Tag Archives: books

End of the Year Review – Books of 2016

Seven is a lucky number and the Chinese promise the Year of the Rooster in 2017 will be an improvement over 2016’s Year of the Monkey.  Yesterday, a rooster ran across the road in front of my car; thankfully I did not hit it as it happily hobbled off into the woods – must be a good sign.images

Looking back over what I was reading in 2016 helped jog my memory of what I was doing over the year.  As for the over 100 books, I usually forget them almost as soon as I’ve finished reading.

Have you read any of these books?  Can you find my favorite?  Click on the title to read my review.

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Books Read and Reviewed in 2016

January, 2016

February, 2016 

March, 2016

April, 2016

May, 2016

June, 2016

July, 2016

August, 2016

September, 2016

October, 2016

November, 2016

December, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gift Giving: If You Find One Great Book…

Have you finished your shopping for Christmas?  Are you still trying to find the best gift for each individual?  John Tierney of the New York Times suggests – The Perfect Gift? It’s the One They Asked For.  Don’t make gift-giving complicated.

“If you can find one sure thing, don’t be afraid to give it more than once.”

In that spirit – not overthinking – find a great book and give it to everyone.

Vanity Fair offers “The Bookworm’s Bespoke Gift Guide” from Juniper publishing, and the New York magazine lists 15 of the year’s most giftable books including 9781609452926  Frantumaglia “for the Ferrantephile “who just can’t get enough,” and Hillbilly Elegies for anyone who keeps asking who voted for Trump. The Journal Sentinal has an exhaustive list, including some of my favorites from Maria Semple, Ann Patchett, and Amor Towles. The Star-Tribune includes a few classics in its 50 best books for holiday giving – many I have on my to-read list, but their best suggestion may be Jon Klassen’s We Found a Hat.

9780836221367_p0_v1_s192x300My favorite book to give at Christmas is Bill Watterson’s It’s A Magical World.

What great book have you found to give?

 

 

 

 

Elena Ferrante’s The Beach at Night

9781609453701_p0_v1_s192x300  Elena Ferrante’s children’s book The Beach at Night has magic, danger, and adventure, with scary episodes and somewhat raunchy language not usually found in a children’s book. Never fear, the story does have a happy ending.  Best known for her anonymity and her Neopolitan novel series, Ferrante weaves a simple but dark story, reminiscent of the original Grimm fairy tales, about a doll left behind at the beach.

When her father presents the little girl with a cat named Minu, the little doll finds herself abandoned and forgotten.  She is tortured by a mean beach attendant and his rake as they scavenge the night beach for bits of treasure left behind.  Although the main villain is the snarly Mean Beach Attendant of Sunset, the Rake, Fire, and Waves from the Ocean are personified and join in, as the poor doll tries to hang on.

Although the book is listed for children, the illustrations reminded me of Tim Burton caricatures – whimsically scary.  The subtexts of mother-daughter relationships, as well as the horrors of a deserted beach and the stealing of words out one’s mouth, seem targeted more for an adult audience. Adults, especially fans of Ferrante will enjoy the book, but beware – read it yourself first to decide if you want to share it with your young ones.

Natalie Babbitt – “dying’s part of the wheel, right there next to being born”

Natalie Babbitt, award winning author of children’s literature, died Oct. 31 at the age of 84.You may know her book Tuck Everlasting, with Babbitt’s subtle warning about immortality, but have you read any of her others?  

 I plan to remember her with my own binge reading  of:

  • The Search for Delicious
  • Kneeknock Rise
  • The Devil’s Storybook
  • Goody Hall
  • Jack Planke Tells Tales
  • The Something
  • Moon Over High Street

Roald Dahl presented his philosophy of writing at a lecture in 1990. Natalie Babbitt and her wonderful portfolio of children’s books met all the criteria. I will miss her.

“What makes a good children’s writer?

  • must have a genuine and powerful wish not only to entertain children, but to teach them the habit of reading
  • must like simple tricks and jokes and riddles and other childish things
  • must be unconventional and inventive
  • must have a really first-class plot
  •  {tell} stories that contain a threat
  •  {use} new inventions; unorthodox methods; eccentricity; secret information
  •  know what enthralls children: action, suspense, being spooked, finding treasures, ghosts, chocolates and toys and money, magic, being made to giggle, seeing the villain meet a grisly death, {seeing}the hero be a winner
  •  know what bores children: descriptive passages and flowery prose

Your story, therefore, must tantalize and titillate on every page and all the time that you are writing you must be saying to yourself ‘Is this too slow? Is it dull? Will they stop reading?’ …{If your answer is yes}, you must cross it out and start again.”

The Man Booker Shortlist

Not surprisingly, my favorite among the thirteen books long listed for the Man Booker Prize did not make the cut.  The six shortlisted this year:

 

9781250083258_p0_v5_s192x300 9781620406694_p0_v3_s118x184 9781510719217_p0_v1_s118x184 9781594206627_large_eileen_draft-211x320 9781555977535_p0_v2_s118x184  9780393609882_p0_v1_s192x300

  • The Sellout – a satire of race relations, reintroducing slavery in Los Angeles
  • Hot Milk – a daughter copes with a hypochondriac mother
  • His Bloody Project –  the story of a seventeen year old boy who committed a brutal triple murder in the Scottish Highlands 
  • Eileen  A lonely young woman working in a boys’ prison outside Boston 
  • All That Man Is – collection of nine stories about men in different stages of life
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing – a young woman who has fled China and the Tiananmen Square protests

My record is low.  I read and reviewed only one on the list – Eileen;  I left The Sellout unfinished, and am slowly making my way through Hot Milk.    

According to the Man Booker Prize announcement, two of the finalists hail from previous  publishing house winners.  OneWorld who published The Sellout, also published last year’s winner A Brief History of Seven Killings, and Granta, the publisher of Do Not Say We have Nothing also published the 2014 winner, The Luminaries.  Only one author has been nominated before – Deborah Levy in 2012.

The winner will be announced in October.  

My favorite?  Read my review of The Many.