Sunday, August 3, 2008

Shelley's Top Ten List of Books Recently Read

Or in other words, a way to get several procrastinated reviews out of the way. I'm way behind, I think because my kids have been out of school and they tend to hog the computer. I would say it was because I haven't had much time--things have been rather busy, but I had time to read the books, didn't I?
Here they are, counting down from worst to best:

10. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Never have I been so relieved to hear the words, "This audio book has been a production of. . ."
This story about a hunt for Dracula spanning a few generations dragged on and on.

9. The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
This is the fourth in the Series of Unfortunate Events, and it is the first that I didn't really like. The Baudelaire Orphans end up as workers in a lumber mill, with the usual despicable characters and tragic events, but the misery was not tempered with enough of the usual wit.

8. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
My Antonia is one of my favorite books, so I was excited to finally read this one by Cather. It first caught my attention when we went on a road trip to Albuquerque, NM, and we visited many places that are mentioned in this historical novel about two priests and their efforts to teach the native population of the Southwest. I think if I hadn't had my memories of visiting Santa Fe, Acoma, and other sites in the area, I would have been completely and utterly bored. I would only suggest it to someone to read as they are visiting the area to give them a feel for the history of the area.

7. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
Oedipal. Depressing. Ho-hum writing style. Plot: Man loves mother, relationships with other women don't work, even when mother dies. (This is so much easier to just write words rather than sentences. Maybe I have a new format for my blog!) I don't regret reading it though--I like to have a least a taste of any author's work.

6. Running with the Demon by Terry Brooks
I am a fan of Brooks, and plan to read all of his books, but under any other circumstances I would have passed this book by based on the title and cover. It just doesn't sound like my kind of thing. But the book was okay. Brooks brings his usual themes of good and evil to present-day Illinois, with a fourteen-year-old heroine named Nest.

5. The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket
The Baudelaire orphans meet new friends in this one! Of course something bad happens to them, but I was still so happy for Violet, Klaus and Sonny!

4. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
I have heard such glowing reviews of Picoult's books I was excited to read this one by her for our church book club. While I found some of the language distracting, it was a powerful story about a girl who was conceived to be a donor match for her older sister, who has a rare and deadly form of leukemia. All in all I enjoyed it, but there were parts that I found unbelievable or too coincidental.

3. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Creepy but fascinating. This creative-non-fiction novel alternately describes the planning and construction of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the life of the serial killer H. H. Holmes who took advantage of the events to commit fraud and murder.

2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I loved this book. It has bad language, references to sex, crude humor (imagine what a candid fourteen-year-old boy would write about). But it was so entertaining and uplifting for me. I laughed, I cried, it moved me.

And the number one book I read is:

1. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
There was so much in this novel to discuss I wouldn't know where to begin (or more likely, where to end.) This was the selection for a book club I hosted, and there was so much to talk about. The story in and of itself is good (Grace Marks is accused of helping to murder her employer and housekeeper, and spends years in jail. Dr. Simon Jordan spends time with her, trying to get her to remember the events of the murder, which she seems to have forgotten) , but looking deeper it is rich in symbolism and Freudian psychology. I lover her writing, she could probably write a paragraph describing this desk that I'm sitting at and I would read and reread it just enjoying the way she arranges the words.

I have more busy times coming up, so I'm going to start doing just one post at the end of each month of the books I've read that month. So check back at the end of August! Happy blogging!


  1. Alias Grace sounds really interesting - I will have to look for that. I'm really glad that you are enjoying the Enola Holmes book so much. There's a third one out now too, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet.

  2. Ha! I felt the exact same way about "The Historian." Unfortunately, I read the book which took me even longer to finish. When, I wondered, was this going to get scary? =)

    I think Alias Grace sounds interesting too. I've never read any Atwood. Perhaps I should start with this.

  3. I just had to post because I loved the way you listed each mini review in the top ten order. What an easy way to catch up on reviews!

  4. Those are 10 awesome reviews. I have been looking at "My Sister's Keeper". I think I will put it on my to be read list.

  5. I never got around to commenting on this post even though I meant to. I completely agree with your assessment of My Sister's Keeper. I'm sorry you didn't like Death...Archbishop. A good friend of mine had said that she hated it so I wondered what you would think of it.

    I've been wanting to read The Historian. Was it really that bad? Do you think it would make a difference reading it rather than listening to it?

  6. I stopped reading the Lemony Snickets series after The Miserable Mill. It was just so bad! Then again, I was reading and not listening to the audiobook, and more than one person has told me that Tim Curry really makes the series.

    My dad's a huge Willa Cather fan and Death Comes to the Archbishop is his favorite. He keeps recommending it to me. I read My Antonia earlier this year, but I don't know that I'm reading to dive back into Cather again...

  7. I finished "The Historian" about two weeks ago. I agree it is too long, some of the historical aspects of the book are repeated numerous times. Not a bad first novel over all. I will read her future books