1. Night in Tunisia by Neil Jordan (short story collection) - 3 Jan 2010
I would quite honestly not have read this book if I hadn't needed to for the essay I was writing for my English degree. Sunrise With Sea Monster absolutely turned me off Jordan's writing. However, I found myself actually liking most of the stories in this book, most of which held a refreshing outside-the-box-ness that rather appeals to me; much the same reason I tend to like Mark Billingham's detective novels. I reccomend this book to any reader who feels capable of dealing with sometimes disturbing subject matter (rape, sexual tension and content of different kinds in general, suicide).
2. Unless by Carol Shields - 31 Jan 2010
Author and translator Rita Summers's life is in turmoil, the ground pulled out from under her with the dramatic change of her daughter from college student to a girl who chooses to sit homeless, wordless, on a street corner, accompanied only by a cardboard sign reading "GOODNESS". Throughout the book, Rita attempts to sort out the meaning of goodness, and to find a rationale in her daughter's behavior, as well as untangle the mess that becomes of the characters' love life as she attempts to write a sequel to her well-received debut novel My Thyme is Up.
Interesting novel, though I hesitate to call it really gripping.
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë - 2 Feb 2010
I'm still not sure how I feel about this book. At times I found the main character annoying and prideful, which was frustrating, but for the most part she was alright. I think more than the book itself, it's all the talk around it that frustrated me; I fail to understand how as small of a sample of characters as there is in the book can be said to be representative of much of anything. Don't think I'll reread it, though it wasn't so bad I want my time back.
4. Din katts beteende by Susanne Hellman Holmström (nonfiction) - 13 Feb 2010
I had the opportunity to hear Ms. Hellman Holmström speak, and while I admit I was sceptical at first (a lot of people who do animal behavior consulting talk bullshit, state the obvious, or act as though they're better than "normal" pet owners, sometimes all three of the above), she has the amazing gift of being able to explain cat behavior and needs in ways that make them sound logical without talking down to her audience. Even more rare is the gift to be able to speak and write that way, and I found a lot of information I'll be glad to take with me because it makes sense, in this book.
Highly recommended for anyone who has cats, though doubly so if you think you have a "problem cat".
5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - 15 Feb 2010
The book is somewhat disconnected and wishy-washy, mainly because the narrator can't make up his mind what he thinks about Mr. Gatsby - so he can't tell us what he thinks, either, without later contradicting it. But I think that unreliability, and the mysteriousness of the man known as Gatsby, which leads to it, is what makes this book so readable. Not really my kind of book, but far from tedious, and quite interesting as discussion material. Get it at the library, though.
6. Jazz by Toni Morrison - 23 Feb 2010
I rarely outright dislike books, and I don't even dislike the plot of this one, but the form absolutely ruined it for me. It was too artsy, too Nobel Prize Winner, to the point where screwing up the chronology got in the way of telling the story. I don't mind that there's two or arguably three or more plotlines in there - the current-day story about Violet who tried to slash a girl's face with a razor at her funeral, the story about how she and her husband Joe grew up and met, and the story about the (slave) grandmother who went with her mistress when the white girl got pregnant and the following story about the child as he grew older - but I find Morrison's refusal to tell the story instead of jumping around and showing how artistic she can be with her discourse incredibly jarring and annoying.
7. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (fantasy) - 1 Mar 2010
Reread yet not; I originally read this book in Swedish translation when I was in junior high, and nothing seemed to play out the way I remembered it. Pretty good book for the most part, and it sparked interesting discussion in my Modern Children's Literature class. I am not, however, very keen on the main character. She comes off as a whiny, headstrong brat far too often for my tastes.
8. Shadowmancer by G.P. Taylor (fantasy) - 3 Mar 2010
A very interesting book which starts out innocently enough, reminding me of The Phantom (the comic) plotlines if anything to start out. It does have a pretty strong moralizing/religious element; faith is a primary theme and there's very transparent criticism directed at both people who pay lip service to religion and possibly also at the practise of adopting pagan rituals and twisting them into something wholesomely Christian. As it came closer to the end I found myself more and more reminded of the excerpts I read of Paradise Lost last semester, but I can live with that.
It's a quite decent book, which I will likely reread, but it's not for the reader who can't put moralizing aside in order to enjoy the story; the classmates who disliked it more or less universally seemed to do so because of the religious elements and their real-world referents.
9. Waterlands by Graham Swift - 6 Mar 2010
Like Jazz, this books plays with chronology, shifting regularly between the past, the distant past, and the present. Unlike Jazz, Waterlands makes the form work for the narrative, rather than forcing the narrative into the form. It is a story about futility, about the cyclic nature of history, and about the past creating ripples in the present. The book is also one of those works that resist being read quickly. It's not what I would call a heavy read, unlike some of the classics, and it's not "slow" in the sense of being dull and not getting to the point, but something about the text forces the reader to slow down.
I do recommend it, but I do not recommend reading it the way I had to (as I was reading it for class). Instead, make it one of those books you pick up and read a few pages of with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate in the evenings, letting it take the time it takes. I get the feeling that's the way to get the most enjoyment out of the story.
10. Den ensamma ponnyn (original title: Horses Get Lonely Too) by Jenny Hughes (horseback) - 11 Mar 2010
A Pony Club book, and it's about what can be expected of Pony Club fare. A girl with a horse is moving into the farm next door, and our horse-loving heroine hopes they will make great friends. And so they do, but their parents are at odds more or less from the start, and when the new girl's pony spends most of his days running around his pasture calling for his old friend, things go from bad to worse, with the girls being forbidden to even talk to each other. Things come to a head when the girl on the lonely pony heads out into a rainstorm, forcing everyone to come together to try to find her before she gets hurt.