Posts Tagged ‘books read in 2010’

1st November
2010
written by Steph

Room is one of those books that set the book blogging world on fire. It was first released in the UK before being released Stateside, and there didn’t seem to be a single British bookblogger that I followed who didn’t review this book. Even more remarkable, everyone who read it seemed to love it! When the book hit the U.S., responses were the same – readers talked about how tense and riveting the book was, how the book urged them to keep reading and lent itself to being consumed in a single sitting. I couldn’t remember the last book that made me want to devour it in an 8 to 10-hour reading jag, so I was so excited to get my hands on this one. Of course, so were about 100 other patrons at my local library, so it wasn’t until about a week ago that I finally got the chance to sit down with Room and see what the fuss was all about. I’m sure anyone reading this has already heard of the book, so giving a short summary is probably pretty redundant, but just in case you’ve been living under a rock (or in Room), the basic gist is that the novel is narrated by Jack, a young boy who has just turned five. Jack and his mother live in a single-room, and for Jack, this space constitutes his entire world. He has never stepped a foot outside and has no understanding that anything exists beyond Room’s four walls; the duo’s only visitor is a menacing man that Jack calls “Old Nick”.  Through Jack, we learn how it is that his mother and he came to be in Room and how they have adapted in order to survive… As well as what Jack’s mother will risk in order for them to escape their prison in the hopes of living a normal life. (more…)
28th October
2010
written by Steph

Free at last!

If book reviews here have slowed down of late, you can attribute it to this beast of a book. Normally I can polish off a book in two or three days, but with Freedom: 12 days. Granted, life has been busy, so it’s not like I had tons of time to sit down and read, but still, this sucker is big and it takes a while to wade through its 575+ pages. Although this is the first Franzen I’m officially reviewing here on the site, it’s not the first time I’m mentioning the man. Whenever I read a book about dysfunctional families, I’m likely to mention how great I thought The Corrections was, such that I’m sure most of you are like, “ALL RIGHT! I get it! You love The Corrections and I should probably read it! Enough already!” So what I’m trying to say is that I’m no Franzen newbie, and I was interested to see how I’d respond to his follow-up to what is apparently one of my literary touchstones. I’d skimmed several reviews before picking up my copy, not absorbing enough to spoil my own reading experience, but gleaning enough to see that the book was rather polarizing: either people LOVED it more than The Corrections or people did not like it at all. (more…)
26th October
2010
written by Steph

With all of the hubbub surrounding Nicole Krauss of late – her newest novel Great House was published at the start of the month and has since been officially named as a contender for the National Book Award – I’m sure many readers who are new to her work may be curious about her earlier works of fiction. The History of Love is one of my very favorite books, as I find it to be a perfectly lethal combination of heartwrenching emotion and gorgeous writing, and it’s just one of those books that I truly savor every line of. Ever since I read it (well before my blogging days), I knew I’d happily read anything Krauss wrote, because she’s exactly the kind of writer I love; thoughtful, sensitive, and a true artist when it comes to choosing her words. If I could write half as well as her, well, I’d be very a happy woman. Instead, I satisfy myself by reading her books, and that’s not a bad condolence prize, truth be told. When I was preparing for my interview with Nicole Krauss for the October issue of BookPage (which you can read here, if you haven’t already), I wanted to make sure I had read all of her published works. I was lucky enough to come across a copy of Man Walks Into a Room a while back at McKay’s, and I used my impending conversation as the catalyst to finally read the darn thing. You see, I’m what you might call a book hoarder. I not only buy more books than I can read, but I also tend to do this thing where I save books that I think I’ll love so that I know they’re waiting for me. I like knowing there are still bona fide good books that I’ll enjoy ahead of me, and I’ve gotten very good at delaying gratification. Hence why despite loving Jane Austen, I’ve still never read Mansfield Park or Persuasion (or any of her shorter works)… I just need to know there is still some Jane out there for me to freshly discover. I don’t like the idea of living in a world where there’s no more new Austen for me. So I wait. And I did this with Man Walks Into a Room for a long time too. (more…)
19th October
2010
written by Steph

Are you a seasonal reader? When the weather gets cooler and the leaves begin to drop from the trees, do you find yourself craving spookier reads? If so, Sharp Objects just might be the book for you. Sharp Objects tells the story of down-on-her-luck reporter, Camille Preaker, whose third-tier newspaper reporting job in Chicago has her returning to her hometown in Missouri, a place full of dark secrets and bad memories that she’d rather leave squarely in her past. Alas, there’s a serial killer on the loose who is targeting young girls, relieving them of their teeth along with their lives… All signs suggest a local is the cause behind the crimes, so Camille has no choice but to start poking around in places that might just reveal that her childhood horrors are far from over… and more deadly than she ever suspected. (more…)
7th October
2010
written by Steph

I don't know what an "Anthony Award" is, but I don't think I want one...

Regular readers know that I don’t shy away from writing negative reviews here at S&TI! In fact, some might argue that I actually revel in lampooning the occasional deserving book. I admit that sometimes it’s just a whole lot more fun (and a lot easier) to snark on a book than it is to sing its praises. But I try to only do this if I think a book really deserves it. Dead Until Dark (aka “the first Sookie Stackhouse book”) definitely deserves it. I realize that most of the time when I rag on a book and call it “bad”, I generally talk about how I found the writing uninspiring and/or not very good. But I also realize that my high prose standards are not always appropriate – not ever book strives to read like poetry or transmute words into shimmering gold, and that’s ok. It's not fair for me to lambaste a book for not achieving something it didn’t set out to do. So I will skip my usual diatribe of “this book was not written well” and try to focus on the other things Dead Until Dark does aim to do, and perhaps does not succeed in doing. (more…)
1st October
2010
written by Steph

Nicole Krauss

You'll recall that a few months ago I was über excited by the interview I conducted with Nicole Krauss about her new novel, Great House, which will be released next Tuesday. To commemorate the event, my interview with her can be found in the October issue of BookPage, or can be read online here. Please check it out and let me know what you think! On a personal note, I have to say that Krauss was so lovely to speak to, answering my questions candidly and thoughtfully. I know that some interviews/articles on her have suggested she can be quite reserved, but I found her to be very open and warm, and speaking to her was a real pleasure. Definitely one of my interviewing highlights thus far! I know that a lot of people are eagerly anticipating Great House, so I hope this interview sheds some light on the story behind the book as well as providing some insight into a very exciting and provocative author. Enjoy!
29th September
2010
written by Steph

Back in 2001, when I was in my final year of highschool, I had a relatively open schedule, where I had large periods of free time during the day. On such occasions, I would generally take over a portion of the library near the leisure reading section under the guise of doing my Latin or Algebra homework, but really looking for fiction to read and while away the hours instead. One of the books that always caught my eye but which I never managed to read more than the first 10 pages or so of was The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. So when TLC Tours offered me the chance to finally read and review this puppy, I was more than happy to oblige. Going into this book, I certainly knew of it, but really knew nothing substantial about it except that it took place in Africa. I’m not sure that I even entirely knew that it involved missionaries, but involve missionaries it does. The book kicks off in 1959 when the Price family, headed by Nathan Price, leave their comfortable if not overly happy life in Georgia to spend a year saving the souls in the name of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the deepest wilds of the Congo. The novel is divided into seven books, each one prefaced by the musings of Orleanna Price (Nathan’s wife) on their time in Africa, ruminations which softly foreshadow the action that will form the focus of each book. The books themselves are formed from what read like diary entries, each the voice of one of the Price daughters. Through these girls, we see the Prices struggle with culture shock and culture clash as they attempt to assimilate into their new home, struggling with physical, emotional, and social hardships in an environment in which few seem to thrive. We watch as time gradually shapes their attitudes as well as their notions of faith, family and injustice. Each of them is affected differently by their experiences in Kilanga, but nevertheless, each is irrevocably changed by Africa. (more…)
27th September
2010
written by Steph

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m not the biggest fan of the short story. I really prefer sustained narratives rather than tiny little bursts of story, and I often find it hard to shift gears from one story to the next. Also, I tend to find that there’s this trend with short stories where the stories just seem to end, often times abruptly, and I’m left wondering what the point of the whole exercise was. When I recently discussed Scarlett Thomas’s Our Tragic Universe, I mused about the notion of the “storyless story” and allowed that it’s something I don’t necessarily mind in my novels. However, I think that I’m anti storyless short stories! With this in mind, the Sherlock Holmes short stories are exactly the kind of story I would like. They’re mini mysteries, each with an obvious beginning, middle, and end, and they’re all sufficiently straightforward that I can just sit back, relax and enjoy. As much as I like giving my mind a workout when I’m reading, sometimes it’s nice to just romp about with a cocaine-addicted, sneering detective and have an adventure or two. (more…)
23rd September
2010
written by Steph

It hooked me all right...

Oh, Red Hook Road. I just can’t quit you. Ever since I heard about your publication, I have been wanting to read you… so it wouldn’t be entirely fair to say you’re a book that crept up on me, except that’s kind of exactly what you did. Your premise – a newlywed couple are killed in a car wreck on the way from their wedding to the reception and the way the fallout affects their respective families – was one that was so blindingly tragic that I was drawn to you like a moth to a flame. Surely this would be a book that would burn me, make me feel the deepest pangs of grief, and yet I could not pull away. I ran into your embrace wholeheartedly, prepared to have my heart bruised and beaten. (more…)
21st September
2010
written by Steph

Scarlett Thomas is an author who has intrigued me for a while. I’ve heard good things about her last novel, The End of Mr. Y, and my friend Trisha really enjoys her writing, so when I saw that NetGalley had copies of her newest novel, Our Tragic Universe up for review, I hastily requested a copy. I didn’t really know what to expect, but suspected I’d be in for a relatively cerebral but quirky read. I was right. Our Tragic Universe is a novel that’s incredibly difficult to summarize, because it is largely a novel that is filled with ideas, and one that frequently verges into metafictional territory. Loosely speaking, the novel centers around struggling writer, Meg Carpenter. After experiencing some nominal literary success during her early 20s, Meg has since been wrestling with writing a proper, serious novel. Unfortunately, Meg has been much more productive writing pulp fiction, formulaic novels under the name of Zeb Ross, a job that does little to address her creative ambitions but manages to pay the bills. Meg’s boyfriend has no income of his own (volunteering on heritage restoration sites), so in a bid to make ends meet, Meg also writes the occasional book review for newspapers. To this end, Meg picks up a copy of a self-help book called The Science of Living Forever, which claims we are all immortal and that the universe is just a creation meant to allow us to live every possible permutation of the hero’s journey before we finally ascend to a higher plane. Initially Meg dismisses the book as nonsense, but when she begins investigating other self-help books for a larger editorial piece, she finds some unexpected answers to questions she didn’t even realize she had… (more…)
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