SouthernBluestocking's 100 Books in 2014

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SouthernBluestocking's 100 Books in 2014

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Editado: Jun 9, 2014, 4:10 pm

1.) Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury, Allison Light
2.) The Magicians, Lev Grossman
3.) The Magician King, Lev Grossman
4.) My Man Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse
5.) The Uninvited Guests, Sadie Jones
6.) The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick
7.) At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Bill Bryson
8.) Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
9.) The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

10.) The Minister's Wooing, Harriet Beecher Stowe
11.) The House of Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne
12.) The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, Stephen Greenblatt
13.) Theses on the Philosophy of History, Walter Benjamin
14.) The Threepenny Opera, Bertolt Brecht
15.) Middlemarch, George Eliot
16.) Paradise Lost, John Milton
17.) Native Guard, Natasha Trethewey

18.) The Dead Man's Message, Florence Maryat
19.) By Blood We Live, Glen Duncan
20.) The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
21.) The Republic, Plato
22.) The Hours, Michael Cunningham
23.) A Very Long Engagement, Sebastien Japrisot

24.) The Knitting Circle, Ann Hood
25.) Tapestry of Fortunes, Elizabeth Berg
26.) The Likeness, Tana French

27.) Twilight Stories, Rhoda Broughton
28.) Rustication, Charles Palliser
29.) The Meaning of Night: A Confession, Michael Cox
30.) The Glass of Time, Michael Cox
31.) This House is Haunted, John Boyne
32.) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
33.) Longbourn, Jo Baker
34.) The Prestige, Christopher Priest

35.) The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker
36.) Studio Saint-Ex, Ania Szado

Editado: Jun 21, 2014, 10:06 am

Once upon a time (last year, two years ago), I was very involved in the 100/per book challenge on LibraryThing (posting under the name of ravenous.reader). Then grad school intervened (I'm getting a MA in literature at American University), and work, and then life got a little insane. Also, I've been using GoodReads to record my reading, but the organizational structure over there isn't quite as straightforward as here--so why not use both?

I haven't been doing straightforward reviews of all of these (though many are on my blog,, but if anything is on your list and you're wondering if it is worthwhile, I'd be happy to give you my opinion!

Jun 9, 2014, 10:14 pm

I'd be curious to hear what you thought of The House is Haunted--I haven't heard of that one, but I love bad/haunted house stories/lore...

And meanwhile, yep, I'm on goodreads and LT as well. I'm on goodreads to keep up with friends, who won't follow me to LT, but I much prefer the structure and just about everything else over here!

Jun 9, 2014, 11:10 pm

Welcome back! Did you like The Golem and the Jinni? I've gotten that out of the library twice and had to return it unread both times.

Editado: Jun 10, 2014, 9:06 am

whitewavedarling--I thoroughly enjoyed This House is Haunted--it was a super quick read, and perhaps a tad predictable, but very well done. First I'd read by John Boyne, won't be the last. Owes more than a little to The Turn of the Screw, but it's hard to do the governess/creepy kid thing without at least a nod to that. Speaking of The Turn of the Screw (and since you like haunted house stories) are you familiar with Jennifer Crusie's Maybe This Time? It is a retelling of The Turn of the Screw, and far and away one of my favorite books. It's romance genre (so nevermind if that's not your bag) but also truly spooky in places. (I only dabble in the genre, though, so perhaps spooky is relative!)

And wookie! Thanks and glad to be back :). I really liked The Golem and the Jinni. This was my second time reading, and it held up to the repeat. Turn of the century New York is fascinating, all of the immigrant communities are vibrant and complex, and I love the mythologies. You should definitely try again.

Jun 11, 2014, 7:18 am

Oh, it sounds right up my alley! I picked it up originally because the cover was so pretty, and because golems and djinn are awesome. I'll definitely grab the next copy I see!

Editado: Jun 14, 2014, 2:35 pm

37.) Right Ho, Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse
38.) My Man Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse
39.) That Part Was True, Deborah McKinlay

Been a bit of a week on the old homefront, so enjoying some lighter fare. Needn't say anything about the wonders of Wodehouse, but the McKinlay was unexpectedly good. Looks a bit gloppy--finely-controlled and deeply felt emotions usually just give me a pain--but it was really very well done. I'll keep it, I'll read it again. Reminded me of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. So good stuff.

Jun 17, 2014, 10:47 am

40.) The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan

Second (third?) read on this for me, I'd forgotten how utterly gruesome this book is. Not my usual fare. But the book is just so smart--about the centrality of language to experience, about what it means to be human, about morality in a post-everything world ("God being dead, irony rollickingly alive"), about the beast in the human.

I've been studying Descartes and all of his feminist interlocutors--the whole Cartesian split thing: I am a thinking thing, the body is merely the automaton that carries my brain around, feminist philosophers (and others, of course) have critiqued this division, arguing the centrality of the individual body to experience, and the centrality of personal experience to any understanding of the world.

And so. These books: combined in one narrative is the alternating primacy or centrality of the mind and the body. Which I find absolutely fascinating.

Editado: Jun 20, 2014, 10:27 pm

41.) Caleb's Crossing, Geraldine Brooks

Absolutely devoured this in one long, lazy afternoon. Geraldine Brooks is reliably excellent: the story tells of the calamitous intersection of English settlers and native tribes in 17th century Martha's Vineyard. The narrator, Bethia, is a preacher's daughter who longs for the education that her elder brother, Makepeace, can't seem to comprehend. Caleb is the name she gives a young Indian boy she befriends in her rambles on the island. Any more would be to reveal plot, which is unforgivable.

This reminded me a bit of Year of Wonders, which I enjoyed right up until the incursion of the soap-opera plot, primarily in the deft sketching of a system of priorities (Puritan religion) so alien to our own.

Really great book.

Editado: Jun 22, 2014, 10:27 pm

42.) Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes

Third or fourth re-read for me, consistently entrancing. My home is (to put it grandly) under attack: a housemate is trying to evict me in favor of some newly-arrived friends-- and I'm feeling battered and beleaguered and bewildered and by turns furious and hopeless. And so, this book which is basically my security blanket.

I've always loved her descriptions of food and community, and the sense of communion that these give. This time, I focused on her meditations on the function of a home--how each space becomes totemic, how moving--inhabiting a space--is a rebirth (Sara Ahmed meditates on this in Queer Phenomenology as well, though in a vastly different register of language.)

Anyway. Love this book. Always.

Jun 22, 2014, 12:08 am

43.) The Magicians, Lev Grossman

I seriously love this book. I grew up on the Narnia's (the first book report I remember was on The Horse and his Boy... i.e., Bree-ne-heene-hine-heene-hoo) and Lewis's immersed theology was close enough to my Baptist missionary parents' that it didn't even register as a message. OF COURSE the lion dies on the altar and is resurrected... what else?

So this book is a little like coming home, but coming home as I am now, disillusioned about the quest and the purpose, just trying to survive in the great, wide world. That perhaps seems a bit overly dramatic.... but the move from purposive fundamentalism to randomization is difficult, and what I love most about this book is the portrayal of that awakening.

And all of that is a little more navel-gazy than necessary, and not really about this book, more about my reaction to this book.

Suffice to say: this is such a great book. Anyone who (like me) grew up on the Narnia's, or even on the Harry Potter's, on the presumption of escape to another, better, world, should enjoy.

And really, isn't that what reading is all about?

Jun 22, 2014, 9:26 pm

44.) The Magician King, Lev Grossman

Ditto on the previous love. Everything I love about the books I grew up with, but with the darker shades. Thoroughly enjoyed (and read fast enough that I'll enjoy reading these again in another 6 months!)

Jun 22, 2014, 9:43 pm

45.) The Thirteen Problems, Agatha Christie

I love Miss Marple stories. I love audiobooks of Miss Marple--listening to her entirely placid self-confidence reminds me of lying on my Grannie's divan, listening to her and her friends talk about whatever latest scandal had rocked their little Kentucky town. Anyway--The Thirteen Problems is a collection that I keep queued up on my iPod at all times. I've listened to it a million times, and I always enjoy it.

The premise is classic Christie: a group of friends (Miss Marple included) decide to discuss unsolved mysteries... to pose puzzles for the group, who will ask questions and so deduce the solution. Miss Marple, predictably, is the unexpected master of the situation--she unerringly goes to the answer every time, drawing conclusions based on similarities to previously known social structures. (This is Marple's strength: once you know a person's "type," you can understand their actions. This assumption is, obviously, quite problematic.) Anyway, that caveat aside (and that applies to the whole Marple canon, not just this story), these are great stories, ranging from the villages of Cornwall, to the hamlet of St. Mary's Mead, to the far reaches of the Canary Islands.

Jun 23, 2014, 10:07 am

46.) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs

Enjoyed this (2nd or 3rd reread) but with reservations. Not sure why-- I think the story is good, so it must be something about the writing style. It seems weirdly detached--even when describing trauma. Regardless, a quick read, interesting, not entirely sure it lives up to the hype that surrounded it when it came out, but that might be me.

Jul 1, 2014, 7:57 am

Sorry to hear about the flatmate troubles! But glad you're finding relief in reading. (And yay! for The Magicians love! I really liked it too.)

Editado: Ago 24, 2014, 1:25 pm

47.) A Short History of Women, Kate Walbert

Third or fourth reread for me, always love. I love how Walbert tells the story of this family, with disconnected slivers of individual perspectives. Like a mosaic. Also love the framing device--as the family moves through generations of feminism, from suffragists to 70's CR meetings, from roles defined to roles created, from anger to pain to love to anger. This time through, this finally seemed a melancholy book-- I live feminism, adamantly, ardently, but it isn't sufficient for all. It didn't stand up to the tests laid upon it. Gender relations are revealed, in the end, to be as flawed as the women themselves-- beautifully, complexly, shattered, needing connections they are unable to trust. So many things are solved in this world by frank conversation.

Editado: Ago 24, 2014, 1:41 pm

49.) Bittersweet, Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Book 2 of my Kentucky escape. Vacation for me is weeks spent at our family home on the lake. The house was built in the mid 19th century; it's one of those huge old pillared white houses in which the ceiling fans are always buzzing and there are innumerable dogs running through. Home. Love it, only place I relax for real. And I always feel so privileged here-- the lake retreat, every window presents a shimmering, glinting picture, things move slowly, I lie on the pitch swing, drink white wine spritzers, and read, while the family retells stories I've heard for decades at the other end of the porch. The atmosphere is perfect, and this book was perfect for the atmosphere.

Mabel is a scholarship student at a prestigious college, her roommate is Ev Winslow, a troubled and unimaginably rich wasp. Mabel is invited to Winloch, the Winslow's summer property where traditions include Shakespeare productions on the lawn, starched summer whites, canoes, tennis, caviar, and secrets. Oh, the secrets.

Excellently good read.

Editado: Jul 25, 2014, 2:21 am

50.) Belle Cora, Phillip Margulies

This was excellent. An ancient woman escapes the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and is recognized as one of the most notorious madams of gold rush California. And so she tells her story, through her loves and losses, her riches and poverty, good decisions, bad decision, and everything in between.

Jul 24, 2014, 2:30 pm

51.) I Shall Be Near To You, Erin Lindsay McCabe

Book 4 of my Kentucky escape.
When her new husband enlists in the Union army, Rosetta chooses an unexpected path. Changing her name, cutting her hair, and binding her breasts were the easiest part-- in battle with her husband and the boys she grew up with, Rosetta finds a different, stronger, harsher self.

Quick read, very enjoyable. Makes me want to reread March and Cold Mountain. Although this is fiction, Rosetta's story is inspired by true events. I'm fascinated by stories of women who forge their own paths.

Jul 24, 2014, 3:53 pm

52.) The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood

Book 5 of my Kentucky escape.
Quick read, disturbing but enjoyable. Atwood tells the story of Odysseus from the perspective of Penelope and the murdered maids from the vantage of the afterworld. Retellings are always fun, especially when illuminating the story of a sidelined or ignored character. Atwood makes the well-known story into a cry against the injustice suffered by women in the classical world. Really excellent.

Jul 24, 2014, 10:36 pm

53.) The Poison Tree, Erin Kelly
Book 6 of my Kentucky escape

Enjoyable, but somewhat overwrought. Naive student makes friends with an extravagant and flamboyant woman and her brother. Tragedy, revenge, and rebuilding.

Editado: Ago 24, 2014, 2:00 pm

54.) Entwined, Heather Dixon

Reread; love this book. Reminds me a bit of Robin McKinley's Beauty--or maybe even Deerskin (it's a bit darker than Beauty). Anyway, good stuff. This story of the dancing princesses is dangerous and engaging, more about family ties and sisterhood than anything else. The eventual suitors and the enchanted sisters are surprisingly matched and perfectly paired. Really excellent book. And such a gorgeous cover....

Editado: Ago 24, 2014, 2:01 pm

55.) A Hundred Summers, Beatriz Williams

Really very good. Unexpectedly so. Storytelling was fragmented, but in a way that made a rather prosaic story wend its way deliciously through a few hundred pages and nearly a decade. Thought it was going to be a bit more trivial than it was. (Clearly, I went in with very high expectations!)

That said, this is totally wish-fulfillment reading. The novel divides clearly into two segments: 1931 and 1938, with the former creating the drama and the latter resolving it. The wish-fulfillment is found in the chance to find resolution-- surely I'm not the only to think, whenever the long-lost love just happens to show up again, that in reality she pined, secretly, whenever her second choice husband got boorish, over the clutch of letters long hidden.

That has absolutely nothing to do with this novel. Anyway. The two halves of the novel are interspersed, 1931 then 1938, leaving the reader to wonder how this apparently idyllic romance fell to pieces.

Anyway. Lily is a student at Smith in 1931. She meets a beautiful boy named Nick Greenwald who is as immediately smitten with her as she is with him. The world-- in the form of anti-semitism, failing banks, and unreliable parental figures is the rest of the book. The action takes place in retrospect and on a Rhode Island summer retreat, the summer finds a crashing in the Great Hurricane of 1938, a Category 3 hurricane that decimated much of New England.

So. Liked it very much.

Jul 26, 2014, 5:12 pm

56.) The Reader, Bernhard Schlink

Saw this movie ages ago. Difficult to express -- disturbing but impossible to forget.

Book was great. More about the whole of the generation after the Nazis than any individuals-- how to come to peace with your heritage (can you?) when publicly guilty on such a scale.

Good stuff. Disturbing, but in the best of all possible ways.

Jul 27, 2014, 8:07 am

325> Completely agree about The Reader. Although it has been a while, the story has stuck with me in its lovely grimness.

Editado: Ago 24, 2014, 2:02 pm

57. All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

Mammoth book that one reading didn't do justice to-- I'm going to need to read a few more times to even comprehend. Suffice to say-- intricate and sprawling, well-plotted, well-written, wouldn't hesitate to recommend.

A German boy is caught up in a Hitler Youth movement. A blind French girl goes into hiding as her city is being bombed. A mythic jewel makes is smuggled across Europe. And the Nautilus sails on.

Editado: Ago 24, 2014, 2:03 pm

58. I Always Loved You, Robin Oliveira

(Book 11 of my Kentucky Escape)

A story of the Belle Époque, of artists rebelling against the established, of relationships that don't fit the molds, of sacrifice and priorities and heartbreak and captured movement and fixed moments. Mary Cassatt met Degas as a young woman struggling to find her passion in Paris. Their friendship-relationship-romance spanned the next five decades. This book was beautiful in its depictions of passion: for another, expectedly, but also for a movement, a color, a moment-- the obsession that blinds you to all else.

Editado: Ago 24, 2014, 2:04 pm

59. Bliss House, Laura Benedict

(Book 12 of my Kentucky Escape)

Creepy as hell and pretty unremittingly dark. Couldn't quite put it down, though, so I guess that's high praise.

Bliss House was built in the late 19th century, and the owners have had bad luck since then. More deaths than are natural have occurred on the property, so Raimey Bliss Nelson is able to get the house for a song. She needs a new start after a horrific accident took her husband and left her teenage daughter horribly scarred an blaming her. And for a time, the new start seems to be just what they need...but then the first person dies.

Editado: Ago 16, 2014, 9:05 pm

60. The Swan Thieves, Elizabeth Kostova

If this book had been written by anyone but the author of The Historian, I think it would have gotten a bit more acclaim. Very few modern books are in the realm of The Historian (in my humble): Possession, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, maybe The Magicians, those books with worlds that are larger than the books that contain them.

And The Swan Thieves is not on that list. But it is really very solid. (I can't seem to stop damning with faint praise.)

Anyway. Robert Oliver is a fairly well-known painter--when he attacks a painting at the Met he comes under the care of a psychiatrist who pieces together what led him to the attack. Robert is only the motivating cause in the novel--the point is that his refusal to speak to Marlow, the psychiatrist, gives Marlow reason to investigate.

I think it is impossible to use the name Marlow after Chandler without meaning. In The Last Werewolf, Duncan uses it to gesture to that kind of gritty resignation of the noir genre; in The Swan Thieves it is more about Marlow's detective instincts (and perhaps his keen eye and soft spot for the dames.) Marlow follows the traces of Robert's obsession through his studio at his ex-wife's home in North Carolina, through a stack of purloined nineteenth century letters, to Spain, to France, and basically breaks every conceivable rule about doctor patient relationships.

The story is good if you just focus on the Marlow part--a middle-aged man with a mystery who gets a new life in the investigation of it. That certainly is not a new formula, and it is solid, even though it is always middle-aged men, not middle-aged women, who find love with the beauty some twenty years younger than themselves. The Oliver part is good as a set piece--great artist, gone mad, won't speak, paints the same haunting woman over and over and over. It's (again) like a movie from the 40's, with a haunting violin theme and a soft filter that comes on as the camera pans to focus on the canvas. I think I've seen that movie. But their relationship... I didn't buy Marlow as a psychiatrist at all. If I ever go mad, I truly hope that my doctors are a bit more professional than this guy.

Anyway, quibbles as to the nature of the medical profession aside, very good book. Enthralling, actually. Didn't want it to end.

Ago 6, 2014, 11:00 pm

61. The Book of Life, Deborah Harkness

Undecided. Eagerly awaited, but somehow not quite as satisfying as I would have liked. Not sure why. Possibly because I was reading in fits and starts--partially read three weeks ago, when it came out, then just finished today. A reread of the series may be necessary.

Ago 8, 2014, 6:24 pm

62. The Magicians, Lev Grossman

Again! Third time this year.... I may have a problem.

Editado: Ago 16, 2014, 7:53 pm

63. The Magician King, Lev Grossman

also third reread of the year, gearing up for (yay!) the finale!!!

Editado: Ago 12, 2014, 2:21 pm

64. The Magician's Land, Lev Grossman

I am never satisfied with the finale, but this (in my humble) was absolutely perfect. Quentin matures but stays the same person, Fillory is fascinating and terrible, the ends were all tied up, the conclusion left me feeling positively buoyant.

Anything like a more critical review will have to come through a later reading or (more likely) a different reader. As for me, the one who grew up on Narnia, who reads to find sanity and escape, whose primary struggle with adulthood is allowing time for the mundane instead of the imagination--for me, this book, this series, was perfect.

Editado: Ago 16, 2014, 8:48 pm

65. Proust Was A Neuroscientist, Jonah Lehrer

Excellent. The last chapter, dealing with Virginia Woolf and the idea of the self, was especially fascinating. (Note to self: read Saturday, Ian McEwan.)

Editado: Ago 16, 2014, 8:53 pm

66. The Beautiful American, Jeanne Mackin

It took a while to grab me, but once it did I couldn't think about anything else.

Nora Tours and her love, Jamie, leave Poughkeepsie so Jamie can follow his dream of being a photographer. They end up in 20's Paris, partying with Man Ray, Picasso, and Nora's childhood friend, model/photographer Lee Miller. After a devestating betrayal, Nora retreats to a small French town where she rebuilds her life. World War 2 intervenes, old friends (and the pain they caused) resurface, and Nora has to decide again what is most important.

I really loved this book. It teeters on the edge of the sentimental (not that that necessarily is a bad thing... except it is. You know, the slightly cloying, oh-so-hopeful and triumphant woman's story... I kind of hate those.) BUT it avoids toppling over. Mostly, it is about broken people, hurting each other, forgiving each other, figuring out how to live with the shards not quite knit together. I was impressed by this author--I'm putting her on my "to follow" list.

Also, this seems like the zillionth book I've read this year either about WW2 or about the art scene in Paris. (I imagine it is just this summer, but still.) WW2 books: All the Light We Cannot See, The Reader, and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children; art scene in Paris: I Always Loved You, The Swan Thieves, and now this. Completely unplanned, but I feel like characters should be bleeding over.

Ago 17, 2014, 11:40 pm

Dammit. Where's my porch swing, white wine spritzer, and good book?? Sounds beyond idyllic.

Some great reading above, but mostly I gave a great big SQUEEE! for the third Magicians book. Guess I'd better source book #2 rsn!

Editado: Ago 24, 2014, 1:24 pm

I was ridiculously in love with all of these books. Seriously amazing.

67. The Quick, Lauren Owen

The Quick has gotten tons of bad press, for which I think people need to get over themselves. I loved it. I loved the switching narrative voice, I loved the vague menace that leads up to the reveal (yes, we all know what the twist is, thanks bloggers, but I thought well done), I loved the politics of the struggle (aristocratic civil war becomes class war becomes... whatever.) I think it is in a class with The Historian, which I say about very few books.

68. The Girl with All the Gifts, M. R. Carey

The Girl with All the Gifts has gotten a lot of press as well, but everything I've read so far has been straight adulation. And well deserved. I don't usually start talking about movie versions after finishing a book (because as we all know, the movie versions never quite hold up) but I hope whoever options this (has optioned this?) is up to the task. I loved this book. Started it about fifteen minutes before bed and finally went to bed 70 minutes later, only to wake up repeatedly to consider whether it was worth getting up to finish or just to wait until morning. Loved everything about this book. Again, the narrative voice is amazingly well done--Melanie's struggle to piece it together was just so real, everything that happens... well, the adulation is deserved.

69. Bellweather Rhapsody, Kate Racculia
(loved this one too, but it seems to be time to stop typing and start helping make dinner.... More later.)

ETA-- OK, several days and several dinners later, here's the Bellweather Rhapsody: Loved it, as I said above.

A group of freakishly talented kids come to the Bellweather Hotel every year to play at an important musical conference for talent scouts from schools like Julliard. This year, however, is the fifteenth anniversary of a horrific murder-suicide that happened on the seventh floor... and things are going to be a bit unusual.

Bertram (called Rabbit) and Alice Hatmaker have broken the Central High curse--the school usually sends only one student to the conference, but this year, both Hatmaker twins were accepted, Alice for the chorus and Bertram for the orchestra. Alice has been before, a fact she flaunts, while this is Bertram's last chance before college.

An unexpected storm, a murdered roommate, and a few inexplicable coincidences end up making this the conference that may just never end.

Ago 23, 2014, 12:17 am

So I just left The Quick on the library shelf where I saw it yesterday because the blurbs on the cover made it sound like straight horror, which I cannot handle. Your take?

Ago 23, 2014, 3:33 pm

>40 ronincats:. ronincats, it's a little creepy in parts, but I definitely wouldn't say horror. Some blood and guts, but more about characters than giving you the jumps. Pick it up next time you're there. :)

Editado: Ago 23, 2014, 4:13 pm

71. The Sherlockian, Graham Moore

Ok, it was occasionally good but it failed to sustain my interest.

The story is about Harold, a 20th century Sherlock aficionado who is thrilled to be inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars. At his first meeting, rumors are swirling that the long-missing Arthur Conan Doyle diary, that from the fall and winter of 1900, has finally been found. After the researcher who found it fails to show up to present, Harold starts investigating what happened to him and--perhaps more importantly (to him, at least)--what happened to the diary.

Chapters about Harold are intercut with chapters about Arthur Conan Doyle at the end of the century--deciding to toss Sherlock over the falls, his friendship with Bram Stoker, his dabbling in cases with Scotland Yard.

Basically it's the story of two men, obsessed by Sherlock Holmes, and the very different things he means to both of them. The characters just didn't grab me. I liked the 19th century bits better than the modern, but over all, just didn't love it.

Editado: Ago 24, 2014, 1:07 pm

72. Twenties Girl, Sophie Kinsella

First encounter of a Sophie Kinsella book (apart from the rather dreadful Confessions of a Shopaholic movie) and... it was about as I expected. A quick read, rather frothy, enjoyable as long as you aren't needing anything real. If that sounds like faint praise, it is. But-- eh, ok. I finished it, I enjoyed it, I'm not putting her books on any "must read" list. There are plenty of "fluff" books I enjoy (I'll buy anything by Jennifer Crusie and keep it until it falls apart from the rereads) but this is just empty. Reminded me of Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary, but without even the added enjoyment of tracking how the characters diverge from their originals. Blargh.

Lara is a 20's-something woman in London, juggling a failing business, a broken heart, and an infuriating family situation. All of that, however, gets sidelined when her Great-Aunt Sadie, 105 when she died (some two weeks ago), starts haunting her. Sadie needs her dragonfly necklace to "move on," and sort of hijacks Lara into a massive search. While Lara searches, Sadie starts helping her sort the rest of her problems out, using methods that make Lara decidedly uncomfortable.

Sadie is fabulous. Lara not so much. I'd have happily read a book about Sadie (Charleston, Charleston)--the Lara parts were completely predictable and dreadfully dull.

(Let's hope I have time for another book before school starts tomorrow... I'd hate for that to be the last of the summer!)

Editado: Ago 25, 2014, 10:43 am

73. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle

I downloaded this on Audible shortly after starting The Sherlockian, (and later that day did the math on how much I'd spent on the website, and suspended my account. Jeesh!) so this has been my knitting accompaniment for the past several commutes. Although this book includes only 12 of the canonical stories, these are the ones I'm most familiar with: A Scandal in Bohemia (love Irene Adler--makes me want to reread all of Carole Nelson Douglas!, The Adventure of the Speckled Band (the worst nightmares of my young life came after watching a BBC version of this), The Adventure of the Red Headed League, The Five Orange Pips (I was about 8 and living in the south when I first read The Five Orange Pips... I absolutely couldn't understand why everybody didn't immediately know what KKK represented.)

Anyway. While I'll never love the Sherlock stories quite as much as Poirot or Wimsey (Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, respectively), I've been enjoying these immensely.

Editado: Ago 30, 2014, 2:51 pm

74. The History of Love, Nicole Krauss

Orange Prize for Fiction, finalist, 2006

Absolutely amazing. Up there with The English Patient and The Hours.

Leo Grutsky has survived many things. He's survived war, and famine, and disappointment, and a new life, and love. Now, he just focuses on surviving the day--he lives alone, but doesn't want to die on a day that he hasn't been seen. So he draws attention to himself--spilling coins in line for coffee, colliding with a display at the corner shop--anything to remind the world that he still exists.

Alma Singer is worried about her mother. Her father died two years ago, and her mother has walled herself behind the books: books that she loves, books that she studies, books that she translates. One day, a work order for the translation of The History of Love arrives at the house. The book is part of the family lore: her father loved it, gave it to her mother, Alma is named after a girl in the book.

Leo dreams of his long-lost Alma, and Alma tries to keep her family safe, and their stories are inexorably drawing them together.

Loved. New York Times Bestseller, so my imprimatur is hardly a stretch, but wow. Highly recommend moving it to the short TBR list.

Editado: Ago 30, 2014, 2:50 pm

75. Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout

Pulitzer Prize, 2009

This has been sitting on my shelf for more than a year--I started the first story last summer on the road up to Maine (I was going for a bit of a theme read--I ended up with J. Courtney Sullivan's Maine instead.) Anyway--thought it didn't grab me last year, it definitely did this time.

I'm taking a creative writing class this semester. I've been working on a novel for ages (more off than on in the past two years) and I need a jump start. Last Wednesday was my first class--and it was weird. I talk about books seriously all the time. So much so that I get sick of my self--gender, blah blah, Foucault, blah blah, structure/conception/reduction, blah blah blah. And I love it, most of the time, but sometimes I feel like I keep discovering the same things. And THAT's a little depressing. Anyway. So in reading this I was especially focused on the structure of the stories--what is suggested, what emotions are felt but not identified, what is left in the reader's mind to imagine, what is actually told... all of that. And wow, is this a beautifully written book. Kind of dreadful--there are emotions, pain, that I just don't want to read about. I don't want to feel it, even through the lens of an imagined character. The loneliness. Betrayal. Guilt. Confusion. Most of all, the loneliness. I think that's the overwhelming feeling that I came away from this book with--the solitary condition of mankind. Everybody's story is one that no one else knows. Even the one living their solitary life alongside yours--there are depths of feeling and minor hurts that they'll never know, never understand, pebbles of hurt that make all the difference. And not just the solitude, but the recognition of loneliness. The effort, or the longing, for a connection. The tension between a desire for privacy and a desire to live a communal life. The self is conceived of in relationships.

I think that's why Olive, the character, is such a masterpiece. The book as a whole is excellent, I love the structure, though it took me a few stories to really get into the groove. But Olive--she's so flawed, but so individual. So unique. Completely relateable, not in the way that 'she is like me' but in the way that we all have these little potholes of irreconcilable emotion, of the bits of us that just don't make sense, that are as unique and as individual as a crooked tooth.

Whatever. Good stuff.

Editado: Dez 24, 2014, 12:31 am

77. Miscellaneous Shorts
(Reading short stories for school and pleasure, but collecting them from various places. I'm counting 10 shorts as a book.)

a) The Bear Came Over the Mountain, Alice Munro
b) Outside the Machine, Jean Rhys
c) The Other Woman, John Updike
d) Wild Plums, Grace Stone Coates
e) Here We Are, Dorothy Parker
f) Wants, Grace Paley
g)Hills Like White Elephants, Ernest Hemingway
h)A Clean Well-Lighted Place, Ernest Hemingway
i) Miss Brill, Katherine Mansfield

Set 22, 2014, 10:56 pm

Oh, Good Heavens! I can't believe it's taken me this long to get back over here. I've been updating my thread, but failing to follow up on others' threads, and only ventured to to try now that I'm caught up on the 2014 challenge thread...and, oh, Good Heavens!

Re. Post 5--thank you for the recommendations! I hadn't heard of those books, but they're on my shortlist now, as is Entwined, which I also hadn't heard tell of. (Sorry for this delayed response--you responded right as I was heading off to summer-camp to teach and run around,which keeps me insanely busy up through August!)

And, I'm so glad you discovered Anthony Doerr :) You'll have to read his collection Memory Wall--the title novella is wonderful, and nearly each story is so wonderful that they're all well worth finding the book!

Meanwhile, The History of Love is already on my shelf, and now it's moved far higher on the tbr mountain...particularly considering you compared it to one of my all-time favorites with The English Patient!

Out 2, 2014, 6:18 pm

81. The Secret Place, Tana French

Out 4, 2014, 10:37 pm

82. Maybe This Time, Jennifer Crusie

Out 5, 2014, 11:29 pm

#38> I actually only heard about The Quick for the first time yesterday! So it hasn't been spoiled at all (and I must go out and buy it before it is!).

Out 22, 2014, 1:08 am

84. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman

An October ritual for me-- nothing is more fall than Hoffman, and ts is far and away my favorite of hers. I love the history, the sense of place, the sister-love. Makes me miss my sister, makes me want to carve pumpkins, makes me want to revisit all the lovely little New England towns. Perfect pause in a too-busy semester.

Nov 10, 2014, 12:09 pm

87. Dracula, Bram Stoker (Audible)

Nov 14, 2014, 5:40 pm

Nov 17, 2014, 10:38 pm

89. American Gods, Neil Gaiman (Audible)
90. Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman (Audible)

(Love both of these so so much.)

Nov 17, 2014, 11:39 pm

>62 SouthernBluestocking: Aren't they great? Although Anansi Boys is still my favorite.

Nov 20, 2014, 5:06 pm

So great. I enjoy Anansi Boys more (makes me laugh, moves faster) but American Gods makes me think more-- and feels somehow more crafted, in a good way. Both so good.

Nov 20, 2014, 5:10 pm

91 The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
Loved the writing (so beautiful, reminded me of The English Patient). Distasteful world view, but so gorgeous.

Nov 28, 2014, 10:38 pm

92. Murder in the Rue Dumas, M. L. Longworth

Dez 5, 2014, 2:33 pm

93. Yes Please, Amy Poehler

Cannot express how much I loved this book. I love the claiming of the word feminism. I love the tone, the funny, the heart. contemplating adding it as an report option on next semester's Women's Voices syllabus. Love. Did I say love? Love.

Dez 5, 2014, 7:08 pm

94. Murder on the Ile Sordou, M. L. Longworth

Very enjoyable series. The descriptions of location in this make me dream of traveling.

Dez 6, 2014, 12:04 am

95. Dollbaby, Laura Lane McNeal
Eh. Read it in a gulp, so obviously wasn't terrible. But questions were left unanswered. I had a better idea/understanding of the other characters than the protagonist. The villain was a bit undeveloped, the fascinating bits (New Orleans in the 30's, New Orleans anytime) were rushed. So I say Eh.

Editado: Dez 7, 2014, 12:25 am

96. The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters

Frances and her mother, the only remains of a prosperous family decimated by the war, take in the Barbers, Lillian and Leonard, as paying guests. Tensions abound: privacy and intrusion, class differences, the presence of a man in the house, the need to hide all the necessary economies from the new tenants.... But Len and Lil have secrets too, and problems, and sometimes there is no clear solution.

Read this in one huge gulp (500 pgs in a day-- this will need a reread!). Sarah Waters is, as always, dark, disturbing, divine. Interesting expansion of era-- I'm most familiar with her Victorians-- Fingersmith, Affinity--but I loved this venturing into a new era. I most enjoyed the way Waters so elegantly links the emotions of the age to particular, individual impulses. She gives you an era in the way someone sugars her tea.

Good stuff. Of course, haven't read anything of hers that hasn't been absolutely top notch.

Dez 7, 2014, 5:25 am

#70 I enjoyed this as well !

Dez 9, 2014, 10:31 pm

97. How to be a Woman, Caitlan Moran (Audible)

Kinda loved this. Don't agree with everything she said but love her framing of gender "shoulds," her clear talk about abortions, her homage to feminist groundbreakers. I'll read this again, and may just include it as an option on my upcoming syllabus. Good stuff.

Dez 20, 2014, 11:35 pm

99. How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life, Ruth Goodman

Loved this. Devoured in one dawn to dusk. History lite, somewhat reminiscent of Bill Bryson's At Home, in which the minutiae of daily life is privileged above the individual lives or accounts. Fascinating. Goodman talks about the practicalities and realities of morning ablutions, of laundry day, of soliciting a prostitute, of planning for daily dinner. Good stuff.

Dez 22, 2014, 2:22 am

Congatulations on the 100 !

Dez 22, 2014, 3:22 am

Well done on hitting 100.

Dez 23, 2014, 11:01 pm

Woo hoo on hitting the 100 book mark!!

It's Chrismas Eve's eve, and so I am starting the rounds of wishing my 100 book group friends the merriest of Christmases or whatever the solstice celebration of their choice is.

Dez 26, 2014, 7:40 pm

101. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, Stephanie Barron

Impressed. I'm always a little skeptical of books that propose to expand upon or re-imagine beloved classics. There are exceptions, of course: I enjoyed the BBC Death Comes to Pemberley earlier this year; Wide Sargasso Sea is amazing. But I don't assume that since I love Persuasion, I need to read all about the continuing adventures of Captain Wentworth and Anne.

So, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It isn't precisely set in any of the worlds of Austen's novels, rather, it positions Austen herself (that scathing observer of society) as the detective of a murder during the holiday festivities between Christmas and the Feast of Fools in Georgian England.

The plot: reminiscent of several of the classics of the mystery genre, but unpredictable solution. The Austen ladies (Mrs., Jane, and Cassandra) are attending a house party. A few breaches of etiquette during evening cards and dinner seem mere reason to play at being shocked until someone ends up dead. As an ice storm has shut the inhabitants of a house party from the outside world, the culprit is (shocking!) one of the guests.

The setting: Love. Set in the holiday season between Christmas and the Feast of Fools, Barron captures the era without explication for the sake of explication. Political tensions are high, as England is facing war with both America and France, with threats from Russia to boot.

Good stuff. I'm very familiar with Austen's works, so it was particularly enjoyable to trace connections between Barron's fleeting images of scenes, events, and characters and their canonical counterparts.

Dez 27, 2014, 12:55 am

102. While Beauty Slept, Elizabeth Blackwell

Loved this. Reminiscent of Entwined or Gregory Maguire's fairy tale novels (Mirror, Mirror, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister), While Beauty Slept grounds Sleeping Beauty in a textured and rich history and culture. The book is narrated by Elise, a royal by-blow who makes her way back to the castle as a maid and then pledges her loyalty to the queen who defends her.

Yup, super fun. Will be rereading.

Dez 27, 2014, 4:44 pm

103. The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton

Liked, but didn't love. Not sure why. Read this in one gulp on a dreary December Saturday, quite effectively transported me from the grey skies and stormy waters of lakeside Kentucky to 17th century Amsterdam.

The setting was great. Burton knows her stuff, the religious atmosphere was positively stifling. Nella (the protagonist, a young country bride to an established trader) is completely out of her depth in her new home: her husband, Johannes, is neither as terrifying nor as comforting as she'd expected--he is by turns generous and curt, but most of all, he is absent. Johannes's sister, Marin, has been the defacto hostess for two decades--in arranging her brother's marriage, she has no intention of relinquishing her management. Johannes offers Nella a cabinet house to arrange as a wedding present, she receives a bit more than planned from the miniaturist.

I think my hangup with this is that I didn't feel the shock that I think I was supposed to feel at the big reveal--I'd predicted the major secrets. Which doesn't really detract from a novel, it isn't like I outguessed Agatha Christie or anything, but it just wasn't that shocking--it was more sad.

However, I think the whole idea of a miniaturist and a cabinet house works really well in the context of secrets and lives that have to look just so from the outside, of things that hold more inside than is apparent. I may have talked myself back around to liking this book: may need to reread as a novel instead of a mystery.

And 17th century Netherlands is fascinating. Perhaps because I just read While Beauty Slept (another fairy tale retelling), but I'm dying to reread Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. Happy times--I love having time to read!

Dez 28, 2014, 12:06 am

Are you aware that the Stephanie Barron book is the 12th in her mystery series featuring Jane as the sleuth? I agree, she is one of the few who I feel do justice.

Dez 28, 2014, 1:31 am

>82 ronincats:. I wasn't until after I'd finished! Luckily, the plot of that one stood up alone. Looking forward to reading the others (in order, as is my preference) though!

Dez 28, 2014, 1:34 am

104. Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade, Patrick Dennis

Holy crap, I loved this book. A quick read--took me a few hours. Reminded me of Eloise, who I love. Mame is a somewhat occluded figure, seen only through the eyes of her nephew, but larger than life and oh so appealing. When I grow up, I want to be Mame.

Editado: Dez 29, 2014, 10:50 am

105. Around the World with Auntie Mame, Patrick Dennis

Again, highly recommended. The world is, as I said, a little bit Eloise, a little bit Bertie Wooster, a little bit (this may be primarily the era and the world view, definitely not the central character) Mrs. Pollifax. The first is just a smidge better--start with that, but take joy in the existence of continued adventures.

The framing narrative of this set of stories is Patrick telling his wife about his youthful world travelings with Auntie Mame, in hopes of alleviating her fears for their son, who has been off with Mame for a bit more than two years. Patrick is clear that their relationship is no longer based on love (apparently, the suburbs have killed it?) so it is clearly an oppositional relationship: he tells a bit of a story, then feels he's gotten an escape when she doesn't press for details. It's an interesting highlighting of the absence of maternality: in these, the maternal is prosaic, unadventurous, faintly smothering. So the real mother (Patrick's being long since dead) is prosaic, unadventurous, faintly smothering. Obviously, it's not particularly news that one has to get rid of the parents in a child's adventure--but the narrator is just so intent on not being part of that (mothers worry, but I adventured! So I'm a cool dad!) that it's a little weird.

Of course, all that is a teeny tiny angle on the work, and not particularly important. Just thought the author hit that note a little insistently. The majority of the book is, indeed, about the Auntie Mame and Patrick traveling--through London, through Paris, through a commune in Russia, to a castle with Nazis in Germany... Mame travels with a mountain of luggage, a Japanese man-servant, and a fundamental misunderstanding of just about everything. Good stuff.

Dez 29, 2014, 11:13 am

I don't know how it took me all year to find your thread, so I had to read it all in one go, and I just can't wrap my head around how you can have such good taste in books, and yet like The Magicians series so much. I mean, you compared it to The Historian and Jonathan Strange! How can this be? ;-)

Dez 29, 2014, 12:04 pm

>86 jfetting:. Must just be a different strokes/different folks thing? It's the world I like, not the characters. Whatshisface is an insufferable twit, agreed. But I like the arc of the series: an initial dependence on an alternate world to "save" you, to give your life meaning, then the ultimate realization that that whole idea is a bit preposterous and it takes a little more work to find meaning in the mundane. I blame Narnia. :)

Dez 29, 2014, 7:18 pm

I enjoyed The Magicians and was going to read the rest of the series soonish, that should settle the question of taste in books !

Dez 30, 2014, 5:52 am

>88 bryanoz:. Look forward to getting your opinion!

Dez 30, 2014, 7:22 am

I was reminded about the series when raved about The Magician's Land, so read it I will ! Have to fit it around 6 volumes of Erikson's Malazan Books of the Fallen so might be a while, Cheers !

Dez 31, 2014, 12:47 pm

And so, without further ado....
2014: Books Read

1.) Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury, Allison Light
2.) The Magicians, Lev Grossman
3.) The Magician King, Lev Grossman
4.) My Man Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse
5.) The Uninvited Guests, Sadie Jones
6.) The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick
7.) At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Bill Bryson
8.) Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
9.) The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

10.) The Minister's Wooing, Harriet Beecher Stowe
11.) The House of Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne
12.) The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, Stephen Greenblatt
13.) Theses on the Philosophy of History, Walter Benjamin
14.) The Threepenny Opera, Bertolt Brecht
15.) Middlemarch, George Eliot
16.) Paradise Lost, John Milton
17.) Native Guard, Natasha Trethewey

18.) The Dead Man's Message, Florence Maryat
19.) By Blood We Live, Glen Duncan
20.) The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
21.) The Republic, Plato
22.) The Hours, Michael Cunningham
23.) A Very Long Engagement, Sebastien Japrisot

24.) The Knitting Circle, Ann Hood
25.) Tapestry of Fortunes, Elizabeth Berg
26.) The Likeness, Tana French

27.) Twilight Stories, Rhoda Broughton
28.) Rustication, Charles Palliser
29.) The Meaning of Night: A Confession, Michael Cox
30.) The Glass of Time, Michael Cox
31.) This House is Haunted, John Boyne
32.) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
33.) Longbourn, Jo Baker
34.) The Prestige, Christopher Priest

35.) The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker
36.) Studio Saint-Ex, Ania Szado
37.) Right Ho, Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse
38.) My Man Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse
39.) That Part Was True, Deborah McKinlay
40.) The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan
41.) Caleb’s Crossing, Geraldine Brooks
42.) Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes
43.) The Magicians, Lev Grossman
44.) The Magician King, Lev Grossman
45.) The Thirteen Problems, Agatha Christie
46.) Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs

47.) A Short History of Women, Kate Walbert
48.) The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, Valerie Martin
49.) Bittersweet, Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
50.) Belle Cora, Phillip Margulies
51.) I Shall Be Near To You, Erin Lindsay McCabe
52.) The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood
53.) The Poison Tree, Erin Kelly
54.) Entwined, Heather Dixon
55.) A Hundred Summers, Beatriz Williams
56.) The Reader, Bernhard Schlink
57.) All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

58.) I Always Loved You: A Novel, Robin Oliveiera
59.) Bliss House, Laura Benedict
60.) The Swan Thieves, Elizabeth Kostova
61.) The Book of Life, Deborah Harkness
62.) The Magicians, Lev Grossman
63.) The Magician King, Lev Grossman
64.) The Magician’s Land, Lev Grossman
65.) Proust Was a Neuroscientist, Jonah Lehrer
66.) The Beautiful American, Jeanne Mackin
67.) The Quick, Lauren Owen
68.) The Girl with All the Gifts, M. R. Carey
69.) Bellweather Rhapsody, Kate Racculia
70.) The Lake of Dead Languages, Carol Goodman
71.) The Sherlockian, Graham Moore
72.) Twenties Girl, Sophie Kinsella
73.) The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conon Doyle
74.) The History of Love, Nicole Krauss
75.) Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout

76.) The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin
77.) Miscellaneous short stories
78.) The Headmaster’s Wife, Thomas Christopher Greene
79.) The Girls from Corona del Mar, Rufi Thorpe
80.) The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, Dinaw Mengestu

81.) The Secret Place, Tana French
82.) Maybe This Time, Jennifer Crusie
83.) The Hypnotist’s Love Story, Liane Moriarty
84.) Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman
85.) Death at the Chateau Bremont, M. L. Longworth
86.) Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty

87.) Dracula, Bram Stoker
88.) The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova
89.) American Gods, Neil Gaiman
90.) Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
91.) The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
92.) Murder in the Rue Dumas, M. L. Longworth

93.) Yes, Please, Amy Poehler
94.) Murder on the Ile Sordou, M. L. Longworth
95.) Dollbaby, Laura Lane McNeal
96.) The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters
97.) How to be a Woman, Caitlan Moran
98.) Moriarty: A Novel, Anthony Horowitz
99.) How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life, Ruth Goodman
100.) Death in the Vines, M. L. Longworth
101.) Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas: Being a Jane Austen Mystery, Stephanie Barron
102.) While Beauty Slept, Elizabeth Blackwell
103.) The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton
104.) Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade, Patrick Dennis
105.) Around the World with Auntie Mame, Patrick Dennis

Dez 31, 2014, 7:25 pm

Congratulations on reaching 100, and Happy New Year!