Laughter Road

Monday, January 09, 2006

a joyful Christmas season

Here's a list of the some of the books I've read since the beginning of December:

Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden.
I read this book when it forst came out a few years ago, but I wanted to reread it before seeing the movie. Alas, I could not find my original copy, which I got from Rhonda in a care package, so I had to go out and buy another one. The book is amazing, and I won't spoil the twist at the end by telling you what it is (they don't mention it at all in the movie, so you'll need to read the book to figure it out). The movie was ok, but not as good as the book. One of my favorite parts was the description of the work that went into the geisha costume, and that was barely touched upon in the movie.

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt.
Reread this beautiful book about a group of students at a small liberal arts college who get a little too involved with their Greek classes and end up murdering one of their own.

Long Way Round
, by Ewan MacGregor and Charley Boorman.
The book about the trip these two actors took around the world on motorcycles. There was also a TV series on Bravo that chronicled the trip, which was really good; I'm trying to track down the DVD. I love Ewan (mostly for his Scottich accent), and this was an interesting read. The most difficult leg of their trip took them through Ukraine, Kazakstan, Mongolia, and Russia (I had to get the book out to figure out how to spell Kazakstan). Doyle would like this book; tons of motorcycle stuff. I've been waiting for this one to hit paperback, because I rarely buy hardcover books, and this was worth the wait.

Going Postal, Monstrous Regiment, and Three Witches, all by Terry Pratchett.
Pratchett has written an enormous series of books about a place called Discworld. I love long series', because when I find one I like I know I'll have a supply for a while. Pretty good.

The Deed, by Keith Blanchard
A young New Yorker finds out he is the last remaining decendant of the family who supposedly owns the island of Manhattan. However, the deed is necessary to prove the link, and a search ensues. THe consequences of finding the deed are enormous. Guy falls in love with the young Native American lawyer who wants to help him find the deed, yada, yada, yada. This was an ok book, but definitely written by a man, which doesn't work when the book is being sold as chick lit. Not worth reading again.

The Spiral Staricase, by Karen Armstrong.
The sequel to Armstrong's Through the Narrow Gate, which chronicles her life as a nun and subsequent decision to leave that life. Lots of interesting stuff about life inside a convent, what it was like to be a nun who was studying at Oxford, and the major changes that happened when Vatican II changed everything.

The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman.
I've been aware of this series for a while, ever since I worked in a bookstore a few years ago, but never picked them up--others told me they weren't very good. I read a review that changed my mind about them, and really enjoyed them. A lot of people avoided them for their kids because the books are supposedly about demons and evil, etc., but that's completely off the mark. The best part of the series is the ending, which happens halfway through the last book and finally lets the reader figure out what has really been happening the whole time. I've been recommending these to everyone. Loved them.

Mr. Darcy's Daughters, by Elizabeth Aston.
Picks up 20 years after Pride & Prejudice, when the five daughters of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam give their parents hell over boys and parties and marriage, or at least as much hell as can be mustered in Victorian England. It was ok, but obviously can't touch the original. I started this book knowing that there were a lot of books like it, and with the hope that I had discovered a new series to read, but didn't continue past this one. Maybe one day.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke.
This book got a lot of press, made it onto the New York Times Bestseller List, but I didn't pick it up until a few months ago. I read it on and off for several weeks. It was interesting, but took a great effort to stay with, because it doesn't really pick up until a few hundred pages into it. Its about two magicians in Victorian England, who are trying to revive magic. Premise is that magic was at its strongest when King Arthur was around, but has been fading since, and is almost gone. Only a few people in the whole world can still do any magic. Takes place in a world slightly skewed from our own. Pretty good, but only read it if you're willing to slog through the beginning.

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo, but Obert Skye (which I think is a pseudonym, like Lemony Snicket)
Liz sent me this book for my birthday. We both love kids books, and are going to open our own bookstore one day, which will specialize in kids books. I liked this one, and the sequel is coming out on April "Foo's" Day. Foo is the place where people's dreams are made; its inhabitants were all transported out of our world and into Foo by a very specific set of events.

Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis.
Reread this series, for the first time in a long time, and saw entirely new meaning in them, which happens each time. Voyage of the Dawn Treader remains my favorite. (Can anyone else never again think of these movies and books without hearing "The Chroni-WHAT?-cles of Narnia!!" in your head? I certainly can't. You can still see the video clip from SNL on MSN video, while it lasts. iTunes had a free download for a while, but I missed it.

The Protector of the Small Series, by Tamora Pierce (First Test, Page, Squire, Lady Knight).
Loved these kids books. Same lady who wrote the Lioness series. I hope I have a daughter one day, so I can MAKE her read them. I gave my set to Whitley, and she called tonight to tell me how much she was loving them. The series is about a girl who wants to become a knight, in a system that doesn't want her.

Remember me to Harold Square and Thames Doesn't Rhyme with James, by Paula Danziger.
Two books I remembered reading when I was young, and picked up again.

This was obviously the season for rereading a lot of the great books I read as a kid.

I'm working on two tomes at the moment, A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth, and Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigred Undset.


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