I Want to be Nick Hornby

July 20, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 4 Comments

…only still a girl and with a full head of hair.  If that’s okay.

I just read Shakespeare Wrote for Money, and I’m wishing Hornby was still writing his column of book reviews.  I find myself with a two-page list of titles I now feel compelled to read immediately, which would take me a bare minimum of six weeks even if I didn’t plan to read anything else.  Bah.

Anyway, it seems that reviewing a stack of things at one time is a pretty effective method of dealing with either irregular posts or large volumes of material.  It turns out I only review about a quarter of what I read.  I wouldn’t want to give the impression that the other books aren’t interesting.  Possibly some of you are curious what on earth I was doing reading a particular title.

So here’s a brief rundown of what I read last week and what I’m currently reading.

How Not to Die – Jan Garavaglia.  I learned a lot from this book.  I had never heard of the TV show or “Dr. G” – I was just curious about the title.  It’s entertaining, and it should satisfy all you CSI gore fans.

The Burning Plain – Juan Rulfo.  This was a title mentioned in The Top 10.  I’ve just been going through all the titles off this list that aren’t readily available at my local library, and this one came up.  It was really dark.

Tethered – Amy MacKinnon.  This was an ARC that was lent to me, and had been sitting in my TBR pile for about a year.  We did a Booking Through Thursday on this topic, and I realized how absurd it was to put off reading a book under 300 pages for that long, especially when it didn’t belong to me.  So I finished it.  Weird and engaging.

Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins.  We spent two weeks reading this ARC for Family Reading Hour, unfortunately interrupted by our non-custody week right in the middle.  Love it!  Where’s #3?

The Beats – Paul Buhle and Harvey Pekar.  I ran across this in a search for graphic novels on my library’s website.  It was utterly fantastic.  Now I have a new-found interest in Beat poetry.

Beloved – Toni Morrison.  It’s truly incredible how many “best of” lists include Beloved.  It won a Pulitzer, and was short-listed for the National Book Award, and it’s on the Entertainment Weekly list of new classics, and Time’s 100 Best Novels, and 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.  What a truly strange story, though.

The Urban Hermit – Sam MacDonald.  Laugh riot.  I actually bothered to review this one.

The Able McLaughlins – Margaret Wilson.  The sixth winner of the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel.  (The category has since been renamed).  I put off reading it for the longest time but was pleasantly surprised with it.  Reviewed.

Disappearance Diary – Hideo Azume.  A graphic memoir about the manga artist and his struggles with alcoholism and homelessness.  This book is groundbreaking and really stunning in so many ways.  The material is so shocking, but the art is so… cute.  It’s sort of like Requiem for a Dream done by Hello Kitty.

Many Lives, Many Masters – Brian L. Weiss.  My mom passed this to me when I was home for Christmas last year.  Since we were visiting for my birthday, I figured I’d read it on the plane and give it back.  Now that I’ve read it, I don’t want it on my shelves anyway.  I’m going to review it in tandem with another book later this week.  It’s astonishing the lack of inquiry that seems to be involved in reviews of this material.

Shakespeare Wrote for Money – Nick Hornby.  Natch.  If you’re going to read it you might as well start at the beginning and read all three volumes, starting with The Polysyllabic Spree.

Population, 485 – Michael Perry.  The first book I’ve given 5 stars in a while.  It was stupid of me to read it while traveling, though, because the ending was a real tearjerker.

Beat the Reaper – Josh Bazell.  I have maybe 40 pages left of this, which I will obviously finish as soon as humanly possible.  It depends on the ending, but I smell series all over this one.

The Father of All Things – Tom Bissell.  Part history, part biography, part memoir?  We’re reading this as part of the book menage over at Citizen Reader along with Population, 485.

So Big – Edna Ferber.  I’m 40 pages in and loving it.

Freedom’s Battle – Gary J. Bass.  This is the last book in a stack I’ve been reading to complete a challenge.  I think I’m about 75 pages in.  I had to put it reluctantly aside to meet some other deadlines, but it’s working its way back up.

Normally I don’t have so many different things going at once, but I went out of town and things got a little screwy.

“Catching Fire”

July 20, 2009 at 10:22 am | Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment

Hey!  Guess what?  I got to read an advance copy of Catching Fire!  If you haven’t already read The Hunger Games, or my rave review, you’d better get started or you’ll be behind when the movie comes out.

Product Details

You know I would never spoil the plot of a book.  Especially would I never do this partway through a series.  Even more so would I never spoil a book before it was even released.  So relax.

We did this book as part of our Family Reading Hour, which always turns into 90 minutes when Suzanne Collins is involved.  When we have to quit reading, Sweetie Junior always goes “Unh!” in that “no fair” voice kids use.  The Hunger Games had her and my man Rocket Scientist, a 41-year-old engineer, on the edges of their seats.  So I am thrilled to say that Catching Fire more than met our hopes and expectations for a sequel.

We spend a few minutes before every reading session recapping the plot from the night before.  Sometimes someone will make a guess about what’s going to happen next.  At the end of the night, we talk about our reactions.  RS always thinks he knows where the plot is going.  He was right about one element from Hunger Games, but he didn’t see the end of Catching Fire coming at all.  Sweetie Junior proved uncharacteristically unable to restrain herself from interrupting the reading at several points.  She had to interject with comments about what the characters were doing, or what she would do, or what she thought would happen next.  It’s not an exaggeration to say that we have Hunger Games fever and we’ve got it bad.  We’re in mourning now because we have to wait even longer than everyone else before the third volume comes out – hopefully next year??

My nephew, Li’l Brain, made sure to tell me:  “You know there’s a sequel to The Hunger Games coming out in October?”  Hint hint.  I bought it for him for his birthday at the end of May, and not only has he already read it, he found out on his own when he could get the next one.  He’s 12.

To sum up, The Hunger Games is an action extravaganza with truly compelling characters and very moving emotional currents.  Catching Fire has the breakneck pace we’ve become addicted to, plus greater depth and wider range.  This series is fast becoming a cult classic and it definitely deserves its growing fan base.

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