Sunday, February 21, 2010

Reading Round-Up - Jan 2010

Alright, I'm going to try to get back on the ball with the Reading Round-Ups. So even though Feb is almost over, I am going to go ahead with Jan. books. Better late than never, right?

Here's what I read in Jan:

1. Lost - Gary Devon

This was the long "lost" (haha) book that I had jotted down in my old notebook of books read from high school, but could never find again. I only had the title and couldn't figure out which of the many "Lost" books was the one I had read. That is, until I began browsing through my old journals and found that I had made mention of this book I was reading, the title and author. Anyway, I bought it used with my trusty Swagbucks and reread it.

All I can really say about it is that it is not surprising that this is a book that I never really forgot. But not necessarily in a good way. I had only a very vague recollection of the story, the opening scene, for instance, never left me. But I really had no idea how truly horrible the story was. It is interesting to me as a study in mental illnesses. But it is brutal and harsh and tragic. I wouldn't really recommend it.

2. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

January was a month of some disappointing reads. This was another one. I have liked the other Hardy books I've read, but this one was just such an incredibly messed-up and twisted story, by the end you're not even quite sure if you are happy with how things turned out or not. There were some interesting themes to think about, but as I said in my Goodreads review, just not enough redemptive value for me to enjoy it much at all.

3. I am the Messenger - Markus Zusak

Another interesting but essentially disappointing read. And how this author's books have gotten pegged as Youth Fiction is absolutely beyond me. The Book Thief was a much better book, but still not exactly geared towards "youth" in my opinion. But this one, was much much worse in terms of language and sexual content. Nothing explicit, but not what I'd want my young pre-teen reading, for sure. Even the main character is a guy in his twenties, so it can't really be justified by saying that if the protagonist is young, the story is for young people. I don't know, I'm baffled by it. But my recommendation, in a nutshell, is to read The Book Thief instead, and just skip this one.

4. The Lightning Thief - Rick Riordan

Ah, now this is Youth Fantasy at it's best. I loved that it is based on real mythology and that it inspires readers to find out a little more about the myths and mythological characters - so you get a little real history thrown into the fantasy mix, which is fun. I also loved the sarcasm and style of the writing. Very good stuff. Happily recommending it to my kids - and anyone else. We are also anxiously waiting for the movie to get to the dollar theater where we will perhaps go see it. :)

This reminds me, though. The movies based on kids books are really a lot of fun. We enjoy them thoroughly. But - I have some deep-seated issues with turning all the good books into movies. Can't we just leave good literature alone sometimes? Just let it stand on it's own merit? Let us keep our own visualizations of characters and scenes, instead of waiting for the inevitable movie to come out?
Well, anyway, that's just a little pet peeve of mine. Moving on . . .

5. Fugitive Pieces - Anne Michaels

This was my 1001-Books-You-Must-Read-Before-You-Die book for Jan. It was a really hard book for me to rate because it was very unique in it's format. Sometimes I felt lost, sometimes bored, and yet sometimes enlightened, sometimes intrigued. Overall, I'd say that it wasn't the most enjoyable read for me. But then, it was filled with such beautiful writing and wonderful quotable tidbits that I wouldn't exactly say I didn't enjoy it. Complicated to be sure.

Here's a quote: "I listened to these dark shapes as if they were black spaces in music, a musician learning the silences of a piece. That my life could not be stored in language but only in silence." (p 111)

and another: "He asked endless questions to order his thoughts, leaving "why" to the last. But in my thinking, I started with the last question, the "why" he hoped would be answered by all the others. Therefore I began with failure and had nowhere to go." (p 118)

6. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint Exupery

This was another reread for me as the bookclub pick for Jan. I liked it better this time around than I did the first time I read it. It is interesting to me to think about what the author's intent might have been in writing a story. And whether we are reading too much into it, or taking it too much at face value. It could go either way. I've decided that I don't know if it matters too much, though. Just as with any art, it can mean whatever we want it to. Sometimes the power is in holding different meanings for different people, different times of life, different needs.

7. Paper Towns - John Green

This was probably my favorite of the books I read this month, with a precaution for some PG-13 content and language. But this story stuck with me and thoughts about it kept creeping up on me throughout my days, long after I finished it. One of the most interesting themes to me was that people are never what we remembered them to be or what we think them to be from our egocentric perspective. Combined with all my fun flashbacking in the month of jan, with journals, letters, music and photos, this was just a very poignant reminder. What we see is not what people really are, or not all of it anyway. And what we remember isn't really what was. Thinking about memories and people and events is just so interesting to me - and piecing together different perspectives of what is and was - putting things together and trying to find what is "real." Anyway - I've been contemplating writing more on this topic. I never did really get all my thoughts to make sense on it, as you can see. But I really enjoyed this book. Great story.

And that's it.
What have you been reading?? Have any thoughts on books (these or others) to share??
Looking forward to continuing this conversation next month . . .


Mom B. said...

I just finished volume 6 (last one) of the Great and the Terrible series. Although I had a little trouble getting into the first one, the other 5 I could not put down. I started them about 6 weeks ago. They were fascinating and frightening and gave me a lot to think about. Mainly, how quickly we could be thrust back into a life that the people in the 1800's had with not transportation or electricity. Anyhow, I'd recommend the series to everyone. Even though it was fictional, it was a real eye opener.

Chelsea Roeber said...

Kristen, you read a lot. I wish I read that much. When do you read? How do you read so fast? I need skills.

bonitinha said...

I SOOOO agree with you about leaving great books alone and not making them into movies. Or worse, Broadway musicals. And I really like your thoughts on The Little Prince. Very interesting & thought provoking. As always, an impressive list for the month! I'm falling even further behind than usual in my reading, and no hope of picking up speed any time soon. But I am currently (slowly) enjoying The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey. Next up I think will be a re-read of The Lord of the Rings. It's been several year, so it's time to revisit it.

Jennifer said...

I somewhat agree about the movies. It's a love hate relationship for me. I love the BBC book adaptations, but most Hollywood renditions are so lacking. So when you see The Lightning Thief just keep saying, "It's BASED on the book, it's not the book, just BASED on the book."

I have been so slow with my reading lately. I don't know what my problem is. I'm still working on the Book Thief. It's not that I don't like it, I just don't take the time to read. Oh well.

Ellie said...

We recently read The White Queen in my book group. The first half was interesting, the second half just felt like more of the same over and over and over. But if you are a really fast reader maybe it won't feel so much like it drags on? We also read Flipped, which was quick and entertaining. This month we are doing Veil of Roses, which I enjoyed and I think will have a good discussion.

The Mel B said...

I just finished reading Atonement, which I thought was really good, and now I'm reading The Secret Garden. If I continue my pretty impressive pace of about one book per month, I might catch up on the books-I-have-purchased-but-have-not-yet-read pile this year! Woohoo!

The Mel B said...

Oh! And I saw this amazing pop-up version of The Little Prince at Anthropologie and I Am In Love. So adorable.

Colleen said...

I really love movies based on books. It's so fun for me to see a story I love come to life. That said, there are some pretty awful ones out there. (Ever see Inkheart? Yeah.)

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