Book Reviews

Welcome to my Book Review page. A few weeks prior to leaving for Thailand I received a Facebook note asking me how many books I had read off a list of 100 classic must reads. As an English teacher, I was sure I would have read a good number. As I went through each title, I realized that I have read far fewer of these titles than I would like to report!

Because of this, I have set a goal for myself during my service over the next 27 months to read as many of these books as possible. I plan on reading books off this list as well (more modern things) and will provide book reviews of all of them. I may reread ones that I have already completed, or I may decide just to skip them … who knows. Let the page turning begin!

Total: 18

January

♥ ♥ ♥ The Apothecary’s Daughter – Julie Klassen
This book was right down the middle for me. I enjoyed the storyline but I had a difficult time getting into the book. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just not a fan of the time person. It’s one of the same reasons I didn’t enjoy Persuasion. I’m just not a fan. I do enjoy the author’s ability to build characters though. That is one thing that kept me connected to the book all the way through.

Persuasion – Jane Austen
I hated this book. I gave it one start because I don’t believe any book deserves zero stars, but honestly I had a hard time giving it even that. There were a few redeeming parts of the book; some of the characters were interesting and I was able to feel for them, but for the most part I didn’t connect with the book at all. I think I have come to the conclusion that I’m just not a fan of Jane Austen. Too bad there are other books of hers on the list. Oye. Oh, and read the last few sentences of this novel and you’ll understand exactly why I hated the book. After a few hundred pages of romantic agony, Austen ends the book with what sounds like a political speech. It’s terrible.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
I think this was a really good book. The only reason that it didn’t get five hearts from me is because I didn’t really like the ending. I felt as though the ending was a bit if a letdown with the build-up of the rest of the book. One of the things that I liked the most about the book was the take on death, heaven, and religion, without actually getting preachy on the subject. I loved how it was written from the young girl’s point of view and I really felt myself getting pulled into the story on numerous occasions. I really enjoyed it!

February

None 😦

March

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
Another amazing book. I’ve picked some good ones to start out with on this trip! Either that or I just love almost everything I read. Anyway, this book is fantastic. I love how there is a story within a story, jumping between an old man in a nursing home and traveling circus during his youth. The author truly captures the nature of the time period as well as the emotions of the characters. I felt like I was a part of the story. My only disappointment is that Robert Pattinson is starring in the new film version … seriously? I would have preferred a million people over him.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Brother’s Keeper – Glenn Gordon
I’m not just giving this book five hearts because my dad wrote it. I honestly really enjoyed the book. This is the only mystery/crime novel I’ve read since getting to Thailand and it complemented my other reading choices well. He does a great job of weaving the different line together and bringing them all to a head at the end. He keeps the reader guessing all the time. I also loved the hints of Seattle that he pulled in. It made me feel like I was at home!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
I loved how this book was broken down and the different emotional stages the character goes through. The author has a writing style that allows for the readers to put themselves in her shoes. I felt as though I was a part of her life and as though I was going through the same things she was. I think it helped that I read this in Thailand because I believe I’m on my own emotional and mental journey and I found some deep connections with the story.

April

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ The Giver – Lois Lowry
This is one of my favorite books of all time. There isn’t much I can say other than the fact that I think everyone should read this book. I have read this book before but it’s in this category because I decided to read it again while I was here. I am really glad I did because, yet again, I was able to connect to the book in a completely different way because of the life I am living right now. Go read it!

♥ ♥ ♥ Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig
This was an interesting book. I read it because Cory has spoken highly of it but I’m not so sure I really got out of it what was intended. The book is highly philosophical and I think that might just not be my cup of tea. The author has a very straight forward way of presenting his philosophical ideas so it was easy to understand. I guess I just didn’t have the right mindset for reading this book right now. I did enjoy the storyline the author wove in with the philosophical discussion as well. For me this was just middle of the road.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Siddhartha – Hermann Hesse
Fantastic read. This book was on the list of 100 so I knew I would get to it eventually, but I decided to read it sooner rather than later because I’m in Thailand, a Buddhist country, and the book focuses on much of that belief. I loved it. It’s a simple read but the themes and concepts are deep and thought-provoking. Each chapter also focuses on a new character that enters Siddhartha’s life, which I find interesting as well. Through learning about those characters, you continue to learn about the main character as well. I don’t really know what else to say about this one other than the fact that I think it’s a book that everyone should read at some point.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 1984 – George Orwell
The first thing I’m going to say about this book is that I hated the ending. The second thing I’m going to say is that I loved the book because I hated the ending. There are too many books that end with happily ever after and I’m also thrilled to find one that leaves me saying “ugh, how could they do that!?” I was constantly surprised through this novel, which is another thing that makes me like a specific book. I should have read this book a long time ago … I’m glad I finally did. Oh, and the last chapter that describes the language of Newspeak is pretty interesting as well.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War – Max Brooks
I started this book in physical form back in the states and finished it in Kindle form here in Thailand. When I get back to the states I want to read (or listen to it) again in  audio book form. This is a truly incredible book. Some people might be turned away because, yes, it’s about zombies trying to take over the world. However, insert any plague, disease, or other epidemic in place of zombies, and this book could seriously be reality. The author does an amazing job of telling the story of a world terrified by an organism more powerful than man. It’s a through-provoking, engaging, and emotional story. I loved it.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The only reason that I give this book four hearts is because it’s one of those books that I find myself wanting to skip over really long passages. That’s a horrible habit I have. When I read a novel and see a really long paragraph in front of me, I tend to want to skip over the middle and just keep on reading. It doesn’t matter how amazing the book is, I’ll want to skip. This book happens to have tons of really long, long, long paragraphs. Aside from that, this is a crazy good book. The author depicts a character who has committed murder and does a phenomenal job of conveying every emotion of this character – bitterness, sorrow, contempt, anger, hostility, depression, triumph … the whole bit. The emotions of every other character are conveyed in just as much detail and feel just as real. The story is intricate and raw. It’s fantastic.

♥ ♥ ♥ Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Something about this book irked me. It was a decent storyline, but I think having just recently read 1984, I couldn’t quite get into it. I felt like there were many similarities in the book – the mindset and the overall message – but I strongly preferred 1984. I didn’t connect with this book at all though I did believe it was well written. I didn’t dislike it; I just didn’t like it either. Middle of the road I guess.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Phenomenal book. Probably one of my favorites of all time. Like ever. This book leaves me speechless. There isn’t all that much more I can say except go read it.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Zeitoun Dave Eggers
This was a fantastic account of one family’s story during hurricane Katrina. After reading so many history and futuristic books of late, this was a welcomed change of pace. I loved the book, the story, the writing style. What I didn’t like was the political undertones that started seeping in about halfway through the book. Aside from that, it was great – something everyone should read I think. It opened my eyes to a lot of things that happened during Katrina that the general public doesn’t know about.

June

♥ ♥ ♥ A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
I’m not going to lie; I only got halfway through this book. I was reading it on my Kindle, then my Kindle died and I can’t find the cord to recharge it. So, I just put the book aside until I can get my Kindle back up and running. As of now, I only give it three starts because I’m not sad about missing out on the second half of the book. I’m not drawn back to it. It’s a decent storyline, good characters, interesting descriptions, but nothing special for me. I’m hoping I like it a bit better as I work my way through the rest (mainly because it was recommended by someone and I’d love it to live up to expectation) but I’m not holding my breath.

♥ ♥ ♥ The Catcher in the Rye JD Salinger
I was disappointed by this book. I can’t believe I hadn’t read it until now and after all the hype from my fellow teachers over the years, I thought I’d enjoy it. In fact, I hated it. I appreciate the writing style and think the author did an amazing job of depicting a teenager in angst … unfortunately, teen angst isn’t my idea of a good read. Because I’m so fond of different writing styles, I gave this three stars, but without a good style, it would have received a one or a two. Sorry. Not into it.

♥ ♥ ♥ The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen
I’m only halfway through this book right now, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. It’s a slow read; it takes a lot of thought process, but it’s great. The characters are dysfunctional and the way they weave into each others’ lives is very interesting and entertaining. I love them; I hate them; I feel for them. I get angry; I get sad. All in a day’s work for a good book. Looking forward to finishing it.

Quick Note: I took a long break from reading. While I love to read, I hit a big bump in the road and wasn’t really able to pick up a book for some time. I just couldn’t concentrate. So, I went a very long time without actually finishing a book. The following are a list of the books I read between The Corrections and now. I don’t remember what month or what order. I just know I completed them.

♥ ♥ ♥ The Abstinence Teacher – Tom Perrotta
This was a very interesting read for me. At the end of the book I looked back and said “did anything actually happen in that book?” At the same time, I feel as though it was very thought provoking and deeply interesting. It tells a story from two different points of view, two very different perspectives, and I found myself identifying with both of them very strongly, something I didn’t expect since one of the characters was a very devoted Christian who attends a “crazy” church reading to rid the world of all sin (including Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?). Good read.

 

The Rest of the Facebook List:

Read

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Harry Potter – J. K. Rowling
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
♥ ♥ ♥ Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
♥ ♥ ♥ The Pearl ­– John Steinbeck
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Watership Down – Richard Adams
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck.
♥ ♥ ♥ Life of Pi – Yann Martel
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Lord of the Flies – William Golding
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Animal Farm – George Orwell
♥ ♥ ♥ Complete Works of Shakespeare
♥ ♥ ♥ Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
♥ ♥ ♥ Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

Not Read

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
The Bible
Wuthering Heights
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
Bleak House – Charles Dickens
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Emma – Jane Austen
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
The Handmaid’s Tale –Margaret Atwood
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Dune – Frank Herbert
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Dracula – Bram Stoker
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
Ulysses – James Joyce
The Inferno – Dante
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
Germinal – Emile Zola
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Possession – AS Byatt
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- all of them
The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

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8 responses

13 01 2011
Susan Powell Miller

ambitious project for your ‘spare’ time!!! but worthwhile goal.

14 01 2011
Dennis Williams, Jr.

This is an awesome goal! I have a similar goal, just take yours (100) and divide it by 5. Remember to eat everything AND get the recipes of the good stuff!

7 02 2011
Meg

#6 is a must! Your “Who Knows” comment about religion is reason enough to read it. Maybe it’ll help you. In times of touble or loneliness, it offers words of encouragement, and assures you that you are loved beyond comprehension.

19 04 2011
Lisa German

Hi Kylene,

Do you like histoical mystery books? If so, I just finished two wonderful books by Kate Morton. The Forgotten Garden and The house of Riverton. Very good reading. They are not murder suspense mystery’s. Anyway, I like them very much and think you might also.

Enjoying your blogs very much. I feel like I’m there with you.

You are always in my prayers.

Love,
Lisa

21 04 2011
kylenemichele

Hi Lisa!

Thanks for the comment. I read anything and everything and definitely will have to look for those books. They’ll add a little variety to my list. Thanks for reading my blog. I hope to have another entry up soon! It’s good to know people are keeping up with it! I miss you guys and plan on sending you an email soon with some more detailed updates. Tell the family I say hi!

Kylene

28 04 2011
Stefanie

BTW.. I’m totally stealing this heart rating idea.. awesome.

3 05 2011
Lisa German

Kylene,

I love this! I love to read. Although I sure didn’t when I was a youngster. I feel like after reading remarks and your list I have my own personal librarian. I must try to read some these books. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your must read books. I have so many books in boxes, just waiting for more of this house to be done, so the shelves can be put up and my books can come out. I miss them all very much. I don’t even know what I have anymore. Thanks again for sharing.

Love you,
Lisa

12 05 2011
Jeff Jackson

Since you liked The Kite Runner, I’d strongly recommend A Thousand Splendid Suns by the same author. I enjoyed it more than Kite Runner.

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