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Sunday Salon: the Reluctant Post

October 11, 2009

The Sunday Salon.comI’ve already mentioned that I’m in a reading/blogging slump. But looking at my ‘Books Read’ page so I knew which books to review today, it’s not difficult to see why! Since my last Sunday Salon (two weeks ago), my reading breaks down this way: 3 5-star reads, 3 4-star reads, 5 3-star reads, 3 2-star reads, and even a 1-star read, which almost never happens. Considering that my reading is usually dominated by 5 and 4 star reads, I have to wonder what’s going on! Have I suddenly lost my ability to know which books I’ll love? Perhaps I should simply retreat to rereading old favourites. The reason I called this post reluctant, is that the problem with lots of ‘meh’ reads is that you get ‘meh’ reviews. So this post isn’t going to the most positive, let’s-get-out-there-and-read style! But I still think that I should talk about what I’ve been reading, because it seems like every reader must go through slumps occasionally. This is ridiculously long post, so in case you only want to know about my four and five star reads, you can jump to Pawn of Prophecy, A Year in Japan, Fever Pitch, and Natasha’s Dance.

feverpitchFirst I read Haunting Bombay by Shilpa Agarwal, which ended up not being my cup of tea. You can find out why in my review post of it. But then I turned to Nick Hornby as a trusty old friend, and Fever Pitch, his nonfiction account of being a rabid football/soccer fan, lived up to my expectations! I actually got this one, because I realised that while I like to think of myself as a well-rounded reader who enjoys nonfiction, I’d never read a sports book. I already knew that I loved Hornby’s nonfiction writing about books, so I thought this would be the perfect way to introduce me to the genre. And it was! First of all, I have to point out that I played a lot of organised soccer growing up, and that I lived in England for seven years when I was younger. That means that I understood when Hornby talked about moments in actual games (which wasn’t as common as you might expect) and more importantly I understood his cultural references (which were rampant). If you don’t know anything about, say, the 11 plus or A levels, you might be a bit lost at times. I don’t know-I think one of Hornby’s talents is making the personal universal, so in the end I think you’d still manage to see yourself in, and enjoy, the book. And I trust an intelligent reader could figure out most of it from context. But I wanted to put it out there! Right, so while the book is structured around Hornby’s obsession with Arsenal for over twenty years, it’s really a coming-of-age memoir. He talks about his childhood, his adolescence, and his adult years with such candour, that even though I’ve never been fanatical about any professional sport, I still identified with him. His search for what he should do with his life, his attempts to figure out what being a man is all about-I loved being privy to that. It lacked the magic that made his reading columns must-reads, but it’s a well above-average book, and a wonderful introduction for me to a new genre. (BTW, if you have any suggestions for sports books, throw them my way! The only sport I don’t care about at all is basketball-other than that, I’m open to pretty much anything.)

ayearinjapanI then read two books I’ve already reviewed: Girl Meets God, which I reviewed dialogue-style with the lovely Kelly (aka Kailana), and Bless Me Ultima, which I gushed about. That brings me to my first read of October: A Year in Japan by Kate Williamson. I loved everything about this travelogue/memoir! Williamson spent a year in Kyoto studying something about socks with an academic grant. This book is her impressions of the place-since she’s an artist, it’s filled with sketches and the words are all written handwriting-style, so it feels like you’re reading her journal. I wouldn’t call this a graphic memoir precisely, because the words and pictures aren’t together (does that make sense?)…it was a little bit like French Milk, only much better! In fact, I think this would be a perfect way for someone who isn’t quite ready for graphic novels/memoirs to dip their toes in the water. Williamson really brought Kyoto to me, and I could see it through her eyes, which was marvelous. Tokyo has never been high on my list of places to visit, but there’s something about Kyoto that makes me think I could happily spend weeks there, wandering about, and this book definitely increased my wanderlust! I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Japan, travelogues, or non-traditional book formats. This was on my Japanese Literature Challenge list-I’m not sure if it technically counts since Williamson isn’t Japanese (and it’s nonfiction, so not actually literature), but since the challenge only actually required one book, I’m not that worried! :)

therezsistersThen I read Tomson Highway’s play “The Rez Sisters” for the Canadian Challenge. This is only the second play I’ve read this year-I find it in general a difficult format to read, and much prefer seeing them (I just recently watched “Guldenstern and Rosencrantz Are Dead” and adored it). But Yann Martel wrote so eloquently about it, I decided to give it a go. Ultimately, I can’t say I enjoyed it, although I’d jump at a chance to see it performed. There are seven women, and the play is so short that it’s hard to keep the women distinguished, or even for them to develop as individuals-I kept confusing them (whereas if I saw it performed, the different actresses would solve that problem). Also, since there were so many, I didn’t really connect to any of them, or care about whether their problems were solved. Oh, and the women behave so, well, un-couthly (they swear and yell at each other and punch each other and talk about bodily functions), I felt quite alienated (yes, I’m a bit of a priss when it comes down to it). I did like the various non-English words sprinkled throughout the text (there were several Native American languages used), although I have no idea what they might be pronounced like. Altogether, I’d say this is one to see rather than read it. (On a rather unrelated sidenote, I’m annoyed with Martel for this sentence in his latest recommendation: “The function of genre fiction is to relax and confirm, not to stress and challenge. Genre fiction seeks to deliver one thing: emotional satisfaction.” Perhaps we have different ideas of genre fiction, but if say Neil Gaiman is part of that, it’s a ridiculous statement.)

natashasdanceNext I finally finished Natasha’s Dance by Orlando Figes, a huge nonfiction book I chose as one of my an-so reads for the World Citizen Challenge. It’s subtitled A Cultural History of Russia, and the majority of it looks at Russia from Peter the Great’s rule through to Tsar Nicolas II, with the last one hundred or so pages devoted to Soviet and diaspora stuff. That’s just fine with me, since I don’t particularly enjoy reading about the USSR but love earlier Russian history! Russian was one of my main studies in college (one of my majors was modern languages, and Russian was the primary one), and I studied abroad there, including in St. Petersburg, so I have a pre-established interest in Russian culture! However, I think this would be a marvelous way for anyone who loves books to get to know about Russia-Figes quotes quite liberally from all the famous Russian authors, and much of the book is devoted to Russian lit and its context. Music is the other main focus, while art gets short shrift, and the Soviet section devotes quite a bit of space to cinema. Figes is obviously quite well versed in Russia and its history, and he just as obviously loves the culture; that really came through as I was reading it. I had a few issues with the book, especially how Figes often used excerpts from novels to illustrate his point, which seemed a bit odd to me as an academic, but overall I simply revelled in it! Russia has a tragically romantic history, and Figes makes the scenes come to life (oh! the Decembrists!). I also learned lots of interesting tidbits (what I call ‘cocktail facts’ and one of my fave things about nonfiction)…like, did you know that Matroyshka dolls (the nesting ones) were actually created by the Russian art elite in the 1800s based on Japanese ones? They’re not at all indigenous to the culture or related to Russian peasants. Highly recommended for anyone who’s interested in Russia, loves history, or enjoys Russian literature. Just keep in mind it’s over 500 very solid pages. ;)

Speaking of huge books, the next one I finished was Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset-my final Chunkster Challenge selection and my third 1,000 pg+ novel of the year! It deserves its own post (right after I write up my thoughts on A Suitable Boy! eek! getting behind), and I can’t wait to read all the posts by the readalong participants during the rest of the year. :)

animalfarmThat brings us to the second volume of Bill Willingham’s series Fables, entitled Animal Farm. I was quite skeptical of the first volume, and ended up loving it for its wit (it was a murder mystery), so I was excited to get to volume two! Unfortunately, this one wasn’t really my style. I didn’t like Orwell’s Animal Farm, so while on an intellectual level I could appreciate the references (the Three Little Pigs as revolutionaries), it made my gut wrench. I’m a sap when it comes to history-just thinking of the Soviet Union and how all of those idealistic people ended up creating such a horrible dictatorship (I’m thinking of the Stalin gulag years) makes me cry. And I really don’t stomach any kind of violence well (I cried during Pirates of the Caribbean, when the British sailors are fighting the pirates who can’t die, and they’re all so noble and courageous but the battle is pointless and unwinnable), and most of this book was about violence. I doubt it will ever be my favourite volume. That being said, there was still that spark, so I’m still excited to read the rest of the series!

20th_Century_Ghosts_(Audio)Around the same time, I finished listening to the audiobook of 20th Century Ghosts, a short story collection by Joe Hill I checked out for the R.I.P. IV Challenge. This was my first audio short story collection, and it turns out it’s much more difficult to review an audio ss collection than an audio novel! That being said, I’ll do my best. :) There were some stories in here that I loved. The title story is a pitch perfect ghost tale, involving an old movie theater, a young-ish boy, and a beautiful girl who was murdered. It was wonderful! “Pop Art” is easily one of the best short stories I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a lot). It’s not really a horror story; it’s about a friendship between two boys, one of whom happens to be inflatable. At first, I kept waiting for the punchline. But what I got was something so tender, so incredible, so *real* that I’ll remember it for the rest of my life. “The Black Phone” is an exquisitely scary short story. I usually listen to audiobooks before I go to sleep, and I ended up staying awake in the dark, eyes wide open, because I HAD to know how the story ended. It’s about a twelve-year-old boy who’s been kidnapped and locked in a basement, and who realises that he’s being held by a serial killer. Let me tell you, the ending is super-satisfying. Those were the three stand-outs to me. There are lots of clever twists on traditional horror themes here: in “Bobby Conroy Comes Back From the Dead” the characters interact while being extras on the shoot for Dawn of the Dead, there’s a vampire story and a retelling of The Metamorphosis. But…as a whole, the collection got a little repetitious. All of the narrators are guys. They’re usually either younger boys (which I think is when Hill is at his best-I haven’t mentioned “Better Than Home”, but it had a completely realistic narrator who probably autistic or had some other problem) or disaffected guys who seemed to be in the 20s. And a lot of those guys didn’t seem to like women too much. Even when nothing actually happened to the women, the constantly derogatory way they talked about them got me down. So while Hill’s style is always polished, and many of his stories are quite intriguing (“My Father’s Mask” was WEIRD, let me tell you, but it still managed to work), and he’s good at the surprise twist ending (let me tell you, my only response to the way “The Cape” turned out was “That’s f*cked up,” and I almost never swear even in my internal monologue!) I can’t say I adored the collection. The stories I loved, I really really loved. But I won’t be pressing this book eagerly into anyone’s hand, saying they have to read it now. I’m beginning to suspect contemporary horror is simply not for me-I don’t like gratuitous violence, or misogynistic narrators. I think I’ll stick with the more gothic stuff. ;)

builtofbooksNext up, I read Thomas Wright’s Built of Books, described as a biography of Oscar Wilde through his books. Perfect, right? I love Wilde, I love books, what could possible go wrong? Um, unless Wright turns out to be a total fangirl of Wilde, to the point that much of what he says is utterly ridiculous. Unless the book lacks any kind of academic objectivity or rigour, and really just screams: “OMG!!! Wasn’t Oscar the best thing ever?! Like, I totally want to be him. Because he was just so perfect!!! And everyone else thought so too!!! I’ve doodled his name in pink glitter pen: see all the hearts?!” Now, I know that Wilde in person probably would have driven me insane as much as he would have amused me (I really don’t like people who act superior to everyone else)…I accept this about several of my favourite authors (Nakobov, anyone?). But this biography was so adulatory it had my hackles raised by the first couple of chapters. I kept reading it, thinking maybe it would get better, but it didn’t. I was actually embarrassed for the author and Wilde on occassion. Unfortunately, I had to return it to the library, so I can’t share with you some of the ridiculous sentences found therein. And it wasn’t all bad. But if it had been any longer than it was (200 pages), I would have abandoned it. Biographies that treat the subject’s own memoirs as actual fact really bother me (I had to abandon the bio of Zora Neale Hurston I was reading-Wrapped in Rainbows-around page 150 for this reason). And if they bother you too, you might want to stay away from this. I think I’m going to be in the minority here, though, so if you want another opinion, head over to Citizen Reader. But if you do try it, read the afterword first-it describes how Wright has centered his entire life around Wilde, and I think your reaction to it will let you know how you’ll react to the whole book.

youwerealwaysmomsfavoriteI read You Were Always Mom’s Favorite! by Deborah Tannen the second I got home from the library! I really enjoyed her book about mothers and daughters in conversation when I read it earlier this year (she’s a linguist at Georgetown), and this book about sisters seemed to promise the same combination of humour and insight just from the title! And I did enjoy it. But I didn’t love it, and I often didn’t identify with Tannen’s ideas (in fact, I raised my eyebrow at a lot of them). I think there’s a simple reason for this: I’m an oldest sister and she’s a youngest. Her book talks a lot about the woes and problems a youngest sister faces, but not so much about the ones an oldest sister faces (and even when she does mention them, often there’s a bit of a barb contained therein). I already thought of her as an intelligent fluff author (i.e.: she doesn’t use a lot of footnotes or cite many studies), but this book felt quite biased. That being said, it was a fun way to spend a couple of hours, and I bet youngest sisters will simply adore it. As it was, I often rolled my eyes.

pawnofprophecyFinally, another book I can be 100% positive about! When I was in high school, I LOVED David Eddings, especially The Belgariad. I think I read it for the first time around 8th or 9th grade (my mom had it, so she leant it to me), and I must have reread it at least 5 times! I lived for these books-they’re high fantasy, epic quest, world with gods and different societies, the whole nine yards. Then in college, without really realising it, I stopped reading high fantasy. And since then, I’ve lived in terror of rereading this series, in case I no longer liked it. Well, I’m happy to say I’ve now reread Pawn of Prophecy, the first in the five-book epic, and I loved it just as much this go round! :) I can’t wait to reread the next four, and then I’ll probably revisit the ‘sequel’ epic The Mallorean. That being said, I find it difficult to review books that are this close to my heart and so wound up in my past, because I have no idea how a first-time adult reader might see them. My mom points out that she read them for the first time as an adult, and she’s definitely a discerning reader, and she loved them too. So give them a try! I think I love them for Edding’s storytelling ability.

the_forest_loverAnd straight from that high, I come to the low of the week, my one-star read, The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland. I would have abandoned this book, except I really want to try out a book club at my library (called “World Travellers”) and this is the selection this month. Keep in mind, I don’t like Tracy Chevalier either, so I’m thinking historical art fiction just might not be my thing. But omg, everything about this book drove me crazy!!! Even though it’s set in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the dialogue and narrative felt completely contemporary, except for awkward slang. And the main character was a real artist, Emily Carr, which I’m always wary about fictionalising real people. Vreeland’s version of Carr is SO whiny and self-pitying, that I could have cared less whether she was ever successful as an artist. It’s hard to sympathise with someone who is constantly taking offense to everything. The narrative jumped around all over the place, hopping through the years. The minor Native American characters felt stereotypical. The writing style was too controlling, with its overuse of adverbs and need to spell everything out. Basically, this book is the antithesis of my reading preferences. That being said, I can’t call it a horrible book. If you like Tracy Chevalier, I bet you’d enjoy Vreeland. And at least I can count it towards the Canadian Challenge, so it wasn’t a total waste. ;) Of course, now I’m even more nervous about going to the book club for the first time! I’ve read a lot of the other books they’ve discussed earlier in the year and enjoyed them, so hopefully some of the other members will feel the same way about this one as me.

thedevilspicnicMy final book today is yet another Candian read: Taras Grescoe’s The Devil’s Picnic. In this travelogue, Grescoe visits various nations (mainly in Europe, but also Singapore and Bolivia) and samples ‘forbidden’ foods and drinks (like absinthe). I thought the travel writing was really strong; Grescoe could bring up a scene before my eyes and he often made me laugh. However, there was also a political aspect to the book-Grescoe is strongly against the ‘nanny state’, and while I actually agreed with many of his points (I certainly think the War on Drugs is absurd), I thought his style of argumentation was weak. So those bits of the book got old quickly. Still, I’m glad I read this one!

And there you go. Probably one of those most negative Sunday Salons I’ll ever publish (with any luck at least). What do you do when you haven’t been enjoying the books you’re reading? Do you still post reviews? Or just decide not to talk about them?

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43 Comments leave one →
  1. October 11, 2009 7:11 am

    I’m trying to figure out how you define “slump”….this is a slump? And, crazier, I’m trying to imagine how much you read in a non-slump period! :-)

  2. October 11, 2009 7:31 am

    Thank you for posting about Deborah Tannen’s book about sisters. A class I took in college talked a bit about some of her work and I always thought she was a little odd, but I’m really curious about this book due to my relationship with my own sister.

  3. October 11, 2009 7:40 am

    I have to get Deborah Tannen’s book! I have three sisters (I’m number three in age), so maybe being both an older and a younger sister will give me an unbiased viewpoint from which to judge her prejudices. :P

  4. October 11, 2009 8:13 am

    Once upon a time, I was a linguistics student. And I studied lots of linguistics, and it was a weird time in my life, but I always remember Deborah Tannen’s articles as being very well researched and cited, so maybe she tries to dumb down her books? Which is equally annoying as not citing anything at all. I’m disappointed to hear that you didn’t like it and it sounds like it’s going to get kicked off my TBR, because I am also the oldest!

    I’m in a little bit of a reading funk as well. I keep reading the first fifteen pages of books and then moving on. So, I don’t know. Siiiigh.

  5. October 11, 2009 8:28 am

    Wow – for someone who has been in a reading slump, you have sure read a lot.

    I think I need to read Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, my only concern is that even though I am British, I have never shown any interest in football, so would I actually understand the book?

    I haven’t read any plays since college as I always found it a very hard format to read too.

  6. October 11, 2009 8:29 am

    Thanks, Eva, for mentioning A Year in Japan – now I really want to read it! I know you mentioned it on my blog the other day, but now I’m even more intrigued. :)

    I’m an older sister too (not only do I have a younger sister, but two younger brothers as well) so I’d probably have the same reactions to the Tannen book as you. But maybe I’d be interested because I do like books about family relationships, especially between women.

    And to answer your question, I review everything I read, as long as I finish it. I typically do not finish a book if it’s not grabbing me within 50-100 pages (depending on the length of the book itself) but as long as I finish it, I review it, good bad or otherwise. :)

    Good luck with your slump – I hope this week’s reading is better for you!

  7. October 11, 2009 8:57 am

    Great post even if there are some negative reviews. Some books will never work for us no matter how voracious our reading, so I think it’s totally fair to review the “meh” books along with the great ones. Though, in my case, I rarely manage to finish the “meh” books.

    I really want to read A Year in Japan and a couple others you mention here. I’m also interested to get further into Joe Hill’s collection to see how my feelings jive with your opinions. Will be dipping into it again today.

  8. October 11, 2009 9:12 am

    Eva, like you whenever my reading suddenly becomes overwhelmed by mediocre (or even worse, bad!) books, I want to retreat to the shelves of well-loved favorites that I know will buoy my reading spirits. Thankfully I haven’t had that really happen this year, but sometimes I think that I shouldn’t reserve previously read and enjoyed books for times of trouble. Rereading can be so wonderfully rewarding, and it isn’t as though I only have things to say about a book the first time I read it through!

  9. October 11, 2009 9:45 am

    So glad to hear your thoughts on David Eddings! I’ve never read anything like this, except LOTR, but I’m not even sure if that fits into the High Fantasy genre (I’ll have to google this lol.)

    I have a list of possibles to try out including David Eddings, Raymond Feist, Terry Goodkind and George RR Martin – but now I think I’ll start out with Pawn of Prophecy!

  10. historyofshe permalink
    October 11, 2009 11:34 am

    Hmm, I’d have to say that I still post about books I don’t like. I feel like it’s just as important for people to read negative reviews as it is for people to read positive ones. I guess my only thing is how to write the negativity. It’s so hard to share what you thought about a book you didn’t like without it seeming like an attack on the author. Oooh the perils of book blogging! :p

    I hope you get out of your slump! Maybe read-a-thon will be a jolt! :)

  11. October 11, 2009 11:46 am

    I felt like I was being negative and picky during my discussions of my first couple RIP reads and I didn’t like it. But I honestly didn’t come away feeling satisfied after reading those particular books and so what could I do? I guess there will just be times like these when we pick the wrong books for a while and then we get back into a groove and become mostly happy readers again. :)

  12. lena permalink
    October 11, 2009 12:03 pm

    I found out an interesting fact! The book that you read – 20th Century Ghosts put together by Joe Hill…. that’s Stephen King’s son. And apparently, his other books are way better.

  13. October 11, 2009 12:06 pm

    I love Kyoto! I think you would, too. :)

  14. October 11, 2009 5:39 pm

    Look at all these wonderful books… (and maybe some not-so-wonderful ones…). I keep thinking about reading the Joe Hill book. I liked (mostly) Heart Shaped Box, but I’m not really a short-story reader… hmm.

  15. October 11, 2009 7:23 pm

    Tim Parks wrote A Season with Verona, which is about soccer in Italy. I much prefer his book Italian Neighbors, which has nothing to do with sports, but if you’re looking for another European sports book (Parks is an Englishman who moved to Italy), you could try that one.

  16. October 11, 2009 7:25 pm

    Also, have you ever read Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach?

  17. October 11, 2009 7:34 pm

    Yeah, I didn’t like The Rez Sisters. I have a hard time reading plays… I know what you mean with a slump. I get down in my reading and things don’t work well.

    And, crazy that you gave such a low rating to the Vreeland. I really don’t want to read that now!

  18. October 12, 2009 2:14 am

    Debnance, a slump is when I read maybe 1 or 2 hours a day (at the very most). Remember this is over 2 weeks! :)

    Katie, I enjoyed it, but you should check out her mother-daughter book-my mom and I both loved it!

    Jenny, lol.

    Lu, interesting! I figured since she’s a Georgetown prof she knows how to research-I think these are maybe her form of blowing off steam? I did like the book, I just didn’t love it. And the three chapters on birth order drove me a mite crazy. (Maybe I should make that clearer in the review?)

    Vivienne, I’ve never been interested in professional football, and I understood it! I’m sure I missed some of his references, but the gist was always there. :)

    Heather, it’s awesome! And it won’t take more than an hour to read. :) You know-I tend to become closest with girls who are oldest sisters too! Like I told Lu, I liked the book-I think my expectations were just too high from the other one (whcih was perfect!).

    Andi, I need to work on my abandoning mojo. I get sucked into the ‘well, I’ve already committed x pages to it, so I might as well read it’ trap. I’ll be curious what you think about Hill too!

    Steph, I’m totally with you on rereading!

    Joanne, of the authors you’ve listed, I’ve only read Eddings and Goodkind. Goodkind is very violent (I know there was a least one rape scene in the couple of books I managed, and a lot of killing and rape-threatening), and it gets more violent as the series (The Sword of Truth) progresses.

    HistoryofShe, I’m always more nervous writing negative reviews about contemporary authors. ;) If I’m reviewing a book in its own post, I try to make sure I quote passages to back up my issues, and explain what kind of readers might like it. But with TSS, I don’t have the space. :/

    Kristen, I think book blogging has made me a lot more picky in my reading! :)

    Lena, I knew that, because I read Heart-Shaped Box for one of the former R.I.P. challenges (and really, really enjoyed it-that’s why I picked this one up!).

    Amy, you’ve been everywhere I want to go! Kyoto! Mongolia! :p

    Daphne, I’d say these are quintessential short stories, so if you don’t like the genre you probably won’t like these. But you never know until you give them a try!

    Softdrink, thanks for the rec! I haven’t read Without Reservations-is it another travel book?

    Kailana, I feel better that a Canadian didn’t like it either! ;) I don’t think Vreeland is an *awful* writer, it’s just that a lot of her style devices push my buttons. That, and I really didn’t like her version of Carr at all. I realised that I read another book of hers, The Passion of Artemisia, several years ago and while I enjoyed that one more than this, it was still kind of a meh read.

    • October 13, 2009 9:02 pm

      Yes, the author travels around to different countries. She’s a less famous and more likeable Frances Mayes (imo). For her second book, Educating Alice, she again travels but she takes classes in each place. Cooking school in Paris, meeting with geishas in Kyoto, sheep farming, a Jane Austen convention.

      • October 14, 2009 3:09 am

        And with that, I am completely sold. :) I’ve put the first one on hold (I’m #3 on the list!).

  19. October 12, 2009 5:35 am

    I wish I slumped like you. I have finished one book in the last two weeks. Slumping!

  20. October 12, 2009 8:10 am

    I absolutely loved Without Reservations that the other blogger mentioned. It is a travel book, but one that has transported me more than any other. I loved it a hundred times more than Eat Pray Love.

    Anyhoo, just wanted to make you feel better about negative reviews. I, after reading 145 pages, finally abandoned Joyce Carol Oates’ book Little Bird of Heaven. I tried, I really tried to get into it, to like it, to finish it but just couldn’t. So sad :(

    So instead I started Open House by Elizabeth Berg and am enjoying it after only 10 pages.

  21. October 13, 2009 1:10 pm

    I started my blog to have a record of what I’ve read, so I still want to write about everything, even if I didn’t love it. But, that said, I’m behind so I’m feeling like dropping something. Grr. Hard to find time for it all!

  22. October 13, 2009 4:58 pm

    I’m so jealous of your finishing Natasha’s Dance. I’ve started it twice now and it remains on the pile!

  23. October 14, 2009 3:12 am

    Marg, I guess it’s because I don’t have much to do all day! ;)

    Lynne, thanks for seconding the rec-I’ve put it on hold at my library! And isn’t it sad when we don’t enjoy books that we really want to?! Oates and I have a mixed history-I strongly prefer her short stories to her novels. I’m glad your new book is good though!

    Rebecca, I don’t tend to do full-length posts on books I don’t enjoy-I like to save those for my faves so they get more attention! :) But I can imagine you’re super-busy!

    Ted, it was quite long for a nonfiction book! But I love Russia enough that once I started it I knew I couldn’t put it down. :)

  24. October 14, 2009 7:06 pm

    Not surprised you didn’t like the Vreeland. I love Emily Carr so much I haven’t liked any of the takes on her life. She herself wrote so many absolutely fantastic books that I can’t be bothered to read the novels about her.

  25. October 15, 2009 5:31 am

    Melanie, I only read it for a book club-it’s not a book I would have picked up on my own. I’ll have to try out one of Carr’s own books!

  26. October 15, 2009 9:14 am

    Eva, thanks for pointing out to me that you’d reviewed Tannen’s book here! I’m also an oldest sister, so I’m sorry to hear she’s biased against us, but I might just have to pick it up anyway (or maybe the other book of hers you mentioned).

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve been reading a lot of so-so books! I hope the next lot are much better!

  27. October 16, 2009 9:56 am

    Avisannschild, I still enjoyed it, just not the chapters about birth order! Also, I forgot to mention it, but she assumes the oldest gets extra privileges. In my case, both of my parents were *second* oldest, lol, so I got NO extra privileges, and whenever my bedtime/allowance/etc. got changed, it changed for my little sister too. I found this quite frustrating, since I was two years older!

  28. November 1, 2009 6:56 am

    If you have a chance to see The Rez Sisters on stage, try to see it. I’ve not read it (I usually don’t enjoy reading plays), but had a chance to see it last year. I live in a part of the world where both Ojibwe and Cree are spoken languages, and when you hear the words in context, you can usually figure out what they mean without the need for footnotes! The play deals with so many issues that real people face, and it was a very powerful production.
    Have you read Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway? It is the only novel that he has written, and was one of the best books I read last year.

  29. November 16, 2009 9:25 pm

    Ha! I LOVE the dissenting opinion on the Oscar Wilde book. I know absolutely nothing (and I do mean nothing) about Wilde, so I think I was ready to ride along on the love fest. But you did a great job of describing why the book didn’t work for you, and made a fascinating point about bio writing (relying on a subject’s memoirs) to boot.

    And, I re-read the Eddings books this summer. Great fun. I still love that whole series, not to mention Garion!

  30. November 18, 2009 9:19 am

    I loved The Forest Lover, but I listened to it on audio. Perhaps that made a difference for me. I was really surprised at how much I liked it, given that I’m not that into art or Native American culture. I’ll be writing a review of it this week.

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