2014 Yearbook

I wanted to wrap up the year on a fun  note. You may have seen the Facebook game floating around where you list 10 books that have stuck with you. Could just be a favorite, could be memorable in a challenging way. The aim is to identify books that have influenced you in some way. It took me about and hour to compile my list. So many books that I read linger in my memory, but to narrow done to 10 was so impossible that I had to include 2 swing votes! My top 10 (+2) are listed below and I encourage you to share yours!

1. The Glass Castle- Jeannette Walls
2. The Secret Life of Bees- Sue Monk Kidd
3. The Red Tent- Anita Diamant
4. Life After Life- Kate Atkinson
5. Charlotte’s Web- EB White
6. The Probable Future- Alice Hoffman
7. The Magician’s Nephew- CS Lewis
8. Atlas Shrugged- Ayn Rand
9. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly- Jean-Dominique Bauby
10. The Time Keeper- Mitch Albom
(Swing votes: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks- Rebecca Skloot,The Storyteller- Jodi Picoult)

 

And now for the list of books I read this year! I made it to 37 book reviews (I admit to reading a few that I didn’t write reviews for). Here is the line up, start to finish

Book # 1- Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store, by Robin Sloan 

Book #2 Where’d You Go, Bernadette. By Maria Semple. Audio Narration by Kathleen Wilhoite.  

Book # 3- The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, by L. Frank Baum. 

Book #4 Defending Jacob, William Landay. 

Book #5 Deadly Heat, by Richard Castle.  

Book # 6- The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce.  

Book # 7 Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, by Helen Fielding. 

Book # 8- Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, by Matthew Dicks

Book # 9- Night Film, by Marisha Pessl. 

Book#10-ish The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert

Book #10- Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline.  

Book # 11 Morning Glory, by Sarah Jio

Book#12- Out To Lunch, Stacey Ballis

Book # 13- Baltimore Blues, Laura Lippman.

 Book #14- The Burgess Boys, Elizabeth Strout

Book #15- Life After Life, Kate Atkinson

Book #16 The All Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion, Fannie Flagg

Book #17 Me Before You, Jojo Moyes

Book#18 This is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper

Book # 19- Serena, Ron Rash

Book #20 Twisted Sisters, Jen Lancaster

Book #21 The Dinner, Herman Koch. Translated by Sam Garrett

Book #22- What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty. 

Book# 23- The Engagements, J. Courtney Sullivan

Book #24- The Theory of Opposites, Allison Winn Scotch

Book# 25- Conspiracy of Silence, Martha Powers

Book# 26- The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman

Book #27- The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion

Book # 28- The Invention Of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd

Book # 29, The Time of My Life, Cecelia Ahern

Book #30 The One and Only, Emily Giffin

Book #31- The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, By Gabrielle Zevin 

Book #32 The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty. 

Book# 33 The Home For Wayward Ladies, Jeremy Scott Blaustein. 

Book #34 Lost Lake, Sarah Addision Allen.  

Book# 35- The Collector, Nora Roberts. 

Book # 36 A Tale For the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki. 

Book# #37 Still Life with Bread Crumbs, Anna Quindlen.

And coming soon… Book #38, The Book of Life, Deborah Harkness. So stay tuned!

 

“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know.” ― John Keats

YA not?

It seems like the YA genre is getting a lot of heat lately. Thanks to John Green and The Fault in Our Stars, the spotlight is on YA novels turned film, but the scrutiny is on the value of these books in the adult literary world and whether we should spend vs. waste our time with them.  So for everyone judging adults reading from the YA section of the bookstore, let me ask, what defines a YA book?

Probably the first answer is a teenaged protagonist. Then, subject matter relating to adolescence.  Occasionally, there is some element of fantasy, though not required. And more often than not, these books arrive in series. Let’s explore: Twilight, Ender’s Game, Divergent, The Hunger Games.  Wildly popularized by their movie buzz, but still marketed as YA.

But if we follow that set of rules, it could also be argued that books like Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie are also YA novels. And I’m sure no one would tell you to feel embarrassed about reading that. I’m firmly in the camp of read whatever you want! If you are a kid who only wants to read comic books, a teen who only wants to read magazines, or an adult who only wants to read blogs; I’m all for reading anything that informs, enriches and enlightens your world. I’m the kid who read every word on my activity placemat at diners, practically memorized the signs in the aisles of the grocery store and tried to pronounce all the vitamins and minerals hiding in my cereal. Why? Because reading is good for and it’s more fun than staring into space while you wait. Thats why I’m the adult who carries reading materials everywhere and measures my purse to my Kindle before buying. My point: never feel ashamed of your reading material! You’re already one-up on the person playing candy quest on their phone!

Instead of my normal review format, here is a list of YA novels I’ve read recently that are totally worth reading as an adult:

1) The Fault in Our Stars, John Green 

fault in our stars Hazel and Augustus meet in a support group for kids with cancer. They bond over their shared fates and as they become close, they share their favorite books with each other. Hazel’s book has an unsatisfying ending, and they decide to pursue the author together to ask for further closure of the story.  It’s rather like reading the plot of a Shakespeare play in modern times.

2) The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

book thief Set in WWII Germany, the story is narrated by Death who becomes intrigued by Liesel when he sees her steal a book at the site of her brothers grave. Death follows her story as she is taken in by foster parents, learns to read, and steals books from Nazi book burnings and affluent community members. The story is beautifully descriptive and gives unique insight into being a German citizen during the Nazi reign.

3) Reconstructing Amelia, Kimberly McCreight

Amelia Kate is a single mom, doing her best to raise her daughter well, but she works hard as a lawyer in a competitive firm and isn’t as on top of things as she may think. When she gets a call to inform her that her daughter jumped from the roof of the school, she is in utter disbelief. Then she starts receiving mysterious messages indicating that Amelia’s death wasn’t suicide after all. Kate investigates the remains of daughter’s life to uncover the truth. A bit like an episode of CSI, this story offers insight into high school social media and the privilege of affluence.

4) If I Stay, Where She Went, Gayle Forman

if i staywhere she went If I Stay tells the story of Mia who is alone in the world after a horrible car accident takes her family from her. She is hurt badly and while her body lies in the hospital, her consciousness roams amongst her friends and grandparents gaining a different perspective of the situation. It becomes clear that she has a choice to stay with them or to join her family…  Where She Went tells the story of Adam, Mia’s boyfriend and his life after Mia. At the time of the accident, Adam’s band was gaining ground in Portland and Seattle and since then, they’ve reached super-stardom.  While I enjoyed the first book better for the interesting perspective, I appreciated the closure of the follow-up.

5) The City of Ember, Jeanne DuPrau

ember Ember is a city created by “the builders” with a specific infrastructure and community plan to save its inhabitants from the dangerous conditions occurring on the surface of the Earth. The city was supplied for 200 years, but 40 after they were due to exit, Ember’s people are running out of supplies. When they are assigned their jobs, Lina and Doon become suspicious of the city’s ability to survive and discover a way to save the people of Ember. This post-apocalyptic fantasy proposes an interesting means of survival and renaissance.

 

Those are just a few suggestions to get you started, all coming with my recommendation for personal enrichment, book club discussions and side-by-side reading with your favorite 13-17 year-old!

 

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” ― C.S. Lewis

My funny Valentine

Please allow me a moment to deviate from book reviews to tell you about my Valentine’s day/weekend. My boyfriend is one of those guys that rolls his eyes about Valentine’s Day, its commercialism and overall Hallmark-holiday status. I, in turn remind him that he is welcome to buy me flowers any day of the year, not just Valentine’s Day, so if he’s really not into it, that’s fine. (He is smart enough to know that he should probably bring home flowers on February 14th, since that’s the only day of the year he ever buys me flowers! And also really yummy chocolate… Thanks babe!) Neither of us are very gushy romantics and don’t care for the demonstration of getting dressed up for a prix-fixe menu and a restaurant with a 6:00 or 8:00 sitting. So instead I made a fancy dinner at home and we just enjoyed each others company, quietly and comfortably.

On our usual Saturday date-night, we decided to try something different and went out for dinner at a top-floor restaurant with live jazz music, thinking we’d have a slow dinner with cocktails and enjoy the music and city views. And then we were presented with the Valentine’s Day prix-fixe menu and watched all of the dressed up couples on their romantic nights out…

My valentine to him was a movie and a book, of course. He is almost as book-hungry as me, but he’s more of a non-fiction reader, choosing biography, methodology and philosophy over say, a good murder mystery. Lately he is into the small business culture so I chose this title:

100 startupSince I’m a non-fiction novice, I did consult a few reviews on Amazon and Goodreads before selecting the book (something I avoid when choosing books for myself) and I also read a great article that appeared in Forbes endorsing the quality of information and advice. I’ll get back to you with boyfriend’s review when he is done!

Because what I really wanted to talk about is the movie… I gave him a copy of Pitch Perfect.

pitch perfect

This was not a gag gift. My 35 year-old, non-fiction reading boyfriend loves this movie. He walks around the house singing songs from its soundtrack, he knows the mash-ups and he tells me little facts about the production of the movie everytime we watch it. And it just makes me laugh. Not at him, well not at him to make fun of him, but at him because it’s just so funny to watch him get so into a musical-comedy!

So after dinner Saturday night, we went home and watched Pitch Perfect (again). And I was treated to his version of the soundtrack (also funny because he doesn’t always know the right words to a song, but sings with confidence anyway). And then at the end of the credits I see “Based on the book by Mickey Rapkin.”  Huh? How was this auditory treat a book, my fiction driven mind wants to ask. A little googling and, silly me, it was a non-fiction book about collegiate a cappella competition.

But that got me thinking and googling a little more… What other movies are unknowingly based on non-fiction books? Some that I found interesting:

Friday Night Lights (Geoffrey Douglas),  Apocalypse Now (Michael Herr), Adaptation (Susan Orlean), Mean Girls (Rosalind Wiseman), Full Metal Jacket (Gustav Hasford), Love and Other Drugs (Jamie Reidy).

Anybody know of any more? Please share, I’m intrigued!

Also since I’m reading several books that are about to become movies, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on cases where the movie is better than the book. Do you have an example where the film adaptation simply out-shined the original?

A Book in The Bag

I love to read! I wanted to be read to as a child. I read along with cassette tapes that prompted page turns with a little ping! I learned to read and maxed out my book limits at the school library and the public library. I got “pre-approved” and maxed out credit cards at Barnes & Noble.

Okay, that last part may not be entirely true… I’m sure I also had some help from  Target and DSW.

But you get the point. I read a lot, often, and I’m never without a book. Or these days, a Kindle. I have the app for my phone so in the rare case that I’m without my latest read, I can sinc up to where I left off. And I buy my handbags based on the criteria that they be big enough to fit my Kindle.

And so the name of my blog, a book in the bag.

But since I do so much reading, an get so much enjoyment from books, I thought I’d keep track and offer my modest and untrained critique of the books that I’m reading. I just turned 31, so my self challenge will be to complete 31 books this year. (This might be too lofty of a goal, I haven’t really done the math!)

I’m going to to try to honor each book and it’s author with an objective review of the work, before offering my opinion. I recently read an article about online book review sites calling some amateur reviewers “book-bullies” for their harsh and heavily opinionated posts. One went so far as to include GIFs and memes mocking the work. That will not happen here.

I am going to be honest about my feelings towards the book. I’m going to step out of my reading comfort zone a little too, though I make no promises to finish a book that fees like work to get through. Once while I was complaining about a book being particularly hard to finish my friend, an author, said to me, “Then just stop reading it! Who says you have to finish it?” I’m sure I blinked a few times before saying something intelligent like “Oh, okay…” It just never occurred to me to give up on a book, I felt like I must finish what I started. Or maybe it just gets good in the last 50 pages?

To this day, I don’t know how Middlesex ends, and I’m totally okay with it… Life is too short to read bad books! Or some other coffee mug quote…

Anyway I think you get the idea. I read all the time, and now I’m going to blog about it. I’m no Mother Goose or LeVar Burton, but maybe I can inspire someone else to pick up a good book! (Sorry that song is going to be stuck in your head for hours.)

So without further ado, Let the wild rumpus start!