2008 Review!

This has been a rough year for me and for awhile I wasn't reading much at all because I had no energy to do so. Now that I'm looking back, I'm surprised to see how much I have accomplished. It makes me feel better to know that I managed to get somewhere in most of my challenges and that I found several new favorite books! I'm looking forward to 2009 and hoping that I will read more than I did this past year and find some great books.

Challenges I participated in:
My Year of Reading Dangerously (finished 8 of 12)
2008 TBR Challenge (finished 8 of 12)
Chunkster Challenge (finished 3 of 4)
The Eponymous Challenge (finished 4 of 4)
Classics Challenge (finished 1 of 5)
My favorites (in the order I read them):The Bonesetter's Daughter by: Amy Tan
The Book Thief by: Markus Zusak
The Glass Castle by: Jeannette Walls
The Host by: Stephenie Meyer
Stardust by: Neil Gaiman
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by: Susanna Clarke
Rebecca by: Daphne du Maurier
# of books I read in 2008:48 (down from 81 in 2007!)

Least favorite:The Human Stain by: Philip Roth
Repeated authors:Stephenie Meyer (3)
Ted Dekker (2)
Gail Carson Levine (2)
Colleen Gleason (2)
Maria V. Snyder (3)
Neil Gaiman (2)
I hope you all have a very happy New Year! Let me know what you think about my list and what challenges you are participating in. I'm still signing up for some and working on my lists so I'm very interested to see what everyone else is doing!

The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath
by: John Steinbeck

Challenges: My Year of Reading Dangerously, Classics Challenge

# of pages: 455

Published: 1939

I'm so glad I was able to finish this before the new year! This is a book I've wanted to read for a long time, but never got around too. It's going to be the last book of 2008 that I finished. And it was worth reading!

This novel by Steinbeck is so famous that most people already know what it's about. The story takes place during the Depression and follows a family from Oklahoma - the Joads. The entire family leaves their home and moves to California to enjoy what they imagine will be prosperity and comfort. Grampa talks about eating grapes when he gets there. It's all he wants to do and the whole family takes that as an image of the future, what they have to look forward to in California. The family slowly starts to figure out that their dreams aren't going to come true and that the California they imagined is just a myth.

In between the chapters about the Joad family, Steinbeck entwines his own narrative about the Depression and life in general during those times. He discusses the corruption of the rich and the generousness of the poor. He gives the reader facts about the Depression and scenarios of how the people made their way through buying a car to take them out west, their journey to California, their arrival, and the ways of their nomadic camp life.

Much of these things I learned in my 1930s American History class I took in college, but I enjoyed the review because of how great that class was. We didn't read this book in class although we discussed many of the things like the burning of perfectly good crops by the government, the Weedpatch camp, the handbills that were passed out all over the Midwest advertising work in California, etc. In our class we read Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, another great way to learn more about life during the Depression.

Although there were times when I wished Steinbeck had left his chapters about general life and his own opinions out so that the story would move faster, I was still interested and wanted to keep reading to find out what happened next with the Joads. I liked all of the characters (except Casy). I did think that Steinbeck was occassionally harsh. Although I agree that the insanely rich should have shared land and food with the poor, I can't say I blame many of the middle class Californians for feeling threatened and not wanting to help out much. It's easy to look back and say, "People should have helped the immigrants out more and not whined about getting pay cuts so that others wouldn't starve," but I know that most of us would do that in the same situation.

I already hear people complaining about outsourcing and immigrants taking "our jobs." In the 30s, America was a big place and there wasn't much connection between the people of each region. I think that now the world isn't all that big of a place, we should all help each other out and understand that helping out the people of the world will eventually benefit us all. The Grapes of Wrath is a timeless novel and Steinbeck's ideas of men and women helping each other out, sticking together, and standing against corruption will never go out of date. Generosity and kindness in the midst of pain and suffering are always inspirational and I think that even in 100 years, people will still read and relate to this novel.

2009 Young Adult Book Challenge

Guidelines for 2009 Young Adult Book Challenge
1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.
2. Read 12 Young Adult novels. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.
3. Challenge begins January thru December, 2009.
4. You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.

I'm going to go ahead and list all of the books now. I may end up changing a few as I go along, but I like to have a set goal in mind to start off with!

1. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by: John Boyne
2. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by: Ann Brashares
3. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by: E. Lockhart
4. The Truth-Teller's Tale by: Sharon Shinn (this was on my 2008 TBR Challenge List, but I never got around to it!)
5. Enna Burning by: Shannon Hale
6. Princess Academy by: Shannon Hale
7. The Golden Compass by: Philip Pullman (I read this whole series when I was in jr. high, but now I want to read them again since they have become so popular)
8. The Subtle Knife by: Philip Pullman
9. The Amber Spyglass by: Philip Pullman
10. Sabriel by: Garth Nix (I'm borrowing this series from my SIL)
11. Lirael by: Garth Nix
12. Abhorsen by: Garth Nix

posted under | 1 Comments


by: Neil Gaiman

Challenge: The Eponymous Challenge

Published: 2002

# of pages: 162

Quote: "On the first day Coraline's family moved in, Miss Spink and Miss Forcible made a point of telling Coraline how dangerous the well was, and they warned her to be sure she kept away from it. So Coraline set off to explore for it, so that she knew where it was, to keep away from it properly." -p. 5

This is the second Gaiman book I've read so far and I wasn't disappointed this time around either! I read Stardust back in June and loved it (and the movie!). I enjoyed this book in a different way. It's a children's book, but I thought it was a little dark and scary for kids. I actually found myself anxious and creeped out in some parts. I suppose I would have loved to read this in 4th-5th grade when I went through my ghost story phase, but I'm glad I didn't read it as a younger child because it would have scared me too much!

Coraline is a fun and adventurous little girl. As you can tell by my quote from page 5, I immediately related to her and was hopelessly entangled in the story right away. Reading the book made me remember when I was a kid exploring the woods around our neighborhood with my brother. As a matter of fact, once a neighbor warned us that there was a deep gully behind his house so not to go back there because we might fall in and hurt ourselves. As soon as he went back in his house we rushed back to that part of the woods to find the gully we had never seen before and probably never would have discovered if not for his "warning." I was definitely an explorer as a kid so Coraline's entire experience was not only interesting as far as stories go, it was also interesting because of how it reminded me of my childhood.

The illustrations encouraged the creepy vibe of the book. They even scare me a little! As Coraline explores her new home and finds the door that ends up leading her to an alternate reality and her "other parents" and "other flat," the pictures follow her adventure and get creepier and creepier as her surroundings become more sinister.

I liked Coraline's character and loved the cat she meets! Although the story is dark and too scary for children under 10 years old (in my opinion), it is entertaining and can transport children, young adults, and adults into an adventure. So save this book for a rainy day and when your kid complains of being bored, let him/her read about Coraline's rainy day adventure.

I was just reminded that this book is going to be a movie! I believe it's animated and you can go to the website under the picture to make your own button eyed picture.

Possession *UPDATED

by: A.S. Byatt

Published: 1990

# of pages: 555

Sooooo slow. I know I'm probably going to have a lot of people disagree with me on this, but this book was not good. I almost put it down several times. The only reason I didn't was because I thought it would get better and by the time I realized it wasn't better I had invested too much time and didn't want to waste it. The whole book could have been at least 150 pages shorter. I enjoyed the overall plot and would love to see it rewritten in a more readable manner.

I understand that Byatt did an amazing job with her research and creativity. The novel is very well written. I can't criticize her writing style and although it was wordy, I could keep up. I understood the literary and psychology references, so it wasn't like I was completely lost. However, I still think the book is too well written...it's superficial. As if Byatt was showing off her intelligence by including unnecessary references, words, and ideas. I don't understand who could truly enjoy the long letters and poems that are ingrained throughout the story, but maybe someone who is more learned and distinguished would. I appreciate these elements in novels, but I prefer them to be natural and a little more subtle.

The letters by the fictional Victorian poet, Randolph Henry Ash, were the worst. He is so boring and pompous sounding! Plus -- I couldn't stand -- the "--" every other -- word! I skipped most of his letters. His love interest, the poet Christabel, was better. I enjoyed her letters more because they seemed like real letters that someone would write and someone else would enjoy reading. Her poetry was also better, but towards the end I skipped hers too so that I could make my way to the end a little quicker. The letters I did read (all of the ones in the first half of the book and a few in the second) were pointless. They did nothing to further the plot and even less to further the sense of romance between the poets.

I enjoyed the mystery between Ash and Christabel. I could understand why Roland and Maud wanted to find out about their lives so badly. I liked the contemporary romance that was portrayed and only wish that the book had spent a little less time on made up poems (sorry Byatt, if I'm going to read poetry, I'd rather read the authentic Victorian stuff) and more on their conversations and interactions. I also liked reading Sabine's and Ellen's journals. They were realistic and interesting. They had intelligent thoughts, but didn't sound stuck up and full of it.

A fellow book blogger pointed out the fairy tales that are told in the book! I completely forgot about this aspect of the book in my original review. I have to admit to enjoying the fairy tales that are in the book. Christabel is especially interested in fairy tales and her poetry reflects this. Fairy tales are randomly placed throughout the book (I only wish there were more!) and Christabel tells or discusses fairy tales. In one section Sabine retells one in her journal. They weren't tales I was familiar with which I'm very glad about. I love hearing new fairy tales. Was this book worth reading just to hear these tales? I still don't know.

I've also changed my conclusion to be a little less harsh. I find it hard to believe that so many people LOVE this book, but I suppose that most people take the time to review and rate books that they enjoy while the people who put a book down after reading half may not take the time to go and do that. So I didn't mean to be offensive, but I still stand by my comments that surely I'm not alone in disliking the book overall. And I still wonder if some people pretend to like it just because it's intellectual. So, I recommend this book if you have a lot of time on your hands and can get through/enjoy all of the academic references and poetry!

posted under , | 3 Comments

Love it

I loved THIS and can't help posting it although you may have already seen it on another book blog. I found it on Kim's blog.

posted under | 2 Comments

The Eyes of the Dragon

The Eyes of the Dragon
by: Stephen King

Published: 1987

# of pages: 380

This is the second book I've read by King. The first is Cell. However, I hear this isn't his typical writing style. The Eyes of the Dragon is a fantasy, fairytale-like book. I really enjoyed it! It has a storybook narrative and even though it features the classic good vs. evil dilemma in an obvious way, it is still unique.

The story revolves around Peter, the oldest son of King Roland and his wife, Sasha. Peter is the perfect son and the perfect prince. He's responsible, studious but outgoing, accomplished, but most of all - polite. Peter's younger brother, Thomas, was born 5 years after Peter. Sasha dies giving birth so Thomas wasn't able to get to know his mother. The two boys grow up and the difference between the two is notable. Thomas is jealous of Peter for receiving more of their father's attention. He's alone and miserable. So when Peter is unjustly accused of a terrible crime that Thomas knows he didn't commit, Thomas just stands silently by. Now he's in line to be king and receive all of the attention he's never had before.

The character of Peter is perfect. Sometimes I find perfect characters annoying, but Peter was still human and just because he's such a good person doesn't mean that good things always happen to him. Plus, the story doesn't concentrate solely on him.

Then there's the evil character of Flagg, the king's magician. He's the exact opposite of Peter. I also find purely evil characters annoying sometimes, but like the perfect character of Peter, the evil character of Flagg fits with the novel. Even though they are sterotypical storybook characters, the book was still interesting for me and it wasn't annoying at all.

I found it interesting that all of the main characters are men. There are only a few women mentioned in the book. The only woman who plays a real role, Naomi, is more masculine. Sasha is mentioned some at first, but the narrator doesn't go into many details and we don't hear much of her dialogue except one of her conversations with Peter. Throughout the country's history all of these men are in charge. But women are the ones who really save it from the evil that Flagg tries to spread over hundreds of years. A back story mentions the queen Kyla the Good, who saves the country 400 years before Peter and Thomas are born. And although the male characters are trying to save the country in the present time of the story, Sasha works through Peter, otherwise he wouldn't have been able to resist Flagg. It's also interesting that King wrote this book for his daughter. At least that's what I heard and he does dedicate the book to her. Her name is Naomi, so he names the major woman character after her. I think it's great that he shows women as such strong characters that have huge influences, but it does make me curious about his decision not to feature them more prominently.

My copy of this novel had beautiful illustrations! I loved them! They weren't in color, but I wonder if some editions are in color. Now I want to go to the bookstore and see if I can find a copy with colored pictures.

I recommend this book to lovers of fantasy, fairytales, Stephen King, and people who just like a good book. I think it's appropriate for young adults and adults. It could possibly be read out loud to kids with perhaps a few sentences here and there left out depending on your preferences.

posted under , | 3 Comments
Newer Posts Older Posts Home


About Me

My photo
Wife, mother, bookworm.
This is a place where you can read book reviews, discover links, and learn about the reading challenges in which I'm taking part.


my read shelf:
Andrea's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

Annual Goal

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Andrea has read 0 books toward her goal of 60 books.

Recent Comments