Thursday, January 8, 2009


Last year was the first time ever that I actually made a plan for the books I'd read during the year. I wanted to read one book a month and all the books I picked were already on my shelf. I ended up reading 25 books last year! And that doesn't even count the audiobooks I went through. (My record for reading books is 36 in a year - that was during the year of my military training and TV wasn't all that available to me.)

A few months ago, I started contemplating my reading for 2009. I was sitting in front of my bookcases and noticing that I have a lot of books with sequels. I decided to tackle most of them.

Here's the list for 2009...

January - Queen by Alex Haley and David Stevens
(This is the sequel to Roots. Roots was my last book of '08)
February - Six Stories by Doug Adams
March - This is the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series and it's all in one big book. I'll be reading this over Feb/Mar. After the Roots/Queen books, I'll need something a little lighter!
April - Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
May - Forest House by Marion Zimmer Bradley (I know there's quite a few more sequels but I own these two and will start here.)
June - The Hobbit by Tolkein
July - The Lord of the Rings....
August - Trilogy (can't think of anything better I'd like to do then spend my summer with Tolkein!)
September - Stephen King's
October - Dark Tower series (This will coincide perfectly with the R.I.P. Challenge! I'm going to try to get through at least the first four of the seven books in the series.)
November - Watership Down by Richard Adams(one of my favorite books ever! I want to reread it before I read the sequel)
December - Tales from Watership Down by Richard Adams

And now for some book reviews of the books I finished during 2008....

Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge - LOVED this book. It was reviewed by the guy who does the R.I.P. Challenge and I got it from the library. I liked it so much, I've ordered it from the bookstore. I've never read The Lottery but I know what the concept is. This book is a bit like that. It's a town set in the Twilight Zone, that's for sure! Creepy and clever and spectacular. And very short - only 163 pages. I envy writers that are good enough to pack a whole story into a short story or novella. This man does it especially well. It's one of those books that makes me want to seek out other works by this author.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - another novella expertly rendered. Gaiman is outstanding. This book is about a boy who is raised in a graveyard by the ghosts (and one who isn't a ghost but may not be quite human either). He is a hunted boy but as long as he stays within the confines of the graveyard, he is safe. The ghosts teach him things like becoming invisible and sending out feelings of fright. They also teach him school stuff and other useful bits. It's a very creative tale and I'm so happy I won it during the R.I.P. Challenge! I've only read this and one other novella from Gaiman (Coraline) but I'm sure more of his works will find their way to my bookcases soon...

The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton - I went through a period where I thought I would try to read every book in the Oprah Book Club. I'm not usually much of a follower but she kept picking these stellar books! (Except The Reader - how much did that one suck?? And, can I just say, that if it was man having sex with a 12 year old instead of a woman there's no way Oprah would've put that book on her list. But since it was a woman it was OK?? WTF?!)
Like most of my books, I've had this on the shelf for several years. It was my September book last year but got pushed aside for the R.I.P. Challenge. After the challenge was over, I started this book. It took me a bit to get into it (so different from the scary stuff, y'know?) but it was really a great read. The story is told by Ruth and she's not all that bright. Yet she says these things are rather profound and she's not as dumb as her mom continually makes her think she is. The event at the end was rather shocking - what a twist! But Ruth survives it (barely) and lives her life as she always has. I can't seem to find the words to do this book justice. I thought it was excellently written - in a simple manner that conveys the character completely. Excellent.

Lord of the Dead by Tom Holland - Sucked. Hard. Maybe I just didn't get it - I don't know but this book was weak and made very little sense to me. Rebecca is in a lawyer's office demanding keys to a house? a mausoleum in that house? It's not really clear. She wants the keys because there's rumored to be a copy of the lost manuscript of Lord Byron's autobiography there. Her mother disappeared trying to find it in the same place when Rebecca was a child. She gets the keys and goes to the place. Some guy chases her off. She passes a river where they are pulling out a man whose throat has been ripped out. She gets chased around and ends up back at the place she started. She goes in and finds.... not the manuscript of Lord Byron but Lord Byron himself! And he's a vampire! OK. That's page 30. For the next 200 pages, it's just Lord Byron telling his story. It's the story of how he became a vampire and his subsequent life. Rebecca essentially disappears except to give a little prompt here and there to get Byron to go on with his story. In the last 60 pages, they come back to present day with Rebecca sitting in front of Byron and they somehow - last ditch effort? deadline showed up? - tie Rebecca in with the story. WTF?? Lord Byron's story is actually pretty good but the Rebecca factor seemed scattered at best and completely unnecessary. Hated it. One of those books where you feel your time was just wasted and could've been spent with a better book. Or knitting. Or sticking a cactus in your eyes. I'm one of those lame people that, once started, can't put a book down, no matter how bad. I have to know the end of the story.

Couldn't keep it to myself edited by Wally Lamb - This is a collection of short stories; autobiographical stories from women in a prison. Wally Lamb got "roped into" teaching a creative writing class at a prison. He feels it's one of the best things he's ever been involved in. These stories are heart-wrenching and yet never invoke pity from the reader. They don't make you feel sorry for these women, they just make you seem them as truly human. I highly suggest it to all.

Roots by Alex Haley - This book was A.MAZ.ING. I treated this book the same way I treated Gone With The Wind (although this book is sort-of the anitGWTW, right?) - I took it off the shelf a few times, looked at it's width and put it back. But, like GWTW, from the very beginning, this book had me hooked. I could NOT put this book down! Haley uses really short chapters and that didn't help any because I'd look ahead to the next break in the book and think, "Yea, just a few more pages". I was constantly up until 11p-11:30p nearly every night I was reading this book. His writing is so compelling and visual. His depth of characters so rich. I think this should be required reading for every American as part of our history classes.

I've never seen the miniseries (I've currently put it on hold at the library since I finished the book) but I know the iconic scene where they are whipping Kunta Kinte until he breaks and says his slave name "Toby". In the book.... Kunta would've definitely taken a whipping over what they really did to him. Made me nauseous. People's capacity for cruelty never ceases to astound me. Even the "good Massa" was nothing but a heartless bastard when it came right down to it.

One thing it took me awhile to get over was the fact that when the... we'll say "landscape" changed in the book (don't want to spoil anything), you never heard about any of the people left behind anymore. Like I've already said, I hate not knowing the end of the story! It took about halfway through the book for me to realize, "Too damn bad. They don't get to know the end of those stories, why should you?" (That's me talking to myself, nothing in the book actually says that.) And it's true. The first part of the book starts with Kunta being born in Africa and his childhood there. The suspense was driving me crazy! I knew he was going to be captured and brought to America but when? When???? He was in Africa until he was 17. Haley has Kunta's whole family in the story and you are so involved in this family in Africa that it's hard to not wonder what happened to them after Kunta was stolen. Too. Damn. Bad. Kunta never got to know - never got to see them again. That happens a couple of times in the book and each time it rips your heart out.

I spent 2 hours on Dec. 31st reading the last 100 pages of this amazing book. The end of the book is more like an Afterword then more of the story. It's Alex Haley talking about how the book came about and the research he did to get the story he has. (Also, didn't know that this story is actually Haley's family story. His family on his mom's side. "Queen" is the story of his family on his dad's side.) There's a part when he's in Africa, meeting the tribe where Kunta Kinte was stolen from nearly 200 years earlier. When they realized Haley was a descendant of their family, they had this ritual celebrating his return to the tribe. I was bawling like a baby.

Again, one of the most compelling books I've ever read.

Looking forward to this year's literature, Ruth!


Anonymous said...

I need to read Roots.

Nell said...

Wow! That's a great review. Thanks for the suggestions and the pans.

Becca said...

I love it when people share their thoughts on books! I remember reading the Book of Ruth a while ago and being disappointed, but I don't remember much more than that.

I will look forward to trying the Lamb and the Gaiman book. A friend just got me into Neil Gaiman so I'll recommend "Stardust" to you. It was wonderful. You might also like The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. I think it's written for teens, but I enjoyed very much!