Monday, December 29, 2008

Best of 2008

Below is my list of Books Read in 2008. It was a very unusual year for me. Usually a strict fiction lover, this year I read 23 non-fiction books and 37 fiction books for a total of 60 books. So why are there still 108 books on my To Be Read pile??? Most of my non-fictions were spiritual/yoga related. I opened a yoga studio this year and am running the book club, which requires that I read the books to screen them beforehand. A good job, if you ask me. Here are some of my dubious "awards" for 2008

Best Fiction Read: Tie between "Zoli" and "The Commoner"
Best Non-Fiction Read: "The Zen of Eating"
Weirdest Book, not just of 2008, but of ALL TIME: "The Raw Shark Texts"
Best Book I got for free through Library Thing: "The Foreigner"
Book highly reviewed that I read and now can't remember one single detail of: "Case Histories"
Best Guilty Pleasure: "The Twilight Series"

  • Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
  • Run by Ann Patchett
  • The Zen of Eating by Ronna Kabatznick
  • Dharma Punx by Noah Levine
  • Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
  • The Shack by William Young
  • Rocket Man by William Hazelgrove
  • Grace Unfolding by Johanson & Kurtz
  • Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer
  • Trespass by Valerie Martin
  • Trauma by Patrick McGrath
  • The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford
  • Eaves of Heaven by Andrew X. Pham
  • Yoga and the Quest of the Urban Mystic by Darren Main
  • What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman
  • These is My Words by Nancy Turner
  • The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
  • On Call in Hell by Richard Jadick
  • Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss
  • Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • JULY
  • Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward
  • The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz
  • The Foreigner by Francie Lin
  • The People's Act of Love by James Meek
  • Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Loose Girl by Kerry Cohen
  • JUNE
  • A Gradual Awakening by Stephen Levine
  • The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi
  • The Forgotten Body by Elissa Cobb
  • Will Yoga and Meditation Really Change My Life? ed. by Stephen Cope
  • The Interloper by Antoine Wilson
  • MAY
  • House of Meetings by Martin Amis
  • Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston
  • End of Story by Peter Abrahams
  • Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg
  • The Abortionist's Daughter by Elisabeth Hyde
  • The Murder Notebook by Jonathan Santlofer
  • Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
  • Mindful Therapy by Dr. Thomas Bien
  • Loving What Is by Byron Katie
  • Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout
  • The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander
  • The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
  • Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  • Zoli by Colum McCann
  • A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
  • The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill by Mark Bittner
  • Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo
  • Western Limit of the World by David Masiel
  • No Visible Horizon by Joshua Cooper Ramo
  • Taming Your Gremlin by Rick Carson
  • Things I Want My Daughters to Know by Elizabeth Noble
  • Grief by Andrew Holleran
  • Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
  • In The Country of Men by Hisham Matar
  • Be Near Me by Andrew O'Hagan
  • The Last Disciple by Hank Hanegraaff
  • Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
  • Deadly Advice by Roberta Isleib
Books I Gave Up On in 2008
  • The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett
  • How to Practice by The Dalai Lama
  • Autograph Man by Zadie Smith
  • Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

Friday, December 26, 2008

Book Reviews: Run and The Raw Shark Texts

This is one of the most bizarre books I have ever read. I spent the entire book fighting with myself about whether or not I should just put it down and move on (because on one hand it could be viewed as so dumb) or sit on the edge of my seat and read straight through till I was done (because I had to find out what happened!).

Before I tell you what it's about, I'll tell you a story to give you an idea of what the feeling is. I used to work for county mental health with a man who told me all kinds of stories about how he used to work for the CIA and they erased his brain, and he was part of some brainwashing scheme, etc. etc. Obviously needs medication, right? But on the drive home, I always wondered....."what if....?"

This book is like that. The main character suffers on the surface from "dissasociative fugue" which is where you have no memory of yourself or your life and you have a penchant for traveling and disappearing. (Yeah, it's a real - but rare - diagnosis). Then the author puts you in "his" head. What's really happening for people like this? We're giving it some name, but is it really something else? Something far more sinister and horrible?

This book is a romp of imagination. I can't even imagine how an author gets such an idea -- Steven Hall, if not a genius, is some kind of storyteller. Even if you think the concepts he pus forth are a bit "out there", read it just to be blown away by the whole paradigm shift....what we think of mentally ill people may not be what they are experiencing at all. I'm gonna think about this book for a long, long time.

I loved Bel Canto a few years ago, so thought I'd try Ann Patchett's new book. I didn't think this book was nearly the book that Bel Canto was, but it was still a good offering. Ann Patchett is a wonderful character author, building family relationships and portraying setting in such a real way. It's not the kind of book that will have you staying up late and tormenting yourself, but you'll be glad you read it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Review: Rocket Man by William Hazelgrove

I received an Advance Review copy of this book from the publisher through the Library Thing Early Reviewer program. I got it super fast, which always makes me think the publisher is very motivated! Therefore, I felt compelled to set aside the other book I was reading and read this one right away so I could make a review.

This book is hilarious. Not being given to laughing out loud at books, it was unusual for me to have several people asking me "What are you reading, anyway?" because I was cracking up. Basically it is the story of the quintessential Rennasaince man stuck in the cookie cutter home life of modern suburbia. It is filled with good questions, like 'how is it that we are satisfied with the material existence we've created for ourselves?' And it asks these questions without being maudlin; in fact, helps us laugh at ourselves as we see ourselves clearly in the narrative.

There are a couple of things I didn't like about the book. Shallow as it may be, the cover doesn't appeal to me. And I confess to being one of those people who has and does pick up a book and buy it simply on the basis of the cover or the "feel" of the book. I don't think this cover adequately captures the essence of the book. Granted, this may not be the cover they are planning for release. Also, there was an enormous amount of swear words in this book. I'm not a prude and I will happily read a book where there are swear words if it seems an integral part of the story. The sheer volume of profanity in this book, however, made me feel like it was gratuitous. This isn't a huge problem for me - I just skip right over it - but if I was listening to it on audio, it would be a big factor.

All in all, it's going to be a winner. I read a blurb that said William Hazelgrove is comparable to Richard Russo, and I'd agree. It is a great character study and an entertaining read.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Review: The Eaves of Heaven by Andrew X. Pham

Ok, of all the books I've read this year, this is the one you just HAVE to read. I can't believe I'm gushing so much about a non-fiction book, which is normally not my forte. But this book is absolutely wonderful.

This is a true story, a memoir that Andrew Pham wrote from stories his father told him of his early life in Vietnam. You've seen all the Vietnam movies, you have your American idea of what "Vietnam" is, right? Well, now you can read about 'Vietnam' from the perspective of someone who grew up there, from someone who doesn't necessarily think with a French or American brain.

Pham's father was one of the rich gentry class in Vietnam. And then the French came. And then the Americans came...wars, wars, wars. And the things they lived through. You just can't imagine it. This is the book that will change what you think of Vietnam from "hellhole" to something vastly different.

My only complaint is that the chapters alternate between his youth in the North and the later years in the South -- this would not have been a problem had I been reading the book and could have easily flipped back to see where we had left off before....but I read it on the Kindle, where it's harder to do that. If you're reading the paper version, it shouldn't be a problem.

I loved, loved, loved this book. We'll see what happens, but it'll definitely be in the running for my favorite book of the year.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Review: What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

I've never read anything else by Laura Lippman, and I've had this one on my list for quite some time. So long, in fact, that I had no idea what it was about when I picked it up. Turns out to be a great and fascinating mystery that I could not put down. I'll definitely look up her other books.

So I would say this falls somewhere between "high" literary fiction and mainstream mysteries. It is well written and thought out, but with a definite suspenseful quality. Two girls disappear after going to the mall in 1975, and in the present day, a woman claims to be one of them after getting in a car accident. This all happens in the first chapter and the rest of the book is the unraveling of what really happened.

It's not going to change your world forever, and might not be your favorite of the year....but it's a great, quick read with a lot of depth and I'd highly recommend it!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Review: These Is My Words by Nancy Turner

When I got my new Kindle, my best friend reached over and downloaded this book onto it. I'm thinking - in panic - I have 125 books before this one on my "To be Read" list!! But she kept asking if I'd read it, and so eventually I cracked it open, virtually.

A prairie book. Cowboys and Indians and such. Now my friend (the one who downloaded it) Emily is the only person I know who could actually live on the prairie. But seriously, who would want to?? I mean, this is a time period when everyone dies. Your kid gets the measles? Dead. So I was a bit irritated to be reading this book with so much tragedy. Just not my thing.

BUT. This is just a fantastic book. So well done. I love, love, love the narrator, the writer of the journal. And I grew up in Arizona, so there were so many places I recognized. This is a great love story, without being cheesy or gratuitous like so many of today's romances. I can't imagine any book lover hating this book. It's been over a week since I've been finished with it, I'm well into another book, and yet anytime I'm daydreaming, it's still all about this book. This one's gonna stay with me for a long, long time.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Review: The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

This book has been on my list for a really long time. I even checked it out once and then couldn't get to it. Finally, I downloaded it onto my new Amazon Kindle and read it. It's a really long book, set in London around the time frame of World War 2, and the blitz on London. One thing that was praised about the book was the style of working backwards. It was definitely interesting, but it wasn't my favorite writing style. Basically, you get to read from the end of the story backwards.

Secondly, I knew that there was a lesbian character in the book. But that's not how I would characterize the book. I would say the book is more about being lesbian than it is about World War 2. I'm not making moral judgments at all, but I'm not a big fan of sex scenes even in heterosexual fiction. This book was a bit more than I really wanted to know about the subject. I don't know; maybe that makes me ignorant or whatever. But I think rather than being mainstream fiction, this really falls under a much narrower category of gay and lesbian fiction. Just my opinion - I've read a lot of positive reviews on the book, so I may be the one who is in the minority.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Review: On Call in Hell by Richard Jadick

Oh, man. Don't even think about reading this book unless you want to cry. This guy was a Navy doctor serving front line Marines in the battle of Fallujah. He personally knew almost every traumatically wounded guy who came into his tent, and I don't even know how you deal with something like that. Whether you think this war is important or whether you think it's a waste, I believe there's not an American out there that doesn't respect our fighting men and women. This is an important book and you should read it. Go to Costco and get the jumbo case of Kleenex first, though.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Review: Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward

I loved, loved, loved Amanda Eyre Ward's other books, How To Be Lost and Sleep Toward Heaven. When I saw she had a new book out, I put it on my 'to be read' list immediately.

This book has her trademark great writing, easy readability, and somewhat dark subject matter. There's nothing to not like in her style of writing. This particular book was about apartheid in South Africa, a subject that is pretty confusing to me in many ways. Heavy material, too - reading about the injustices and deaths of people in that part of the world, and trying to figure out how I could have been playing on the beach in California innocently while it was all going on; wondering what is going on now while I sit in my easy chair and read. It's that kind of book - one that will inspire deep and somewhat disturbing thoughts about life and the world at large.

But the writing in this book in particular confused me greatly. I was confused while reading it, turned back to see if I'd missed something, read it again, looked back again. After I finished the book, I couldn't sleep trying to figure out what I'd missed. Finally, in the middle of the night, I woke up realizing what had happened in the book. It seems to me kind of a sleight of hand, author-style. I'm pretty sure she intentionally tried to "trick" the reader here. I'm sorry I can't say more, because it would be a major spoiler, but I was not happy about the way it turned out. It made me want to read the book all over again, this time with the knowledge I now possess. I don't have time for that, and don't really appreciate reading a book only to feel like I should read it again to get the whole experience.

If you want to read this book, go ahead. Write me when you're done though, so I can see if I'm just stupid, or if it's really as confusing as I thought it was.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Review: The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz

Ok, I have so many books on my 'to be read' pile now that I used a Random Number Generator to choose which one in my pile to read!! Now that's crazy!! Moving on....

Well, I've never heard of John Burnham Schwartz before, but I'm starting to regret that he has three other books out there that I haven't read. Staying with the theme of the Far East, we have here the story of the Empress of Japan, told in her voice in a book written by a man. And very cleverly done, indeed.

This is the story of a girl, who in the 1950's is the first 'commoner' ever to be chosen to marry the Crown Prince of Japan. I'm smiling as I read it, thinking of Princess Diana and the childish dream of becoming a princess....

But the story that follows -- the isolation, the restrictions, the horror of it -- oh, you just feel so for her and all she goes through. I know it's a work of fiction, but I know it was meticulously researched and I can just see how so much of it must be born of truth. What a shame that people are so lost in pomp and circumstance, so overcome by tradition, that they forget how to be human and have human relationships.

Absolutely beautifully written and not to be missed!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Review: The Foreigner by Francie Lin

Another free book I received from the Early Reviewers Group at Library Thing!! And boy, did they get this match right, because.....

This is one of the best books I've read this year. As Francie Lin's first book, you can't help but wonder what she'll do as a follow up! It's absolutely brilliant, well-written and fast paced. Even with my hopelessly busy schedule, I simply couldn't put it down (it helped that our Internet service was out for a day!).

One of the things I've realized lately is how much I love a book written in the first person. I love being told a story from the character's point of view, feeling almost as if I am the character as I'm living their story with them. And I'm amazed in this book (as I was amazed conversely at how great Arthur Golden wrote as a woman in Memoirs of a Geisha) at how Francie Lin writes from a man's perspective - a man's voice - so well. You'd think she was a man -- but the picture on the back cover says it's not so!

Anyway, It's the story of Emerson Chang, a forty year old financial analyst in San Francisco. When his mother dies, he goes to Taiwan in search of his long lost brother. This begins a dramatic, suspenseful and beautiful journey with all kinds of twists and turns. Just trust me, you'll love it. It's going to be on my short list for the best book of the year. Here's an example of some of Francie Lin's gorgeous way with words:

It was the hour of the night when cities show themselves. Traffic lights blinked, off-line; street dogs wandered in the alleys, carrying away trash and scraps, shitting in the gutters. The pavements gave off steam like a long, collective breath, and the smell of open drains hung in the air. In my mother's stories about the old country, Taipei had been a land with a single train going to and from school, a church and a priest, fresh sugarcane, candy stores, earthquakes, curfew. One more death, I thought vaguely, sleepy -- death of a memory, of an image.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Review: The People's Act of Love by James Meek

I've had this book on my reading list for a couple of years and finally got to it. I've never read anything but good about it, but actually struggled at about 100 pages over whether or not I wanted to finish it. There are a lot of characters, all with Russian and Czech names, and the author makes the assumption that you know something about what happened in Siberia in the first World War. I thought that I would probably give it a not-so-good review.

But now that I've finished, I have to say that I liked the book and I'm glad I read it. I wish I had read it at a time when I could really dedicate some time to sorting out all the characters and maybe looking into some background information about what happened in this time period in Siberia. Most of my negative reactions are probably my own fault.

Still, combine a freaky religious sect (apparently based on the truth) with a squadron of Czech soldiers.. lay on top of that the town widow and her son who have past connections with certain characters in the town. Pretty fascinating. And then, out of the forest walks a convict with a story about cannibalism that turns the town upside down. All in all, it requires some patience to read but it's a very good story. You'll learn some things -- and you might just enjoy yourself!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Win a Book!

Hey! Run over to Lori's Reading Corner to win a copy of The Host!! You know you want it!!

Review: Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan

I belong to a group on Library Thing called 'Reading Globally'. Each month they read a book based in a certain country, or by an author from that country. July's choice is Nigeria, which I was thinking of passing on -- because I'm so busy and I've already read Half of a Yellow Sun, which is the quintessential Nigerian read. But then....there was an article in our paper about a new book out by a Nigerian author...Say You're One of Them. So I changed my mind and read.

This book is a collection of short stories - 5 of them. From the slums of Kenya to the massacres in Rwanda to a treacherous bus ride through Nigeria, these stories are hair-raising one and all. I wish the world was such that no one could even imagine things horrible enough to write a book like this. But alas, this stuff didn't come out of thin air...I'm sure that these stories are thinly veiled fictional accounts of the truth. The worst part is, most of the stories are about the struggles of children in horrible circumstances like this. It's true that they highlight the resilience of children and the bond between siblings -- but I can't imagine my kids ever having to face such tragedy. I don't want to be naive, but really - it's a truth I wish I didn't know. The writing is great, but the content is highly disturbing.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Review: Loose Girl by Kerry Cohen

I requested this book from the Early Reviewers program at Library Thing because I'm a psychotherapist. Women who use sex and love to feel worthy are abundant, and the residue of these experiences can be hard to work through. I thought this might be a good book to have in my library for clients.

Well, I really liked the book, but I don't know that I would give it to clients. This is a fascinating look at promiscuity - what it's roots are and the internal damage it can do. I could barely put it down, which is unusual for me since I'm not a huge fan of non-fiction.

But, like other reviewers, I wanted more at the end. I wanted to hear her conclusions about what happened to her and how she makes sense of it now, especially since she's now a psychotherapist herself. I wanted to know what the journey was like between then and now. To give it to a client, I'd want some kind of a diary about how to get out of the pattern, not just a diary of the pattern.

Ahem...a sequel, maybe?

I also had difficulty with the present tense, first person style. Here's an example:

Once, Susan calls me to the window to see a fox in their backyard.

I'm sure this is grammatically fine, but she is saying "once" as in, in the past, and then the rest of the sentence is present tense...? This style tripped me up, and several times, like with this sentence, I found myself re-reading the sentence and saying "huh?" to myself. As I say, I'm sure it's defendable grammatically, but I just didn't like it much.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Review: The Interloper by Antoine Wilson

I read some of the other reviews of this book, trying to figure out what people liked about it. I did read it all the way through, something I doubt I would have done if it wasn't an Early Reviewer book from Library Thing. The main character just gets crazier and crazier, more and more bizarre, as the book carries on. As I read other reviewers comments, I realized I had to admit that this was certainly the author's intent. The discomfiture I felt watching him lose his mind was carefully crafted by the author, and I'm sure that I felt just as he wanted me to feel!

Still, as a psychotherapist, I was really stuck in the idea that "There's medication for this, ya know??" It really is a very good piece if you want to see in action what delusional disorder is really all about. But a warning: YOU might go crazy reading about it!

Monday, June 2, 2008

What a dud!

Wow. I only read one book in May. I bet that is a record for me for LEAST books read in a month, in my entire life. Usually I'm never seen without a book in hand. But starting this yoga studio was just WAY busier than I anticipated. (Duh. I don't know what I anticipated!) Part of the problem too is that I'm slogging through The Interloper, a free book I got from Library Thing Early Reviewers. I'm not enjoying it, and haven't yet figured out if it's the book, or if I'm just too busy to enjoy reading. Hopefully I'll figure it out shortly. I'm running an "enlightened" book club for the yoga studio, so I know I'll at least be reading one book a month!! Our first pick is "Will Yoga and Meditation Really Change My Life?" by Stephen Cope. I love him and highly recommend ALL his books.

Anyway, this blog might be a little dull for awhile, but soon I hope to be back to my regular reading self!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tuesday Thingers (on Wednesday; getting better!)

This week's topic: Discussion groups. Do you belong to any (besides Early Reviewers)? Approximately how many? Are there any in particular that you participate in more avidly? How often do you check?

Answer: I used to belong to a book discussion group (I can't even remember the name of it) and I found it pretty unsatisfying. Plus it's hard to follow, remember to check, and all that.

I belong to several list-serv type discussions for psychotherapists -- one for therapists in the East Bay Area (California) and one for those practicing Emotionally Focused Therapy. Every once in awhile we have a pretty divisive discussion, and I've actually decided to pretty much stop participating. It's amazing how mean therapists can be to each other!! (I know, that's not what you want to hear, is it?)

I am also a member of a yoga forum in which I keep a blog and we have various discussions. However, since I decided to open a yoga studio, I don't have much time for talking (or doing yoga for that matter!)

I follow about 100 blogs using Bloglines, and comment often, but that's not really a discussion group.

So not too many, maybe none by strict definition.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Book Review: House of Meetings by Martin Amis

I swear I got smarter while I was reading this book. Seriously, though, this is some intense fiction. I revisited a common complaint of mine, which is that the author makes the assumption that one knows something about his subject; in this case modern Russian history. Half the time I had no idea what he was talking about! I know relatively nothing about Stalin, post WWII Russia, the Gulag and all that. I know about relationships, though - oppression, lust, hatred - this book has it all.

I never even considered putting this book down; it almost makes me want to go check out a book on Russia and learn more. That's the impact of the book. Add to that Martin Amis' beautiful, stunning writing and you've really got a winner. Here's a brief quote from the book that doesn't give anything away:

Let me tell you what I loved about August 4, 1953, when we stood arm in arm. When we stood and faced the state and its whirlwind of iron. I had reached the end of philosophy: I knew how to die. And men don't know how to do that. It might even be that all the really staggering male exertions, both great and base, are brought on by this single incapacity. No other animal is asked to form an attitude to its own extinction. This is horribly difficult for us, and may be thought to mitigate our general notoriety...You need mass emotion - to know how to die.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Tuesday Thing (on Saturday)

Ok, ok, so I'm a little late; you'll understand shortly.

I'm in a group of Early Reviewers on Library Thing and we are going to have a blogring on Tuesdays where we talk about what's new with us. Last Tuesday being the first time, we were supposed to introduce ourselves.

My name is Lisa and I'll be turning 40 this year. I spent 11 years as an Air Traffic Controller before I had kids and had to quit because of the schedule. Then I went back to school and am now a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California, counseling about 12-15 couples a week. Recently I decided to open a yoga studio with my yoga instructor and we open ONE WEEK from today!!! (now you know why I'm doing this so late!)

I have an angel of a husband, and two kids - 7 and 3, both boys.

I'm totally exhausted.

But I simply cannot live without books, nor can I stop reading, no matter how busy I get.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Review: Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston

I finished this book some time ago, but waited to review it because my book club discussed it last night! I've just joined a brand new book club after not having one for several years. This time, I joined a group of strangers on craigslist, and in doing so, hope to avoid gossip sessions in lieu of book discussions. We'll see. I was dubious when several of the people said "I don't really read much; I joined this club hoping it would inspire me to read". For years now, I've wanted a serious book club where we really do discuss the book.

Because I didn't know how dedicated people were, I picked this book as our first selection. I knew it wasn't real intellectual, but I wanted to see how the discussion would go to ascertain whether we could go more serious or not.

Everyone hated it. I actually like it more than most people, and I was a little surprised at the negative response. Truly, it's basically "chick lit", with not a huge amount of seriousness required. Still, being a marriage counselor, I thought it was a pretty good introduction to how the experience of infertility can impact a marriage. Still, people thought that the characters were undeveloped and it was overly stereotypical.

I was appalled at the marriage counseling that took place in the book, and wanted to know if that's what people thought marriage counseling would be like!! Thank goodness, everyone realized that it was pure fiction and a bad portrayal of counseling and its effectiveness.

I'd still recommend the book. It's a quick read and I like her writing. True, you're not going to stretch yourself or necessarily learn anything by the reading, but if you just want an quick, easy read, it's good.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Review: End of Story by Peter Abrahams

There has been some discussion lately in the blogging world about not ripping into authors when doing reviews on your blog. I'm conscious of this, too, since Jonathan Santlofer visited my blog after I read his latest book. My intention would never be to rip into an author, knowing how "birthing" a book must be such a labor of love.

However, the point of a book review blog is that one can critically review a book, which includes the option to really dislike a book now and then. So with all respect to Peter Abrahams, I really did dislike this book.

You know those horror movies where you are watching and practically yelling at the main character "Don't!! Don't go in there!!! Can't you hear the scary music??" Well, this book was kind of like that for me. The main character, Ivy, just gets stupider and stupider as the story goes on. At one point, she is just making such totally poor choices that I was truly tempted to just not finish the book at all. And I, the reader, had this mystery figured out way before she did, leaving me feeling like maybe her elevator didn't go all the way to the top floor. It was pretty blatantly obvious what was going on, and she was blind as a bat.

Maybe it's because I'm a marriage counselor, and I see people ruining their lives with crazy and ridiculous choices all the time. I'm fully aware of the power of love, but I also fully believe in the power of counseling to help a person get a hold of themselves and stop ruining their lives. There were some points here where, had I been a fellow character in the book, I would have dragged Ivy to counseling kicking and screaming. She needed some serious help.

Granted, I think the author meant for the reader to feel this kind of dismay towards Ivy and possibly the frustration I felt was his plan all along! Still, it really really made me mad when she got rewarded in the end for her ridiculous behavior. It's been awhile since I had such a strong reaction to a book, but if it weren't a library book, it'd be in the trash right now just for spite.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Review: Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg

I know, I'm a prolific reader lately, huh? When my life gets stressful, I read, read, read.

Oh, boy, if you have a book somewhere inside of you, you're going to have a hard time with this one. I myself have a non-fiction book in the works (pretty halfheartedly) and found myself setting down this book to search for agents online!!! It really whets your appetite to get published, so watch out for this one if you're not ready to submit query letters.

Set in a literary agency, the main character gets caught up in a mystery concerning an anonymous author who seems to be writing the story of her life -- with a not-so-savory ending, if you get my drift! The thing I just loved about this book was the characters, particularly the literary agent, Lucy Fiamma. It escapes me how anyone can imagine such a crazy lady!! And, I would have never, in a million years, guessed who-done-it.

What a great, fabulous book for book lovers everywhere!! Get your manuscripts out and ready to edit!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Review: The Abortionist's Daughter by Elisabeth Hyde

First let me say there wasn't anything that I didn't like about this book. It's highly readable, has great characters, moves along quickly, and I darn well spent half the night reading it!

Still, it's not going to be my favorite book of the year. I can't put my finger on it. I did not dislike it. However, I didn't love it either. Having a murdered abortion doctor as one of the main figures of the book, maybe I felt like the author was using the political issue as a catalyst? I'm not sure. She definitely tries to create sympathy for one who chooses this profession, and yet, she does a good job of not making the character entirely likable, too. So I don't even have a major complaint there.

I'd recommend this book. Particularly if you've got a long car ride, travel day, beach day and so on. It's a fast paced read and it'll keep you entertained, for sure. There's just nothing magical about the prose or totally engrossing about the storyline -- nothing that puts it in the "you have to go to the bookstore and get it right this minute" category.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Review: The Murder Notebook by Jonathan Santlofer

What's that you say? This book isn't even out yet? Why, you're absolutely correct! I received it from the Early Reviewers Group on Library Thing! You can request books in advance of publication, to read and review. Some people say they have never received a book, but I've received one every single month that I've requested one!

I really enjoyed this book. I don't think I would have ever picked it up in a bookstore, although I'm not sure why. I think it has something to do with the cover, all the blood...? I'm usually not a mystery, and certainly not a gory type of reader. So I may have passed this one by. However, having recieved it from the Early Reviewers group, I felt I should give it a try.

It's a story about a police sketch artist, and how he helps solve cases with his drawings. His girlfriend, a homicide detective, is trying to solve a big case and he's called in. Other characters include his mother, a therapist, and his dead father, a cop whose death he seems to feel responsible for. There's plenty here for readers like me who seek out books mostly about the complexities of relationships and how they play out in our lives. Throw in a dash of suspense, and you'll be up all night!

I know some readers will be turned off by the combination of the storyline and the sketch drawings that pepper the book. I can hear some of my fellow readers now saying that it's "gimmicky" and another way to stand out from the rest of the mystery crowd. It didn't bother me; in fact, the drawings were wonderful and helped me in my imaginings of the characters. I know, I know, though - some people like their own imaginings, thank you very much. At most, it would be a very minor criticism of a great book.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Review: Out Stealing Horses

Darn. I had a whole bunch of pages turned down in this one, because I wanted to treat you to some of Per Petterson's wonderful writing, but alas -- I returned the book to the library and hadn't finished this review!!

This one got great critical acclaim, and I have to add my applause. It was translated from Norwegian, and at first I was bothered by short, choppy sentences, but soon forgot that in the beautiful writing and wonderful storyline.

Set in Norway at the turn of this century (2000), with flashbacks to the narrators childhood during the second World War. It's one of the kinds of books that I love, where there isn't so much fast paced action as there is deep reflection on the nature of things. It's just great. Read it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Catching Up.....4 Reviews...

What can I say without starting a huge political debate? The only thing, I guess, is to say that there is really not much here that can start a debate. Barack Obama is so clear on one thing: We are all Americans, we all have a right to our opinions, and if we all really listened to each other, we might learn something. He does, obviously, share his opinions on things - but all the while pointing out what the "other guys" think that has some value and validity. Yes, you'll feel like you know a bit more about his platform if you read his book. But it really is about hope. Do you want to stop feeling hopeless about this country and get back that feeling that we really can survive. Yeah. Well, read this then. Even if you're a Republican. Seriously.

Ah, yes. I think the thing I liked best about this book was the cursive writing on the cover. Love it! The remainder .... not so enthusiastic. It is a book based in Argentina at the time of civil unrest. I wasn't all that interested in the characters. Even the relationships seemed unreal to me for some reason. Note that I did like it enough to finish it, so I guess that says something, but I wouldn't read it again knowing what I know now. If you're really interested in Argentina, though, go for it!

I loved "Amy and Isabelle", Elizabeth Strout's first book. We read it year's ago in my book club and I remember loving it. So I was pretty excited to read her latest. I liked it, too, sailed right through it. But it's another in a genre that I've kind of exhausted lately (Gilead, Be Near Me), that of the secret lives of priests and ministers. This one is a lot less heavy than Be Near Me. I loved the characters and thought it really portrayed small town church life very well. Worth reading, especially if you read at stop lights! (That was for you, Jay Are!)

Ah, finally I read Byron Katie. Years ago I heard about her, and I recommended this book for my mom. But I never read it!! In fact, I resisted reading it because I thought it was cognitive-behavioral. (As a therapist, I'm not cognitive-behavioral. I don't like the thought that changing our thoughts changes our mood. While I think that's probably true, I find this approach in therapy largely ignores emotions and I don't like to do that).

Well, I read her. And I don't think it's some 1-2-3 way to ignore your emotions. It's not CBT. It's more like Buddhism. It's total acceptance. It's taking responsibility. Even more, it's taking responsibility and being happy about it! Here's some of her quotes that I love:
  • No one can hurt me; that's my job.
  • Would you rather be right, or free?
  • When I argue with reality, I lose -- but only 100% of the time
  • I am the cause of my own suffering -- but only all of it.
Oh, do read it. Read it, please!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Book Review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Blurb on the back of the book, written by Stephen King: "To say this is a terrific debut novel is really too mild. I haven't read such a relentlessly creepy family saga since John Farris's All Heads Turn as the Hunt Goes By, and that was thirty years ago, give or take. Sharp Objects isn't one of those scare-and-retreat books; its effect is cumulative. I found myself dreading the last thirty pages or so but was helpless to stop turning them. Then, after the lights were out, the story just stayed there in my head, coiled and hissing, like a snake in a cave. An admirably nasty piece of work, elevated by sharp writing and sharper insights."

Impressive. For a first novel, it's quite incredible. I think Stephen King might be overstating it just a wee bit, but then again, I can't wait until she comes out with her next book. Yes, it's pretty creepy, but not in a unrealistic kind of way. It's psychologically creepy. And, being a mental health worker, I found it totally, completely fascinating. And I don't think you'd have to be in the field to think so.

I kind of feel the same way about Gillian Flynn as I do about Stephen King. How can a normal person come up with this creepy stuff?? She says in her acknowledgements that no one in her family is remotely like this family. mmm-hmm. She's got quite the imagination then.

The Oakland newspaper groups are doing a monthly book club. This is their pick this month and I'm hoping to be able to attend the discussion at my local book store. I crave a real life book club and just haven't been able to make it happen, so maybe this will be a good substitute. It's great. If you have the courage, read it.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Book Review: Zoli by Colum McCann

Heaven knows why this wasn't the most popular book of 2006. It is positively delicious and everyone should read it!! It is a great saga of a Gypsy woman (it seems the word Gypsy is or can be offensive and the more politically correct way to refer to them is Roma). It's a lifestyle that has always interested me. For many years I've had "Bury Me Standing" on my To Be Read list, and Colum McCann says in the postscript that he was inspired to write this novel from that one.

When I went to get this cover image off Powells website, it was one of their staff picks. The staff member who picked it said:

Open Zoli to just about any page and you'll find a passage worth reading two or three times. The prose is gorgeous, the story remarkable — characters practically leap out from the bindings. McCann's novel reminded me why I read fiction: to be transported, completely and without hesitation, into the lives of strangers. It belongs on a shelf alongside Michael Ondaatje's best work.

Yeah, ok, I agree with all that. You should read this book. On another note, some people on the Amazon reviews didn't like it because they couldn't figure out who was narrating each time there was a new section. I agree, it does take a page or two to figure out who the voice of the narrator is when he starts a new section. Ok, maybe that's a drawback, but once I knew that, it didn't bother me as much. The only other criticism that I found, and that I partially agree with, is that the book doesn't give enough background -- it assumes you know something about Roma history. Well, I don't, and I still loved the book. Maybe now I'll read "Bury Me Standing" and get more of the background.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Book Review: The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill by Mark Bittner

You might not know this about me if you don't know me, but I'm into birds. We just lost a cockatiel and I've been working on getting a new one. He arrived last Saturday, and as I write this, is cooing contentedly on my shoulder. So a friend bought me this book for Valentines Day. I live in the San Francisco bay area, and I'd never even heard of this book!

I am also notorious for not doing non-fiction very well, so I was dubious. But I loved this book!! Apparently there is a flock of wild parrots (conures, to be exact) who live in San Francisco and frequent Telegraph Hill. I had recently heard of them because I was working with Mickaboo to get a new cockatiel. They do bird rescue here, and occasionally rescue these wild parrots when they get hurt or diseased. I even met one when I had to go to a bird class with Mickaboo!

Anyway, the author Mark Bittner was living on Telegraph Hill as a caretaker and started feeding and befriending these wild parrots. By the time he was done with the book, there were 70-some parrots. He named them and got to know them individually, at times bringing them in the house when they got hurt or sick. It's really amazing -- the subtitle "a love story...with wings" is really apt. Even if you don't like non-fiction, you'll like this one. (There's also a documentary of the same name, if you prefer your non-fiction onscreen!)

I can't wait to take a trip into San Francisco, visiting the places in this book to look for the parrots!

Review: Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo

Ugh. That's really my one-word review for this book.

I like Richard Russo. I read Empire Falls a few years ago and loved it. Then last fall, I listened to Bridge of Sighs on audiobook, and I also loved that. He is the absolute master of small town sagas, almost making the town itself a character in the book.

At first I thought maybe I'd just taken on another thick Richard Russo too soon after Bridge of Sighs. But I don't think that was it. This book was long, and the main complaint I have is that the main character simply wasn't likable. He tried to make him so, giving him little quirks that supposedly should have offset the fact that he was a total loser. But no, he was just a total loser. I got tired of reading about him and his loser life. If I lived in that town, I'd probably cross the street on the other side when I saw him coming. I mean, everyone's got problems, but you try to rise above. He didn't try to rise above -- didn't seem to even have enough deep thought to feel like he should rise above.

I finished the book, because I think Richard Russo is a great author and I wanted to see it through. But I wouldn't recommend it. If you have read the other two I've read, read one of those!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Several book reviews...

I'm woefully behind on my reviews. I've been sick so reading a lot, but reporting...not so much. Anyway, here goes:

Western Limit of the World by David Masiel

This is a seafaring novel, and one I never considered giving up on, although I'm not sure if I'd recommend it to anyone. The story goes along well enough, although the main character is decidedly unlikeable. I think that's intentional. You're supposed to love him anyway, but I had a hard time summoning up any kind of deep feelings for him whatsoever. I liked this book; I suppose the writing was what carried it through -- and yet, I'm still not really sure I totally followed the plotline. I have a vague uneasy feeling that I missed something somewhere along the way. David Masiel is a great writer (although the fact that he named one of the characters Maciel kind of annoyed me), but if you're looking for a great seafaring adventure, I guess I'd recommend "Voyage of the Narwhal" by Andrea Barrett first.

No Visible Horizon by Joshua Cooper Ramo

I used to be an air traffic controller and know a lot about aerobatic flying, so this book was interesting to me. Had to be, because I'm a notorious non-fiction hater. I'd like to be intelligent enough to enjoy non-fiction, but usually the lack of a running plotline makes me sigh and give up. This book, though, was great! I loved learning more about aeronautics and the kind of lives these people lead. Joshua Ramo does a great job of describing it, giving some backup research and even waxing philosophical about it. I really loved this one. There is some pretty technical information here, so if you don't know anything at all about aviation, you might be overcome with details. Also, in the version I read, the chapter headings drove me bananas. Instead of Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and so on, there would be blank page with a sentence on it, say "Bill Hunter was a great pilot". Then on the next page, a new chapter would start, beginning with said sentence - "Bill Hunter was a great pilot". Kind of drove me batty. I'd rather just see a simple Chapter 12 than to read the same silly sentence twice as some sort of a dividing sentence. I know, a silly little criticism, but it can't be helped.

Taming Your Gremlin by Rick Carlson

This is a non-fiction self help book. Generally, I'm not of the "change your thoughts and you can change your life" vein....(as a therapist, I believe that sometimes it's the feelings or circumstances that precede the thoughts, and they are the things that sometimes need to change first)....but having said that, this book is worth a look. Basically, the gremlin is that little guy (or girl) who lives in your head and says mean things to you all day long, like "why can't you be more successful?" "are you ever going to lose that weight? you look awful" or "if you weren't such a failure, you'd be doing xyz". and so on. By externalizing this voice into the guise of a gremlin, Rick Carlson helps you begin to see it as your archenemy, something that you need to war and battle against. If this kind of gimmick works for you, it could be powerful. No question that most of us need to be more aware of the way we talk to ourselves and be a little nicer!! I know I do.

Things I Want My Daughters To Know by Elizabeth Noble

Guess what? I got this book FREE as an advance copy (it's not even OUT yet!) from the publisher because I'm a member of the Early Reviewers Group on Library Thing!! Isn't that cool? Anyway, I'm supposed to review it, and I don't have to give it a good review if I don't want to.

The story of a family with four daughters, the book begins with the mother's death. You get to read alternating passages about each of the four daughters and their (largely messed up) lives. The mother left letters and a diary with advice and lessons she wanted her daughters to know, also cleverly interspersed into the narrative. The writing was lovely, the characters well-drawn. I don't know if it was because I was reading this while my cousin was dying or not, but it was all very "Terms of Endearment" to me. If you like that sort of heart-wrenching, life-examining kind of work, it was really good. I'm afraid it was a bit maudlin for me, but an easy read and one that wasn't just entertaining but meaningful too. I'd read Elizabeth Noble again in a New York minute, but maybe I'd wait until I was in a better mood for this one!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Book Meme

Ok, ok, I got tagged for a meme. I rarely, if ever, do these things. But my kids are in the bathtub and I have two minutes to myself. It's a short one, so here goes. Here's the rules:

The rules of this particular meme are:
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages)
2. Open the book to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence
4. Post the next three sentences
5. Tag five people

So the nearest book is one I bought for my 6 year old at Costco today called "The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog". The three sentences are:

"Right now we've got another case to crack. Now look at these tracks. What do you make of them?"

Easy enough. Unfortunately, I don't have enough time to tag 5 other people (my two minutes are up - sigh), so if you're reading this, you're tagged!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Review: Grief by Andrew Holleran

I liked this book. Andrew Holleran's writing is very good, and I always seem to like these "memoir-type" books -- this is very similar in style to Gilead, Rules for Old Men Waiting, those types of books.

The story is narrated by an aging gay man whose mother has just died. He comes to Washington D.C. to teach a semester as a way of getting a change of scenery and dealing with his grief.

My problem with the book is the gay-centered themes. I have no problem with a gay character, but it's kind of like violence or sex: As long as it's not gratuitous, no problem. But if I feel like it's just thrown in because it's the authors pet issue, then it's a bit overdone. Such is the case here, at least for me. Yes, I know all about the struggles of being gay (I am a therapist, after all!); Yes, I know about the AIDS epidemic and the losses sustained; I'm not unsympathetic. But it's almost like instead of it being weaved surreptitiously throughout the story, it's too much of the plotline or something. It's hard to explain, but I just felt like it was overdone, and I would have had more tolerance for it if it had been more subtle.

I'd read it again, though, and I'd recommend it in certain circumstances. Surely, if you have a particular interest in the subject, it's a good read.

Another one in the trash bin

Apparently this is my year to give up on books. Really, I feel like I have so many books I want to get through this year. I really want to whittle down my list a bit. And I love that feeling when I start a book, and I just can't wait to pick it up again and get back to it. I guess I've decided that there are so many books in the world I feel that way about, that it's not worth it to spend too much time on a book I don't feel that way about.

This book wasn't terrible. It was good writing. The characters were well-written and the story was moving. But I just found days going by before I'd want to pick it up. I always found an excuse to do something else. Finally, I admitted to myself that I just didn't really like the characters. I couldn't relate. And I wasn't really interested in finding out if they became more relatable. So I gave up and moved on. I've started to make a list on the sidebar of books that just didn't make the cut. Sadly, I anticipate more of this, because my standards are just getting more stringent. I don't have time for books that aren't fabulous.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Two Reviews: In the Country of Men/Case Histories

I've been wanting to read Kate Atkinson's Case Histories for a long time. Basically, it tells the story of three cold cases (in police terms) and one private investigator. All of these stories, of course, intertwine with each other and with the life of the private investigator.

It's a quick read, well written and entertaining. However, a disclaimer is that there is a lot of blood and gore, especially in the beginning. It's not gratuitous; the story couldn't really be told without it. But still, don't read it while you're eating anything with tomato sauce! Seriously.

All in all, though, a definite good read. I like her style and would read anything else she has written.

I've also had this book on my list for quite some time. Most likely, it got on the list from a Bookmarks Magazine review. It is a very interesting and engaging book, narrated by a 9 year old boy growing up in Libya. Sometimes reading about childhoods in other countries can seem daunting or unreal, but this book is easy to read, while informative about the leadership of Qaddafi and his people. It could be because Hisham Matar does such a great job weaving the story of the relationships in the book - which of course, is universal to us all. Either way, though, this book is a good example of a book I never saw anyone hand-selling, never saw get much exposure -- and yet, it's a fantastic book that deserved better. If you're interested at all about learning about some of the politics of Libya and what it was like to grow up there, read this book.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Book Review: Be Near Me by Andrew O'Hagan

It's quite difficult to review this book without spoiling the plotline. So if it seems rather general, I'm sorry. I really loved Andrew O'Hagan's writing, though. One of the quotes on the book said he "writes like an angel" and I'd have to agree.

This book reminds me of Gilead, both in writing style and content. It is narrated by a fifty-something priest, in a new diocese and lonely. As in Gilead, nothing really "happens" per se, it's simply the slow, unfolding story of his life. Fascinating and beautiful.

Here's a sample:

I can only say it now. At the centre of himself, a man cannot choose whom to love. He can choose how to live and can honour the truth of himself where he may. But he cannot choose whom to love, any more than he can choose how tall he is or how good. One can take up platform shoes or fine deeds, but the heart will always have the last word, and when the word is love we can recognise, we can respond, we can submit and we can try to ignore, but we can never choose. Love is not a matter of choice but an obdurate fact of surrender.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book Review: Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

60 page rule. Then I gave up. It got great reviews but did nothing for me. I couldn't keep track of the characters, and couldn't tell you what was going on by 60 pages. I've got 88 books on my list to read this year and can't waste my time on books that don't grab me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Book Review: The Last Disciple by Hank Hanegraaff

Well, if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't read this book. I couldn't follow it. It had way too many characters, way too many chapters before they surfaced again so that when they did, I had no idea who they were. The only reason I kept reading a couple of times was that my mom really wanted me to read this book.

In the end, it started to get good and I enjoyed it - about the last 100 pages or so.

The Last Disciple presents an alternative to the popular Left Behind series. The Left Behind series features a rapture prior to the tribulation. This is a different philosophy, saying that the Tribulation was actually connected to Roman rule and wasn't referring to the 21st century in any way.

Interesting. But not really my cup of tea. Thanks anyway, mom.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Review: Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

Well, I'd hoped against hope that this would be the last book in this series. Seriously, the series is enough to crush a person with anticipation. I can't stand the suspense. Sadly, there will be a fourth, and we'll probably have to wait until towards the end of 2008 for it. Maybe by then I'll have enough willpower to pass it by.

Don't get me wrong. This is a great book. Great. She hasn't slowed down or lost her stuff at all in between Twilight and Eclipse. My advice is to read the end of this one in the bathtub, like I did, so when your husband comes in you can pretend you're sweating and not crying. Spoilers in the rest of this review, though....


The problems is: I like Jacob so much better than Edward. Now that Bella realizes that she loves Jacob too, why wouldn't she pick him? She could have a normal life, have kids, etc. etc. From here it appears that Stephenie Meyer has written herself into a lose/lose situation. There's just no solution to this problem that's going to please everyone. Or maybe even anyone. I thought the end of this book was about the best she could do to end it all, given the corner she's written herself into. Who in the world knows what she'll do next?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Review: Deadly Advice by Roberta Isleib

So back on December 14th, Roberta Isleib read my blog reviews, commented, and asked me if I'd like a copy of a book she'd written called Deadly Advice. Wow! The blogosphere can be a weird place, so I went to her website, and she seemed to be a legitimate person. "Of course", I said, "I'd love a copy of your book! I'll even review it!" I worried about the last. What if it was terrible? I didn't promise a great review, and I have to be honest about my book opinions. Cross that bridge if it comes I thought.

I got the book (signed!) amazingly fast, and delved in. I promise you, readers, I'm not just saying this because I was a victim of random kindness -- I really loved the book! It's good. Mind you, it's not a literary tome that will be discussed in graduate literature. No, this is the little mystery you grab when you are going to the beach, or waiting for some interminable appointment and you just want to be entertained, darn it!

The main character is a clinical psychologist. I'm not a psychologist, I'm a psychotherapist (M.A. instead of a Ph.D.) but still, I could relate. I must say, though, I usually hate books where there is a therapist as the main character, because the authors usually get it so wrong. I find myself saying "She can't reveal that!" or "She would never say that!" through the whole book. Roberta got it spot on. Silly me, it took me half the book to glance at her bio and realize she is a clinical psychologist! No wonder she has it so right! duh. These clinical details don't mire you down, but even if you have a faint interest in the therapy world, you'll be glad that it's done right.

I also like mysteries where the main character isn't necessarily a sleuth or detective, just a normal person finding themselves swept up in investigating something. Roberta does this very realistically, not making it seem like the main character is excessively nosy or bizarre. Of course, at the end, her motivations are even more clear. And then there's the very end, which of course leaves you hanging deliciously so that we can look forward to the next in the series.....

There will be a next, right, Roberta?

She also has a golf mystery series that I might check out. I just love having small, easily readable paperback mysteries on hand for those occasions where a book in the purse is just what you need....

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Books of 2007

Ok, I don't have time for a fancy list with links to all my reviews. I'm just going to post my completed reading list for 2007 here so I can start a 2008 reading list on my sidebar. In 2007, I read 66 books - 15 non-fiction, 51 fiction. As usual, before the list, here's my dubious awards:

Best Book of the Year, hands down: The Book Thief
Worst Book of the Year, hands down: The Inheritance of Loss
Best Young Adult Book: The Giver
Best Non-Fiction Book: Yoga and the Quest for the True Self
Book that made me laugh so hard milk came out my nose: Eat, Pray, Love
Book I loved that other people hated: Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Book I hated that other people loved: The Echo Maker/The Eyre Affair
Book I just can't stop thinking about: The Doomsday Book

And without further ado, here's the list:

This Year I M. J. Ryan
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Changing for Good by John Norcross
An Unfinished Season by Ward Just
Change your Brain, Change your Life by Daniel Amen
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Empire of the Sun by J. D. Ballard
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Deception by Denise Mina
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Plot Against America by Philip Roth
The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
The Power Tactics of Jesus Christ by Jay Haley
Half of a Yellow Sun
Lost in the Forest by Sue Miller
The Brief History of the Dead by Keven Brockmeier
Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
What is the What by Dave Eggers
Turn Stress Into Bliss by Micheal Lee
Giraffe by J. M. Ledgard
A Hole in the Universe by Mary McGarry Morris
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
A Certain Chemistry by Mil Millington
Falling in Love is Not Enough by Joseph Dragun
The State Boys Rebellion by Michael D'Antonion
Waxwings by Jonathan Raban
Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
And Baby Makes Three by John Gottman
The Echo Maker by Richard Powers
TRACON by Paul McElroy
Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie
Forgetfulness by Ward Just
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
The Dark River by John Twelve Hawks
Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The Indian in the Cupboard
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The pH Miracle by Robert Young
The Giver by Lois Lowry
How to Improve your Marriage without Talking about it by Patricia Love
Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
New England White by Stephen Carter
The Divide by Nicholas Sparks
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Fall on Your Knees
Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O'Nan
The Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
New Moon by Stephanie Meyer
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
A Little Love Story by Ronald Merullo
Blood Memory by Greg Iles
72 Hour Hold by Bebe Moore Campbell
How to be a Wealthy Therapist by Casey Truffo
True Evil by Greg Iles.