What I read in 2007


1. Restoring Grace. Katie Fforde – I am a large fan of romantic comedies, both in print and on the screen. As long as the writing is engaging and the characters are likable, I don’t care if the story is formulaic. This is the quite formulaic but very funny and sweet story of a recently divorced woman desperate to save her house, and the people that she welcomes into her life, as friends and as lovers. I won’t be ruining anything if I tell you that everything turns out all right in the end.

2. Beast, Joyce Carol Oates – If you read and loved Donna Tartt’s A Secret History, this book is right up your alley. It’s about a young college woman, infatuated with her professor and his lifestyle, who gets drawn into a world that’s seamier than she thought. It’s a short book, a good book. And Joyce Carol Oates is from Lockport, which isn’t too far away from Buffalo – hooray!

3. Hope in a Jar: the Making of America’s Beauty Culture, Kathy Peiss – This is quite an interesting look at how definitions of beauty and ways to achieve that beauty have changed since Victorian times in America. Did you know that women who wore make-up before the early 1900’s were considered prostitutes? Me, I love make-up, so I can’t imagine what it would be like to have society try to limit what I put on my face. Anyway, good writing, and a very informative book if you’re into this sort of thing.

4. Candles Burning, Tabitha King and Michael McDowell – Imagine the Sixth Sense if the little boy were a girl and the dead knew that they were dead… imagine that with more than a touch of “Mommie Dearest.” There are actually much more sinister things going on in this very Southern Gothic novel. I was surprised at the outcome of the mystery, and this was yet another book that I couldn’t put down.

5. Darkly Dreaming Dexter, Jeff Lindsay – A serial killer who will only kill other serial killers? Awesome. This book is, of course, dark, but it is also witty and coldly charming. I am very into moral ambiguity in film, on television and in written form (maybe not so much in real life), so I was completely intrigued by this book, even after I’d finished. I wish I had Showtime so that I could watch the show based on this.

6. Every Visible Thing, Lisa Carey – This is a novel about what continues to happen to a family five years after the eldest son, the “golden boy,” has disappeared. It’s harrowing, but beautifully written, and is told from the point of view of the two children left behind; they are ignored by their parents and pretty much have to forge through the most difficult years of growing up on their own. This is the book that made me feel like I was going to hurtle into space when I finished it.

7. I’ll Take You There, Joyce Carol Oates – I’ll admit it. I am now a super-fan of Oates. Especially when she mentions local towns that I’ve heard of. This is another novel about a lonely girl, starved for affection, maybe not caring as much as she should where or who the affection comes from. I am not that kind of woman, so maybe I’m too harsh when I think that something that the character does is downright crazy.

8. The Penultimate Peril, Lemony Snicket – Yes, I like books written for children and young adults. And don’t pick on me, because I’ll bet you like Harry Potter too. Anyway, I adore the way that Lemony Snicket explains big words and describes his characters. Obviously, a lot of weird things happen in this Series of Unfortunate Events, and obviously, that’s the point. Is it wrong that I’m turned on by Count Olaf? And no, I’m not actually talking about Jim Carrey as Count Olaf, though that turned me on too.

9. The End, Lemony Snicket – Ooh, the thirteenth book, the last book in A Series of Unfortunate Events. I like all of these books because they’re quick, enjoyable reads. This one is pretty good, I loved the whole series, and now I’m wondering what to turn to in terms of series.

10. Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern, Joshua Zeitz – This is one of the most enjoyable social histories I’ve ever read. I somehow wish I knew Zelda Fitzgerald (before the crazy) and Louise Brooks and Clara Bow. I wish flapper style would come on back.

11. A Fine and Private Place, Peter S. Beagle – Yes, this is the guy who wrote The Last Unicorn (which I have never read, shame on me!). This book is about a man who dies, comes back as a ghost, finds out that he can only “haunt” the cemetery he’s in, and falls in love with another ghost. It’s a lot less hokey than it sounds, and in fact, it’s downright gorgeous. A modern-day fairy tale.

12. The Children of Men, P. D. James – Very good, very unsettling because it could realistically happen in the near future. The ending especially gave me chills. I can’t wait to watch the movie and see how Clive Owen does it up.

13. Opposing Viewpoints: Abortion – Apparently I just read this to get myself all riled up and angry. Obviously I agreed with the pro-choice articles, and the anti-choice ones all came down to the same basic point, which was “The rights of this small clump of cells are more important than the rights of the woman carrying it.” Yeah, not so much.

14. Mysteries of Winterthurn, Joyce Carol Oates – I am a HUGE Oates fan now. This is a book I borrowed from my mom, who is also an Oates fan. The book is put together as three Victorian crime novellas, all featuring the same detective, Xavier Kilgarvin, at three different points in his life and career. It’s definitely odd to try to get into Victorian-style writing, and it’s amazing to me that Oates immersed herself so much in a bygone era. I’m still not certain what went on in the first mystery…

15. Lisey’s Story, Stephen King – Is he still bothering to tell people he’s retired? Anyway, this huge book took up most of the month of April. It’s about a writer’s wife who has to deal with his “imaginary” world after he has died… except the world isn’t so imaginary. I love it when King writes from the point of view of women – Rose Madder is my very favorite book – and this book is as much about love and marriage as it is about fantastical worlds and the horrors that you see out of the corner of your eye.

16. The Gift of Fear, Gavin DeBecker – This is a book that I wish didn’t have to have been written, but since the world we live in isn’t all sunshine and roses, I’m glad the book was written. DeBecker is an expert on dangerous situations; he and the firm he founded have provided security for everyone from people being harassed to companies being threatened, to celebrities and politicians being stalked. DeBecker’s main point is that human beings often ignore the intuition that can save our lives. This book is a real eye-opener, depressing and scary (he brings in things that really happened to prove his points) and enlightening in terms of when to actually be afraid and who to watch out for.

17. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, Toby Young – I was informed by a friend that the brilliant Simon Pegg will be playing Mr. Young in the upcoming movie adaptation of this book, so I had to read it. Toby Young was fired from several publications (most notably Vanity Fair), basically for being an asshole. And yeah, the guy is annoying, but hilariously so. What’s interesting is that he does finally realize that his antics are self-destructive, and he seems on his way to enlightenment in the end.

18. Brain Droppings, George Carlin – I’ve heard a lot of this before, but it still strikes me funny. There is nothing better than a comedic rant, in my opinion, and Carlin is at the top of his sharp-witted game in this book.

19. God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Christopher Hitchens – Hitchens is mentioned several times in Toby Young’s book. He contributes to Vanity Fair, and is a pretty well-known political commentator. Hitchens is both an atheist and an antitheist, and while I’m agnostic and more tolerant of people’s need for religion sometimes, I can’t help but revel in Hitchen’s gleeful rage at religion and what it has done to the world.

20. Geek Love, Katherine Dunn – I guess I am unforgiving when it comes to characters who are weak or who act as if they are weak when they really aren’t. As such, this book drove me crazy. The main character, Oly, lives in a circus family of freaks created by her father on purpose. Meaning, every kid is born with chemically-induced deformities that are then used in a freak-show setting. That alone is enough to make me mental, but Oly herself is a pushover to just about everyone until the end. I’m getting all twitchy just thinking about it. There were some enjoyable passages, but for the most part, I spent most of this book raging against every single thing that happened.

21. If I Am Missing Or Dead: A Sister’s Story of Love, Murder and Liberation, Janine Latus – THIS BOOK WILL MAKE YOU CRY. It is a memoir, a chronicling of Janine Latus’ life and that of her sister, Amy. Janine was molested, raped and abused several times before she was 30, and it took her several years to finally escape from a physically and emotionally abusive marriage. Two months after she left her husband, her youngest sister Amy was murdered by a live-in boyfriend. I’m not giving too much away, because this is all in the jacket notes. This book is both a harrowing look at abuse and why people (women especially) put up with it, and a beautifully moving tribute to Amy Latus. I myself have never been molested, raped or abused, but it is a sad fact that I know many people who have been… it will be a painful read, but it’s so worth it.

22. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J. K. Rowling – Obviously I am just reading this to catch up before the Deathly Hollows comes out next month. Obviously it rocks. That is all.

23. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy: Fear and Trembling in Sunnydale, edited by James B. South – You know, I love looking at pop culture phenomena with an academic lens. And yeah, I’m not shy about the Buffy dorkness that I share with so many others. This is a very good book, and while I don’t agree with all of the views shared here (you couldn’t, because some of them are quite obviously diametrically opposed), I was excited to look at Buffy in new and interesting philosophical ways.

24. Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters, Jessica Valenti – It’s true, I’ve been reading feminist theory for years, so maybe this book is a little too basic for me (it’s aimed at beginners), but Jessica Valenti founded one of my favorite websites ever, feministing.com. So I had to read her stuff. And it is a good, bare-bones look at why feminism is important, now more than ever.

25. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling – Yeah, I read it in one night. And yeah, it was worth it to me to stay in and read this for eleven hours straight. And yeah, I’m sad it’s over.

26. Hannibal Rising, Thomas Harris – Just like the movie, but in book form. As such, it was a great read. I wish I had Harris’ eye for detail.

27. Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, Elizabeth Buchan – Even though I’ve never fallen in love and therefore can’t properly understand the heartbreak of having someone leave you for someone else, I can still rage about it quite strongly. This is one of those books that gives me a chance. It’s about a woman with a husband and two grown children, who loves her job and her life. Then she finds out that her husband is leaving her… for her assistant… who also takes over her job. Of course everything turns out OK, but it’s the journey that’s important in such books, and this book has got a good journey. And it’s well-written and eminently readable.

28. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley - This book is very long and very intricately detailed, but well worth the time. It is a retelling/reformatting of the King Arthur legends, from female points of view. I love strong female characters, and this book has them in spades, and in many different forms and guises, with many different types of strength. The writing is lyrical and lovely, stark when it needs to be.

29. The Memoirs of Cleopatra, Margaret George – This book is ALSO very long and detailed. George did a massive amount of historical research, down to the tiniest details, like what the import/export business was like in the time of Cleopatra, and the book is much better for it. It slows down toward the end, especially if you already know the ending, but as historical fiction goes, reading about one of the most fascinating women in history ranks high on my list of things to do.

30. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher’s Guide, Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder – Yeah, I’m that kind of dork. Oh, and I was still reading Cleopatra too. That book took forever.

31. The Vampire Diaries, Volumes I through III, L.J. Smith – These were some of my favorite books as a teenager. They are about a high school student, Elena Gilbert, who is torn between two hot vampire brothers. Melodrama ensues. They are not the most mature books, but they are all about nostalgia for me. Of course, as I get older, I think that a lot of the things Elena does are downright stupid, but I still remember how romantic it all seemed when I was 14.

32. Fear of Flying, Erica Jong – This is considered one of the seminal second-wave feminist novels, and I can see why. It’s the story of a woman who is trying to analyze her life to see why certain things (relationships especially) went wrong. The novel follows her as she sorts through her guilt, her sexual appetites, her relationship with her family and her many years of psychoanalysis. Plus, she uses awesome 70’s slang like “bread.”

33. Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen – This is a book I picked up at the library based on the cover art, which is a woman in a beautiful dress crouching in a magical-looking garden. Turns out the garden is magic, and its keeper has to learn to let other people, including her sister and the niece that she’s never met, into her lives. I read it in a day.

34. Bitten, Kelley Armstrong – A modern-day werewolf story featuring a smart and strong female protagonist. Of course, it’s right up my alley. The main character, Elena, has to deal with being the only female werewolf she knows of. She also has to deal with how to have a normal life, with a family and a home, considering that she has to change into a wolf about once a week. In the middle of all of this dealing, there is also a plot to bring down the Pack that Elena is reluctantly a part of. It’s a really enjoyable book, but I don’t recommend reading it if you have a fever – in my pained delirium, I woke up several times thinking I was turning into a werewolf. Not so fun. But, ooh, this author is doing a whole series of books about otherworldly women!


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