.  Those of us born in that dark, cold, busy month know it's easy to be overlooked, trampled in the holiday rush and crushed by the approaching end of the year listmania.

I read book sections and reviews all year long, so rarely does the list completely surprise me.  It does, however, distill for me what ultimately rises above mediocrity.  As a frequent…