Posts Tagged ‘books read in 2011’

25th January
2012
written by Steph
So, I've been dragging my feet something fierce when it comes to finally wrapping up 2011 with charts and graphs and whatnot. Not to get all spoiler-y on you, but as we will see, the end of 2011 was marked by a dramatic plummet in my reading–I think the technical term for it is "reading slump"–which also accompanied a blogging slump. Alas, a new calendar year has not managed to allay my reading burnout (I've only read two books thus far, and those were both in an official reviewing capacity. If not for that, I would probably have nothing really read by now.), so perhaps that's why I've been in no rush to write this post. Once it's done, I got nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Bupkus. A few years back, a friend of mine was finishing up her dissertation and she would often lament about how the whole process sapped her of all her reading mojo and pretty much the only thing she could read for months was Middlemarch. No, that isn't a typo, and no I don't understand it. Slowly but surely I am dragging myself to the finish line of my own doctorate degree so who knows what bemoth will be my salvation through this all. Moby Dick? A Suitable Boy? Shataram? I suppose only time will tell... Tony is actually out of town the next few days so perhaps without my favorite distraction close at hand I'll finally remember what it is to look at words on a page again. Fingers crossed. Anyway, let us finally tour the wreckage that was my reading in 2011, shall we? (more…)
9th January
2012
written by Steph
Excuse the cliché, but for me, 2011 expired with a whimper rather than roaring to its close with a triumphant bang. The year ended filled with a lot of stress and mental exhaustion due to school, and I spent the last week or two doing some heavy thinking about where I would like 2012 to take me. Because my brain was preoccupied with so many other tasks, my reading slowed down a lot—I read just one book in December, and that was at the very beginning of the month— and I was just so tired that for the first time in four years, I entered books into my spreadsheet and didn’t bother to write anything about them. And the thing is, the last three books of 2011 were ones that I would normally have tons to say about, but my brain was stubbornly moving towards hibernation mode and the thought of generating words just seemed far beyond my grasp, so I gave myself a reprieve and simply logged them and left them. I do still want to mention my last three reads of the year so that I have a clean slate delving into 2012, so I’m going to do a mega-post here and talk about THREE books instead of devoting one post to each book. Without notes, I probably don't have enough to eloquently say about each one to justify unique posts (remember, I have a notoriously bad memory regarding books anyway, and when I’m stressed, my memory gets even worse), so while I almost never do this, here I go. (more…)
5th January
2012
written by Steph
So, first question: how can a book about SEX be so, well, boring? I mean, the word “sex” alone is so incendiary, that not only am I sure that seeing it boldly placed there in that first sentence immediately grabbed your attention, but I can also only imagine the deluge of weirdo spam this post is going to incur. So you’d think that a book that essentially revolves entirely around sex (even when people aren’t having sex, it’s still all about sex) would be cause sweaty palms and racing pules, or at the very least an occasional cocked eyebrow and maybe a knowing smirk, right? And yet, no! In spite of a rather inspired premise, this book can best be described as “MEHsmerizing”, that is a book the inspires intense feelings of apathy and disinterest in its reader despite ostensibly scintillating subject matter. [And yes, I just coined that term, but I think it’s going to take off in a big way…] And just what is this neat-o premise of which I speak? Essentially, it is this: an enigmatic drama teacher moves to a small suburban town and decides that the local high school will put on a production of the classic Greek comedy Lysistrata – a play in which all the women of Greece decide to abstain from sex until their men agree to end the Peloponnesian War. In an uncanny twist of events, as production on the play advances the women of the town are slowly overtaken by an enchantment that also causes them to spurn the advances of their husbands, lovers, and boyfriends. As sex lives become a thing of the past, tensions rise and soon the whole town is thrown into upheaval. It’s only a matter of time before someone reaches their breaking point, and when they do, things are going to get ugly… (more…)
4th January
2012
written by Steph
What is it that they say about the best laid plans? Something about how they never work out? That sounds about right... Despite my intentions to catch up on blogging while Tony and I were up in Canada, I wound up not even bringing my laptop and was hardly online at all. Instead I slept in late every day, played tons of Mario Super Sluggers on the Wii, tried my hand at NHL 2012 on the PS3 (never making it past the rookies), played some non-video game bowling (and finally broke triple digits!) and watched lots and lots of Mantracker (everyone outside of Canada is missing out, because Mantracker is possibly the best reality show ever made). I managed to read the bulk of one book (but not finish it) while we were away, so I was only marginally better at reading than I was at blogging. I feel slightly guilty about this, but mostly I'm just happy I got some time to completely relax and hibernate. I'm still not feeling entirely recharged, but I'm feeling quite a bit calmer than I did before the holidays. Given that I wrote not a single thing while I was away, I still have four books that I read last year that I still need to write about. AND I need to write one of those fun summary posts in which I recap 2011. Already I am behind the times! Before I do any of that, however, I am instead going to direct your attention to the January 2012 issue of BookPage, in which I reviewed Penelope Lively's newest novel, How It All Began. I did actually read this book a few months ago, so while it's a 2012 book for most, it was actually a 2011 book for me. I've only ever read one other Lively novel, Moon Tiger, but she made a wonderful first impression on me and I'd been wanting to read more of her works ever since. Despite being published 25 years after Moon Tiger, How It All Began is still clearly a Penelope Lively novel. It is perhaps less experimental than MT, as it does largely focus on telling a briskly paced story filled with a dynamic cast of characters, but it still has a soupçon of metafiction, which I really love. The thing about Lively's fiction that always seems to resonate with me is that she unabashedly loves stories and actively uses her work as a means of promoting the idea that we as humans are drawn to storytelling and the written word because of the closure and permanence they provide. Anyone who loves books like I do can't help but feel that one has found a kindred spirit in an author who so unabashedly espouses this view in her books. Fellow readers will also get a kick out of the main character, Charlotte, as she herself is an ardent bookworm (and adult literacy teacher) and large swaths of her storyline are devoted to musings on how reading enriches one's life. The novel as a whole is incredibly engrossing and touching, but that thread in particular really spoke to me. Rather than read my inelegant ramblings here, check out my review at BookPage for the full scoop. In the interim, I'll get to work on putting the rest of 2011 to bed!
19th December
2011
written by Steph

Hot on the heels of my dance with Dame Christie, I decided my lust for murder mysteries hadn’t been slaked, so I decided to take a turn with another queen of crime. Not only is Cover Her Face the first published P.D. James mystery, but it was actually my first dalliance with James’s writing at all. After my disastrous first date with Dorothy L. Sayers stemming from my reading Gaudy Night before picking up any of her other books, I have become a rather staunch adherent to reading serial fiction in chronological order, even when others claim it is not necessary, so for those of you who feel similarly and have yet to become acquainted with Detective Adam Dalgliesh, this is the place to start. The following theory is just based on wild conjecture on my part, but I think that readers may be the most idiosyncratic when it comes to their taste in mystery novels. Little old grannies may suddenly profess a penchant for dark Scandinavian noir, and ostensibly there is even a market for readers who prefer crimes that are cracked by animal sleuths (Wikipedia tells me that Lillian Jackson Braun’s “The Cat Who…” mystery series, numbered 29 titles!). Personally, I’m a “Golden Age” mystery fan, loving my crimes to be relatively bloodless, to take place between 1910 – 1950, and to be situated in England if at all possible. I have no idea why that trifecta is pretty much the holy trinity when it comes to mystery novels, but there you have it. To me, these types of novels are pretty much the ultimate in comfort reading, and rarely do they fail to delight me. And of course there are exceptions to this rule (as my love of Tana French, clearly displays), but this is why it’s a rule and not a law. (more…)
14th December
2011
written by Steph

Guys, I am in the thick of it, dissertation-wise. I have been told on multiple occasions that the homestretch of one’s thesis is not for the faint-hearted, and I must agree one thousand percent. I keep trying to buoy my spirits by telling myself that everyone who gets a doctorate has to go through this fire walk at some point and that if it were easy, everyone would choose this path. I just have to keep getting up in the morning and pushing forward until finally this thing caves because I will not let this dissertation beat me. I don’t proudly proclaim the fact that I’ve actually been a grad student for seven years now, but given that that is the case, I certainly can’t back down now. I’ve invested too much of myself to let another six months of mind-breaking work conquer me, so come hell or high water, I will finish. And when I do, I shall rename this site “Dr. Steph & (Not Dr.) Tony Investigate!” OK, not really… Anyway, this is all to let you loyal readers know that I haven’t forgotten you even though this space has been dormant for quite a while now. I’ve just been so mentally taxed of late that it’s left me little breathing room for fun. I’m still reading, albeit less than I normally do, but the thought of writing about any of the books I’ve finished has seemed impossible. Until now. Rather than mope about and give in to my exhaustion, I’m going to push through the waves of fatigue so that I can share some of the books I’ve been reading, because really, don’t books make everything just a little bit better? (more…)
23rd November
2011
written by Steph

Since Thanksgiving is just around the corner for those of us living in the United States, I feel that talking about a book that takes a trip through the madness industry is apt. Oh come now! I can’t be the only one who finds that large family gatherings are something akin to a trip to the loony bin! If, like me, you tend to find that congregations featuring your nearest and dearest tend to be a bit, well, colorful, OR if you just find yourself interested in mental health issues, I’m sure you’ll find this book enjoyable and educational… Whether it also leads you to mentally evaluate how many of the criteria on Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist every person you meet exhibits, well, that’s just another perk, now isn’t it? Like so much non-fiction, I think that The Psychopath Test is a fun read for those who have a pet interest in a certain subject but aren’t actually experts in that field. Those who have, say, majored in Psychology (as I did at university) will find that there are a lot of tidbits that are already familiar (though certainly I learned some things I didn’t already know), but that there is also a lot of glossing over of material as well as oversimplifications made for the sake of engaging storytelling or enhanced accessibility for the layman. That is why, although I found this book fun and interesting, I also found it exceedingly frustrating. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Jonson states anything that is deliberately false in this book, but there were moments where I felt like many nuances were lost (or counterpoints were omitted), so as someone who is more than passingly familiar with clinical psychology (though I will say straight up that although I am working on my Psychology doctorate, my area of expertise is cognition and perception NOT clinical populations) I found myself arguing with this book quite a lot. Just as a fair warning, after finishing this book, I jotted down some notes in my book spreadsheet, and when I imported those notes into Word, they filled an entire page. So yeah, I have feelings when it comes to this book (and yes, a lot of them are crabby and could likely be written in all-caps, but worry not, I've saved you from Caps Lock Steph... this time...). (more…)
8th November
2011
written by Steph

Before I know it, it's going to be the middle of the month... and then the end of the month... so before I forget, I'd better remind you that the November issue of BookPage is out AND, after having taken a few months off, I actually have a review in it! As you have likely gathered from the title of this post, I read David Guterson's newest novel, Ed King, which is actually a modern day retelling of the classic Greek play, Oedipus The King. The original source material is quite a yarn, so you can imagine just how fun and zany this book was! Although knowledge of the original play is by no means necessary, familiarity with Sophocles' version will certainly add to one's enjoyment. It was really fun to see how Guterson chose to modernize certain elements, and one of my favorite bits was how he re-envisioned the Greek chorus. But regardless, however you read this one, whether it be with fresh eyes or through the lens of what came before, this is a book that hooks you right from the start and is full of juicy scandals. Although this isn't Guterson's first novel, it was actually the first book of his that I've read and I really enjoyed it. It was the perfect blend of smart and playful, and even though it was certainly quirky, I never felt like Guterson was trying too hard to be clever at the expense of the story. If I were reviewing it solely here on the blog, I would give it a 4 out of 5. For more of my thoughts on Ed King, you can check out my review here.
1st November
2011
written by Steph

OK, so I’m a day late when it comes to posting something for Halloween, but I’m going to go ahead and post this anyway. It’s not like it was really all that spooky or holiday appropriate to begin with, but when I started typing this up yesterday, spookiness was in the air. I felt left out as everyone else posted cute pictures of jack-o-lanterns and reviews of spine-chilling reads, and while I have read some pretty scary books in the past few weeks, I’m still dealing with review back-log. So, I decided I would just take the next book on my queue and make it fit with the Halloween theme. But you know what? The Lost City of Z by David Grann was actually not such a bad pick for Halloween! You know why? Because the Amazon is frickin’ terrifying! I am not sure if this book says so explicitly, but the Amazon pretty much has the largest population of weird stuff that can (and will!) kill you. PLUS, all of this stuff really exists, which I think bumps the fear factor up a couple of notches as well. Before I get ahead of myself, let me explain what this book is about for the tiny proportion of people out there who haven’t heard about it. Essentially, The Lost City of Z is the travel memoir of David Grann, who becomes obsessed with British explorer, Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett. During his lifetime, Fawcett was a real trailblazer, traveling fearlessly into the blank spaces on the map in order to chart them. Where other explorers quavered and failed, Fawcett prevailed; if reality tv had been around in Fawcett’s time, he would have handily won Survivor, several times over. Especially if it took place in the wilds of South America, since that was Fawcett’s preferred niche, and it became a bit of an fascination for him. In particular, Fawcett embarked on numerous treks into the heart of the Amazon, determined to find the novel’s namesake, the lost city of Z. More commonly known in legend as El Dorado, Fawcett believed that Z had indeed existed and could still be found, if only one were brave and savvy enough. (more…)
27th October
2011
written by Steph

We don't feature a lot of sci-fi or fantasy novels on this site, which is kind of weird because Tony is something of a sci-fi aficionado. I, on the other hand, don't care for the genre very much. I don't know why, because I like science and I like fiction, but put the two together and it's like they repulse one another (or at least me!) and I want nothing to do with what you're offering. I have no idea why this is, because I like Fantasy well enough, so flights of fancy obviously don't bother me. But if your book involves outerspace or aliens, I will likely give it a wide berth. I do not, however, have an official stance regarding time travel: sometimes I like it (e.g., Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban) and other times, I hate it (e.g. The Time Traveler's Wife... though to be fair, the time travel was perhaps the thing I disliked least about that book!). So although I did not read and review Thomas Mullen's The Revisionists, Tony did, and I have to admit it actually sounds kind of cool. And since it seems to fall into the nebulous "speculative fiction" genre which, as Margaret Atwood informed us, is NOT the same thing as science fiction, nary a spaceship or alien is in sight! Huzzah! The Revisionists is one of those books that had a lot of pre-pub buzz, but I've not read many reviews of it since it's release, so if you were one of those people who was intrigued by the premise of one man being tasked to travel through time to ensure that the events of world history as we know them to have occurred (even the bad ones) do in fact happen the way they are supposed to, all so that we can one day reach a utopian future, then you'll want to check out Tony's review. Heck, this one sounds good enough that even if it had a laser or two, I would probably still read it! For a more in-depth review from someone who has actually read the book, check out Tony's review at BookPage here!
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