Tuesday, July 31, 2007

July Reading Round Up!

Another month, come and gone, hard to believe! Where is 2007 going?

Well, here we are and time to run through my monthly list of reading. As always, there are spoilers in these reviews, so read with caution. The exception for this month is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which I'm not saying anything about plot-wise on this blog. I'll accept emails and comments on the matter :-)

So without further ado...

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. I loved it. It was exactly what the series needed to pull it all together, to answer the questions we needed answered and to give us an ending that, whether or not we agreed with it, concluded Harry's story nicely. (I for one loved the ending, particularly my #1 guy, Neville, being brave.) Way to go, J.K.!

2. Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris. My sister gave me this one with the aside that "it's actually kinda good." Apparently this is a series of books about Harper Connelly, a young woman who survives a lightning strike to discover that she has the ability to find dead bodies of missing people. In this book, she travels to a small town in Arkansas, where she has been hired to find the body of a young woman who has disappeared after an outing with her boyfriend. Harper's brother Tolliver accompanies her and they soon find out that all is not what it seems in Sarne AR.

I really enjoyed Grave Sight. For one thing it's a real quick read and even though I was kind of frustrated by the Arkansans and their rejection of the truths being offered, as well as their attempt to thwart Harper and Tolliver from leaving even though they don't want them around. It was not too taxing on the brain, so I read it as a great vacation book.

3. Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich. As part of my continuing quest to re-read the Stephanie Plum books, I re-read Three as another vacation read (I'm excited to say that I got 13 last night and can't wait to dig in!). The further adventures of Stephanie Plum, Jersey girl, bail enforcement officer continued in this, another worth addition to the Plum lexicon. I am glad to get to number 4, which is one of my favorites of the series alongside either 9 or 10 (I can't remember and the Amazon.com reviews are useless).

In this particular book, Stephanie has to track down Uncle Mo, a local saint who's wanted for murder. As the body count adds up (most of the deceased are drug dealers), Stephanie's own body is at risk, and from more than the increasing advances of Ranger and Morelli.

Grandma Mazur is great in this book as well. These books are way too much fun.

4. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. I've already reviewed this book as part of Lesley's Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge, so I'm going to take the easy way out and cut and paste (hey, I've got company coming tomorrow and then will have company straight through till August 15th, give me a break!)

The Glass Castle is a memoir Walls wrote about growing up with her eclectic parents: alcoholic dad Rex and dreamer mom Rose Mary. The Walls family lives like nomads at the beginning of the book--packing up in the middle of the night and leaving whatever home they're in to escape bill collectors, police, and child welfare workers. They travel around the US Southwest until their money runs out, and they are forced to move in with Rex's family in West Virginia. At this point, the Walls children start to plan their escape from the craziness of their upbringing and make plans to go to New York City to start fresh, new lives where they are unknown.

Eventually the elder Wallses become homeless after following their children to NYC (this is not a spoiler, considering on the first page, Jeannette talks about seeing her mom dumpster diving). There was a quality about Rex and Rose Mary--crazy though they were--that I liked. At the end, when their squatting leads to an opportunity to buy a place in the building, it's almost as if the optimist in Rose Mary knew it would all work out. Rex's alcoholism and the issues of his family certainly are disturbing--particularly in Rex's dismissal of claims of sexual abuse against the children--and yet there's something that leads you to pity Rex as well and feel a warmth for him as he does his best to keep the children free and moving.

A great book, a lot of great places and people, all of it sticks with you quite vividly, and I was pleased that the places played as important a role as the people and the story. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. I'll be sad to give it back to Lauren! :-)

5. The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg. I was kind of nervous about this one, since I let my mother-in-law borrow it before I read it and she really didn't like it. She loved Berg's writing style, but thought the story was kind of boring. So I held off for a bit.

The Year of Pleasures is the story of Betta, a writer of children's books, whose husband John suddenly dies of cancer and leaves Betta to live out their dreams to live in the middle of nowhere and start a new life. Betta is driving through a small town near Chicago when she finds a huge old house that speaks to her. She immediately sells her home in Boston's Beacon Hill and moves to the old house, where she is at loose ends to find some way to fill her life without the man she loves. She reconnects with old friends with whom she lost contact after her marriage, and eventually rebuilds her life without her husband.

Well, I'm real sorry my MIL didn't like this book, but by the end, I was bawling my eyes out. This is common for me and Elizabeth Berg, so I'm not surprised, since I find all her books really moving. I guess as I become "more and more married" I think more and more about my relationship with my husband and how empty my days would be, despite the frustrations we have with each other, if he was to disappear. I'll probably avoid any more widow books for a while, but this was one great book!

6. An Idiot Girl's Christmas: True Tales From the Top of the Naughty List by Laurie Notaro. I was really wanting to dive into her new book, but decided to wait so I could include it in the reading challenge. After meeting an author, I love to read their books right away, so I decided on this one. It is standard Notaro, and probably one of the reasons I'm not a huge fan of her writing, although I'm a big fan of hers. I love subtle humor, sarcasm, dark humor, but I'm not always so much a fan of a book that grabs you by the collar, shaking you and screaming, "Aren't I funny, goddamnit!?" I find that many of Notaro's books do just that.

This is a book of humorous tales from the holidays centered around Laurie's family and friends, including her long suffering husband, her mom, and her best friends in Arizona. The stories are amusing, but they're just not my kind of humor. My sister, however, thinks they're brilliant. So go figure! :-)

7. Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters by Jean Shepherd.

Originally, I had planned to use this book as a selection for the reading challenge, but it wasn't so much about about Indiana as it was about the people, so I selected a different book instead.

Wanda Hickey is one of those humorous coming of age stories in vignettes a la Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon stories. The true stories tell of Jean Shepherd's childhood in small town Indiana, where his family and his friends are the main players on a stage of hilarity. Being Polish, I was particularly taken with the story of Josephine, a Polish girl from East Chicago upon whom Jean sets his sights, and whose Polish family he describes with a gusto that makes me love my own family all the more. Other great stories include the wonderful tale of the trip to the fair and of course the title story. Told with charm, wit, and a little bit of the ole "awwwww!" factor, this was a great read. One of my favorites of this year.

8. Picture Perfect by Jodi Piccoult. How do you say no to Jodi Piccoult on a library book sale shelf for only $2? You don't. And I'm glad. For once, although this book was written 14 years ago, she gave up her trademark twist at the end of this engrossing tale. Cassie Barrett is a bookish anthropologist who catches the eye of Alex Rivers, hot shot Hollywood actor, on the set of a movie where she's been asked to act as technical advisor. All is not what it seems, however, and after Cassie and Alex are married in a quickie ceremony on set, Cassie discovers her new husband is an abusive drunk who cannot shake the skeletons of his past. The question becomes, does she leave or does she stay? And if she stays, will she survive his rages?

The book ended precisely as I would have liked it to end, perhaps even better, since Cassie didn't take it like a doormat at the end of the day. This has been my favorite Piccoult book thus far, which is funny since it's one I'd kind of looked over a couple of times while browsing the shelves. I've learned my lesson.

9. 3rd Degree by James Patterson. Michael and I needed an edgy mystery to get the blood pumping this summer and hit on this 3rd book in the "Women's Murder Club" series being worked on by Patterson. The series revolves around 4 women (a detective, a prosecutor, a medical examiner, a reporter), but particularly around Detective Lindsay Boxer in this book, who is working on a major case involving some anti-globalization whackos who have decided to start a major crimewave in response to the G8 summit coming to California.

Lindsay and her friends are knee-deep in whodunit, collaborating, and falling in and out of love. The story is intensely fast paced, and we were kept guessing to the very end who the bad guys were. It was unputdownable, although, of course, we had to. Definitely gripping, and there were a lot of unhappy endings involved, so it wasn't a simply cut and paste the villain job. In fact, half the time, you kind of felt sorry for some of the bad guys. Classic Patterson, wonderful!

So that is all for this month. It's been a fine month for reading, and now that it's so freakin' hot here in VA, I'll be inside a lot more and doing a lot more reading. So, we'll see what August brings. As I mentioned, my "to-be-read" shelf is out of control. So I've got plenty of choices!

The Great: The Glass Castle, Year of Pleasures, Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters, Picture Perfect, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The Good: 3rd Degree, Grave Sight, 3 to Get Deadly,

The OK: An Idiot Girl's Christmas,

The Awful: N/A

Totals for July:

Books Read: 9
Pages Read: 3,140

Totals for 2007:

Books Read: 66
Pages Read: 21,644

4 pearl(s) of wisdom:

Seraphim9 said...

Oh, that Stephanie Plum is a peach! I've thought at times that I was a walking disaster but Stephanie...whew. Thanks for turning me on to this series. I just finished "Hot Six" and have numbers 7-11 waiting for me to pick up at the library. Have had lots of time to read in the past 2 weeks during my recuperation. Ooh, I'm almost going to hate having to go back to work! LOL!

Kate/Susan said...

So glad you're enjoying them, S! I can't get enough of her. Don't forget to reserve "Visions of Sugar Plums" and "Plum Lovin'" :-) But you'll want Plum Lovin' after you've finished 1-12.

Lesley said...

I definitely agree with you on HP and The Glass Castle, you reading-fiend, you!

Trish said...

I haven't read Picture Perfect yet, but I do love Picoult. After reading your blurb, I think I'll have to check it out. I have Keeping Faith sitting on my shelf that I'll probably read later this month. I've loved everything she's written (well, *liked* The Tenth Circle). Best wishes!