Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Sunday Salon: February in Review

Books Read in February

(click for review)
Bloodroot by Amy Greene
Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
On Agate Hill by Lee Smith
New Stories from the South 2010

Favorite Book of the Month
Bloodroot. I just loved it.

Books Read to the Kids
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

Movies from Books Watched
The Silver Chair

Up Next
Born Under a Lucky Moon by Dana Precious
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Pride and Prejudice (re-read)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (re-read)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Review: Bloodroot

I've been reluctant to write this book review, because writing a review forces me to face that I really am finished with this first novel by Amy Greene.

I didn't want Bloodroot to end. I miss it.

Bloodroot is a story of four generations of the Lambs, an Appalachain mountain family both blessed and cursed—literally. They are people who are part of the mountain and yet can't resist, in the later generations, the draw of what's below. The sections are narrated by different pairs of characters in different time periods. This particular layout has a tendency to confuse me in novels, but in this case, Greene does a great job of labeling the chapters and voices.

Greene is a wonderful storyteller, and she obviously has a deep love for and understanding of the mountains and Appalachia. She doesn't paint a picture of happy mountain folk out gathering ginseng. Instead, we see the poverty on the mountain woven in with the love of the mountains, and we see the truth of foster care, alcoholism, abuse, ignorance, and a yearning for something more. She manages to tell satisfying stories about a whole cast of characters, although I would love to read a novel about each individually.

Greene is a lyrical writer who weaves just the right amount of mountain magic into her words. I highly recommend her first novel and look forward to many more.

Other Reviews of Bloodroot
Fiction Addict
This Is This
Life Is Short. Read Fast.
Mostly Fiction
New Dork Review

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book Review: Frankenstein

It's probably been over 20 years since the last time I read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I have to say that I am more astonished now than I was in my 20s that Shelley was just a teenager when she wrote this. A teenager!

I can't imagine anyone doesn't know the plot of Frankenstein, although usually people refer to the monster itself as Frankenstein. While a university student, Victor Frankenstein discovers how to make life by raiding the graveyard and making a man out of corpses. He is horrified by the creature he has built and abandons him. The creature, who starts as a dumb animal, manages to educate himself by spying on a family, and eventually he seeks revenge on Frankenstein.

This novel takes me back to my days as an English major in college, reading sweeping tales with poetic and often challenging language. Makes me ponder why I surrender so easily and regularly to today's novels, with predominately limited vocabulary. Are we that dumbed down?

I am going to be teaching Frankenstein for a British Lit class next year, so I'll be previewing movie versions too. I was disappointed to see that 1994 version is rated "R," as that one sounds like the most accurate rendering.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Review: On Agate Hill

It's been years and years since I last read a book by Lee Smith. I think I read through everything she wrote about a decade ago and never got back to reading her new stuff. I loved On Agate Hill. I was actually interrupted mid-book because I needed to read a different book for book club, but I found that I could easily get back into the story even after 3 weeks away.

Smith is a wonderful storyteller, weaving the poverty of Appalachia in with the lost splendor of the pre-Civil War South. In this novel, the story of Molly Petree, a war orphan, is told through her journals and letters. Molly is a wonderful, memorable character. She loves deeply and searches for family wherever she can, from Agate Hill to boarding school to the hills of Appalachia, trying to replace the ghosts from her life. I especially loved the last section, when Molly is an old woman. It's all beautifully told.

On a side note, I liked the journals and letters, but there was a weird outside story that didn't work for me. The box of writing was found by a graduate student, who plans to use it for her dissertation. I understand that the graduate student was supposed to symbolize today's southern woman, but I found it to be an annoying distraction. I didn't want Tuscany-the-graduate-student from today's dysfunctional family mingling with Molly Petree's life.

Still, the book is fantastic. I could easily brush aside the occasional interruptions of the graduate student's voice because it is just a tiny part of the novel. I think Lee Smith is one of the South's best voices.

Other Reviews of On Agate Hill
This Little Book Blog
Blogging for a Good Book

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Ever-Growing TBR List (2011 Update)

In 2010, I added 42 books to my TBR list and marked off 24. That means that over half of the books I read in 2010 did not come from my TBR list, so it continues to grow faster than I can conquer it. Below is the list for cleaned-up for 2011.

If you've reviewed any of these books on your blog, feel free to post a comment with the link and I'll add it to my list.
*Indicates books added in 2011

A Country Doctor’s Casebook
by R. MacDonald
Amy and Isabelle
by Elizabeth Strout (Read and Reviewed 1/11)
Annie's Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg.
Aprons on a Clothesline by T. DePree
Arctic Dreams
by Barry Lopez
*An Atlas of Impossible Longing by
Anuradha Roy (Reviewed by S. Krishna)
Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead: The Frank Meeink Story as Told by Jody M. Roy, Ph.D. (reviewed at Musings of a Bookish Kitty)
Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson (read and reviewed 12/11)
Barefoot in Baghdad by Manal M. Omar (reviewed at Bookworm's Dinner)
*Before the Storm by Diane Chamberlain
Behind the Burqa by Sulima and Hala (reviewed by Semicolon)
Black, White and Red trilogy
by Ted Dekker
Bless Your Heart, Tramp
by Celia Rivenbark
Blood Hollow
by W. Krueger
Blood of Flowers
by A. Amirrezvani
by Amy Greene (Read and reviewed 2/11)
Blood Work
by M Connelly
Book of a Thousand Days by S. Hale (reviewed on Semicolon and Maw Books)
Book of Lost Things by J. Connelly
Bootletter’s Daughter by M. Maron
Born on a Blue Day by D. Tammet (reviewed on Sam’s Book Blog)
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Capote
*The Bride's House by Sandra Dallas (read and reviewed 12/11)
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
*Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (Reviewed at Bookworm's Dinner)
*Carved in Bone by Jefferson Bass
Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman (Read and Reviewed 7/11)
*Close Your Eyes by Amanda Eye Ward
*Coming Up for Air by Patti Callahan Henry
Commoner by J.B. Schwarz
Confederates in the Attic (reviewed by Semicolon)
Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
The Dawning of the Day: A Jerusalem Tale by Haim Sabato
Dear Enemy by Jack Cavanagh
Death’s Acre by William M. Bass
Departed, The by K. Mackel
Diary, The by Eileen Goudge (Read and reviewed 3/11)
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Digging to America by Anne Tyler
Dinner with a Perfect Stranger by D. Gregory
Dough: A Memoir by Mort Zachter (reviewed by Lisa at 5 Minutes for Books)
*Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
*Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (Reviewed at S. Krishna's Books)
Executioner's Song by Mailer
Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad by Waris Darie (reviewed at Maw Books)
Far to Go by Alison Pick (Reviewed by Kristina at The Book Keeper)
Family Nobody Wanted by Doss
Fatal Vision by J. McGinnis
*Father, Mother, God: My Journey Out of Christian Science by Lucia Greenhouse
First Wife by Emily Barr (recommended by Fleur Fisher)
Flowers by D. Gilb
*Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (reviewed at Redlady's Reading Room)
Fortune Cookie Chronicles by J. Lee
Franklin and Lucy by Joseph Persico
Gentle Rain by Deborah Smith (reviewed by Leah at Good Reads)
The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner (Read and Reviewed 1/11)
German Woman, The by Paul Griner (reviewed at Bookworm's Diner) (read and reviewed 9/11)
Ghost Map
by S. Jackson
Ghost Writer, The by J. Harwood
The Girls by Lori Lansens
Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel
Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton
God Is the Gospel by J. Piper
Gods and Kings series
by Lynn Austin
Hava: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee (added 1/09; reviewed by My Friend Amy)
by R. Alcorn
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent (reviewed by Gautami at Reading Room)
High House, The
by James Stoddard
by John Hershey
Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow by Susan C. Bartoletti (reviewed by Natasha at Maw Books)
Hot Zone by R. Preston (reviewed by Semicolon)
How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen (mentioned by The Magic Lasso)
Human Cargo by C. Moorehead
Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan (reviewed at These Words)
I Am Scout by Charles J. Shields (reviewed by Becky)
In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason
Iris and Ruby by Rosie Thomas
by E. Southwark
*Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me
by Ian Morgan Cron (reviewed at Rachel Held Evans)
*Judas Field: A Novel of the Civil War
by Howard Bahr (read and reviewed 8/11)
Keeping the House
by E. Baker
Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (read and reviewed here 10/11)
Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones (reviewed by Bookeywookey)
Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger (reviewed at Thoughts of Joy)
Last Storyteller by D. Noble
Leave it to Claire
by T. Bateman
Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading by Maureen Corrigan (reviewed by Literary Feline)
Left Neglected by Lisa Genova (reviewed at Lesa's Book Critiques)
Left To Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza (reviewed at Maw Books and Just a Reading Fool)
Liar’s Diary by P. Francis (reviewed by Semicolon)
Life Among Savages
by Shirley Jackson (reviewed at Dwell in Possibility)
Life Is So Good
by R. Glaubman
Little Altars Everywhere
by R. Wells
Little Giant of Aberdeen County
by Tiffany Baker (my 2011 review here)
Living End
by L. Samson
*Look Me in the Eye
by John Elder Robison
A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka (reviewed at The Lost Entwife)
Lost Children of Wilder by N. Bernstein
Loving Frank by N. Horan
Mad Girls in Love by M. West
* Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Man without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut
Many Sleepless Nights
by Lee Gutkind
Mariner's Compass
by E. Fowler
Marley and Me
by J. Grogan
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
by Rhoda Janzen (Read and reviewed 3/11)
Mercy Falls
by WK Krueger
*The Midwife's Confession
by Diane Chamberlain (read and reviewed 12/11)
Minding the South
by J. Reed
by A. Brennert
Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway (Reviewed at The Bluestocking Society)
Murder in the Name of Honor by Rana Husseini (Reviewed at Reading Through Life)
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier (Reviewed by Reading to Know)
My Name Is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira (Read and reviewed 7/11)
*Nickel and Dimed
by Barbara Ehrenreich (Read and reviewed 9/11)
Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian
*The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls
Noah's Compass
by Anne Tyler
Not without My Daughter
by B. Mahmoody
Notes from a Small Island
by Bill Bryson
Omnivore’s Daughter
by M Pollan
On Agate Hill by Lee Smith (Reviewed 2/11)
Only True Genius in the Family by Jennie Nash (reviewed by Natasha at Maw Books)
Other Boleyn Girl, The by P Gregory
Other Voices, Other Rooms
by Truman Capote
Papua New Guinea: Notes from a Spinning Planet
by M. Carlson (reviewed by Clean Reads)
Perfect Example by John Porcellino (reviewed at The Hidden Side of the Leaf)
*Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin (reviewed at Reader Buzz)
*The Postmistress by Sarah Blake (read and reviewed 6/11)
Promise Not To Tell by Jennifer McMahon (reviewed at Missy's Book Nook)
*Proof of Heaven by Mary Curran Hackett
Property by Valerie Martin (reviewed by The Magic Lasso)
Purple Hibiscus by C. Ngozi Adichie (read and reviewed 12/11)
Quaker Summer
by Lisa Samson
Quilter’s Apprentice
by J. Chiaverini
Raising Demons
by Shirley Jackson
*Reading Lolita in Tehran by
Azar Nafisi
Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson (Reviewed at Reading to Know)
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (Read and reviewed 5/11)
Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
Rises the Night
by C. Gleason
River Wife, The by James Agee
Room by Emma Donoghue
Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books by Lynne Schwartz (reviewed on Shelf Life)
by Shactman
Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall
Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins (reviewed by Just a Reading Fool)
Same Kind of Different As Me
by Ron Hall and Denver Moore (recommended by a friend while waiting in a funeral line and by Stray Thoughts)
*Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
by Beth Hoffman (read and reviewed Nov. 2011)
Saving Levi Left to Die
by Lisa Bently
*Secret Daughter by
Shilpi Somaya-Gowda (read and reviewed July 2011)
Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins (Reviewed by Word Lily)
A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay
The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain (Read and reviewed 8/11)
Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjalian (Reviewed at In the Pages)
Sentimental, Heartbroken Rednecks by Greg Bottoms (Reviewed by Sage)
Seven Loves by Trueblood
She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel
*The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy (reviewed at Polishing Mud Balls)
*Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill
Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf (reviewed at Maw Books)
Some Girls by Jillian Lauren (reviewed by Book Club Classics)
Song of the Cuckoo Bird by Amulya Malladi
Song Yet Sung
by James McBride
Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan
Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture by Donna Partow
*State of Wonder
by Ann Patchett
by William Weld
by John Williams (suggested by JoAnn at Every Day Matters)
*The Story of a Beautiful Girl
by Rachel Simon
The Strange Case of the Broad Street Pump by Sandra Hempel
Summer Crossing by Truman Capote (reviewed by CaribousMom)
by M. Cabon
Sweet Potato Queen
by J. Browne
Teahouse Fire, The
by Ellis Avery
Stones Cry Out
by M Szymusiak
Testament of Youth
by Vera Brittain (recommended at Musings)
There Are No Children Here
by A. Kotlowitz
Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
by Alan Alda
Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher (reviewed at Gautami's Reading Room)
This Boy's Life
by Tobias Wolff
Thousand Years of Good Prayers
by Yiyun Li
The Threadbare Heart
by Jenny Nash (reviewed at Maw Books)
Three Cups of Tea
by G. Mortenson
* The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
*Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
*Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres
*Time Between by Mary Duenas
To My Senses by A. Weis (reviewed by J. Kaye)
Tomorrow, the River by D. Gray
Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur
by D. Hari (reviewed by CaribousMom and Maw Books)
Trauma and Ghost Town by P. McGrath
Unbearable Lightness of Being by Kundera
by Margaret Haddix (reviewed by Semicolon)
Undress me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman (reviewed by Book Zombie)
Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
*The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton (read and reviewed 7/11)
Well and the Mine, The by Gin Phillips (reviewed by Semicolon)
* Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
What I Though I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen
What Is What by D. Eggers (reviewed at Maw Books)
*What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage
What Peace There May Be by Susanna Brarlow
What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn (Reviewed at Big A, Little A)
When I Lay My Isaac Down by C. Kent
When We Were Orphans
by Kazuo Ishiguro (read and reviewed 12/11)
*Wherever you Go by Joan Leegant (reviewed by Bibliophiliac)
Whistling in the Dark by L. Kagen
Who Killed My Daughter by Lois Duncan (Reviewed at Nonfiction Lover)
*Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
Winter Seeking by V. Wright
Winter Walk
by L. Cox
Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (recommended at Rebecca Reads)
Women of the Silk by G. Tsuriyama
Year of Living Biblically
by AJ Jacobs (reviewed by Andi Lit)
*You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl by Celia Rivenbark