January 1st, 2010

-sg1headwall

Books 41 - 49.

41. Carpenter - Tales Of A Basque Grandmother
Pretty good, simple tales. The part about being a Basque and having to speak only French at school grated a little (they lived on the French side) but then it was around 1930, so...

42. Ressler - Treasury Of American Indian Tales
Goes well with the Curtis' tales from the same areas. Though boys do boy things, girls do girl things, still. But that was easy to ignore. XD

43. Martin (ed.) - Awake My Soul: Contemporary Catholics On Traditional Devotions
Very interesting, of course some more easy-read than others.

44. Theophrastus - The Characters (English translation)
A re-read. Largely negative types, though some examples would be viewed as not so, now.

45. Petersen-Schepelem - Steaming: Healthy Food From China, Japan & South-East Asia
Short but cute.

46. St. Teresa Of Avila - The Way Of Perfection (English translation)
IMO this would be a good point to start reading her stuff - easy to understand, lots of good stuff to note on.

47. Lindsay - Darkly Dreaming Dexter (Finnish translation)
*Slightly* different from the tv series, but good and amusing. The end was bit of a WTF, and left me with questions.

48. Boase - 101 Ways To Customise Your Clothes
Interesting and worth buying, though I don't have use for it yet.

49. Majzlik - A Vegan Taste Of Thailand
I guess some complained that her books have lots of nuts in them, but it doesn't bother me much. There was plenty of recipes for such a slim book (105 pages).

So, because I had about 30 minutes before midnight left, no way I could finish one more book. :P But still better than last year (when it was 7 books short) *LOL*
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last book of 2009

Turtle Feet by Nicholas Grozni
Strange but beautifully written memoir of time spent in a Tibetan monastery in India, and of the author's best friend there. Full of imagination and metaphysical ramblings, but in a good way.
(262/275)
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More reviews :)

(no subject)

Made it to 66 books, 24,078 pages. :D Tried aiming for 75, but didn't really get that far - maybe this year!

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Most Loved: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams; Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury; Kushiel's Scion, Jacqueline Carey; Looking for Alaska, John Green; Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi
Most Disliked: Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher; Blue Bloods, Melissa de la Cruz; Lady of Conquest, Teresa Medeiros; The Host, Stephenie Meyer
Goals for 2010:
- More variety, especially more non-fiction! :O
- Find a way to avoid getting burned out. There were some months in which I'd go crazy and read 11 books, followed by months where I'd only read two. Sigh.
- Keep up with writing thoughts/reviews! I was doing fairly well with that up until April or May, when I just... stopped. :/

Happy New Year, all! :)
beyer

semi-hip fiction jamboree

The year is over but I still have a few more entries to go...

46.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky
genre: fiction (young adult)

This is a book that has been, I think, talked about a lot on the internet - a book that strikes a lot of chords with a lot of people, but I think I'm just a little too old for it; my roommate recommended it to me as a book that she really connected to when she was a teenager. One thing about this book - a contemporary coming-of-age novel - is that it's really kind of a bait-and-switch: the protagonist isn't much of a wallflower at all! He's actually quite sociable and engaged, if maybe a bit reserved about some things - a fine way to live one's life, I'm sure, but it doesn't necessarily make for riveting storytelling. Anyway, regardless of that: this book certainly has its strong points, but I can't help but feel that I've read several more compelling, relatable and intimate coming-of-age narratives.

sum-up: Not for me...




47.


Travels in the Scriptorium
by Paul Auster
genre: fiction/mystery

Auster is known for writing philosophical/metaphysical mystery stories - stories where a literal mystery ties into an existential mystery, perhaps reflecting on the nature of truth, fiction and reality itself. This book begins with a man known as Mr. Blank, who awakens in a strange room with only a vague sense of who or where he is, and must piece his identity together from the available evidence. It's a good hook, but the story more-or-less stalls and sputters all the way. Much of the book consists of drab details of Mr. Blank's minute-to-minute travails (he sits down, he gets up, he goes to the bathroom, etc.), which could've been interesting but feels basically pretentious, and the book eventually shuffles off into a conclusion which I found predictable (especially bad for me because I'm usually not good at predicting endings) and, honestly, pretty childish. Better luck next time...?

sum-up: Totally unsatisfying




48.


Gun, With Occasional Music
by Jonathan Lethem
genre: mystery/science-fiction

Lethem is known now for his ambitious and kinda-hip literary works which combine poetic description, emotional intimacy and an abiding respect for popular culture in order to tell the tales of graffiti writers, teenage superheroes, rock bands, things like that. Interesting, then, about his first novel: cheeky hard-boiled noir in a dystopian sci-fi future; a hard-drinking private-eye must solve a brutal murder in a world of cryogenic prisons, "evolved" human-like animals and memory-erasing drugs. Lethem has a smart-aleck-y literary sensibility which can be both a blessing and a curse, here - the book can start to feel like a game or an exercise in pastiche, lacking honesty. But whatever: there's a lot going on, and the book never stops being, at the least, entertaining, interesting and full of ideas.

sum-up: Good, if not a masterwork




49.


In Persuasion Nation
by George Saunders
genre: short fiction

Saunders' approach tends toward a sort of satirical science-fiction: he imagines an America where people are legally required to meet a quota of advertisement-viewing, or one where children are raised in conference-room campsites with commercials fed directly into their brains. We also get earthy slice-of-life vignettes, a couple of predictable (but still pretty good) post-9/11 parables of compassion turning to violence, and an earnest (and quite funny) pro-gay-marriage story. This book, published in 2006, may go down in history as a trenchant document of the countervailing attitudes of the Bush epoch: there's a commingling of national and consumer identities, a seething undercurrent of violence. In time, these stories may lose their relevance (they already feel somewhat dated), but they're certainly worth reading now. Even when the stories don't work, there's a sense of critical acuity and honest humanism - these stories have a soul, and you feel enriched and lucky for having read them at all.

sum-up: Not perfect, but feels somehow essential




50.


Detective Story
by Imre Kertész
genre: fiction

The Nobel committee put it a lot better than I could when they gave Kertész the prize in 2002: his writing "upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history." He's also one of my favorite writers, thanks mainly to his remarkably personal novel "Kaddish for a Child Not Born" (it feels remarkably personal, anyway). "Detective Story" is an earlier work, and I didn't think it was as strong as the other stuff I've read of his - there's maybe more of a sense of remove, here. Still, this is a smart excursion into realms of nested realities, contested orders and mutable truths - it gave me something to think about.

sum-up: Not great, but worthwhile




51.


No One Belongs Here More Than You
by Miranda July
genre: short fiction

So far, Miranda July's career has been totally amazing: she's had her artwork exhibited in major museums and galleries, recorded spoken-word albums for respected indie labels, staged performances everywhere from punk clubs to famous high-art venues, wrote, directed and starred in a well-received feature film, had her writing published in major magazines, and put out a popular and highly-praised short-story collection (this one), among other things, of course. I think that part of the reason for all of her success is that July has a handle on a very resonant, very contemporary sensibility: an intertwined sense of love, confusion and pathos - stories of people who feel beaten-down by life but want to love the world as best they can. As a writer, July has a knack for sparkling, off-kilter turns of phrase; her writing can be overly-affected at times, but not enough to corrupt the genuine compassion at the core of her multifaceted, multi-media project (of which this book is one important piece).

sum-up: Very good and very contemporary




52.


Lightning on the Sun
by Robert Bingham
genre: fiction/thriller

A while ago, I read and liked Bingham's short story collection "Pure Slaughter Value" - Bingham wrote with subtlety and wit about nihilism, pathos and self-destruction among the educated upper-class. It seems that Bingham was maybe a bit too familiar with his subject matter: born into privilege and having earned multiple Ivy League degrees, he died of a heroin overdose in 1999, at age 33. With "Lightning on the Sun," his first and last novel, we get hard-partying expats, oversexed journalists, a Harvard-educated stripper, clueless drug-runners... Bingham seems to be making a pretty risky bid, trying to build characters that are both sympathetic and lightly despicable. It works at times, but at other times the characters (and the book) become annoying or, even worse, boring. Bingham had a keen eye for the foibles of his own milieu - I think that maybe one of the problems with this book is that parts of it feel like a big inside joke.

sum-up: Interesting but not particularly recommended

three more entries to go..
beyer

bonus entry #2 - more comics

As I mentioned once before, for arbitrary reasons I'm not counting comic books towards my year-end reading goals, but I still wanted to include them in the list...



Exit Wounds
by Rutu Modan
genre: graphic novel

A common criticism that people have of graphic novels is that they're basically just storyboards for unmade films. The experience of reading this book - about an Israeli man seeking out his father in the aftermath of a terror attack - is a lot like watching a movie, and you wonder what it's maybe lacking for not actually being one. But, when you think about it, that's pretty amazing: movies require scores of people and millions of dollars, and this work was made by a single artist hunched over a drawing board. Modan is a talented storyteller and her artwork is great: she uses evenhanded linework and subtle coloring to create images that are complex but uncluttered. Overall, this is a very sophisticated piece of work.

sum-up: Recommended






Hello, Again
by Max Estes
genre: graphic novel

Another criticism that people have of graphic novels is that, because they take so much effort to make, they end up being just too short. This brief little story is about a man haunted by some bad choices from his past, but we're never really given any reason to care about him or his past. The artwork is nice but unexpressive. Too bad.

sum-up: Forgettable






Dogs and Water
by Anders Nilsen
genre: graphic novel



Monologues for the Coming Plague
by Anders Nilsen
genre: comics/art

"Dogs and Water" is sort of an hallucinatory, open-ended narrative told mainly in images; or, you could go a step further and say that it's not just told mainly in images: it's told mainly in visual compositions, inky lines and particular little details. It's a lovely piece of work: kind of a meditation on U.S. foreign policy but in the dreamiest, most elliptical sort of way. Meanwhile, "Monologues..." - a collection of sketchbooks - is mostly a bunch of gag-y, smart-ass non-sequiturs. A woman is feeding a bird in a park, and the bird asks her "Are you wearing Chanel No. 5?" - things like that. It's OK for what it is, but I'm sure I would have felt ripped-off had I actually spent nineteen bucks on it.

sum-ups:

Dogs and Water: Recommended
Monologues for the Coming Plague: Whatever...






AEIOU: Any Easy Intimacy
by Jeffrey Brown
genre: graphic memoir



Little Things: A Memoir in Slices
by Jeffrey Brown
genre: graphic memoir



Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Other Observations
by Jeffrey Brown
genre: graphic memoir

Brown makes autobiographical comics in an idiom that can best be described as "indie," if you know what I mean. If you don't, well, how about this: winsome, unaggressive, middle-class, a bit sentimental, generally mundane and ultimately humanistic and compassionate. He tends to draw in a low-key, sketchy style: his point is to gently allow readers into his world without trying to bowl us over or knock us out. "AEIOU..." is a little book that documents some of the highs and lows of an ended relationship. As a story, there's really nothing there, but the overall effect is rather sad and lovely: a little book-form elegy to lost love and former selves. "Little Things..." is a bigger work about semi-mundane happenings and interconnectedness: Brown visits his friends in the country, he buys CDs, he witnesses a car crash, he meets a girl. For me, the book sort of goes back and forth between being a smart, subtle account of deeper significance in the quotidian, and being bland self-documentation for its own sake. "Cat..." is a sweet little meditation on Brown's childhood cat, Misty.

sum-ups:

AEIOU: Lovely
Little Things: Pretty good
Cat Getting Out of a Bag: Cute






Poem Strip
by Dino Buzzati
genre: graphic novel/art

An honest-to-gosh lost gem of the Italian counterculture, this 1969 book retells the Orpheus myth through a filter of sex, psychedelia, art films, rock and roll... it's a bit goofy but unmistakeably compelling, too. For example: there are many drawings of sexy ladies in here which seem to have been copied right out of cheesecake nudie magazines - it's crude but also honest, which ultimately adds to the work's visionary sensibility.

sum-up: Worthwhile

two more entries to go...
Hamlet/Ophelia

48_Buried Child


I've been very lazy so I still have a couple of reviews to post before I talk about the worst and the best of 2009 and start with a new challenge.

48 BURIED CHILD Sam Shepard (USA,1978)



Class: Theatre History Part II

When Vince comes back to his grand-parents and his father's home after a few years of absence, it is as if he had entered a different home as they refuse to acknowledge that he is a member of the family. The truth is, the family is under a curse because they hide a terrible secret. 

This play is a successful mixture of realism, absurdism and symbolisms. Some scenes are eerie, especially when Vince enters the house for the first time. The dialogues are masterful and it is a good depiction of the American farming family. However it failed to move me. I can't explain why, but it simply failed.

2/5  
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Hamlet/Ophelia

49_Cat On A Hot Tin Roof


49   CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF   Tennessee Williams (USA, 1955)



Maggie the Cat is still in love with her husband Brick who refuses to have sex with her since the suicide of his best friend Skipper. But she is determined to find her way back to his bed. The play is filled with allusions to homosexuality but we never get to know if Brick is truly homosexual or not.

Once more Williams' genius amazed me. This play is so profoundly sad that it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. Maggie and Brick could be Greek heroes if they weren't trapped in their southern everyday lives. 
And he  has such a great understanding of women! Just like D.H. Lawrence he fully acknowledges their sexuality and the determination that comes with it.
The ending is particularly beautiful. "Oh you weak, beautiful people who give up with such grace. What you need is someone to take hold of you — gently, with love, and hand your life back to you. "

3,5/5
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Hamlet/Ophelia

50_Fences


50   FENCES    August Wilson   (USA,1983)




Class: Theatre History Part II

This play is the story of an African American family during the 1950s. Troy Maxson - the patriarch - is having issues with his family and especially the wife he cheated on and the son he wants to convince that dreams of becoming a famous baseball player are simply out of reach for an African American.

The fences in this play are both racial and personal but they also represent Rose's house (Troy's wife) and her attempts to keep the family together and on the right side of the fence. While it is an interesting depiction of racial and family issues in America, I did not like this play. This has a lot to do with Troy. His behavior was too disgusting for me to enjoy the play and the problem is that I believe the reader/ the audience was meant to be somewhat sympathetic towards him.

1/5
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books 44-54

this is it for the year.
last lot of books and i'm very happy i managed to get over 50. goal achieved!
44. 'white witch, black curse' kim harrison
45. 'seven ancient wonders' matthew riley
46. 'angus, thongs and full frontal snogging' louise rennison
47. 'on the bright side, i'm now the girlfriend of a sex god' louise rennison
48. 'knocked out by my nunga nungas' louise rennison
49. 'dancing in my nuddy pants!' louise rennison
50. '... and that's when it fell off in my hand!' louise rennison
51. 'peeps' scott westerfield
52. 'the world according to clarkson - for crying out loud' jeremy clarkson
53. 'grave sight' charlaine harris
54. 'grave surprise' charlaine harris

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El Corazon

1. The Terror; 2. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

 The Terror
by Dan Simmons

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Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto
by Chuck Klosterman

The same gripes I had about Fargo Rock City hold here--mainly that Klosterman's constant use of authoritative opinions can be annoying--but, all the same, this is a book of his thoughts and opinions so it's kind of a silly gripe. This was a fun read. I breezed through it in a couple of hours, mainly soaking in a hot bath. I would love to sit with Klosterman and have a few drinks. He's opinionated, but they're interesting opinions and he knows how to express them at least.Grade: A-
 

2010 -- Total books read:
 2
2010 -- Total pages read: 1,001
Hamlet/Ophelia

51_the Good Body


51  THE GOOD BODY   Eve Ensler   (USA,2004)



Class: Theatre History Part II

The structure of this play is very unusual. There is no dialogue. It is a series of comments and stories told by different women with all sorts of different backgrounds. They talk about their relationship to their own bodies and the place the female body has in society. Some of the characters simply hate theirs because in our society only slim women are fashionable.

I did not like this play at all. The language lacked poetry and the thoughts were full of stereotypes. Well, the truth is, I've always been very happy with my body and I have to admit I've always had an easy time with it because I'm slim. Maybe I unconsciously felt none of this was my concern. I guess I'm one of the "skinny bitches" Eve talks about in the play.

0/5
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58. Aunt Dimity: Snowbound by Nancy Atherton (2009 books)


Title: Aunt Dimity: Snowbound
Author: Nancy Atherton
Year: 2004
# of pages: 226
Date read: 11/18/2009
Rating: 3*/5 = good


Description:

"When Lori Shepherd decides to treat herself to a relaxing day hiking through the serene English countryside, she has no idea that the blizzard of the century is about to hit. The storm comes quickly and furiously, but fortunately Lori is able to find refuge in nearby Ladythorne Abby, the fabulous home of the late Lucasta DeClerke. Soon she's safe and dry, along with two other stranded backpackers. But has she escaped one danger only to fall right into the middle of another? In the abbey's cloisters and passages still lingers the haunting presence of Lucasta, a mysterious madwoman who spent the last years of her life locked up alone in the abbey. And Lori must also deal with the threat of an unstable caretaker, who lurks around every corner.

Even her fellow abbey guests turn out to be suspicious. Lori thinks she's learned of their plot to steal a priceless DeClerke family heirloom -- a dazzling peacock panure hidden away at the abbey. Soon she discovers the intended theft is only one piece in a complicated puzzle of ominous secrets and traitorous deeds surrounding the fate of the priceless jewel. As Aunt Dimity says, 'Old sins cast long shadows' and the treacherous events in Ladythorne Abbey's history have continued to plague generations. Can Lori stay out of harm's way long enough to sort out the truth? Only Aunt Dimity's indispensable wisdom can help Lori wade through the deceit and banish the hatred and guilt that shroud Ladythorne Abbey in a blanket considerably thicker than the accumulating snow." -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this cozy, wintry mystery set in Ladythorne Abbey. I liked how Lori discovered the truth and, with help, made things right again. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Aunt Dimity and the Next of Kin.
cloud

Goodbye 2009! 50-8

Once again we ring in an entirely new 50 book challenge! Bring on the books!
Here are my last reads of 2009 (must try to post more regularly on here in 2010 :D )

#50. "Dexter by Design" by Jeff Lindsey
I enjoyed this more than the last Dexter book which disappointed me a lot. I feel that the dark humour and twisted plots I initially loved were recovered here. Liked it.

#51. "Battlestar Galactica: Echoes of Caprica"
Of all the possible scope for a fan continuation I felt that this storyline was particularly weak. Disappointing.However pedantic, completist sci-fi collectors such as myself will need to buy it.lol

#52. "Batman: The long Halloween"
I absolutely loved this. The story was brilliantly written with a fresh and surprising end. I confess that I took so long to read this because I knew it centered around Harvey Dent's origins, which I felt pretty well versed in (a phrase about books and their covers springs to mind!). Highly recommended.

#53. "Umbrella Academy #2" by Gerard Way
I love this story and its characters. It's such a funny and tragic futurism that you can't help but turn the page. Still good but not as fresh as the initial graphic novel in my humble opinion.

#54. "Cthulu Tales: The Darkness Beyond"
A Graphic novel with short stories based on lovecraft's horrific concepts. Great collection :D
I especially loved the comedic shorts.

#55. "Sandman: A game of you"
#56. "Sandman: Brief Lives" By Neil Gaiman.
Both Re-reads, still fantastic and uncomparable. Of all the stories/fandoms/concepts I love, this is the series I hope is never adapted to a movie/series. I don't beleive it can be done successfully. Highly, highly recommended.

#57. "Freakangels" by Warren Ellis
I remember reading this online and loving it. Finally out as a graphic novel. It's not a particularly new concept but extremely readable.

Happy New Year to you all :D
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AT THIS FOR FIVE YEARS.

In 2005, I was foolish enough to essay a compilation of all fifty books for that year's Fifty Book Challenge. That was task enough that commencing in 2006 and continuing in 2007 and 2008 I attempted to publish a quarterly progress report (the links point to the previous links for those years). Here's the fourth quarter report for 2009.
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The bookworm has reached its mature length. With bowl-bound Huskies and playoff-bound Packers, the colors of the segments should be obvious.

Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

 

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops and European Tribune.)
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December Reading List


 

124. A Victorian Christmas Tea: Angel in the Attic/A Daddy for Christmas/Tea for Marie/Going Home by Catherine Palmer, Dianna Crawford, Peggy Stoks and Katherine Chute This book is composed of four separate novellas set around Christmastime in Victorian America. These are sweet romance stories without any of the sex that you find in secular romance novels. The novellas have a Christian theme running through them with the main characters being Christians.

125. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson This book is a sweet love story between Major Pettigrew an English Christian and Mrs. Ali a Pakistani Muslim. She shows the reception that the couple receives in their village from the other residents. Major Pettigrew's son starts out by being materialistic who delays marriage because he is afraid that it would hurt his career if he were married though he does learn his lesson at the end. Mrs. Ali's nephew is a fundamentalist Muslim who became that way after he was sent to Pakistan by his family after a failed love affair. Both Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali have to work through both their cultural and religious differences plus not pay any attention to what anyone else thinks of the match. This is a refreshing romance novel since it does not have any sex in it and the two main characters are older instead of in their twenties and thirties that you see the main characters in romance novels nowadays.

126.The Unraveling of Violeta Bell: A Morgue Mama Mystery by C.R. Corwin This is a page turner where a 69 year woman sees a group of four older women enter into a cab at a garage sale when she finds out the four of them spends their Saturdays going to various garage sales driven by the same driver. She suggests that their story would make an interesting story in their local paper where she works out as the newspaper librarian. One of the women in the group Violeta Bell winds up murdered and Maddy the Morgue Mama investigates her murder. While investigating her murder there are quite a few surprising truths that come up about Violeta's life. Violeta does claim to be the heir to the Romanian throne. I couldn't wait to get to the end of the book to see who had killed Violeta.

127. Touched by a Vampire: Discovering the Hidden Messages in the Twilight Saga by Beth Felker Jones

128. Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery

129. Shades of Blue by Karen Kingsbury This latest book from the author deals with the issue of abortion both from the guy and girl's perspective. Six weeks before his wedding to Laura James, his boss's daughter he starts to have thoughts of Emma Landan his old high school girlfriend, the one that he had taken to get an abortion after she had gotten pregnant with his baby nine years ago. Brad travels back to North Carolina to seek forgiveness from Emma about the abortion while he has to come clean about his past to Laura, his fiancee. Brad's and Laura's relationship does change after the time that he spends in North Carolina. Laura his fiancee is shown as a society princess who only volunteers with the different charities that her parents are involved in and helps out at her dad's office, not working at a job where she would live on her own and bring home a paycheck. While Emma has her own house and works as a schoolteacher not putting her life on hold until she gets married.

130. All in One Place by Carolyne Aarsen

131. Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right: The Food Solution that Lets Kids be Kids by Joanna Dolgoff This is a book to teach parents on how to get their gets to eat healthy without forbidding any foods, though she does teach about portion control. It also encourages the parents to eat healthy with their children. This is a good book with good information no matter how old your kids are, even for those without kids.

132. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

133. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

134. Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb This is a cute story of a man who is looking back at a childhood Christmas when he was a ten year old student in Catholic School. He talks about both his and his mom's television debut where he debuts on a local television program and his mother is a finalist in the Pillsboy Dough Bake Off where she meets future president Ronald Reagan.

135. Wedding Belles by Haywood Smith The author does a good job in showing on mother's reaction when her daughter announces her engagement to an older man that went to school with her mother and her mother's friends. Her mother enlists her Red Hat friends to help her to try to break up the engagement since they know about the grooms wild past. The ending though is unexpected. The story is set in Atlanta, Georgia where early marriage is accepted and encouraged in their circle of friends.

136. Holiday with a Vampire III by Lisa Winstead Jones, Lisa Childs and Bonnie Vanak