Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Allie Iris' 2011: A Year of Reading in Review

Editor's Note: Welcome Allie Iris (formally known as "Pumy's Mommy") to Yinzer Bookclub. She is frequently mentioned but has yet to make an appearance...until now. Allie Iris loves cats, books, Pittsburgh and hockey so she should fit in just fine. Those are our four requirements for membership in SL-YBC; literacy is totally optional as you may have already noticed.



Pumy's Mommy 2011: A Year of Reading in Review

2011 brought with it many new adventures, including our lame book club convincing Elle Ewok and Beezuskiddo to join in the fun.  However, the year also brought with it more than one trip to Buckheads (don’t judge me) and multiple trials.  As a result, my reading went straight to hell.  Despite all that, I was able to get through many good (and many not so good) books this year.  I’ve wanted to write a piece for this blog for some time now, and I thought this would be a good way to ease my way into it.  After all, my cat has already made an appearance… I think it’s time for my brilliance.  Or nonsense.  Whatevs.

Despite my absolute love for books, I couldn’t pick a good book for book club to save my life this year.  I’m shocked book club didn’t disband altogether.  I’m pretty sure all the drinking helped.  My first pick was A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick.  Contrary to what the Google machine tells you, this book made me want to stab my eyes out.  The rest of book club wasn’t thrilled either.  I wouldn’t even give this book one pierogie.  Even a botulism-filled one. 
Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, I picked What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.  I wish I could have forgotten how to read instead.  It was filled with clich├ęs (much like this post, but far less funny) and was so predictable it took any shred of enjoyment right out of it.  I truly don’t mind chick-lit sometimes.  But this one was bad.  Boo.

I also choose South of Broad by Pat Conroy.  You know, that Prince of Tides guy.  I thought it was “Eh.”  It didn’t make me jump for joy, but also didn’t make me want to hold my breath until I passed out either.  I’ll put it this way, with so many great books out there, I felt like reading this was kind of a waste of time.  However, there were some in book club that thought it was great.  (Trust me, “great” is a strong word). 

Never fear, there were some books I read this year that I absolutely ADORED!  If you haven’t read these, you should, STAT:
  • Sarah’s Key – the only good book I picked for book club. Okay, so the story line seemed a little unbelievable to me.  I liked it all the same.  Plus, it gave me insight into the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup which I literally knew nothing about.
  • The Kitchen House – this book was so good.  I could not put it down.  It’s one of those books that made me want to skip work and just keep reading.
  • The Help – yes, it lives up to the hype.  On a side note, I just saw the movie.  Unlike the other movies that I’ve seen this year based on novels, I really thought the Help stayed true to the book.  I really, really enjoyed it.
  • Water for Elephants – I can’t remember when during the year I read this.  However, I distinctly remember thinking at the time “this is my favorite book of 2011.”  At some point I read The Help and The Kitchen House and the Book Thief, so I’m not sure this stayed my favorite, but it was definitely up there.
  •  In the Garden of Beasts – this is another book that took me some time to get into.  I ended up enjoying it.  Though I’ll say, it’s definitely not as good as the Devil in the White City.
  • The Book Thief – I complained the first few chapters…. I admit, I was wrong.  I am so glad that I continued reading this.  Once I got into it, I could not put it down.
  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - 42.  Need I say more?
  • BossyPants  I picked up this beauty at the airport on my way home from someplace and read almost all of it on the plane.  There were laugh out loud parts.  Like the kind of laughter that makes the people sitting next to you uncomfortable.
  • Those Who Save Us – Aunt Darlene recommended this book.  Her book club went through a similar Nazi/Holocaust book phase.  I found this book to be wonderfully written, heart wrenching, and made my insides all warm and fuzzy.  All at the same time.  I know, weird.
  • The Hunger Games Trilogy – who doesn’t love young adults books?  I started the series after all the books came out.  I sat down and just started reading.  And couldn’t stop.  I’m not embarrassed to say that I literally went to Target at 8:55 to pick up the last book as soon as I stopped reading the second.  So good.
  • Columbine - this book was about, well, Columbine.  Despite knowing a fair amount about the tragedy, this book gave me such an insight and different perspective on what happened.  It also infuriated me and had me reading follow up books and articles.
  • Room – though I wanted to punch mom in the face on many (many) occasions, I thought this book was great.  I’d given it to everyone to read.  I haven’t heard a true complaint yet.
  • The Shack – okay, so technically I “listened” to this book.  And only because my mom made me do it.  I’ll be honest, I found it to be really interesting.  I’d recommend it.  Plus, it’s short (yes, I own the book version).

I also liked the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  But maybe that’s just because Elle and I saw Rebecca Skloot speak.  And she has a Pittsburgh connection.  I read the Unnamed by Joshua Ferris and I thought the ending was stupid.  I totally skipped Faithful Place by Tana French.  What?  I was busy!!!!  After the ending of In the Woods, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.


Looking back at my 2011 reading list, there are several books crossed off that I simply can’t remember anything about.  So, they might have been terrible, they might have been great.  You’ll just have to take your chances with these:
  • Look Again
  • Firefly Lane
  • Bad Marie
     
Like Elle, I have a ton of books on my night stand that I’ll put on the 2012 list (although with the leftovers from 2011).  Here are a few:
  • Thunderstruck – Okay… so book club is in a week.  I have plenty of time to finish.  Plus, I read Beezuskiddo’s review.  FINE… I didn’t read Night Circus either.
  • Moloka’i
  • The Secret History
  • Bel Canto
  • Farenheit 451
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  • Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – I’ve tried to read this book 3 times.  I don’t know what is wrong with me.  But, as our friend Jill says, “Loads of stupid people have read this book, we should be able to too.”  You can’t argue with that logic.

Hopefully I’ll write a real review of some book soon… assuming Beezuskiddo doesn’t beat me too it. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer (2003)

Reviewer: BeezusKiddo

Rating: 3.5 pierogies

Review: I borrowed this book from Elle Ewok (click link for her review). I was considering not bothering writing a review, because her review skilfully captures my same thoughts.
Krakauer tries to explore the mysterious history of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, as well as tell the story of its many fundamentalist spinoffs, in addition to the violent story of the Lafferty brothers. Combining all three of these topics is a delicate undertaking, and should be done carefully. Krakauer fails to do that.

I understand that because the history of the LDS church is not widely known to much of the American public, it is necessary to discuss the church's history generally, before getting into the more specialized issues of the fundamentalist spinoffs. Krakauer fails to do this with care, and as a result, I felt that Krakauer gave the mainstream LDS church an unnecessarily bad rap.

Every religion has a history in blood, and most don't flaunt past tragedies. I'm comfortable in saying that most every religion has made efforts to cover up past bad events. The LDS chuch wouldn't have acted uniquely in hiding, or discouraging conversation over, tragedies like the Mountain Meadows massacre. Perhaps I'm pessimistic, but that's the nature of organized religion.

All the bad things about the fundamentalist LDS spinoffs are easy to see. I felt like Krakauer blurred the lines between the LDS church and the fundamentalists, or at a minimum, didn't do enough to distinguish the fundamentalist sects as fundamentalist. The fundamentalists are excommunicated from the LDS church, they are by definition not part of it, even if they claim to be of the same religion. Krakauer drops disclaimers about that here and there. However, I wasn't the only one who didn't find the disclaimers to be particularly effective, as the publication of this book spurned outrage from the LDS church. Krakauer spends a 20 page addendum responding to the LDS church's objections, which quickly got boring. I read only about 3 pages of it.

I know very little about the history of Mormonism. Anything I know about fundamentalist sects, I know from watching Big Love. This book was fascinating to me. I felt guilty about that fascination, because I felt like Krakauer didn't give the mainstream LDS church a fair shake.

I recommend this book highly, but encourage you to read it with an open and critical mind.