The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

(Finished yesterday, January 25, 2012)

This book was so good. Helps, I’m sure, that I’m a little obsessed with Hemingway and the whole idea of la generation perdue. After reading A Moveable Feast, I knew I had to read this book. So glad I did.

I know it’s technically historial fiction, but the author did quite a bit of research to make sure the book was as accurate as possible.

Although sad, because you know throughout the entire book that Hadley and Ernest don’t end up in the end, you can’t help but root for them. Hadley is now my idol. She was old when she met Ernest, had like no experience, was from St. Louis and met Ernest in Chicago…and then moved with him to Paris. Um, okay. Where’s my (would-never-cheat-on-me-but-close-to-being) Ernest?

Anyway, it was wonderful to read about how Ernest and Hadley helped each other become more of who they were. And reading about all their travels was pretty amazing, too. Winters in Austria, summers in the Cote d’Azur? Oui, s’il vous plait!!!

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First book of 2012: Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

(Finished January 4, 2012)

This short novel was dark and twisted. And I liked it.

The novel follows two former lovers of a woman named Molly Lane. It begins as the former lovers attend Molly’s funeral, thrown by her then-husband, George. One man, a newspaper editor, the other, a composer.

The two (now) friends reach a compromise after the funeral. Molly had died not herself — she’d gone crazy, hadn’t recognized her family, her friends, or even herself. Both men think Molly would have preferred to go out on top by committing suicide when she was still herself. They make a pact: should either man become afflicted with a similar condition, the other would find a way to kill the afflicted man before he becomes someone foreign to himself.

Well, a little bit down the road, both men go through a tough time. The editor wants to publish scandalous photos of a man running for Prime Minister. The other has to finish a very important piece of music, and he just can’t get it right.

SPOILERS:

In the end, the men go to Amsterdam to get away and hear the composer’s music played. Unbeknownst to one another, they have each arranged to kill the other. And bam, end of story.

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Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

(Finished December 22, 2011)

Easily the second-funniest book I read in 2011. (Behind Bossypants of course — a fact which Mindy states in the book that she is more than happy to admit.)

I saw a lot of myself in Mindy’s book. Awkward kid, trying to fit in. Wants a career to love. Wants to eventually find love but not worth being in relationships that suck. Wants to be skinny but finding that’s just not possible (but still trying sporadically anyway). Yeah, I like to think we’d be tight.

Obviously there are things that we don’t have in common: she’s hilarious, clever, daring, Indian…I am none of those things.

One of my fave parts of Mindy’s book is when she talks about husbands and how she does want one someday. But from her time in Hollywood, she’s seen how bad marriages can get. “You gotta be friends, y’all,” she’d say. She gave the example of a great marriage: Amy Poehler and Will Arnett. I hope I’m remembering this anecdote correctly, but I think she was at a party with the two of them. Amy came up to the group Mindy was with and was like, “Hey have you seen Arnett?” Adorable. They love each other. They’re friends. They hang out. There’s respect there, too, obviously. I so agree that the best person to marry would be someone like that. Here’s hoping! (For myself and for Mindy!)

I would recommend this book to any teen or twenty-something. Funny, clever, full of advice, full of jokes. It has a little something for everyone. And you’ll feel a little better about people in Hollywood being real people.

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Mockingjay (Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins

(Finished December 20, 2011)

Yes, #2 took me three days to read. This took me 11. Why? It is my least favorite of the Hunger Games books. And I can’t really pinpoint exactly why. I think it just felt like it dragged on forever…and then when the end finally came it was over in a wink. The ending was predictable too.

So at the end of book two, Katniss has just blown up games, basically. But she finds out it was all planned. She’s picked up on the playing field and transported to the infamous DISTRICT 13, which, of course, does exist. (How could it not?)

Turns out 13 has been plotting and biding its time — waiting for a chance to take attack Panem. Katniss has given them this chance. The other districts are rioting against the Capitol. 13 sees its opportunity.

Oh, I forgot to mention. Peeta was captured by the Capitol and has been trained to hate Katniss. So that makes things interesting when they go on a mission to save him.

With Katniss as the “GIRL ON FIRE” — the face of the rebellion — things go crazy fast. Fights, angst. And then Katniss and Peeta and Gale are in the Capitol running from scary rat creatures.

SPOILERS:

In the end, of course, 13 and the districts defeat Panem. Life goes back to “normal”. And Katniss, speaking from 15 years in the future explains why she did end up with Peeta.

(Felt a little J.K. Rowling-at-the-end-of-HP to me.)

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Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins

(Finished December 9, 2011)

FINALLY.  I borrowed books two and three of The Hunger Games from Kira and devoured them. Book two was pretty good. Book three, you will see, was not so much. Both were predictable.

In book two, Katniss and Peeta are forced to return to a special edition of The Hunger Games. To celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of Panem, the past tributes from each district must compete. This means the broken, the strong, the young and the old will all fight one another to the death.

Of course things are complicated because Pres. Snow threatens Katniss. He sees her has a threat against Panem because of her suicide attempt the year before. He’s creepy, that’s all I have to say. And I wouldn’t want to cross him. (The creepy roses…)

To make a long story short, Katniss and Peeta find allies during the games and at the end of the book, they really stick it to the Capitol. And thus begins book three…

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The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

(Finished December 6, 2011)

I received this book as a gift from my aunt and uncle, and I’m so glad I did! I had been wanting to read it, but who knows when I would have gotten around to it.

I really enjoyed this book. A collection of intertwining stories, it follows the staff of an international newspaper in Rome. From the lowly, lonely copyeditor to the newspaper owner’s rich, spoiled, yet insecure son — every story was unique. Some were funny, some mundane, and others heart-wrenching. Oh journalists.

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Back — finally

So it turns out that I read 34 books in 2011! Hooray! Going for 30 again this year, but we’ll see how far I get! The following are updates from the last several books I read. I’ve slacked on posting so they will be short updates, but better than nothing!

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2011 Goodreads Reading Challenge

2011 Reading Challenge

2011 Reading Challenge

Erinhascompleted her goal of reading 30 books in 2011!

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When I signed up for Goodreads in May, I challenged myself to read 30 books in 2011 — and I did — with a month to spare! I feel really good about the variety of books I’ve read in the last year!

Some of the books I've read over the past year.

Can’t wait to get started on next years’ challenge!

My blog challenge, though, continues until March 2012 – a year since the start of this blog!

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To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway

(Finished November 25, 2011)

To Have and Have Not is officially the first Hemingway book I did not thoroughly enjoy reading. It is also his latest work I’ve read. It was almost too simple and too straightforward and too course to be my kind of thing. I know that describes all of Hemingway’s work; usually I find it charming. This time, for some reason, I could not get into it.

I think most of the reason was the subject matter and location: running people and alcohol between the Florida Keys and Cuba just isn’t really something I’m interesting in reading. I was hoping that because it was Hemingway, I’d get into it. But I think the opposite happened – had this novel been richer and less sparse, I think I could’ve enjoyed it. As it was, I was bored and a little appalled and pretty bored.

The story focuses on a man named Harry. To make money to take care of his family, he runs alcohol – and people – between Florida and Cuba. Inevitably, things take a turn for the worse when he accepts a shady, shady job offer.

Things that bothered me about this book: 1. There was no real resolution to the story. It really just ended. 2. There were lots of characters that really make no difference to the story. 3. So much of the dialogue adds nothing to the story. 4. Connection between the separate stories was completely absent.

I probably would have stopped reading this book had I had another book to start at the time. Now I’m nervous to give Hemingway another shot – but I’m sure I will. I’ll just stick to his early stuff.

To Have and Have Not (Scribner Classics)To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

(Finished November 9, 2011)

So I have this thing with books I own – I tend to lose interest, even if the book itself is excellent, because I know I don’t have a time limit. Yes, this was the first time I’d ever read Jane Eyre. And it took me about a year. But I finally finished. And I loved it.

I really don’t know how I didn’t know the ending; the story is so popular. But I somehow managed to avoid learning what exactly happened. And I’m so glad I did!

Jane is my new hero. Quiet, homely, moral and intelligent – she is my kind of heroine. I’m sure that’s why this book is such a favorite: almost everyone can see something of themselves in Jane. We consider ourselves underdogs, losers, invisible to those who we see as superiors. Jane cannot see the traits others see in her as assets. Her situation certainly makes you re-evaluate yourself.

Oh, and Rochester. Not your typical main man. A little rough around the edges, secretive, and not super attractive, he makes himself irresistible to Jane because of his sharp mind and ability to care for her out of mutual respect and intelligence.

Every love story needs a conflict, and the conflict in this one seems insurmountable. (And a little supernatural – always a nice twist.) Creepy English manors, fires, sounds from the attic – Charlotte knew how to keep readers invested.

There’s just something about the sensible girl getting her man!

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So good! Can’t believe it took me so long to get around to it!

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