A Version of the Truth by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack

A Version of the Truth

This book is by the same authors as another favorite book of mine, Literacy and Longing in L.A. This one is also good, although it is less about books than the other one.

When Cassie’s no-account husband drunk drives himself off a cliff on Highway 1 in California, she moves back in with her mom and tries to pretend like she misses him. She has dyslexia and failed 3 grades, so she dropped out of high school and got her G.E.D. Now, she’s finding she can’t get a job without a bachelors degree. She fabricates a B.A. in Psychology from Michigan and gets an office job at a University Psych department. Mostly, she files and copies and organizes and hates the front desk girl, but she learns a lot from the professors she works for and begins to see the value of education as more than a resume pad.

She has a fling with front-desk-girl’s brother, then dumps him when she finds out he has a girlfriend. Then she starts to develop a thing for one of the professors she works for. Now, I kind of have to tell you the end to tell you my beef with the book. So stop reading now if you don’t want to know. Really. Now. Ok. She ends up with the professor dude, but I can’t really tell how he treated her any different than the other guy. They both had girlfriends when they started hooking up. They both said they dumped the gf. They both let her down. And the professor guy let her down in a more infamous way than the other guy. I can’t see why she chose him in the end. Somebody read this and help me out, here, kay?

Otherwise, I really liked the main character. She was not a chick lit heroine, which these books could be if she was more incompetent and had lower self esteem. Don’t get me wrong, she had bouts of serious self-doubt, but it seemed more convincing because they were just bouts, not a pervasive personality trait. She wasn’t always down on herself. Just sometimes. Like all of us.

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

The Tea Rose: A NovelIf you read the comments on this blog, you know that I was offered a review copy of the sequel to this book, The Winter Rose. Well, I figured before I read the second one, I should read the first one. I picked it up at the library and OH MY GOODNESS this book is fat. Well, of course, it’s a library copy so it looked bigger than say a paperback copy, but it is well over 500 pages.

Not that this matters when you’re reading it except in the instance of trying to hold it up when you’re reading in bed. I digress.

The first 100 or so pages are incredibly painful. If something bad can happen to the heroine, it does. I was afraid the whole book would be this way and I’d want to take a bath with a toaster at the end of it. But no, it lightens up and is quite an easy read through the rest of it.

Here’s a run down: it’s 1880′s Whitechapel. For those of you not boned up on your London history, that’s when and where Jack the Ripper was doing his thing. He plays a bit part in the book, too. Fiona is a young woman who works in the Burton Tea packing warehouse. Her boyfriend is a vegetable seller. They have a dream of setting up their own shop one day. Her father works on the docks, too, and is helping to start a union for the dock workers.

Her boyfriend takes a job that moves him half way across London, and he’s working for a man whose daughter has the hots for the boyfriend. Her father slips and falls to his death at work one day. The family has to move to a smaller place. Her baby sister gets sick. Her mother is killed by Jack the Ripper. The baby dies. Her oldest younger brother runs away and turns up dead. She’s left with her 4 year old brother to take care of. Then, she accidentally hears the owner of Burton tea talking to a noted bad guy. They are talking about how they offed her father. She confronts them, then she runs. Now she’s got the scariest men in London trying to kill her. Whatever will she do?

There, that’s the first 100 pages. With some things left out.

The climax is a real heart stopper.

I’ve already told you the worst of it, so if you think you can get past that, you are in for a big ride.

Bad blogger.

Again. I have been reading, but I forgot to post. Sorry. So here goes.

She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, IndianaShe Got Up Off the Couch; and other heroic tales from Mooreland Indiana by Haven Kimmel.

This is actually the sequel to A Girl Named Zippy but I haven’t read that one. This one was funny and sad at the same time. She writes from the perspective of herself as a little girl. She says things that are obviously misunderstandings of what’s going on around her, and that’s funny, but what’s going on around her is debilitating poverty and neglect. Which is very sad.

It’s called She Got Up of the Couch because after her first memoir, people kept asking her if her mother ever got up off the couch. Her mother had a spot on the couch where she stayed round the clock. The kitchen was on one side, the bathroom on the other, and she sat there with the phone and books and the TV. She slept there and everything. In this book, she decides to go to college. So she gets up off the couch and goes. Just like that. From the perspective of a little girl, anyway.

Mr. Knightley’s Diary by Amanda Grange

Mr. Knightley\'s Diary I bought this because I really liked Mr. Darcy’s Diary. I read it in an afternoon. Seriously.

It is, of course, the retelling of Emma from Mr. Knightley’s point of view, in diary format. Now, obviously, the author had to crib some scenes from the original work, but she also added new ones. And they were, in my opinion, very well done. The new scenes would easily fit in to the original.

The think I was most impressed by, was the fact that Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley were so clearly themselves. They sounded different from each other, and they sounded just like they were written by Jane Austen. I was fully convinced that Mr. Darcy could think and do the things he did in his book, and that Mr. Knightley would think and do the things in his.

I really hope there are more in this series.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Critical Reading by Amy Wall and Regina Wall

The Complete Idiot\'s Guide to Critical Reading I’ve never thought very highly of my critical reading skills. I always suspected there was something in the books I was reading that I just wasn’t getting. Well, according to this book, I’m getting it. I’m just getting it so subtly, that I don’t realize it.

I was reading this book with all the authors’ suggestions on how to get the most out of your reading, and I was thinking, “Well that’s obvious!” “Well, duh!” So I’ve decided my problem is not that I don’t get what’s going on, I just don’t ask myself the questions. I get it, and go on.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to pat myself on the back, though. I got the sense that this book was written for adults who want to go to college, but have been out of high school for a long time. If that’s you, this book might help.

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee

The Yellow-Lighted BookshopThis book was a fast, fun read. It is a collection of essays about the author’s life in the bookstore. Apparently, he is in a bookstore 2-3 times a week. Wow. I would be totally broke if I went to the bookstore 3 times a week.

The parts where he gave a history of the book and the bookstore were a little dry. The parts where he discussed working in various bookstores and which bookstores are his favorites were the best.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

The Uncommon Reader: A Novella I read about this in Bookmarks magazine and thought it would be fun. I borrowed it from the library, and read it in a day. It was really cute.

The Queen of England finds a bookmobile outside her kitchen door. To be polite, she borrows a book. Then she borrows another one. Then her interest in books blossoms and she gets a bit obsessed with reading, much to the chagrin of her “people”.

It was a fun story and I was thoroughly surprised by the ending.

In case you were curious

I did complete my New Years’ Readolution from last year. I had resolved to re-read one book a month. Here they are in no particular order:

Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion – Jane Austen
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde
Literacy and Longing in L.A. – Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack
Nerd Girl Rocks Paradise City – Anne Thomas Soffee
The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield
Jane and the Unpleasantness and Scargrave Manor – Stephanie Barron
How to Read and Why – Harold Bloom

No resolutions this year. I’m taking a resolution break.

Reading with Oprah by Kathleen Rooney

Reading With Oprah: The Book Club That Changed America I don’t know why I was interested in this book. I get the emails from the Oprah book club, but I haven’t read a book with Oprah ever that I can recall. I just like to keep track of what she’s up to.

So this book seemed to start out like the author was out to get Oprah and denigrate the club. As it turns out, she ended up liking the club. And even becoming a member of the new incarnation of the club.

The first time the OBC was around, the books tended to be about adversity and struggle, etc. Now, Oprah is leaning toward “Great Books” and is analyzing them with a more scholarly attitude.

Here’s the thing, though. For all those complaints against the first incarnation of the OBC, I don’t think the new one could exist without the first one. I may be underestimating Oprah’s power, but I don’t think even she could convince people to pick up Anna Karenina if they hadn’t read a book in 20 years. And many of the readers in the first club said exactly that. They hadn’t read a book since high school.

Anyway, it was an interesting look at the history of the club.

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani

The Blood of Flowers: A Novel Debbie passed me this book because she liked it. I liked it too. My only complaint was that I couldn’t decide what time it was set in. The author’s note at the end said it was somewhere around the 1500s, but the culture has changed so little since then that I couldn’t really tell. No big deal though.

The unnamed narrator is the daughter of a rug maker in a small town in Iran. When her father dies, she and her mother have to move to the capital city of Isfahan to stay with her father’s half brother who is also a rug maker. He recognizes a special ability in her and teaches her some of his master rug making techniques. His wife, however, is a money-grubbing harpy who uses the poor relatives as slave labor. She begrudges them every morsel of food they eat. Eventually, she is married off (for 3 months) to a wealthy horse breeder. She learns how to please him and gets her contract renewed. Then, her best friend marries the guy for life. Now she has to decide whether to keep seeing her friend’s husband (and her own) or refuse the next contract and alienate her family.

It was beautifully written and easy to plow through in a couple of days.

Year in review.

As I do every year, I’ve done my year-end review of what I read. The three of you who still read this blog are the lucky recipients of my results.

I read a total of 120 books this year. A personal best.

48 of those were fiction or literary fiction. This includes chick lit.
11 of them were classics.
8 were mysteries.
1 sci-fi
1 romance

I read 36 non-fiction books.
8 were about books and reading.
8 were about Jane Austen.
5 were biographies (other than Jane Austen).

I read 5 YA books.
4 books of short stories.
1 book of poetry and
1 Juvenile fiction book.

66 of the books I read were by women.
50 were by men.
And 4 by various authors of both genders.

I don’t know what all this means, but I like working out all the stats every year. If anyone wants to take a crack at analyzing them, feel free. Just don’t tell me if it turns out I’m a psychopath.