Books I've read, 2008
Books I’ve read 2008
(* indicates reread)
1. No One Belongs Here More Than You, Stories by Miranda July – I’ll admit that I have a bit of a creative crush on Miranda July. Her stories are disturbing and beautiful, usually at the same time.
2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Watcher’s Guide, Volume 2, Nancy Holder with Jeff Mariotte and Maryelizabeth Hart – Yup, another Buffy geek book. I learned a lot of interesting facts about the show. They pretty much examine every aspect of Buffy, if you are into that sort of thing. I am.
3. Stolen, Kelley Armstrong – This is a sequel to Bitten, which I read when I was suffering horribly from illness. I liked this book better than the first, partly because the first is associated with fever and pain, and partly because new mythological characters are introduced – vampires, witches, different types of demons. It’s still told from werewolf Elena’s point of view, and she’s still pretty bad-ass.
4. Ghost Light, Clare McNally – This is a pretty short and standard tale about a girl who dies in a theater fire in the 1920s and then spends 60 years haunting the place and looking for her “daddy,” while killing everyone who gets in her way. Pretty mediocre, really.
5. Black Alice, Thom Demijohn – This is a bizarre and good book. It’s about a young girl named Alice who has been brought back from the brink of full-on schizophrenia. Then she gets kidnapped, and I don’t want to give anything away, but this book brings together elements like race and class relations, family, and what sanity means. I was completely enthralled.
6. Aspen Gold, Janet Dailey – A typical “modern” romance, in which a woman has to choose between a new and exciting man and the man she has loved all her life. Blah blah blah. What I found entertaining was the way she described the fashions in the book, which was published in the early 90s – like one woman’s fabulously “chic” ski outfit of a fuchsia jacket and electric blue pants. Seriously. Oh, and it has the most abrupt ending ever, like the author just ran out of steam and couldn’t go on.
7. Learning to Love You More, Harrell Fletcher and Miranda July – OK, so this is basically a picture book, but I received it for Christmas, and it’s REALLY interesting. The two artists started a website and began giving assignments to the website’s visitors, and this book is a result. I especially like the assignment where people had to take a flash photograph of the area under their beds. I never knew so many pets liked to hang out under the bed. Kind of makes me feel badly about having my mattresses right on the floor.
8. The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood – This is the author’s re-telling of the Odyssey, from Odysseus’ wife Penelope’s point of view. As such, it’s much shorter than the Odyssey, and it has Atwood’s characteristically feminist slant. Enjoyable, but nothing earth-shattering.
9. Feel This Book: An Essential Guide to Self-Empowerment, Spiritual Supremacy, and Sexual Satisfaction, Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo – I love Janeane Garofalo. She’s clever and sarcastic and sometimes downright mean. Ben Stiller is OK, I guess. This is a comedic “self-help” book, and while Stiller’s chapters were passable, Garofalo’s chapters were genius and made me laugh out loud several times.
10. Duma Key, Stephen King – Oh, do I love the idea of haunted art! This is about a man who survives a horrific accident that claims one arm and, basically, changes his brain. In his recovery, he decides to move to a small island in the Florida Keys, and he starts drawing and painting. This being a Stephen King book, something sinister moves in. It’s a large book, but I went through it quickly, and loved it.
11. Dime Store Magic, Kelley Armstrong – this is the third book in the author’s Women of the Otherworld series. While I liked Elena, the strong, terse female werewolf who was the main focus of the first two books, I relate better to Paige Winterbourne, the short, slightly plump smart-ass of a witch who is the main character in this book. She is the guardian of a very powerful pre-teen witch whose mother has died, and the young witch’s demonic father wants her back. Paige has to deal with kidnapping attempts, bureaucratic nonsense, and the resistance of her own coven to the inclusion of her young ward. Good times!
12. Buried Dreams: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer, Tim Cahill with Russ Ewing – This is the story of John Wayne Gacy, one of America’s most prolific and famous serial killers. Cahill wrote this book using Russ Ewing’s extensive coverage of the case, including several interviews with Gacy himself. The man who murdered at least thirty-three young men and buried most of them in the crawlspace of his house seemed like an upstanding citizen, of course. This book is fascinating and horrifying, and very well-written.
13. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus: Volume 1 – I have ignored all of the Buffy comics until recently, when I got into the Buffy Season 8 and Angel Season 6 comics. It’s not that I thought that the comics would be bad; it’s more that I didn’t have the time, energy or money to keep up with the prolific writers and many directions that comics can take. Luckily, the comics are being published in a seven-volume omnibus! This first volume has some interesting takes on the time between the Buffy movie and the series, along with a quirky story about Dawn. Good times!
14. The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle – This man is a fantasy-writing master! He takes these beautiful, fantastical stories and makes it seem like they could happen every day. I have loved the cartoon movie since I was very small, and while the movie sticks to the story of the novel as much as it can without being eight hours long, the novel is, of course, better. Beagle has an astounding way with phrases. So, so lovely! I’m going to need to buy this so I can re-read it whenever I want.
15. Royal Babylon: The Alarming History of European Royalty, Karl Shaw – Wow, I had no idea that ALL of European royalty were so intermarried, so insane, so slutty, so drunk! Such interesting reading, and it makes me look at England’s royal family in an entirely different light.
16. *Canary Red, Robert McKay - This is a book from my childhood. It tells the story of Ming, who suddenly finds out that her “dead” father will actually be getting out of prison shortly. I’m not sure what “young adult” books are like now, but this was written in the 1960s, and it includes a bank robbery, fistfights, barn fires… and the breeding of canaries. It is because of this wonderful book that I know what an underflue is.
17. *Parsley Sage, Rosemary and Time, Jane Louise Curry – Another re-read from childhood. This book was a little too young for me when I was 12, and a little too short to be satisfying. It is a cute story, though, about time travel and growing out of being too grown up.
18. The Mammoth Book of Vampire Stories by Women, edited by Stephen Jones – No matter how many different sorts of literary vampire I encounter, I am still constantly amazed at what can be done with the idea of “vampire.” This collection of stories ranges from the classic, Romantic vampire to vampires who feed on energy in a more subtle way than drinking blood. There is even a puppet vampire who feeds on humans through flowers. Wow.
19. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen – This is a classic for a reason: it’s awesome. What else can I say? I have watched many versions of the movie many, many times, but this is the first time I’ve read the book. It won’t be the last.
20. *The Changeling, Zilpha Keatley Snyder – This, like Canary Red, is a book from childhood that I can still enjoy today. Indeed, I’m glad I own this book, because I’ll bet it’s hard to find. It tells the story of Martha and Ivy. Martha is from a wealthy, structured family, and Ivy is from that family that every town seems to have, the poor family who is often on the wrong side of the law. Ivy draws Martha out through all sorts of magical games and plays. I used to wish I were more like Ivy, but the older I get, the more I realize that I’m a Martha, and that’s totally OK.
21. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison – There are books that make me confront the fact that I’m white, and therefore don’t suffer the things that black children suffer. This is one of those books. And this book is one of the most feminist books that I’ve ever read, in that it makes me want to declare myself a feminist and change the world so that events mentioned in this book never happen again. This book is so good and so, so sad.
22. Atonement, Ian McEwan – I saw the movie before reading the book. I loved the movie, and the book just expands on it. This is one of the rare cases when the order of reading or seeing doesn’t matter. The movie and the book are both magnificent.
23. The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman – The second in the His Dark Materials trilogy. I love the way that Pullman writes children. In this book, Lyra meets up with Will, who will play a rather large part in the showdown coming up in the third book. They travel between worlds and have a lot of adventures, whether they want them or not.
24. The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides – I can see why someone read this and wanted to make it a movie. It’s a beautifully written book about obsession, being young, the danger of predetermination, and about how things that people do don’t have to make sense or happen for a reason.
25. The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman – The scope of this one book is epic, and the fact that it’s the ending of a trilogy is even more epic. Pullman brings religious belief, mythology and evolution to the forefront of the novel, and manages to work in suspense, young love and heartbreak.
26. The Theory of Clouds, Stéphane Audeguy – This book is described as “sensual” on the jacket, but I found all of the sex scenes (and there aren’t that many) quite clinical, almost scientifically observed. The novel dwells on people who are obsessed with clouds. It is certainly interesting, and ends quite poetically.
27. Don’t Look Down, Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer – Ooh, a collaboration! Crusie writes sharp-witted, hilarious romance-thrillers, and Mayer apparently writes intelligent, military-inspired crime thrillers. The unification of these two on one single project is like crack cocaine for people like me. Basically, it’s about a female, Wonder Woman-esque director who agrees to finish a film, not knowing that there are weird happenings on the set. She teams up with an ex-Green Beret, and so on, and so forth. I read it in about 8 hours.
28. Agnes and the Hitman, Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer – See above re: crack cocaine. I liked this better than the first book, although I’m not quite sure why. Maybe because there is more mystery, and less use of helicopters. Basically, it’s about a cranky food columnist who is trying to throw a wedding against seemingly insurmountable odds. And the military-trained hitman who is trying to protect her.
29. *The Eye of the Dragon, Stephen King – I haven’t reread this in a long time. I had forgotten all of the ties to the Dark Tower that this book has. For a King book, it’s pretty short, and if you don’t know the Dark Tower lore, this book will still stand on its own and be enjoyable. It’s the story of a kingdom under the thrall of a dark wizard, while the rightful king has been framed for murder and locked in a tower with no possibility of escape. It was my favorite Stephen King novel for a long time, until I read It and Rose Madder, but it’s still a very good read.
30. Reasonable Doubt, Mark Anthony – I picked this up on a whim at the library, and I can’t even get through it. It’s all about drug dealers and criminals and how women can get drawn in and penalized for loving the wrong men. While those are compelling themes, the problem is that, with the way the book is written, it brings me no insight, no new knowledge, no enjoyment. And why else do I read?
31. Dreams of Dark and Light: The Great Short Fiction of Tanith Lee, Tanith Lee – This anthology of short stories shows how far an author can roam within one or two genres. From a story about a mystical, man-eating tiger to one about sharing bodies in the future… it also includes one of my favorite Tanith Lee stories, “Fleur de Feu, or Bite-Me-Not,” which is one of the best vampire stories I’ve ever read. I’ve also discovered a new favorite story, “Medra.”
32. Red As Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer, Tanith Lee – An addiction you say? Yes, I may have an addiction to Tanith Lee’s short stories. Especially since I started this one before I’d finished Dreams of Dark and Light, so it was all Tanith Lee, all the time. This collection of stories is based partly on fairy tales that we know and love, with new stories mixed in, all with Lee’s twist of the dark and the macabre.
33. There’s No Place Like Here, Cecelia Ahern – I admit, I wanted to not like Cecelia Ahern when she wrote P.S. I Love You. I mean, come on – the Irish Prime Minister’s daughter? Publishing this ridiculously huge bestseller at 22? Despite myself and my jealousy, I really liked that book. This book, while not as good or as touching, is also enjoyable. It’s about a woman who is obsessed with finding lost things, and she turns this obsession into a career of finding lost people… until she gets lost herself.
34. Twilight, Stephenie Meyer – I will admit that as a “young adult” I was totally obsessed with vampires and vampirism. As such, I would have ADORED the Twilight series back then. Now I read it, and while it’s enjoyable on a pretty superficial level, I can’t get over this idea of Edward as kind of a creepy stalker. I mean, watching someone sleep every night without their knowing? Please. I am too old to enjoy that at all. Still, I’m excited about the movie version coming out in December. (Note on 1/2/09 – yeah, I still haven’t seen the movie)
35. *Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J. K. Rowling – Hey, I’m re-reading Harry Potter!!
36. *Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling – Yup, still re-reading.
37. New Moon, Stephenie Meyer – I actually liked this better than the first book. I like the introduction of Jacob as a non-creepy-stalker kind of love interest. While this is obviously for people younger than me, Meyer’s writing isn’t too slow or too limited in vocabulary for me to enjoy it. And very interesting twists and turns. Still, the return of Edward kind of annoyed me. Yes, I am too old for this.
38. Dearly Devoted Dexter, Jeff Lindsay – Ah, that moral ambiguity thing that I love so much in fiction. My favorite screwed-up serial killer returns for more “kill bad people and hide it from everyone else” hijinks. I think the author gets a little too into alliteration when Dexter describes himself and how he’s trying to appear, but that is the only real gripe I have.
39. * Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J. K. Rowling – Ooh, I’m getting closer to the Half Blood Prince!
40. Speaks the Nightbird, Part 1: Judgment of the Witch, Robert McCammon – This isn’t “typical” McCammon, although it is a thriller with possible supernatural happenings. I really enjoyed the protagonist, Matthew Corbett. My only complaint is the pacing of the book – SO much happens in such a short period of time that you read 30 pages and then realize that it’s all supposed to be the same day. Really?
41. Speaks the Nightbird, Part 2: Evil Unveiled, Robert McCammon – See above. Pretty much the same, except I really liked the ending, the outcome. Good stuff. And I kept picturing Matthew Corbett as a James McAvoy-looking kind of guy, so that was cool.
42. Our Former Lives in Art, Jennifer S. Davis – Lately I have been compelled to write short stories. People like Ms. Davis make it a very daunting task, though – she’s so good. I bought this book of short stories for very little money at a second-hand bookstore, and I consider it a real find. Weird but believable characters, beautiful writing. I’m into it.
43. *Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J. K. Rowling – Considering how large the books are, I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised at how much is left out of the movies.
44. The Queen of Bedlam, Robert McCammon – This is not exactly a sequel to Speaks the Nightbird (at least, not by my definition), but it does feature Matthew Corbett as the main character. I actually like this book better than Speaks the Nightbird – the pacing is more my speed, although a lot did happen, and I like that not everything is tied up in a little bow at the end. More books are coming! And I’m still imagining James McAvoy as Corbett – I really can’t go wrong with that.
45. Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer – I’m starting to be completely over these books. Simply put, Bella and Edward kind of bore me now. And Jacob’s a little pushy, no? Blah blah blah, Bella’s in danger – is anyone surprised? Blah blah blah, males have to save her.
46. Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer – ARE WE SERIOUS?!? Apparently Bella’s massively self-composed… while also being massively insecure. Oh, how stupid! I am completely unimpressed. And apparently far too old for this series. That said, I’ll probably watch all of the movies as they come out on DVD.
47. The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, Fay Weldon – In the late 80’s, I loved the movie “She-Devil,” with Roseanne Barr, Ed Begler Jr. and Meryl Streep. It was ridiculous and fun, watching Ruth get “cold-blooded” revenge on her cheating husband and his new romance-writing woman. I did not know it was based on a book! A book written by a well-known feminist writer, no less. Of course, the book is better, and more serious, than the movie. The lengths that Ruth goes for revenge in the novel are quite shocking, much more so than as portrayed by Roseanne. But there were also some very funny moments, mixed in with the revenge fantasies writ large. A good time was had by all (of me).
48. *Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J. K. Rowling – Oh, I still cry at the end. And now I’m getting toward the Big Cry books in the series.
49. *Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J. K. Rowling – BIG CRY! BIG CRY!! Oh, but so good.
50. Déja Dead, Kathy Reichs – I am a big fan of the TV show “Bones,” which is based on the books by Kathy Reichs. I’ve watched the show since it began, so it’s kind of hard for me to think of Temperance Brennan as a middle-aged divorcée with a daughter in college. Also, I’m used to Temperance Brennan in one-hour bursts. Still, the book grew on me, the serial killer story is intriguing and thrilling, and now I want to visit Montreal with Reich’s neighborhood knowledge in my hand.
51. *Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Paterson – This book continues to depress me, far into adulthood. Though I never had a beautiful, perfect twin, I always felt like I was Sara Louise. Kind of ignored, but not on purpose. This book brings back the angst of my teenaged years pretty quickly and pretty strongly. I love the ending, when Sara Louise finally gives up on outshining her sister and finds her own definition of happiness.
52. The Assignation, Joyce Carol Oates – This author can do no wrong in my eyes. I bought this in a secondhand book store in Cleveland. It’s a collection of very short stories, all dealing with the drama of a “normal” life. The woman is a master.
53. Grave Secrets, Kathy Reichs – See above re: “Bones” the TV show versus the books. This book is set in Guatemala and in Montreal. I wasn’t able to get some of the books in between Déja Dead and this, so I may have missed some relationship things. Actually, it’s obvious that I missed some things. But I really enjoy forensic science (from a distance), and this book is definitely a satisfying thriller.
54. Letters to a Young Teacher , Jonathan Kozol – I saw him speak in October at the University of Buffalo. He is very impassioned about the state of American education, particularly as it applies in inner-city neighborhoods. This book is part memoir, part critique of our educational systems, part instruction on how to get the best from students, all in the form of letters to a first-year grade school teacher. I am not a teacher, and I don’t have children of my own, but I do care about how children are learning, and I agree strongly with a lot of what Kozol has to say. The only thing – everyone in my office agreed that Kozol basically ignores rural schools, which can be just as badly run, just as impoverished, just as hopeless as inner-city schools. But I figure that Kozol writes what he knows. Definitely worth looking at.
55. *Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë – As a child, my idea of Heaven was to be able to sit in a window seat reading, with the curtain drawn so that no one would know that I was there. I think the strength of this classic is that nearly every female who has ever read it has identified with Jane in some way, usually very strongly. As I get older, I am more and more troubled with Mr. Rochester’s treatment of his first wife, as well as his treatment of Jane. I enjoy reading feminist critiques of the book almost as much as I enjoy reading the book itself. But, problems aside, I am as uplifted now by the freedom that Jane fights for and wins as I was the first time I read it. Bonus – Jane is loved for her mind and personality, not for her looks.
56. *Stir of Echoes, Richard Matheson – I didn’t realize it until well into the book, but I’ve read this before. I love Matheson’s writing style, which is kind of spare, yet gets everything across. Quick reading, with a shocking ending – yes, the Kevin Bacon movie was based on this, but only VERY loosely, so you probably won’t guess the ending from the movie.
57. Collected Stories: Volume 1, Richard Matheson – The man is a genius. I love the very human aspects of his sci-fi stories, and I especially love that he wrote little postscripts to all of the stories, detailing what he was thinking about at the time, how he felt about certain stages of life (marriage is a big one). He basically psychoanalyzes his own stories, and he’s quick to point out when an ending is tacked on, or when a story isn’t his strongest. Brilliant.
58. Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way, Bruce Campbell – This man is ridiculous, and I love him. Cool, wry, sardonic, sarcastic… (sigh), he’s perfect! This is a work of fiction, says so right there at the beginning, but I believe you could learn a lot about the film world by reading this. If you don’t really care about the film world, it’s still pretty entertaining. All of the situations are pretty over-the-top but hilarious, and the fact that they are written by Bruce Campbell just makes them that much cooler.