Monday, December 2, 2013

Books of 2013 - November

1. Funny Letters from Famous People. Nonfiction by Charles Osgood.
Just what the title says: funny (or at least mildly amusing) letters (or excerpts) by, from and to famous (or nearly so or used to be so) people.

I enjoyed the letters by Groucho Marx the best - what a shame he's not as well known now.

Recommended for: those who lament the death of good old-fashioned letter writing and people who enjoy reading those who were known for their wit.

2. House of Testosterone. Nonfiction by Sharon O'Donnell.
Might make a good blog but doesn't really cut it as a book. My library had this shelved in the "humor" section but, while mildly amusing at times, it is never really laugh out loud funny. I suppose I might have felt differently if I had a houseful of sons. I'd call it more of a memoir or blog type book.

One more positive thing about this book: it made me want to go hug my husband and thank him for being the amazing guy he is. This author seems to love her husband but she also talks about him like he's one of the original neanderthals and more like a child than a partner, best-friend, equal, lover, or spouse.

Recommended for: moms who can identify, maybe.
3. 100 Things Reds Fans Should Know or Do Before They Die. Nonfiction by Joel Luckhaupt. I picked this one up because, duh. What else is a baseball fan going to do in the off-season, if not read about her favorite team?
First poignant moment: the forward by Dusty Baker. Good-bye, Dusty. I, for one, liked you. Best wishes for your future.

Otherwise, this is a random list of 100 people, events, games, and things related to the Cincinnati Reds. Die-hard fans might not find a lot of new information, but, then again, you might. Relive the heady Big Red Machine days. Rejoice again in the 1990 series, about which the A's are still trying to figure out what hit them. Think about what might have been (Ken Griffey, Jr, I'm looking at you).

Reading this book is a nice way to spend some quiet off-season evenings while you wait for Spring Training.

Recommended for: fans of the one and only Cincinnati Reds.
4. Flannery O'Connor: Mystery and Manners. Nonfiction edited by Sally & Robert Fitzgerald. I ordered a few O'Connor related books from my library after seeing several book bloggers (and homeschool bloggers, which is sometimes but not always the same thing) mention her work. The books I ordered (which are all older editions) sat in my stack for quite a long time before I eventually got around to this one. My Goodreads review:
This collection of essays was my introduction to the writer Flannery O'Connor. I have seen her work discussed and suggested at various book blogs I trust. This seemed as good a place as any to start. The first essay, on living with peacocks, was worth the price of admission. I enjoy O'Connor's dry humor even when I'm not sure I agree with her conclusions (and, I must admit, many of her conclusions go right over my head).

The essays are somewhat cobbled together, a few were published but several are constructed from notes she left after giving "talks" at various places (universities, women's clubs).

I copied several items from this book in my own commonplace book, thoughts on writing in general and fiction in particular. There is also a fabulous essay on the true roll of English teachers (in High School) and their students.

I need to remember this quote by O'Connor as I read and leave book reviews:
"A story really isn't any good unless it successfully resists paraphrase; unless it hangs on and expands in the mind."

That's book review gold, right there.

Recommended for: fans of O'Connor (or those who want to know what the fuss is about) and anyone who aspires to write fiction
5. The End of S**. Nonfiction by Donna Freitas.
Completely disjointed. Academic but author's biases and worldview present (an unfortunately unacknowledged) throughout. Horrifying, if this is truly representative of college culture today. Lacking in any real answers or hope.

Not recommended.
6. The De-Textbook. Nonfiction edited by Jack O'Brien.
If you're familiar with the site, then some of this content will be familiar. Crude, funny, occasionally shares something intriguing that might make you want to research a bit more.

Recommended for: fans of the site and folks who don't mind a bit of setting the record straight when it's served with crass language and photos.

Not recommended if you don't like the site or crude humor.
7. The Art of Procrastination. Nonfiction by John Berry.
Delightful: witty, imminently readable, and I had to turn to the dust jacket to be sure my husband wasn't the author. Perry describes how procrastinators can be successful by employing his process of "structured procrastination".

The book isn't lengthy but if you are a procrastinator (or married to one, or both!) then you should pick this book up ASAP. That way it can eventually make its way back to the top of your "to be read" stack of books.
8. Blog Inc. Nonfiction by Joy Deangdeelert Cho.
Well written and researched but I'm not sure who the target audience is. If you're a blogger that doesn't know the difference between Blogger and Wordpress or Tumblr and Live Journal, I'm not sure you'd be reading this book.

For the rest of us who are bloggers who know the difference, well, you'd have to be a craft, design, or food blogger to feel like this book can help you.

As far as explaining the choices for monetizing a blog, it does a fair job but it isn't encouraging. According to this, you need to have thousands of hits a day before you can successfully monetize your blog. That's a tall order for some of us.

Overall: could be helpful. The interviews are interesting, although this book is yet another illustration of the pitfalls of trying to write about technology related things today. (Google Reader as a suggestion for keeping up with your favorite blogs, anyone? And good-bye "Regretsy", we hardly knew you.)
9. Jane Austen's England. Nonfiction by Roy & Lesley Adkins.
Informative. My only hesitation is that it is sometimes confusing because the authors reference aspects of English culture from years before Jane Austen's birth (1775). They are usually fairly clear about dates but there are a few spots where it could be confusing.

Covers all aspects of life in Georgian / Regency times from birth to death. If you're going to write Austen related fiction (and, I mean, who isn't?!) then you need to read this book.

Recommended for: history buffs, Austen fans.
10. Words Fail Me. Nonfiction by Patricia O'Conner.
Witty, helpful, and not just for writers of books.

Recommended for: bloggers, magazine writers, authors, and folks who just like writing and reading about writing.
11. The Murders of Mrs. Austin & Mrs. Beale. Fiction by Jill McGown.
Twisty but plays fair with the reader. I love a mystery when, at the end and the reveal, you're thinking, yes, that's exactly how it should end.
Gore level: mild. Other warnings: the main characters are living together, although there's nothing explicit or raunchy in the book about it.

Recommended for: fans of British who-dunnit mysteries.
12. The Affair of the 39 Cufflinks. Fiction by James Anderson.
So much fun. This is the last of 3 books about Inspector Wilkins ("I'm not sanguine, not sanguine at all") and the manor house at Alderley.

Anderson is witty, tongue in cheek (two sisters named Agatha and Dorothy, for instance), and he obviously had a fantastic time writing the series.

This one may not be quite up to the first two (the culprit is somewhat easy to deduce, even if the "how" isn't), but it's still an enjoyable read from start to finish.
Gore level: mild. Definitely in the "cozy" category as mysteries go.

Recommended for: fans of Christie, Sayers, & Marsh.
13. The Dead of Winter. Fiction by Rennie Airth.
Third in a series. This is called a "John Madden mystery" but Madden is a side character in this story. The novel is well written but the suspense that kept me turning pages in the first two books in the series wasn't present here. The inside look at the perpetrator's life isn't shared, as it was in the first two books. That may be on purpose but it does lessen the suspense.

The history seemed heavy handed, perhaps just because I've done a lot of research on WW2 but it failed to quietly set the scene in this book, it felt more like "info-dumping".

Gore level: high. Not cozy and the style is crime fiction / suspense.

Recommended for: fans of the first two books in the series, fans of Foyle's War.

Totals for November:
Fiction: 3
Nonfiction: 10

So, that's it for November. I need to read 12 books in December if I want to meet the goal I set back in January.  Think I can do it? Want to share some book suggestions for my reading stack? Want to share a list of books you've recently finished? Just leave a comment on this post.

Need more book suggestions or want to see what I'm reading now?
Try Goodreads:
my read shelf:
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1 comment:

VanderbiltWife said...

I wonder if my die-hard-Reds-fans grandparents would like that book or think I meant that they might die soon. Hehe. My grandma would probably just complain that the print is not big enough.

I'm impressed by how many nonfiction books you can put back. They tend to be slow-going for me. I just reread Ender's Game - it'd been about 10 years since I read it. Also read a bunch of great books this summer! I think I reviewed them on my Pinterest board. http://www.pinterest.com/vanderbiltwife/read-in-2013/

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