2011 – A Reading Recap

Holleeeeeeeeeee crap has work picked up! But I’ve been formulating how I’d do this for some time. (Writing book reviews is a new thing for me so I write this entry quite timidly. )

These are the books I was able to finish in 2011.

Books Ive read in 2011

I started 2011 with a wonderful book and ended it with a wonderful book. (These books are listed in reverse order. Started with The Help and ended it with The Inconvienant Wife. I don’t think I’ll write a review for EVERY book I read. I enjoyed many of them to an extent. Some I didn’t. There are some that fell in between for me.

Theme – Time Periods

You’ll see with me that I looooooooooooove me some historical fiction. Very rarely do I read a book that’s set in current times. I wish there was a historical fiction area within the fiction shelves. We can’t get everything I guess :-P

Redfield Farm: A Novel of the Underground Railroad by Judith Redline Coopey. This book centers on the Redfield family before and after the Civil War. The book’s main character is Ann Redfield. She is part of a large Quaker family and takes a maternal role in her family when her mother passes. She gets so used to this role that she forgets about her personal life because she is too busy worrying about how others in her family are and how she can best support them. Her family is part of the Underground Railroad in the mountains of Pennsylvania. She comes across a wide variety of characters with a wide array of motives, both black and white. The reader can quickly understand just how dangerous yet important it was to assist slaves to freedom. For that, I found this an interesting read. After the Civil War, as we know, the movement on the Underground Railroad came to a halt and I feel the book quickly did as well. The narrator says her story from 1905 so after the Civil War the next four to five decades are quickly brushed by to the book’s end. That was the only disappointing part of this book. Four out Five Stars.  Read November 21 – December 5

 

 

When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt – I LOVE books about immigration to the United States. I always think of my family members on my maternal grandmother’s side who came here from Slovakia in the 1880s.I found myself conflicted from time to time with it though. It seemed there were times reading it when I couldn’t help but just want something GOOD to happen to her. Then again, being an immigrant in a new country can’t ever be easy. It certainly wasn’t for single women in the 1880s in America so I had to tell myself that it was probably more realistic than anything. People took advantage of immigrants. Sisters came over here looking for siblings, sometimes not finding them. The main character, Irma, trains to be a doctor through her journey to the West Coast and it was very interesting to read the various kinds of treatments people received. Four out Five Stars.  Read February 28 – March 19

 

 

City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling. OH HAI HISTORICAL EPICS! :-) I loved this book. It’s pretty hefty–almost 600 pages but I still enjoyed it. This book covers about 150 years of the settlement of Nieuw Amsterdam and Early Manhattan. Its pace was pretty fast but new characters were introduced to keep my interest too. Sometimes I was disappointed to see some of the characters drop suddenly but I was quickly introduced to new characters.

This book was interesting because, like “When We Were Strangers,” the characters were medical professionals from the 1600s-mid 1700s and the descriptions of the medical procedures were quite fascinating…and sometimes gross given the fact that utensils were hardly sanitized  (I’m hardly a germophobe but using utensils on me that are housed on a wooden table? NO!) Another example is that one of the characters does some experimentation with blood transfusion. Because this was before Charles Drew’s blood typing, the experiments went tragically wrong.

This book got me hooked on the idea of historical epics. Swerling has three more books in this series. Lil apprehensive about the second book. 500 some pages–20 years or so.  Four out Five Stars.  Read August 13 – September 17

 

Theme – Narrators

This was an interesting year for narrators! That’s for sure!
Room By Emma Donoghue. This is the story of Ma and her five year old boy, Jack. They’re prisoners in a shed-like Room where a character named Old Nick comes to “visit” to have sex. Sounds horrifying doesn’t it? Ma was kidnapped years prior and held prisoner. Eventually she gave birth to Jack and it’s the two of them living in this Room. My mom sent me an email on a Thursday saying “You MUST read this book!! I’ll loan it to you tomorrow so you can read it this weekend–you won’t want to put it down.” I read a little bit about the book and went “whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?” But like a good daughter I read it. It was such an interesting read because it’s written from the point of view of Jack, a five year old, who, as you can imagine doesn’t understand how wrong and complex their situation is. It took a while to understand things going on in the book–for example every afternoon they have a “screaming contest.” It took me a while to figure out they’re screaming for help and not just playing a game. But I got to understand Jack’s point of view and couldn’t stop cheering them on through the book. I highly recommend this book! Five out Five Stars.  Read January 13 -19 (that’s pretty quick for me!)

 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Guess who narrated this book?? DEATH Sounds ominous, no? But, yeah you might laugh at this, it ended up being a great book. And one that was uplifting!

Liesel Meminger is a foster kid living with a couple with older children outside of Munich in World War II. This family, as you can gather, goes through a lot during World War II and Liesel gets through it by stealing books. The reader sees her go to school, get bullied as students do and we see her befriend a boy down the street. They quickly become friends. But she doesn’t even tell him that their family has a Jew living with them. We see how each character is affected by the influence of Nazism in Germany and how that motivates their actions or lacktherof. I do not want to give away too much of the plot but I highly recommend this book. Five out Five Stars.  Read March 29 – April 26.To those who might have read this–Do you think it’s accurate to have this book classified as “Young Adult?” Why or why not? I’ll be curious to see what you think.



The Soldier’s Wife By Margaret Leroy. This, unfortunately, was not the most enjoyable book because  of the narrator. As one can guess this is written from the point of view of the soldier’s wife. It wasn’t until my father complained about the tense of a book he was reading that I could pinpoint the issue I was having with this book. He complained that the book he was reading was written in the present tense. BINGO. I grabbed my Kindle and realized that this book was written like that. Not only that, but it was also first-person present tense. Because of that, the writing was often dull. “I go to the store. I pick fruit.” That might sound random but try reading 400 pages of that. I found it difficult to relate to this character because there was no context to it. If this wife was writing about her life during the second world war, we might have gotten some kind of hint to motives or rationale. Two out Five Stars.  Read November, 2011.

 

 

 

Theme – Characters
There are some characters that I get mad at, that I cheer on and that I still think about to this day (Like Jack and Ma in Room). These are some stories with some pretty interesting characters.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I really related to the characters of Skeeter Phalen (the main character) and Celia Foote. The book starts with Skeeter graduating from Ol’ Miss in 1963. That’s rare in and of itself because most of her girlfriends are already married with kids. Skeeter on the other hand is set to be a writer with her Bachelor’s in her hand. She suggests a bold move–interviewing the maids of white families in Jackson Mississippi and then writing about it. Sure it’s not marching in Birmingham with Dr. King but this character picked the thing she was best at and did her part in helping a societal problem. I appreciated Celia Foote’s character because there are times when I judge people too quickly. If you take a look at her, whether it’s the picture in your mind or the actress who plays her in the movie, you might instantly assume that there’s nothing there. (I happen to believe that they got her character very well in the movie) She’s gorgeous, has a nice house and husband. But underneath it, you still see pain. There’s more depth to her than you might initially think.  All of the women in this book have a strong foundation and story behind them. I loved the characters of Aibileen and Minnie as well. They were brave just sharing their experiences with Skeeter too! Five out Five Stars.  Read December 25. 2010 – January 3, 2011.

 

An Inconvenient Wife By Megan Chance. Set in Guilded Age New York City, we are introduced to Lucy and Henry Carleton. The first scene (I imagine what I’m reading in my head as a movie, almost, hence the word “scene.”) has these two talking to a psychoanalyst to try to cure Lucy’s hysteria. As people in the 21st century, our definition of hysterical is very different than that of the 1890s. You go on to read that Lucy simply wants more–more companionship and more to do. The restrictions placed on women at this time were frightening! There was a tightness in my chest for Lucy. If a woman back then did not seek pleasure in organizing a home, there was something wrong with her. If she sought sexual satisfaction, she’d be placed in a mental institution where the conditions were far from healthy. During this book, various mental health specialties along with their societal value were described. One of the doctors, Dr. Victor Seth, introduces the couple to hypnosis, which was a very new field then. Through this, Lucy starts to come to terms with childhood issues and feelings, some of which she’s gotten over and others she hasn’t. As I was reading it, I just couldn’t help but feel sorry for Lucy and all the restrictions society was placing on her during this time. Very interesting read! Five out Five Stars.  Read December 15 – December 25.

 

I want to get better about reviewing books while they’re fresh in my mind. (I struggled with some of these reviews, trust me, because I read them a while ago) Hopefully my confidence about writing clear reviews will increase as my love of reading grows daily. :-D so many books out there!

2 Comments

  • sprite says:

    Great reviews!

    Re: The Book Thief and its classification as YA: I find it frustratingly common belief that just because a book has a main character who is a teenager that it is, by definition, therefore a teenager’s book. I think that keeps some adults from reading these books because either they don’t encounter them because of where they’re placed in a store/library or because they don’t want to be seen/perceived as reading things that are “beneath them.” OTOH, I think that the YA genre is currently filled with TONS of great books and writers and if that gets and keeps teens interested in reading, then I’m all for giving them easy access to this novel.

    I figure a good story is a good story is a good story, no matter how you categorize it. Frankly, if I were a librarian/shop owner, I’d get two copies and stick one in each section.

  • [...] did I read this? I read Megan Chance’s book The Inconvenient Wife and thoroughly enjoyed it. City of Ashes is set around the same time as this other book but [...]

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