Book Chat

Reading Log: November 2014

Wow, is it December already?! November has come and gone, along with a lot of good books. These monthly logs are a lot longer these days with all the Newbery books added to my normal diet of memoirs and YA Lit. Now that the holidays are here, it feels like time to read cozy mysteries and the like.

Below is my Reading Log for November 2014, with my thoughts about each book to help me remember what I read.  I’ve included all the books that I’ve read or finished during the month (even if I started some of them outside of the month).  And of course I keep track of my rating on the grade system, the binding, genre, etc… just for fun!

November 2014

HB = Hardback, PB = Paperback, AB = Audio book, K = Kindle.
F = Fiction, HF = Historical Fiction, NF = NonFiction, YA = Young Adult,
CL = Children’s Lit, B/M = Bio/Memoir, SFF = Sci-Fi/Fantasy, C = Craft

Title

Start

Finish

Grade/

Format

Genre

Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul,
by Melody Beattie

1/1/14

Still Reading

TBD
PB

SH

Here is Where: Discovering America’s Forgotten History,
by Andrew Carroll

9/29/14

Still Reading

TBD
PB

NF

The Graveyard Book,
by Neil Gaiman

10/25/14

11/6/14

A
LB

YA

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods,
written by Rick Riordan and illustrated by John Rocco

10/26/14

Still Reading

TBD
HB

CL

Breakfast at Tiffany’s,
by Truman Capote

10/31/14

11/3/14

A
K

F

House of Flowers,
by Truman Capote

11/3/14

11/3/14

B
K

F

A Diamond Guitar,
by Truman Capote

11/3/14

11/3/14

A+
K

F

A Christmas Memory,
by Truman Capote

11/3/14

11/3/14

A+
K

F

Yes Please,
by Amy Poehler

11/4/14

11/10/14

B+
K

Memoir

Jacob Have I Loved,
by Katherine Paterson

11/8/14

11/22/14

C
LB

CL

The Dangerous Alphabet,
written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Gris Grisly

11/10/14

11/10/14

A
LB

CL

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish,
written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean

11/11/14

11/11/14

A+
LB

CL

The Bronze Bow,
by Elizabeth George Speare

11/11/14

11/19/14

B+
K

CL

Dear Enemy,
by Jean Webster

11/19/14

11/21/14

A+
K

F

Rockabye: From Wild to Child,
by Rebecca Wolfe

11/21/14

11/24/14

A
K

Memoir

Why We Broke Up,
by Daniel Handler

11/23/14

Still Reading

TBD
LB

YA

Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1),
by Louise Penny

11/25/14

Still Reading

TBD
K

Mystery

Brown Girl Dreaming,
by Jacqueline Woodson

11/28/14

11/30/14

A+
LB

CL

Thoughts:

Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul, by Melodie Beattie – TBD

The Amateur Librarian // January 2014 Reading Log

Still reading. I got a bit behind again this month, but I’m taking my time to read each entry even if I’m not on the current date. Still enjoying the gentle meditations when I do pick it up.

Here is Where: Discovering America’s Great Forgotten History, by Andrew Carroll – TBD

The Amateur Librarian // September 2014 Reading Log

Still reading… a bit. I meant to catch up on it over the Thanksgiving holiday, but ended up engrossed in something else. I like this book a lot, but it’s proved too easy to put down in favor of other books that catch my eye.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman – A

The Amateur Librarian // October 2014 Reading Log

This is the only Newbery winner so far that I’ve found on the YA shelves at the library. I don’t even know why it’s not considered Children’s Lit, except I suppose that it ends with the main character reaching adulthood and there’s some mild suspense. Bod is adopted by ghosts as a baby, and grows up in a graveyard, in a charming way only Neil Gaiman can achieve. It started out a bit slow, but picked up until I was racing to read the next bit at breakfast each morning, and I even brought it to work with me to finish up on my lunch break. I haven’t done that with a real, live book in a long time (the blessing/curse of reading mostly ebooks these days).

 …

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, written by Rick Riordan and illustrated by John Rocco – TBD

 The Amateur Librarian // October 2014 Reading Log

Still Reading. I need to spend a cozy afternoon reading up on these Greek myths retold in Percy Jackson’s voice, but I’ve just been too busy. Must remedy that soon…

 …

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote – A

 The Amateur Librarian // October 2014 Reading Log

This novella moved to the top of my list after reading Gerald Clarke’s bio of Truman Capote. I never saw the iconic movie, although of course I’ve seen the Audrey Hepburn posters all over the place, and I really didn’t know what to expect. It’s a great character study, the precursor of today’s “manic pixie dream girl” and Holly Golightly felt like a very modern single girl, even though it was set in the 1940’s. I liked the description of anxiety as the “mean reds” and Capote’s writing is evocative and beautiful as always, without feeling overdone at all. If only the racist comments weren’t involved, it would seem perfectly current. As for the story itself, I’m still thinking on it days later, which I suppose is the sign of a good short story. I would love to take a class on Capote’s works, but since I can’t I just spent way too long reading reviews of it to see what other people thought too. (This is when I miss my old Book Club most of all.)

House of Flowers, by Truman Capote – B

This short story was included in my ebook along with Breakfast at Tiffany’s, A Diamond Guitar, and A Christmas Memory, but I decided to write out my thoughts on each one separately. It feels like a folk tale, set in Haiti, following a prostitute who chooses love over her glamorous life. Or really, chooses between a rock and a hard place. The language was charming, with lush details that set the scene in a few sparse words. The actual story seemed like it didn’t have much of a happy ending, but I love the suggestion that love is like catching a bee and trusting that it won’t sting you.

A Diamond Guitar, by Truman Capote – A+

The third short story by Truman Capote included in the ebook collection I read. This one was much more straightforward and poignant, the tale of two inmates who form a friendship in prison. The language is deceptively simple, as usual, with that touch of nostalgia that I always like. You can tell that Capote spent a lot of time with prisoners during and after his years of writing In Cold Blood.

A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote – A+

It’s only November, and yet this story always kicks off the Christmas season for me, and re-reading it again instantly put me in the mood to start listening to holiday music. Certain lines always stick out through repeated readings. I like the child’s view of himself and his best friend Sook banding together against their family: “Other people inhabit the house, relatives; and though they have power over us, and frequently make us cry, we are not, on the whole, too much aware of them.” And Sook’s appreciation of a perfect day: “As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes.” I now have both an ebook and printed version of this story, but I’m still on the lookout for the illustrated picture book I remember reading in grade school.

Yes Please, by Amy Poehler – B+

The Amateur Librarian // November 2014 Reading Log

“I tried to tell the truth and be funny. What else do you want from me, you filthy animals?” That about says it all, although I have to admit (sadly) that most of the advice wouldn’t feel very special if it weren’t coming from Amy Poehler. The narrative jumps around a lot, like distracting interruptions in a conversation, which worked sometimes and other times not so much. There were some fun bits about her work on SNL and Parks & Rec, and a lot of comedy insider details that went over my head. I loved the essays about her kids, how her phone is trying to kill her, and her imagined self-help titles about divorce in particular. She didn’t really want to delve into her personal life, which is absolutely fine, I get it… but really, what else is there to talk about after we’ve covered the whole improv-is-cool topic? I hate to say it, but a lot of it felt like I’d heard it before in similar memoirs by Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling… and honestly, I enjoyed them more. I heard that the audio version is awesome, narrated by Amy Poehler with appearances by Patrick Stewart and clips from Parks & Rec… which sounds like it would be a really fun experience. Wish I had known that before I pre-ordered the ebook.

Jacob Have I Loved, by Katherine Paterson – C

The Amateur Librarian // November 2014 Reading Log

Another Newbery dud… after a couple not-so-good ones, I’m starting to feel a bit disheartened. I vaguely remember reading this in middle school, but I don’t have any strong memories. Maybe it didn’t bother me as much then, but after re-reading it I just had a very hard time with this book. The story follows a teenager growing up an outcast compared to her “perfect” twin sister during World War 2. She’s just not a very likable character, and since it’s told from an adult perspective looking back on her childhood, it was very weird to not be able to connect with her emotions or have any understanding of the other twin’s side of things. There was no adult perspective to add to her observations, and no reconciliation with her sister or any sort of insight into their relationship. And let’s not get started on her sexual feelings for the eighty-year-old neighbor… her obsession seemed very strange and disturbing, and most of all it just didn’t make any sense. Perhaps if this was a book for adults, I could understand it more but it didn’t make any sense as children’s lit or a Newbery winner. I love Katherine Patterson’s other Newbery winner Bridge to Terabithia, but this one was not for me at all.

The Dangerous Alphabet, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Gris Grisly – A

The Amateur Librarian // November 2014 Reading Log

I’m on a Neil Gaiman kick, so I decided to check out some of his children’s books from the library. This one is first up – deliciously gruesome tale that follows a brother-sister duo battling monsters through each letter. Certainly not geared toward young children, but fun for older kids who like macabre humor and a Nightmare Before Christmas vibe. The pictures offer as much story in the little details as the words do, so I read it twice before putting it down again. Fun stuff!

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean – A+

The Amateur Librarian // November 2014 Reading Log

Another Neil Gaiman children’s book, with illustrations by Dave McKean. I love the simple and silly premise – the title sets up the story, with another brother-sister duo visiting all the kids in the neighborhood to undo swaps until they can get their dad back. The text is incorporated into the pictures, and the mixed media collage illustrations are awesome (I love Galveston the rabbit!).

The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare – B+

The Amateur Librarian // November 2014 Reading Log

Newberry Winner for 1962. This one was not quite what I expected… and I much prefer Elizabeth George Speare’s other Newbery winner The Witch of Blackbird Pond. It’s another historical novel that follows an angry young Jewish zealot who is waiting for a warrior to free the Israelites from Roman oppression. He is mostly surprised and disappointed (at first) by the appearance of Jesus and his teachings of peace, but obviously he comes around in the end… the very, very end, like the last three pages. The story felt much more complex and mature than most children’s lit, and it was well-written, but it was hard to empathize with the angry narrator. It was also hard not to wonder what “demons” plagued his sister and feel aggravated by how she was treated. And what could the modern-day equivalent be… was she physically disabled, mentally handicapped, traumatized, maybe just shy, or perhaps a clichéd damsel-in-distress? Hard to tell. Not my favorite book ever, but an interesting look at that time period for sure.

Dear Enemy, by Jean Webster – A+

The Amateur Librarian // November 2014 Reading Log

I felt like re-reading something light and fluffy and this is perfect – perhaps it could be considered the chick lit of its time, but it still has some heft. The sequel to Dear Daddy Long Legs follows Judy’s college friend Sally as she leaves her flighty socialite life to reform the orphanage where Judy grew up. There are a lot of dodgy topics that are definitely dated… eugenics, hereditary “feeblemindedness,” orphan asylums, the treatment of disabled orphans etc… but for the time it was probably considered progressive, so if you can turn a blind eye and just enjoy the lovely characters and the lively letters, it still manages to be funny and uplifting. After all, even Sally says, “I believe that every institution ought to be burned to the ground every twenty-five years in order to get rid of old-fashioned equipment and obsolete ideas.” It’s a disgrace that the ebook version doesn’t contain illustrations, though, since they are a huge part of the story and add a lot of charm. I love reading about sassy young women who aren’t perfect but are still full of life… somehow I feel lighter and happier while I read this one. I love me some Jean Webster forever and ever!

Rockabye: From Wild to Child, by Rebecca Wolfe – A

The Amateur Librarian // Book Chat

Best of the blog-to-memoir books I’ve read so far. I jumped straight into the me-me-me confessional essays about Rebecca’s life when she discovers she’s pregnant at 23 and how she deals with becoming a mother and wife. Her worldview is pretty self-centered and she’s way too concerned with being a nonconformist, but I couldn’t help but connect with her. Her essays are just so vulnerable that it’s like reading a diary that’s been cleaned up into coherence with beautiful language and poignant moments peppered throughout. I also appreciated the honest portrayal of her young marriage without the father seeming like an angel who has to put up with his crazy wife (I’m looking at you, Dooce). I think because I admire the Girl’s Gone Child blog but have only started reading it the past couple years, I was pretty forgiving of her me-centric viewpoint since I know she eventually matures a lot and goes on to have three more children. Not perfect by any means, but an honest look into one person’s experience with motherhood.

Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler – TBD

The Amateur Librarian // November 2014 Reading Log

Still Reading. I’ve heard good buzz about this YA book, so I’ve been reading it in bits and pieces during breakfast each morning. Each item in a box dropped off at an ex-boyfriend’s house illustrates a doomed high school relationship. Enjoying it so far… interested to see how it plays out.

Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1), by Louise Penny – TBD

The Amateur Librarian // November 2014 Reading Log

Still Reading. I haven’t ready many “cozy mysteries” but I keep hearing good thing about this series, so I picked up the first one to start over the Thanksgiving holiday.  So far, so good!

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson – A+

The Amateur Librarian // November 2014 Reading Log

I saw Jacqueline Woodson speak at the Southern Festival of Books and immediately requested her latest book from the library, which I picked up right after she won the National Book Award. Spoiler alert: I absolutely loved this memoir written in free verse. (Unfortunately) her experience growing up in the South felt so timely with all the recent news coming from Ferguson. The verse lent a different feel than a standard memoir, which made for a swift read with just as much impact as prose. Each poem touches on a different memory, event, or feeling, and tells the story of Jacqueline’s childhood during the 1960’s when read from start to finish. But even alone, each poem can stand by itself and I could definitely see how teachers could pick and choose a few to discuss in the classroom. Lovely and inspiring literature for children is always a treat.

 …

So that’s what I’ve been reading during the month of November.  Anyone reading a good book?

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3 thoughts on “Reading Log: November 2014

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