Books I've Read

I like books. I like to read. But I'm picky. So I don't like all books. I didn't read for pleasure for many years because I was busy reading for school. Now that I've graduated from university and the cataracts have been taken care of, I am free to read all I want, with reading speed that seems to have eluded me since high school. I'm not in a book club, because it seems like most of my friends are having babies and finishing college so I'm going to post thoughts on books I read here. And if anyone wants to form a book club, let me know. I'm all for it.

Last Night at the Viper Room: River Phoenix and the Hollywood He Left Behind by Gavin Edwards
Finished 09 April 2014

I'm a little too young to remember River Phoenix. He died in 1993 when I was 11. Now, when I think abou the films he was in, the only two I can really confirm seeing are Sneakers and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. But the book was a $2.99 spcial on iBooks and it's been 4 books since I read non-fiction so I thought "why not?" The book was alright. It was interesting to read about River's story and how his hippie parents joined a sex cult when he was a baby. then relied on him to provide for the family. He wanted to be a musician, not an actor, but he knew he could make money acting, so he kept music as a side-project. Though he was very successful, his life was tragic, right down to the circumstances surrounding his drug overdose death. The book was written by a journalist, which shows, and he repeats facts over and over. As if we can't remember from the last 4 page chapter that Anthoney Kedis is the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Anyway, it was okay. I ended up feeling bad for River because his life really did end up as a tragedy. And after reading the book, it makes sense to me why Joaquin is the way that he is, especially considering he became the family breadwinner after he watched River die from a drug overdose (all according to the book).

Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington
Finished 13 March 2014

Liv, Forever is a ghost story about secret societies, East Coast elitism, star-crossed teenage lovers, and art. Quite the mix. The main is Olivia Bloom - Liv to you! - and she's just received a scholarship to attend Wickham Hall, an East Coast prep school that's the best in the nation. As part of her scholarship, she has a work study assignment and partner. Her partner is an outcast named Gabe who gets freaked out really easily and finally tells Liv he can see and hear ghosts on campus. Liv thinks he's crazy, and then she gets murder one night. That very night she gets axed, she's out on campus after curfew meeting her Student Body President and Secret Society Member boyfriend Malcolm, who loves her unconditionally even though they met 6 weeks ago. Anyway, Liv is murder, the idiot police rule it another Wicky suicide (just like the one in 1925 where the victim "slit her own throat". Really??), and Liv, Gabe (who can hear and see her), and Malcolm work together with the other ghosts of murdered girls to figure out who's been killing all these girls, why, and why the ghosts can't leave Wickham Hall. I may make it sounds like it's lame, but I actually really liked it. It was entertaining and silly and kind of creepy sometimes. There were some things at the end that make me think Amy Talkington might try for a sequel, but it would be a really weird sequel. And Liv constantly describing everything as it relates to some painting is tiresome and unnecessary as it's already been described in non-art major terms.

Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Finished 9 March 2014

So... Bernadette was alright. It was not great, it was not all bad, it was just alright. It's about a woman (Bernadette) who's become a recluse, is married to a Microsoft big wig, has a fifteen year-old daughter, was once a MacArthur Prize winning architect, and now lives in and hates Seattle. And then one day, she disappears. The story is told from Bee's perspective - she's Bernadette's daughter - while she's trying to find her mother. I'm not really sure what the point to it all was... and the ending is completely lackluster and lacks any sense of closure. All it consists of is a million-page letter from Bernadette to Bee. And I don't mind books told in epistolary form, but this one got old really fast. Two and a half stars out of five, because I thought some of Bernadette's emails to her "virtual assistant" were hilarious. 

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Finished 22 February 2014

Code Name Verity ended up being a really great book. I say "ended up" because, for me, the first 100 pages were a complete slog. Verity is the story of two young women who are part of the war effort in World War II Britain. Maddie is a pilot, and the other girl, who's name I shall not reveal to avoid spoilers so we'll call her The Scot, is in the WAAF (Women's Axillary Air Force) with Maddie. Eventually the two end up in different branches; Maddie starts to fly as a civilian in the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) and the Scot in the SOE (Special Operations Executive). This is their story about being women doing jobs generally allocated for men in WWII, and these are jobs that women actually did for England, serving King and Country, friendship and sacrifice. After that first third - which was too much of Maddie's back story and made me a little bored - the book became un-put-down-able.

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Finished 04 February 2014

The Descendants is a book about families and their layers and their issues. It's about relationships and how they change in the face of tragedy, deceit, and anger. It's also about the raw emotion when facing the death of a loved one and the acceptance that it's going to happen... and Hawaii - it's also about Hawaii. Matt King is the narrator and main character. He is the direct descendant of a Hawaiian princess and the white missionary she married. His wife Joanie was in a boating accident and is in a coma from which she'll never wake up. Matt and his descendants - Scottie and Alexandra, his 10 and 18 year-old daughters, respectively, are trying to navigate Joanie's inevitable death and the transition of Matt really becoming a father and the primary caretaker of his girls. It was a great book. An easy read, and beautifully written. Maybe Hemmings goes on too long with random memories of Matt and Joanie. Maybe there could've been more about the land deal and decision that Matt must make as the last descendant of the Hawaiian princess and primary shareholder in the family's land. But it was a good story. It felt true, and the issues and confusion and anguish displayed over Joanie dying seemed accurate. There is also a movie based on this book starring George Clooney and Shaliene Wooley, which is very good. It won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Rated R, some serious swears.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Finished 31 January 2014

Unbroken was a good book. An incredible story. I mean, just amazing that any one person could survive what Louie Zamperini went through as a Pacific POW in World War II. Just that he and Phil could survive on a raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean adrift for 2000 miles is unfathomable. An incredible story. But I didn't love the book like most everyone else did. It was a slog for me. There was so much inhumanity that the glimmers of humanity were overshadowed and forgotten by cruelty and brutality. I know war is cruel; its devastation leaves no one untouched. But the stories in this book were so much that I found myself really hating a race and culture of humanks. That's not what I turn to books for. If I wanted to feel like that, I'd watch the news. Maybe I struggled so much because this was a true story... The sadism happened, the bombs were real and so were the sharks. Dysentery en masse and a violated, dead duck. I struggled to finish it, just like Louie did low those many years ago.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Finished 12 January 2014

Oh dear. So many plot holes. So much not caring that one of the mains dies and so obvious that it's coming. Such bad writing. So very anti-climatic. Horrible character development.... The character of Tobias, who has been a really great, strong character up until this last book, is shredded and turned into an imp, so weak and mopey, unsure, uncaring, distrustful. What happened to the stoic and strong, four-fear wielding, actually kind and caring man that was in the first two books? The revolving narrative between Tris and Tobias didn't work because Roth fails to really distinguish between the voices, like they're turning into the same character. And don't build up the conflict between the Allegiant rebels and the Factionless just to ignore it for 2/3 of the book and then have it end with a family reunion. Good for Tobias for stopping a revolution and savings lives, but don't have the characters roll over and play dead. Ugh. And, none of the mysteries from the first two books were solved, and more were introduced with little to no resolution. I still maintain the author should've focused more on her creative writing homework in college than on trying to write these stories. (At least she stopped flaunting that in her author bio at the end of this book) 

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Finished 5 January 2014

Maybe I think Tris is an idiot, but man these books are like pigeon mix - once you start it's really hard to stop. I've heard pretty bad things about the last book in the series, but I'm afraid I can't resist. This one had kind of a lot of flaws. Like Kate Coles always said in non-fic workshop, "If there's a gun in the beginning, it better go off by the end." There were literally guns going off through the story, but she'd bring up some sort of point or mysterious thing that should make an impact, and then never go back to it. Maybe I'm jumping the gun (a lot of gun references/metaphors in this little blurb), maybe all those guns - the figurative ones - will go off in the final book. I know a lot of literal ones will. But I doubt it. The fan base is telling me otherwise. One thing the story did teach me is that if you're a 16 year-old girl dating an 18 year-old guy, you're going to get in a bunch of arguments because neither of you, apparently, trust each other. Good thing I'm not sixteen anymore.

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Finished 3 January 2014

Anyone who knows anything about me and/or read this silly blog knows that I love The Hunger Games series with a passion. I gave a set to my sister-in-law and was maybe too pleased that she seemed to love the series as much as I did. But I had never really considered the Divergent series. When the trailer for the upcoming movie came out, I wasn't too interested, but I sort of knew I'd see it and thought about the reading the book. I heard it was "okay" and "all right" and "entertaining" from different friends. Then I got an iPad for Christmas and it was like $4 on iBooks so I downloaded it and read it. And it was all right and entertaining. I didn't love it, and part of that was the main character, Tris. She's kind of an idiot. It's probably a good thing she didn't stay with her original faction because she's so involved in her own ideas and theories she can't see when people are helping her and the good intentions of others. That bothered me enough that I didn't love the book, but, as I said, it was all right and had the momentum of story to keep you reading, something a book needs when the main character might be an idiot.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Finished (and started) 01 January 2014

Read this book for the wit alone. And the fact that John Green manages to capture the voice of a teenage girl perfectly. It's a YA novel, a quick read, but really, really good. Makes you laugh and cry. Maybe a little predictable to me, but that seems to be my curse with many books and movies. It will also make you - and by "you" I mean "me" - have a night full of dreams that involve a man I love but I cannot get to and I cannot ever save. The kind of dreams that one wakes from and has to work to figure out if it was real or not. Good books do that to you.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Finished 36 November 2013

Yep. Read it again after I saw The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 4 times. And I'm not ashamed. I'd see the movie and read this book again right now. Mockingjay has always been my favorite in the Hunger Games series. I kept the book on my desk for weeks intending to write this little blurb, with passages in mind to quote, those that are the most poignant to me. But I got sick - like really sick - and now can only remember one because it's maybe my favorite line of the series, and I already quoted it on this page. I love when you can read a book numerous times and still find new meaning and underlying themes in the narrative. That always happens to me when I read Mockingjay.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Finished 14 November 2013

The Rosie Project was one of Amazon's "Books of the Month" a few months ago. I've had pretty great luck with those recommendations so I read this one. I really liked it. It was a curious look and how one person that seems completely wrong for someone else can actually, inadvertently turn them into the best version of themselves. I think it's also designed as a look at an adult who has a degree of Aspergers and doesn't ever realize it. It also takes place in Australia, so that's fun. I don't want to say too much about it, other than it was really enjoyable, and that the main character/narrator Don is so logical and rational it's illogical and irrational, and sometimes his explanations become infuriating, and I'm pretty sure that's how it's supposed to be.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
(Re-read) Finished 03 November 2013

Oh man, I love these books. It's amazing the new things I notice every time I read them, and the new depths of treachery and different layers of the characters. I'm sad when I finish Mockingjay and it makes me want to write fan fiction. 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Finished 9 October 2013

Adult fairytales. That's what I expected from The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I'm still not sure if that's what I got. I've never read anything by Neil Gaiman before. I've seen Stardust, I have many friends who adore Gaiman's work. He's a very visual writer, and I think that's utterly necessary when writing fairytales. But I'm just not sure about this book. It was a little weird to me. I understand the overarching theme, and it was beautifully written. The physical book itself was absolutely gorgeous, but I'm just not sure. That's all I'm really left with after reading it. It's very short, something like 167 pages. I wanted to read it and take it to my sister in Boston, but I decided against when I finished it. Because I'm just not sure about it.  

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Gailbraith (aka JK Rowling)
Finished 26 September 2013

Let's be honest; I only read The Cuckoo's Calling because I wanted to read JK Rowling's book. If it hadn't come out that Robert Gailbraith was her pseudonym, I probably never would've considered it. But I was outside the Harry Potter generation and that series never much interested me anyway, so an adult book about a PI and a famous model being murdered could be interesting. So I read it. It was my vacation book. And despite being 455 pages, I managed it in three and a half days. It was good... her attitude for description is just phenomenal. She can use words to paint a clear picture of what she wants you to see, really vividly. Almost like watching a movie. And actually, as I read it, I was thinking of actors that could play parts if this was made into a movie. The story was good... it's a detective novel and the moment she introduces the character that turns out to be the murderer, I thought to myself, "oh, they did it". But it takes pretty close to the end to firmly grasp that that inclination was right. There were other things that seemed fairly obvious to me. Maybe it's all just my power of perception. The same thing happens to me in movies. I can usually intuit the ending. Moving on, she uses the f-word a lot. Like, A LOT a lot. This is not "Harry grows up to be a private detective". It'll be interesting to watch if this turns into a series, as Goodreads lists it as "Cormoran Strike #1". Yes, the detective and main character's name is actually Cormoran Strike.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
Finished 18 September 2013

Here is the main reason I read Brain on Fire: I wanted to observe how another young patient wrote a medical memoir. It turned out to be a good observation for me because it showed me things I didn't want to do, and gave me an experience that I could empathize with. This is the story of Susannah Cahalan and a seven month period of her life when she had a mysterious disease that alluded doctors. I actually learned a lot from this book about this disease, called Anti-NMDA Receptor Autoimmune Encephalitis. I now know the signs incase anyone I know has it. While this was a interesting book - and an easy read - I didn't really love it. I only kind of liked it. It was too medical textbooks for my taste. In fact, parts of it felt like they'd been copied and pasted (NOTE: I'm not accusing anyone of plagiarism here) out of a medical textbook. And this is exactly why this book, while I didn't really like it, was so helpful to me: it showed me how I don't want my own medical memoir to read. There is a fine line between explaining medical terms that people might now be familiar with and making them feel like they're studying for their second year boards. Anyway, it was an interesting story about a terrifying, rare disease that has only really seen discovery and diagnosis in the last six of seven years. Read it if you're into neuro autoimmune diseases.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Finished 13 September 2013

I really need to start listening to my cousin Carly when she tells me I need to read a book. She sent this book to me in early 2010 after my kidney rejected and I was deteriorating. I tried to read it then, with my endless amounts of free time - in between twice-daily naps, puking, and self-pity - but the gravity of the story and the gravity of my life were not cohesive. I think the only book I read during that time was Charlie St.Cloud. Anyway, I finally read it, low these many years later. I read it in five days, while working full-time and it being Homecoming Week at the U. I stayed up past my bedtime several nights. I didn't want to put it down, I LOVED The Book Thief. The narration from the POV of Death was really cool to me. There were elements that were overworked, such as the almost analogous use of descriptors ("gangly eyes" to describe Rudy. Is this a Warner Bros. cartoon?) but it succeeded in helping the reader paint a vivid picture of Molching and Nazi Germany and the lives of Liesel, Hans, Rosa, Rudy, Max, etc. It was heartbreaking, soul-infuriating, and thought-provoking on several levels. During the days it took me to read it I thought a lot about the wrongs of Hitler and Nazi philosophy and one night I was bothered by it so much (after a particularly grim portion of the WWII tale) that I dreamed about it and awoke from almost-nightmares several times. I know a book is spectacular when it can do that to me. When I closed the back cover I wanted to turn it over and read it again. I've read some books I really loved in 2013, but The Book Thief is by far, the best I've read so far. It will be one I read on an annual basis.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Finished 06 September 2013

Everyone said this book was great. My mother, the secretary at work, a professor in my office, my cousin, the New York Times Bestseller List, a guy at church, my neighbor. So I read it. It was good. A really compelling story and a miracle the Walls children made it to adulthood. The idiocy and ignorance of the mother drove me  nuts. The attitude and entitlement of the father infuriated me. The child Jeannette giving in and indulging her father showed loyalty and complete vulnerability (and not in a good way). I finished reading it quickly, I think mostly because I wanted to be able to rid myself of the story. Not the substance of the story, but the technical specs of the story. No three or four year old talks like she does in the beginning. Word choices, unnecessary detail, gaps of information... thinking about it now, how the mother had all this land in Texas and a house on land in Arizona while her children starved, and the ring... it's the hidden compassion and responsibility I feel to people that makes me think she must somehow be mentally ill. End tangent. It's a remarkable story, and sad that the Wallses situation is rampant still in America.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Finished 23 August 2013

Confession: I never read Truman Capote in high school. Or college. AND what interested me in In Cold Blood was watching the move Capote on Netflix. I wanted to read it because, as the movie stated, this book was the book that changed how people look at nonfiction, and what they think about it and how it's written. So I did. It was terrifying. Well, the first part ("The Last to See Them Alive" was terrifying and the very end of "Answers" was terrifying. The thought that someone could be so callous with the lives of nice, well-meanomg people was terrifying, and, thankfully is much less detail but no less disregard for human life, the accounts of those on death row with Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock. But Capote's writing is magic. His pension for detail and eloquence in word-on-page was incredible. I understood, after reading it, why it changed the world of non-fiction and the way the world sees non-ficiton. It is not a book I will read again, because it's a book I will never, not ever, forget.

The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
Finished 15 July 2013

My mother and sister are chronic readers of historic fiction, specifically World War II historical fiction. This is not a bad thing; I also enjoy it and hope to write a WWII historical novel someday. The research for it would be fascinating. Anyway, they both read and recommended The Lost Wife. I started reading it on a plane in May, and didn't pick it up again until the second week of July. It's told from 2 perspectives: that of Josef and Lenka, who meet in late 1930s Prague and fall in love. They get married just before war breaks out and are separated when Lenka elects to stay with her parents and sister in Prague rather than go immediately to the US with Josef and his family. At one point or another, they are both mistakenly listed as war casualties and think each other dead. Lenka and her family are sent to Terezin and then Auschwitz while Josef lives an unhappy life without her in New York. It's a compelling story and was inspired by real-life stories of the artist movement in Terezin. There are some slagging bits where too many drawings/paintings are described for far too long. If you're interested in the artists movement aspect of The Lost Wife, be sure to read I Never Saw Another Butterfly edited by Hana Volavkova.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Finished 24 April 2013

I have decided something. I'm not very good at reading celebrity autobios. I struggled through Bossypants and Stories I Only Tell My Friends. In fact, I didn't actually finish either of them. I start to get really bored once they go into talking about how great their careers are and all the people they've worked with. That almost happened with Mindy's book. I almost gave it up in her 'career' section. I was ready to throw in the towel when the section finally ended. Maybe you really love that section if you watch a lot of the The Office, but I do not and I've never been a fan. But I didn't give it up. I gave it a few days and finished it. The last sections were actually pretty funny. Would I recommend it?  Eh, maybe if you love The Office. I would recommend like half the sections in the book.

Elanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Finished 12 April 2013

E&P was on Amazon's "Book of the Month" list for March 2013. It seemed interesting, and since I'm not finding all YA lit to be as deplorable as perviously thought (thanks Stephanie Meyers) I decided to give it a chance. I completely understand why it was on Amazon's list. It captured the awkwardness and self-deprication/loathing of being a teenager. It was funny and geeky and heart-wrenching. I was a little surprised at the amount of the F-word that showed up in it because it is YA, but I also only have a few examples to compare it to. It was fun, quick, suck-you-in lit.

Boy21 by Matthew Quick
Finished 28 March 2013

I really like Matthew Quick. A lot. I'm going to have to read his other book Sorta Like a Rock Star and buy Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock when it's released in August 2013. I didn't like Boy21 as much as The Silver Linings Playbook, but it was still entertaining and a little bit addicting. I read the thing in 24 hours, while dedicating 8 hours to sleep and 8 hours to work.
What I liked most about it was the subtle theme that people meet each other for a reason, and people can heal and become their best selves after a life-altering tragedy. It also made me never want to live in Philly. I did begin to get really irked by Finley's inability or intention not to speak. And he does some really, really stupid things in his lovelorn state. Maybe I don't remember what it's like to be a lovelorn teenager, but really?, don't be dumb. I did find myself wishing a little more attention was given to the friendship between Russ and Finley and less to the romance between Finley and Erin. It was a fun book, and an easy read, and I'd recommend it. As long as you can handle a lot of basketball talk.

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
Finished 20 March 2013

The Girls' Guide is supposedly the book that launched the "chick lit" genre. I don't know if I particularly believe that. What is "chick lit" anyway?
I wasn't sure I'd particularly love The Girls' Guide. I thought it's be 'okay' due to mixed reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. I should know better than to listen to what those say, especially because I'm an anomaly. I loved this book, even despite some editorial things that irritate me, such as the extraordinary overuse of 'I say' and 'he says'. There are other words to use besides 'say'. And the pointless story in the middle that had nothing to do with Jane was kinda of weird.
You hope Jane figures it out, that she doesn't end up with Archie, that Bonnie and Faith drown in the Hudson. It's witty and funny and even sad in some places. It's just like life, and I think that's why I liked it so much.

The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard
Finished again 17 March 2013

I was introduced to The Boys of My Youth in a fiction writing class - go figure - in college through "The Fourth State of Matter", one of the short memoirs from the book. I formed a connection to the story because I had a friend whose life changed when he was shot in the Trolley Square shooting in 2007. I wanted to read the book, but it was out of print and it didn't occur to try and find it used.
I read the story again a few years later in a non-fiction writing class, and this time I went to the library to find the book.
I loved it. That's all that needs to be said really. A collection of short memoirs to make up a volume of outlandish and complete plausible stories about growing up in the Midwest in the decades when everyone was doing drugs, and becoming an adult who smokes to much and losses too many people and dogs.
It's heart wrenching and hilarious all at the same time. And it ends with the most spectacular glimmer of hope.
(there is a new edition of this book available, so I now own it, much to my delight.)

The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe
Finished on 10 March 2013

Okay, this wasn't the best book I've ever read, but it pulls you in and keeps you there until you finish it. Plus it's a revolving narrative which is always fun to read. It was written in the '50s about 5 young women who all meet and work at Fabian Publishing in New York City.
I was surprised at the boldness of the content. I always think of the '50s as the wholesome social period where teens went steady and got married young and everything was swell. Not so much in this book. Most everyone is sleeping with men, there's an abortion, cheating spouses... all things I figured happen in the '50s but didn't get talked about.
It was a fun book. Boy, they all smoke a lot.  I felt most a kin to Caroline, and ultimately liked the decision she made at the very end of the book.

Happily Ever After by Harriet Evans
Finished 23 February 2013

This is essentially a romance novel a friend gave me because she knows I want to be a book editor and that's exactly what Eleanor Bee is trying to become. It's about her love life, her work life, her family life. Her American sister-in-law whom Elle takes a long time to like, her alcoholic mother, her divorced absentee father, her boss lover, her inability to say what she needs to when she needs to say it, even when she's thinking it. It's about a lot of things, and it makes for a decent read.
I have the ability, in some cases, especially in movies, to predict an ending when the character that will play into that ending enters the picture. That was the case here, and it took 3/4 of the book to happen. Easy and fun, and I do like a happy ending.

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
Finished 10 February 2013

Confession: I read this book because I loved the movie so much.
Confession 2: The book is completely different from the movie.
Confession 3: It is impossible for me to decide which one I like best, it's a tie.
I read TSLP in 2 days. I couldn't put it down. I was on vacation in Florida, spending a lot of time outside at the pool and on a screened porch listening to palm trees and water and I read it in 2 days. I loved that it was told in first person present tense from the point of view of a late-diagnosis Bipolar man. I loved Pat's reviews of classic books - "I cannot believe how long it took those seventeenth century Bostonians to figure out their spiritual leader knocked up the local hussy" - and was not at all dismayed/angry/annoyed that he told the endings, mostly because I read them in middle/high school. I loved the wit and the seriousness with which it was told. I loved the character of Tiffany and the dance she choreographed to "Total Eclipse of the Heart". And I loved Pat's unfailing belief in silver linings, in happy endings. I loved it. I loved it. I loved it.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Read a million times 

When I was in eighth grade, I did my English class book report on The Hobbit. I was very proud of my report because we could do a visual report instead of a written one. I used my brand new set of Pentel markers, in 36 watercolor shades, that came housed in a Number-2-Pencil-Yellow case. I illustrated the major adventures in Bilbo's tale and captioned them underneath. An unexpected party, the mountain trolls, Rivendell, The Great Goblin, The Wargs, Beorn, the spiders, The Elf King, The back door, Smaug, the Five Army War, the return home. I was so proud of it, not only because it was beautiful but because it was about my favorite book. Then Ivan Ortiz stole it out of the homework basket and claimed it as his. My teacher knew better than to trust his name on the back, underneath a large scribble and adorned with a smiley face. I got an A on it.
I read it twice between December and the end of January. Before the movie and after, and even though I liked the movie, I found myself disappointed that Peter Jackson didn't keep to the luck of Thorin's company, luck that Bilbo carried with him and luck that got them out of sticky situations. But the book is almost always better than the movie anyway.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Read multiple times

I am an anomaly. I like Mockingjay  the best out of the 3 books in The Hunger Games series, and it seems everyone else disagrees with me. Reviews on Amazon harpooned it and the author for the death of some characters, the ending, the way Katniss changes in the third book. But really, if you think about it, that's what makes it more realistic. It's rare to come through a war with no casualties, someone is inevitably going to die, plus it's a dystopian society, stuff like that happens. And of course Katniss is going to change. She's been through hell many times and is pretty tired of trying to 'handle it'.
I found the complaints about the third book absurd. And if you don't like who she 'chooses' at the end, go back and read the second to last chapter and really focus on the conversation she has with Gale.
The last chapter was my favorite of the whole series. I've probably read it 10 times alone. Katniss and Buttercup's scene made me cry. I love the last chapter, it's the best ending possible, and it actually makes me cry, every time. "There's no obstacle now to taking my life. But I seem to be waiting for something."

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Read multiple times

I read this book first. I saw the movie and then read Catching Fire because I needed to know what happens. A professor in my office asked to borrow my copy of this book for the same reason, only she read the first book first.
The Victory Tour. Bonnie and Twill. The jungle arena. Finnick O'dair. Romulus Thread. Cinna. Buttercup and Lady the goat. Climbing trees over electrified fences. The pearl. The kiss on the beach. The names of District 1's tributes. Mags. The gift Wiress and Beetee give Katniss. The electric tree. Johanna Mason. Peeta taking down Brutus. And the "WwwwhhhhhaT??!?!?!" you let out when you see "End of Book Two" at the bottom of the page.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Read multiple times

Funny story: after I read Catching Fire and Mockingjay, I called up my friend Steph and asked to borrow her copy of The Hunger Games. "I TOLD you you needed to read it!" was her response. Mine were still in transit from Amazon.
Read it. Loved it. Still loved Mockingjay better. Went through that initial 'wish they'd put this in the movie, wish the cave seen would've included sleep serum and Caesar's lamb stew' phase, and then the 'wish I would've listened to my friends when they were reading these books 3 years ago' phase. I was too busy being a book snob and thinking I was too old for YA lit to pay much attention. Now they number among my favorite books and I'll read them every year. Twice last year.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe
Finished January 2012

I had high hopes for this book. I love Rob Lowe. He's so funny on Parks & Recreation and I think I've spent my whole life watching him on screen. But the book... not so great. It became tedious two-thirds of the way through. And is pointless and frequent use of f--k was tiresome and uneducated. But it was interesting to read about his life growing up in Ohio and California. He lost is virginity at 14, was best friends with the Sheen family, and auditioned for the role that made Tom Cruise.
Celebrity autobios are tricky business, I think. I finally finished this one and immediately put it in the "Free Book" library at work, where someone picked it up and never brought it back. I guess they liked it more than me.

A Study in Scarlet and Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Finished June 2011

During winter break 2009 I bought "The Complete Collection of Sherlock Holmes". It was 2 volumes, the first over 1000 pages, the second about 500. It was to read before I went on my study abroad to London the following summer. Then a kidney rejected and none of that happened. My collection was put on a shelf for a year and a half.
Then I graduated from college and had a lot of extra time, plus a lot of dialysis access surgeries so I started to read the collection. The work was A Study in Scarlet. I was throughly engrossed, and when I got to the second half, throughly shocked. The London landscape was left behind for a barren wasteland in the west of the United States, where a bunch of religious nuts had set up a settlement and dark deeds were going on.
I was currently living in that barren landscape and was a member of the church the religious nuts had established. Sir Arthur was way off about Mormons, and I found it entertaining rather than offensive. I enjoyed A Study in Scarlet and continues with the collection to the next novel Sign of the Four, which didn't have the cultural surprise factor but was also throughly enjoyable. But then again, I don't think there is any Sherlock Holmes story that isn't throughly enjoyable.

Bossypants by Tina Fey
Finished June 2011

Bossypants was my graduation gift to myself. It was going to be the first book I got to read because I wanted to, not because I had to for classes, since August. I pre-ordered it and kept it on my desk as a reminder that I got to crack it open after May 5th.
Graduation came. I read the first chapter. It was hilarious. The pictures were priceless and I silently commended Tina Fey for being confident enough in herself that she could publish 'embarrassing' pcitures of herself in a book she knew would be a bestseller. I read about her exploits in Chicago, the jobs she worked to get by, her cruise/honeymoon debacle... and then it started to drop off for me. I was getting a little bored, the scenes, things went on for too long that were all the same. It took me forver to finish the rest of the book.
In the end  I decided it was half and half, a little bit bipolar. And the quotes on the jacket are phenomenal.

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