Call Me 37 Today

October 8, 2008 at 10:43 am | Posted in LIfe, Reading | 36 Comments
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Well, the day has finally arrived and I can no longer say that I am 36.  Well, I was born at around 9:50pm, so I could wait to say I’m 37 until tonight, but that’s being a little ridiculous (although if you agree with the whole date and time thing,  you’ll make me exceedingly happy right up until 9:49pm).

Seriously, 36 was a wonderful year.  I feel that I’ve come into my own in my career and as a book blogger.  I have read 70 books since my last birthday and have reviewed 64. It would be hard for me to pick out a favorite from during that time, but the books that have stood out in my 37th year are The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff, Gardens of Water by Alan Drew, The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner, The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George, The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman, Trauma by Patrick McGrath, Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan, Aberrations by Penelope Przekop, The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, and Sweetsmoke by David Fuller.

The best blogging experience I had personally revolved around Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield.  I bought this book for my husband, but read it first.  Little did either of us know that this would have a personal connection for my husband.  He was friends with Rob’s wife Renee.  We had a great time going through his pictures from that era and we posted one of Renee.  It always irritates me when there is no pictures in memoirs because I want to know what the people look like.  In this case, Danny was able to supply that for me.  It was also really neat to listen to the tape of his band singing The Beverly Hillbillies theme song to the tune of R.E.M.’s Talk about the Passion.  That whole experience was wonderful.

Best of all, I’ve met some of the most wonderful people last year.  From authors, to publicists, to my fellow book bloggers, to my readers.  I won’t name any because I don’t want to leave anyone out.  My life is richer because of you all.

I hope that everyone has a beautiful, beautiful day!

#97 ~ No One Belongs Here More Than You

August 30, 2008 at 3:12 pm | Posted in Books, Reading | 4 Comments
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No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories by Miranda July

When I first started exploring other book blogs and reading related e-newsletters, Miranda July’s collection of short stories kept popping up. The author and her collection of short stories sounded intriguing to me, but for whatever reason it wasn’t something I thought about when I went to order books. I joined Audible this spring and I was delighted to see that they offered this book and that it was read by the author. Since she’s a performance artist, I knew that this was the way to go with this book and used a credit on it immediately. In the end, I was happy that I picked this up during my introductory period and didn’t pay full price for the credit I spent on it.

No One Belongs Here More Than You is a collection of stories, in most cases not much more than character sketches, about people who are socially awkward and who just don’t seem to fit in with their surroundings. They are desperate and candidates for therapy at best and institutionalization at worst. There were moments where I really loved her writing, but I never once cared about a single narrator. If anything, I was concerned for the safety of those who were unwittingly apart of their lives.

After about the fifth story they all started to blend together and I lost interest. Miranda July’s reading didn’t help. While I cannot say that she read in a monotone voice, there is something about its quality and the lack of emotion that added to my disinterest. While listening, I often wonder if I would have enjoyed this more if it were read by another person or if I read it myself. It’s possible that those factors may have elevated my opinion somewhat, but I doubt it would have been enough for me to recommend it as a whole. Quite frankly, this territory is better covered by Patrick McGrath.

Here is a sample reading by Miranda July provided on her website. If you are interested, the stories “The Man on the Stairs” and “Birthmark” stood out to me. Rent the book from the library and read those stories. Otherwise, I’d just pass.

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To buy this book, click here.

#72 ~ Trauma

May 23, 2008 at 11:57 am | Posted in Books, Family, Gothic Fiction, Reading | 6 Comments
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Cover of Trauma

Trauma by Patrick McGrath

Trauma tells the story of Charlie, a divorced psychiatrist who specializes in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Charlie has spent his life taking care of his mentally ill mother and a brother-in-law who suffered from PTSD as a result of his tours of duty in Vietnam. After his brother-in-law dies, he ends his marriage, unable to cope with his guilt. After his mother dies, Charlie finds himself emotionally orphaned and without someone in his personal life to fix. What’s a psychiatrist to do living like that?

This novel takes place in New York City during the 70s and perhaps 80s. The Twin Towers are being built and viewed from many angles throughout the novel and are almost a character themselves, symbolizing stability in a city full of disillusioned Americans struggling to deal with the aftermath of the Vietnam War. I found this to be the best, most subtle, and thought-provoking commentary on our current war. The reader is free to draw one’s own conclusions or even not notice it at all because there is no break in the narrative to make a political statement. In the end, the novel is more timeless this way. While the story itself will always have a specific time and place in history, there is no blatant political commentary targeted at a 2008 audience that will interfere with readers 100 years from now.

I have always enjoyed Patrick McGrath, the more Gothic the better. This novel isn’t his most Gothic, but he is in great form. It reads quickly and is entertaining and interesting. I prefer Asylum to this and all of his other novels, still I found the tension to be perfect. Even after mulling Charlie over for the past few days, I’m still not sure if he is a reliable narrator. To me, this is a good thing. This way I am able to look back on a novel both with trust and full of questions. Each view provides an interesting twist. Of course, the mother is always to blame which ever way you slice it, but that’s another story.

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To buy this book, click here.

Smoky Mountain Vacation

May 12, 2008 at 8:43 am | Posted in Barnes & Noble, Books, entertainment, Family, Historical Fiction, LibraryThing, My Life with Books, Reading | 5 Comments
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Greetings from Gatlinburg, TN, located in heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s beautiful here despite the rain and I’ve enjoyed seeing my parents (I haven’t see my mother on Mother’s Day for at least 10 years), siblings, in-laws, nieces, and nephews. The kids did a great job on the drive. Even if they hadn’t, it’s just nice being out of the Roanoke Valley.

Although we’ll be away from home for 9 days, I’m planning on getting some good reading in:

  • Taking Lisa’s advice from Books on the Brain, I rented Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan from the library.
  • I snagged the latest book by Patrick McGrath, Trauma on the way to the checkout desk I was at the library.
  • The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block, which I received through a trade with another Early Reviewer on LibraryThing.
  • I picked up The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani for under $5 at Barnes and Noble last week. I’ve been wanting to read this since I read a review by Divia on HistoricalFiction.org.
  • Finally, I’m finishing up The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir. I’d love to say that I’m loving it, but it’s just okay. No offense to Last Night at the Lobster, but I shouldn’t be looking forward to my next book. I should be savoring this one. Sigh…

#22 ~ The Thirteenth Tale

May 12, 2007 at 4:14 pm | Posted in Books, Gothic Fiction, Reading, Secrets and Lies | 4 Comments
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The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

It took me a while to read this book, but that is not because it wasn’t interesting and delightful. Suffice to say that sometimes work gets in the way of life. I completely enjoyed reading a Gothic ghost story once again. I keep forgetting how much I enjoy them. There’s something about a misty, haunted moor filled with secrets and lies to keep my interest until the very end.

The narrator, an avid reader, lives above her father’s bookstore. From a very young age Margaret spent a majority of her time reading. Her ability to read expanded once she began working at the store full-time. The store is full of exotic books, but it is not the main way in which their livings are earned. Her father has a knack for finding the most difficult books. Four of those sales a year is all they need.

Her life is sheltered within this world of books until she is offered the opportunity to write the biography of one of Britian’s greatest living novelists. Vida Winter spent her life spinning tales when asked about her private life. To Margaret, she wants to come clean. Margaret’s family also has its secrets that keeps her at arms length from her mother. After some discussion with her father, she accepts the position and makes a temporary move to Ms. Winter’s estate.

The world of shadows, ghosts, and mentally unstable relatives unfolds for Margaret during sessions with the author in her library. As Margaret tries to tie together loose ends and prove to herself that Ms. Winter is not making a fool of her, the reader is, too. The rules that Ms. Winter put in place about not asking questions and not jumping ahead in the story are as tantalizingly frustrating to the reader as they are to the narrator.

The conclusion to this book is reminiscent to many other Gothic novels. Asylum by Patrick McGrath came to mind. It, by far, is my favorite book in this genre. I finished the book with satisfaction. It was nice to not feel disappointed. The fact that I wasn’t longing for more is not negative. It felt complete and that is a joy to me. Not everything has to end with Scarlett tormented on the stairs determined to get Rhett back after first rejuvenating her soul at Tara.

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