Showing posts with label donna tartt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label donna tartt. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2014!

The time has come!  Favorites must be declared!

Today, Month of Favorites participants are jumping in with the Top Ten Tuesday topic over at Broke and the Bookish: Top 10 Favorite Books of the Year.  In keeping with that, I figured there was no better day for me to announce...

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2014!

If you are a careful reader of my blog (and who isn't, RIGHT?), you may be surprised by some of my choices...and some of my non-choices.  There are books on here that, in my initial review, I enjoyed but maybe wasn't completely gushing over.  And there are books not on the list that I mentioned as potential favorites when I wrote my reviews.  But at the end of the year, when I make this list, I go by what's really stuck with me--after months have passed, what are the books that are still leaving an impression?  Still giving me something to think about?

As in past years, this list is in no particular order, and with links to my original reviews:

1. The Three by Sarah Lotz
I know I said this list is in no particular order, but there might be a reason why this was the first one I threw on here.  I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK.

2. Man V. Nature by Diane Cook
I haven't read a collection of short stories this good in a very, very long time.  I find myself thinking about them a LOT.

3. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Is anyone surprised by me putting a Jodi Picoult novel on this list?  Noooooooooooope.

4. What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell
An intricately-woven family drama that explores the many complicated facets of relationships.  Cornwell's ability to smoothly blend several different story angles together still impresses me.

5. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
If there was ever a bitch that got shit done without caring what anyone else thought, it was Scarlett O'Hara.

6. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I know, jump on the bandwagon about a year late, right?  But it's just so, so good.  A major time commitment, but an epic in every sense of the word.

7. Above by Isla Morley
This book is excellent, but it earned a special bump onto this list because it has the distinction of being the book that I have successfully recommended to the most people after reading it.  "Successfully" meaning they raved about it afterwards, too.

8. The One & Only by Emily Giffin
Emily Giffin is pretty much always a winner for me.  I adore her ability to make readers sympathetic to what would normally be the undesirable side of a situation.  Such is the case with The One & Only.

9. The Memory of Love by Linda Olsson
To quote my own review: "complex characters, surprising twists, and intriguing relationships."  Plus beautiful writing to top it all off.

10. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
I read several good YA fiction novels this year, but Wintergirls has the distinction of being the best.  Anderson's writing is beautiful and poignant, and her handling of the topic of eating disorders is equal parts careful and impactful.

That does it for 2014!  In going over everything I read this year, I realized how many excellent books I enjoyed in the last 12 months.  A truly fantastic year for reading!

What made YOUR best-read list for 2014?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Six Degrees of Separation: The Goldfinch

Hello lovelies!  Got something a little different for you today.

The positively fabulous Katie from Words for Worms recently alerted me to the new-ish 6 Degrees of Separation meme, started by Emma Chapman and Annabel Smith.  Basically, they pick a new book each month, and you start with your thoughts on that book...then, through free association, you link it to 6 other books.  Yup, totally one of those awesome meme ideas that makes you think, "WHY didn't I get that superb idea first??"

This month's book is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  AND GO!

You may remember that I read this one pretty recently, and loved it (review here).  I read very few chunksters last year (The Goldfinch is hella long), and this book reminded me why it's nice to slow down and do a longer read sometimes.  Which brings to mind my current chunky read...

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

I am about 60% done with this book, and positively adoring it.  It's pretty much the definition of an "epic novel".  Based on the cover and tidbits I've heard about the book/movie in the past, I assumed this was going to be one long romance about Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler.  But it is way, WAY more than that. Scarlett is one of the most fabulous characters I've encountered in quite some time, and I'm learning way more about the Civil War than I ever did in history class (sorry, high school history teachers).

Hmm, when was the last time I even read anything concerning the Civil War?  I guess that would be...

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

(This counts as a Civil War book, yes?)  I went through my Goodreads list, and this is the closest I've gotten to anything Yankees v. Confederates since 2010.  Even though this book is totally NOT historically accurate, it IS hilarious and basically blames vampires for starting the Civil War.  Just don't bother seeing the movie version, which totally sucked in comparison.

You know what other book was completely butchered on the big screen?

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Just UGH.  How can you take a stellar book that is practically DEFINED by its ending, make a movie about it...and CHANGE THE ENDING??  I saw this movie several years ago, and it still makes me mad to think about it.  Humph.

I love it when a book has such a shocking, rock-solid ending.  One of my favorite twist-ending novels is definitely...

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

If you've read it, you know what I'm talking about.  The conclusion is unexpected, but in such a subtle way, it will leave you thinking about it for weeks.  (And thankfully, Scorcese got it all right on screen.)

The cover for this book (pictured above) is awesomely creepy, much like the story itself.  But of course, when the movie came out, they started releasing the book with a movie-version cover.  I HATE it when that happens, and I will always buy the pre-movie book cover when I have the chance.  Honestly, I think the only book I own that has a movie-version cover is...

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

And that's because it was a cheap buy in the airport on my way to a conference in Dallas back in 2008.  Luckily I like Natalie Portman, or I might find it unbearable.

This book is likely responsible for starting my interest in historical fiction...I hadn't read much in that genre beforehand.  However, one of my all-time favorite historical fiction novels is actually one that I read for a class in high school, and that would be

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

I am totally due for a re-read of it.

So there's my 6 degrees!  Hope you enjoyed following my train of thought on this one!  Any other participants out there for this month?  I've read a few good ones already, especially at The Steadfast Reader and GirlXOXO.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Sunday Post #2: February in Review

The Sunday Post is a meme hosted by Kimba @ The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  It's a chance for book bloggers to share what's going on with them this week, any new book-related news, etc.  This week, I'm combining this with my monthly wrap-up for February.

Guys, GUESS WHAT I AM DOING RIGHT NOW.

That's right.  I'm in a Starbucks, drinking coffee, reading my Kindle, and blogging.  ALL BY MYSELF.  (I mean, mostly by myself.  There's a real pompous windbag here (you can see his jeans over the corner of my laptop, hi annoying dude!) who's been going off about Obama and socialism for the last 45 minutes, but whatever, you know what I mean.  ALL BY MYSELF!  And I'm going to the mall after this!  ALL BY MYSELF!!  My awesome husband kicked me out this morning and offered to have a "boys day" with Small Fry and Tater Tot so that I could have some much-needed alone time, and my God, IT IS GLORIOUS.

(As I'm typing this, Pompous Windbag just left, so the day is getting EVEN BETTER.  I WILL ILLUSTRATE THIS BY USING MORE CAPS LOCK.)

Well, as you can see, I don't get out much these days.  :)  But life is good here in Well-Read Redhead land.  We had a bit of a hiccup early in February, when Tater Tot got a cold and then suddenly ran a huge fever and was rewarded with 48 hours in the hospital (ugh), but otherwise, I feel like I'm getting the hang of this whole mother-of-two thing.  I also started running again, which has been great (ALMOST fitting into my pre-pregnancy jeans) and I'm really looking forward to the weather breaking so that I can ditch the treadmill and enjoy the great outdoors.  Bring on SPRING!

In book-related stuff: I read/reviewed 4 books:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Queen of the Night by J.A. Jance
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
Blaze by Richard Bachman

I also did a Small-Fry Saturday with Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, participated in the Literary Blog Hop, and talked about my love for short-and-sweet novels.

Coming up in March...I only have 1 book tour scheduled.  Otherwise, I have a couple ARCs that I can't wait to get to (seriously, didn't I say I was going to read fewer of them this year?  I have a problem), and I'm planning to start Gone With The Wind as my next TBR Book Baggie pick.  I'm also trying to make my way through some of the books I bought for the Rochester Teen Book Festival, coming up soon in May!  I am taking a long (LONG) road trip for my friend Liz's bridal shower next weekend, so I'm looking forward to getting lots of audiobook reading done then as well.

How was your February, reader friends?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Book Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt


Title: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

A young boy in New York City, Theo Decker, miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and determined to avoid being taken in by the city as an orphan, Theo scrambles between nights in friends’ apartments and on the city streets. He becomes entranced by the one thing that reminds him of his mother, a small, mysteriously captivating painting that soon draws Theo into the art underworld. 


My Review:

Okay, wow Goodreads, way to provide the most underwhelming summary EVER of this nearly-800-page novel-monster.  Kinda hoping my review can do it justice a bit more than that.

Where to begin with The Goldfinch?  So much hype has been generated already, my piddly little review matters very little in the grand scheme of things.  But I will generously provide my two cents anyway!  Let me summarize this way: I often have a tough time with really (REALLY) long novels, and movies too.  My husband and I recently went to see The Wolf of Wall Street, which in typical Scorsese form, is 3 hours long.  At the end, I turned to him and said, "I know that was a good long movie, because I didn't start checking my watch after the first 2 hours went by."  That's how I feel about long novels too.  If I get about 2/3 of the way through, and start obsessively watching the percentage counter on my Kindle, praying and hoping that it will move JUST A LITTLE FASTER, I know me and that book are probably not going to be friends for life.  (Here's looking at you, 1Q84.)

Did The Goldfinch take a long time to read?  Yes.  But was it an enjoyable long time?  YES.  By the end, I was amazed at the amount of ground that Tartt had covered in 800 pages.  The main character (Theo) experiences the devastating loss of his mother at the very beginning of the novel, and during that incident, comes into possession of a painting of said goldfinch.  And pretty much every other major thing that happens to Theo for the next 700 pages, good and bad, happens because of this painting...sometimes in very odd and unexpected ways.

Major kudos to Tartt for the crazy chain of events that she manages to create.  It's funny...I'm currently reading a novel that is about 1/3 the size of The Goldfinch, but the author has managed to make the plot too complex and character-heavy (in terms of number of characters), to the point where it's just hard to follow.  But Tartt has created a novel that is epic in scope, without being overwhelming in plot detail or character complexity.  Plus, Theo is one of the most convincingly depressing characters I've ever encountered.  This guy can wax poetic on the pointlessness of life like no other...it's really rather impressive.  Some of the best passages, in my opinion, came from the times he pondered whether his life was worth living.  Which probably says nothing good about me, but I stand by my claim.

The only potentially weak point for me was the ending.  If you've ever read War and Peace, you know that after the "action" of the plot ends, Tolstoy tacked on 2 epilogues that were all philosophical and whatnot.  (Wow, best review of War and Peace ever, award goes to me.)  They were disappointing for me, mostly because I thought the ACTUAL ending itself was pretty good, and I could have thought about the philosophical stuff on my own if I wanted to.  Didn't need to read a long-arse epilogue to get to the crux of it.  I felt the same way about this book.  The plot action ends (and that ending is really, really good), but then there's all this deep, insightful brouhaha after that that I didn't love.  Some of it was great, don't get me wrong, but a lot of it just felt like "blah blah blah" to me, full of deep thoughts that I would have rather discovered on my own in a book club discussion or some such.

That is probably just me though, given the fact that this book is like, critically-acclaimed and stuff.  (Not to mention...War and Peace...yeah, my esteemed literary opinion probably doesn't change the general consensus on that one either.)

Bottom line: this book is worth the hype, and I promise the journey is worth every single one of its many pages.

What was your last good chunkster, friends?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: The Goldfinch

I figure I've mentioned that I'm reading this book about 1,984 times, so I better give you a teaser as well.  I promise I'm about 72% done with it now so I might actually finish it sometime before my kids go to college.

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.  Here's the rules:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
My Teasers:
“Putting your time in at the office; dutifully spawning your two point five; smiling politely at your retirement party; then chewing on your bedsheet and choking on your canned peaches at the nursing home.  It was better never to have been born--never to have wanted anything, never to have hoped for anything.”

This is part of a passage that I think is one of the most strikingly well-written of the entire novel.  I wish I could post the entire scene for you...BUT I GUESS YOU'LL JUST HAVE TO READ IT YOURSELF.

(Teaser Tuesday...you're doing it right.)
 
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