Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 Books

What literary gems and disasters does 2011 hold?
One thing I plan to do a bit differently this year is to include a short blurb about the book along with the rating. Hopefully that will give others a little more information about each book and also serve as a reminder to myself months or years from now when the plot may get fuzzy in my mind.

As always, the rating:

1-3 I wish I could burn all copies of this book.
4-6 Had a few things going for it, but definitely not my favorite.
7-8 I enjoyed or got something out of this book, worth reading.
9-10 One of the best, highly recommended.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver 7 a "teen" book with an interesting "Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls" concept. Well written and interesting, but slightly boring and did not like the ending.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult 7 Good writing and informative about Asperger's Syndrome...only complaint was it was too predictable.

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner 9 great sequel to The Maze Runner that makes me long for the final book coming out in October. Similar to Hunger Games, I recommend it.

Push by Sapphire 7 extremely graphic, horrifying story of an abusive upbringing that does have some redemptive aspects. thought-provoking, inspiring.

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro 8 absolutely loved this book until the last chapter which I found confusing and ambiguous. would have given it a 10 if it had ended better. interesting, slightly macabre tale of a Japanese woman's eerie friendship just after WWII.

The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card 7 Great sci-fi book about a boy with a rare mystical talent. The tale jumps between two main stories that eventually intersect. Not as good as Harry Potter but way better than the Percy Jackson series. Am hoping for more (a series?)

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan 9 McEwan writes with perfect clarity and detail (how does he get inside a person's mind and describe their thoughts so perfectly?) about the disastrous sexual encounter of a honeymooning couple in the 50's. Loved it.

Paramedic to a Prince by Patrick Notestine 3 A Californian paramedic works in Saudi Arabia in a hospital and with a royal family and details his experiences with the culture there. His disorganization and arrogant tone made him a pain to read.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley 7 Back and forth between a modern day tale of a female writer who is intrigued by an old Scottish castle by the sea and the young woman in the past of whom she writes.

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card 8 Sci-fi story involving time travel, space travel, and has great character development. Stayed up way too late one night to finish it!

Trapped by Michael Northrop 5 Young adult "horror"mm genre about 7 students trapped in their high school when a terrible blizzard strikes. Good plot idea, but the writing was too juvenile and the ending, which suddenly came out of nowhere, was rushed and anticlimactic.

The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz 7 A common girl marries the Emperor's son in this fictional novel set in Japan in the mid 1900's. It doesn't go especially well for her. Enjoyed the culture but it seemed slow to me.

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent 5 I should have liked it- interesting plot, good writing style, but I just found it boring. I think it was too slowly paced. About the Salem witch trials.

Heat Wave by Richard Castle 6 I admit, I watch the show Castle and like it a lot. The book is just like watching an episode of the show, it just takes longer. Not bad, not great. A distraction murder mystery to kill time with.

The Pledge by Friedrich Durrenmatt 9 Wow. I picked it up based on the short description on the book jacket, and the fact that it looked old and was a first edition English version translated from French. So glad I did because it was a beautiful read. An inspector hunts down a serial killer. The twists are delightfully unexpected and the writing is full of subtlety and wit.

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton 7 A nice gothic read but a bit too long. Story of the history of 3 old unmarried sisters living in a castle. Many twists and turns. I read it because her previous book The Forgotten Garden is one of my favorites.

Horseman, Pass By by Larry McMurtry 9 His first novel, and it knocked my socks off. Love it when an author captures the longings and disturbances of the human heart so eloquently. What a contrast between the old "principled" West and the new "every man for himself" West. The movie Hud is based on this novel and pretty darn good. Stars Paul Newman, but doesn't follow the book exactly. In the book, Newman's character rapes the black housemaid and guess what...that sure doesn't happen in this 60's film. The maid is white and the attentions from Hud are far less brutal.

Ape House by Sara Gruen 3 I don't think I've ever stopped reading a book whemn I was already 3/4 of the way through it but this book is terrible. After such a hit with Water for Elephants, Gruen has put out a story that is contrived, boring, and predictable yet somehow amazingly irrational at the same time. I really don't care what happens to any of her shallow characters at this point and am gladly putting it down.

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht 9 Reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Beautiful writing, fascinating and complex story lines. Loved it.

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore 8 I enjoyed this book so much! A back and forth between two tales, one modern about a missing Conan Doyle diary and a murder, the other set in 1900 about Conan Doyle and what he was up to during the time of that diary. A bit corny at times, but in an endearing way not annoying. Fascinating detail of Conan Doyle's life- a historical fiction type of thing.

Galore by Michael Crummey 9 Another fabulous book! And yet another book that reminded me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Intricate, surreal, fantastic story spanning 2 generations in a small community in 1800's Newfoundland. I was slightly more interested in the first half of the book (the first generation) but that's ok.

Interview With a Vampire by Anne Rice 5 This classic vampire tale left me not so impressed. It's too long, too drawn out, and has an unsatisfying ending. It did hold my interest, but barely. I do think I'll watch the movie since it has a lot of big name stars.

The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah 8 Sad tale of two boys, one an island native beaten by his dad and surrounded by grief...the other one of about 1500 Jewish prisoners who end up being detained on this island near the end of WWII. Great writing. Touching story.

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin 10 Translated from Korean, this international best seller is incredibly unique, thought-provoking, raw in revealing human thought and emotion, inspiring, and lovely. Told from 4 different perspectives after a family's mom goes missing in a crowded subway station.

Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuchoff 9 Fascinating true story of an end of WWII plane crash. Three survivors (one a woman) land in a unknown native tribe in New Guinea- the US military must rescue them.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford 7 Pretty good story and informative of that time period (1940's America as seen through the eyes of Chinese and Japanese living in America)

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen 4 What a stupid shallow book. Shallow plot, shallow characters, flimsy sentences and immature presentation of ideas. Total waste of time for me, and basically flipped through the ending via speed reading because I was so tired of it all.

Roads by Larry McMurtry 5 It was a decent book of his musings and thoughts as he drives the major interstates of America. A little dry in places, but made me laugh out loud sometimes. Not a must read by any means.

The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen 10 3 aspects of the spiritual life explained in depth: solitude, silence, and prayer. Needed to read what was in this book.

Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen 10 Taken, Blessed, Broken, Given- our lives explained using these 4 spiritual metaphors. Again, deeply moved by Nouwen's ability to write about spiritual things in a deep yet practical way.

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen 9 Excellent thoughts on this parable and Rembrandt painting.

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer 7 Okay story, just too long. Wish it had been shorter and then it would have held my attention better.

The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen 10 Short nuggets of wisdom from his journal during a time he went through a very difficult experience/depression.

Turn My Mourning into Dancing by Henri Nouwen 8 Not the best I have read by him but still very good and excerpts spoke to me directly.

Bossypants by Tina Fey 8 The parts that were funny (and there were a lot) were hilarious. A few parts fell flat or were not as interesting. An overall great read, though.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and An American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson 8 different look at hitler's rise to power through eyes of American diplomat. Interesting and disturbing.

Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton 8 very revealing thoughts on this practice. I need to dive in and do it more but really appreciate the guidance this book offers.

Through a Night of Horrors: Voices from the 1900 Galveston Storm by Casey Edward Greene and Shelly Henley Kelly 8 Details of this horrific natural disaster from letters, memoirs, and oral histories of survivors. Doesn't take long to read, captures the scope of the disaster, a window into that era and this specific tragedy.

Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton 9 Borrowed it from library but will need to get my own copy sometime. So many rich, compelling insights and teachings about spiritual life. The format of short, 1-3 page discourses make for easy digesting also, just read one and chew for a while.

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks 7 Loved the first 2/3rds but it got less interesting to me at the end. Based on true story of an Indian boy attending Harvard, but that is a small part of the story.

When God is Silent by Barbara Brown Taylor 7 Some great thoughts about how God speaks to us, but I disagreed with a few things she said.

The Genesee Diary by Henri Nouwen 9 I love Henri, and since this is a diary it offers a less polished glimpse of his personality and thoughts which makes me feel like I know him better...still packed with tons of great ideas and lessons for me. He is the first person about whom I have thought that I really want to give him a hug when I meet him in Heaven.

Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton 10 Love it. Now to go back through and read it again while practicing some of the prompts she gives. Practical, encouraging book on solitude and what is to be gained from it.

Addiction and Grace by Gerald May 10 One of the best books I have ever read and highly applicable to every person because all struggle with some forms, perhaps less destructive than others, of addiction and idolatry.

With Open Hands by Henri Nouwen 7 a fine book, but not my favorite on prayer. enjoyed the compilation of his writing on prayer (see below) better.

The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life by Henri Nouwen 9 All his writings on prayer from all his many books taken and grouped by topic in this compilation. Could only read a few pages at a time then had to set the book down and digest. Deep. Enriching.

Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton 9 a nice companion to the other book I read by her. Focuses on arranging life with spiritual disciplines in order to live a more contemplative, authentic way. I took a lot away from this book.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut 9 Read it 5 years or so ago and liked it, realized I couldn't recall much about it so read it again and liked it even better this time. What an unusual and intellectually stimulating novel.

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut 9 Just a crazy page-turner of a story that is amazingly unique. Never read anything like it and even though it borders on nutty, it has just the right amount of philosophy, interesting characters, plot, to keep me guessing and totally intrigued.

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden 7 I would have LOVED this book except for the graphic war violence (it was about WWI so I know it was valid...) and the two unnecessary graphic sex scenes. The story of two Native Americans who fight in the trenches of the war and how it affects their friendship and lives.

The Death Cure by James Dashner 5 Did not think this book did a good job of tying up the trilogy. Weak characters, weak story, seemed more juvenile than the previous books.

The Paris Wife by Paula McClain 6 Liked the setting and knowing more about Hemingway but was a bit slow for me.

Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami 7 I'm not ready to sum up this book. Very strange.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt 9 This was unlike any book I've ever read. Set in the 1850's, about a famous pair of killers for hire. A taste of the old west, but also a modern fantasy feel to it. The relationship between the brothers was compelling, and the incidents they got into were fresh and interesting to me.

2 comments:

Rachel said...

I like the blurb...good idea.

Ceska said...

I was looking forward to reading this book, but to the people who gave away the ending, why would you do that? You're just giving away a perfectly good book's ending.