The Sunday Salon - November recap

The Sunday
Since it's the end of the month and I have no creative juices to do anything different this morning, here's a recap of my November reading. I'm just three books away from my 100 book goal for 2008! So I may come close to 110, given that I have a lot of reading time in December.

Here's my reading list for November, in the order read:

  • Peony in Love by Lisa See: this was a big disappointment after Snowflower and the Secret Fan. This book didn't resemble that good writing in the least. I struggled to finish and probably wouldn't have if it wasn't a book group read. I found it tedious, repetitive and, while I do love magical realism, this just wasn't done very well. I'll give it 2.5 stars because the history of the Chinese traditions interesting (though not presented well).
  • Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson: a great read. I was expecting a mystery since I thought that's what Atkinson wrote primarily. But, though this book had some intrigue and a bit of mystery that wasn't too hard to figure out early on, it was an engaging read, a coming of age story of young Ruby in England. The opening paragraph had me hooked:
    I exist! I am conceived to the chimes of midnight on the clock on the mantelpiece in the room across the hall. The clock once belonged to my great-grandmother (a woman called Alice) and its tired chime counts me into the world. I'm begun on the first stroke and finished on the last when my father rolls off my mother and is plunged into a dreamless sleep, thanks to the five pints of John Smith's Best Bitter he has drunk in the Punch Bowl with his friends, Walter and Bernard Belling. At the moment at which I moved from nothingness into being my mother was pretending to be asleep - as she often does at such moments. My father, however, is made of stern stuff and he didn't let that put him off.

  • Mosquito by Roma Tearne. A lovely book. Star crossed love amidst the devastating civil war in Sri Lanka. Beautifully written, heartwrenching.

  • Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice. I don't recall where I first heard of this book, somewhere in the book blogosphere I suppose. It's a sweet story, set in Australia, of a young girl whose two invisible friends, Pobby and Dingan, go missing in an opal mine. Told from her brother's point of view. The whole town gets involved in the search.
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. YA fantasy that was enjoyable but felt like a Harry Potter knockoff - young boy is orphaned when his parents are killed by evil being who wants to kill young boy who develops special powers... I was also disappointed by the illustrations in this US edition. I've seen illustrations from the British edition, different artist (at left), which is what first attracted me to this book. This is my first Gaiman read.Fun read, nice change of pace for me. Recommend for HP lovers.

  • Disgrace by JM Coetzee. South African novel. I've heard wonderful things about Coetzee and look forward to reading more of his work. I was a little concerned early on that it would be another white middle aged male obsession with sex, but it was much more than that (unlike The English Major).

  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan. A graphic novel that is all graphics, no text. I wrote about this remarkable book in last week's Sunday Salon. Highly recommend. I'm looking forward to exploring more of his work in December.
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Excellent book, along the lines of Remains of the Day. Full of philosophical wonderings and tested cultural norms. Excellent translation (from French); highly recommended.

  • Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan. I'm not sure why I liked this book so much - maybe its simplicity speaks to me. It's a character driven novella about the final lunch and dinner shifts at a failing Red Lobster restaurant. The story centers around Manny, a Puerto Rican-American who manages the restaurant. He is capable and has a very strong work ethic; he feels responsible for his employees. Nothing very dramatic happens, but it's an engaging read nonetheless. If nothing else, this book will give you a deeper respect for restaurant workers.
I hope all you holiday travelers arrive home safely today. We're staying an extra day at my sister's and taking the train home tomorrow, so hopefully we'll avoid the crush. And now I have to finally admit it is the holiday season. I get pulled into it kicking and screaming some years, especially when they start the holiday music in the stores the day after Hallowe'en. I love the winter holidays, but I do not love them lasting three months. I'd rather hibernate in the dark with some good books and a good cuddle!
Interested in joining the Sunday Salon? Visit Deb's page all about it.



Wendy said...

happy Sunday, Terri! I felt the same way about Peony - it in no way came close to Sunflower! I am very much looking forward to reading both Mosquito AND Last Night at the Lobster :)

Amanda said...

so close so close so close! 100 is such a big goal! You're an inspiration. :)

debnance said...

I've had Behind the Scenes in my TBR for years. I must read this one in 2009.

I ordered Elegance of the Hedgehog yesterday. See why I never get around to my TBR?

joshua henkin said...

Terri--Joshua Henkin here, author of MATRIMONY, a 2007 NYT Notable Book trying to get in touch with you. Would love to send you a review copy of MATRIMONY and see, too, if you might be interested in doing a giveaway. You can reach me at jhenkin [at] SLC [dot] edu.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your retirement. Imagine being retired in the City of the City of Books!

I can't wait to read the new Atkinson - thanks for the review!

Dani in NC said...

I had visions of Harry Potter when I read The Graveyard Book, but not in a bad way. It fed that part of me that likes stories with magic and sacrifice for a common good. It didn't occur to me until halfway through the book, though.

BooksPlease said...

I'm a bit down in the number of books I've read this year and can't see thatI'll get to 100 - never mind it's the reading that counts not the total.

A friend has lent me "Disgrace" and was a bit unsure whether to read it. My friend recommended it and you have reinforced that, so I will read it.

beastmomma said...

Congratulations on getting so close to your goal. That is fantastic!