Meredith's Challenge 2.0

52 books, one year. Stay tuned for more details.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

#36 A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton

I read this during my convalescence this week. It was... eh. The book was divided up into 3 main parts, 2 were narrated by Alice, a public school nurse accused of sexual abuse and one by her husband Howard, a dairy farmer. It wasn't that interesting really. The novel's narration felt like it was part of a marriage counseling session and I didn't really feel anything for the characters, except for Theresa, Alice's best friend.

I was sucked in at the beginning, when under Alice's charge, Theresa's daughter drowns in a pond on the farm's property. After that though, it all fell apart and I lost interest. I keep reading though to find out whether Alice really committed the abuse or not. Even the time she spent in jail, because she and her husband couldn't afford her bail, seemed boring to me.

I heard good things about the author and one of the reviews on the book says that Hamilton is one the best authors around (after what, only 2 books by the time this was written). I should know better than to get sucked into hyperbole like that. Unfortunately, it was one of my purchases at the book sale, so if anyone is still interested after that stunning review, it's all yours. If anyone has read any of Hamilton's other books, I'm interested in what you thought of them. Maybe I just don't get her?

Monday, September 26, 2005

#35 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Just so y'all know I'm sick and excusing myself from cheating (again) and re-reading this instead of something exciting and new. Also I am writing this from home and the boy's computer is driving me up the wall crazy. Why won't the mouse pad obey me? Whyyyyy?

First Edition Copy, Planned Parenthood Book Sale, $6, how could I resist? I also got The Prisoner of Azkaban, so, I am only 2 short of the whole set and world domination.

I forgot how looooong the book is and really dark. The first three are mostly fun, except for the end of Prisoner when Sirius is about to be murdered, but this one is so much more scary. I got very nervous at the end and a little weepy too. Poor Harry! Trying not to cry in front of his friends and being so British and stiff upper lip about it. Also, he is only fifteen. It's easy to forget how young he is, until Dumbledore reminds us. Oh Dumbledore! Sniff!

This is definitely the beginning of Rowling's descent into sadness and woe for the wizarding world. I hope that the last book (sob!) is full of happiness and light, that Ron and Hermione finally hook it up (seriously, who couldn't see that coming from miles away?) and that we finally get the dirt on which side Snape is really on. My theory from book 5, that Ron will move to the dark side and Hermione will save him, I realize now is woefully wrong. Interesting though, no?

After reading Half-Blood Prince I knew I had to re-read this one so I could properly order my favorites. Here's my list:
1. Prisoner of Azkaban (I love this so much!)
2. Philosopher's Stone (none of this ridiculous American dumbing down for me)
3. Half-Blood Prince
4. Goblet of Fire
5. Chamber of Secrets
6. Order of the Phoenix (I hate Harry in this book, he is such a whiny prat, ugh)

How does this compare with anyone else's?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

#34 The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Stop whatever you are doing, go out immediately, find this book, get comfortable, and start reading. Do not stop until you have finished. Keep a box of Kleenex handy.

This novel is amazing. I spent this whole morning trying to figure out all of the time travel and how it makes sense and doesn't totally screw with the future but I haven't come up with any good reasons, nor do I think it matters. Niffenegger is a gorgeous writer. This is her first novel, I think, and I want to read everything she's ever written. She should be showered with book deals and prizes and such because she is so, so awesome. Do you hear me Pulitzers?

When I first heard about this, I wasn't particularly interested. Time travel? Eh. But it all comes together and by the end, almost all the pieces fit and it makes perfect sense and its brilliant. I don't want to reveal too much and it's becoming difficult not to, so pick it up, then we'll chat.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

#33 Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Did I tell you how much I loved Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? So much love. So much that I hope to find a copy of it at the Planned Parenthood book sale this weekend so I can keep it with me always. So much that I decided I need to read everything Safran Foer has ever written . . . . which would be these two books.

I was sort of disappointed with this until I got to the last twenty pages, which oh my goodness, totally brilliant and heart wrenching and, and, and... everything. Ah, this is Foer that I barely know and love. Normally I love split narratives but I just didn't have the patience for Alex's crazy Ukrainian English with the unauthorized use of his thesaurus, but now that I think about it, it's a pretty premium conceit (those who have read this, know what I'm talking 'bout.) Also fooling around with time and multiple narrators, hurray! My shorted-out brain was really irritated in the beginning with Alex but later on, I grew to appreciate his remarking.

So they turned this into a movie starring Frodo, as I referred to him to the boy the other night because I honestly could not remember his name. I don't see how this could possibly be turned into a film, probably with stupid voice overs which blech. It's written in letters [if my head was working I could tell you the big fancy lit student word for it (episte... Adam? Help?)] like Jane Austen did (go brain go!) and I think that would make a kinda crappy movie. If anyone out there has seen it let know what you thought, kay? And if you got to the end of highly disjointed post, congratulations! You are a truly premium person.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

#32 Best American Short Stories 2004 edited by Lorrie Moore

I am a s-u-c-k-e-r for these collections. I think that I have all of them from 1994 on. It certainly helps my collection that they are sold at a deep discount at the uni book store.

Given that, being the connoiseur that I am, I was kind of disappointed by this collection. Usually, there are a few really haunting and/or beautiful stories, but not in this one. The collection this year was kind of depressing actually. There was a big focus on stories that took place in rural areas and quite a bit of death and injury, either through natural means or not. Yikes.

A lot of stories just gave a little bit, i.e. were really one-dimensional, but didn't really go anywhere or do anything. One of my favorite things about short stories is how an author can create a whole universe in just a few pages, but I didn't really feel like that was accomplished in most of 2004's stories. Maybe it's the editor's choices that I didn't like. I do like Moore's work though. Her Birds of America is an interesting collection, another uni purchase. Perhaps editing just isn't her line of work, or that we have very different views of what makes a good short story.

None of the stories really jump out to me as ones that I really enjoyed. Even the monkey story was uninteresting. You know that it's bad news when monkeys can't make anything better.

Friday, September 09, 2005

#31 Schott's Food & Drink Miscellany by Ben Schott

This isn't really a deep engrossing novel, nor does it have any sort of plot, but I was fascinated, enthralled, even. It was about food, had strange facts to fill my sponge-like memory so I can win at Trivial Pursuit, and is British. Whee! I learned all about weird Scandanavian rotting fish delicacies, idioms involving food and what Monty Burns has for lunch. Riveting. And about all my low-energy brain has the attention span for. I promise that my next read will involve plots, characters and maybe even some deep analysis. 'Til then.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

#30 The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

I've read this before so its kind of cheating but I needed something easy, yet entertaining and rediscovered this on my book shelf. This is by far the best book I've read in the *shudder* chick-lit genre, the name the publishing industry gives books written by young women about young women to cutify them. Blah.

I really like how Girl's is a novel made up of short stories following the life of Jane, a woman on the East Coast. I adore short stories and I long to be on/see/visit the East Coast. My favorite chapter is the one not about the main character, but her neighbor's family. I've read some reviews that say that it's too jarring and take the reader away from Jane's story, but I think the book is about relationships more than a singular person and that it is a refreshing break and gives some different insight into other situations.

I know times are tough for a lot of people, but if you can, and haven't yet, please help out with some relief effort. There are a lot of places to chose from here.