Charming Billy

Billy Lynch, alcoholic, romantic, kind and loving man, has died.   His friends and family come together to comfort his widow, and to celebrate his life.   And Billy’s life seems to have two stories to it.  The sad story of his alcoholism, which his friends and family tried again and again to guide him away from, with no success.  And the sad story of his first love, an Irish girl whom he intended to marry, but who goes back to Ireland and dies.  At least, that’s what Billy is told.  The truth is, she took the money he sent her for her passage to America, bought a gas station in Ireland, married someone else, and built a life for herself there.  

This cruel twist comes pretty early on in the book, and the rest of the story is the meandering tale of his romance with the Irish girl, his grief at her ‘death’, his marriage to Maeve and their life together.  Her suffering through his alcoholism, her reliance on his cousin, Dennis, to help her when he comes home drunk at 3am, night after night after night.  

The story is told by Dennis’ daughter, sometimes as told to her by her father, sometimes as though she is telling the story to her husband.  I found the point-of-view narration a bit confusing, and somewhat irritating.  Sometimes the narration would change within a single paragraph from first to third person.  The language is often lovely, and the author captures the way that people talk, the honestly of their voices and grief, their delight in gossip, but desire to protect Maeve from that same gossip.  Mostly though, I just wanted to shake Billy and tell him to stop drinking so much, get over his youthful romance, and see if living for today, with the life he has made for himself, might actually be more rewarding than pining away for someone long gone, and trying to drink yourself into an early grave.  I wish I had enjoyed this book more than I did.  Has anyone else read this book?  Agree or disagree with me on my summation?  I’d love to hear from someone who loved it, and find out what you got out of it that I missed.

Charming Billy is a National Book Award winner.

Run

Run begins with the story of Bernadette’s statue, an heirloom especially treasured by the women in her family. The statue is of Mary, Mother of God, and looks remarkably like the women in the family. The daughter who looks the most like the statue inherits it, and the others bitterly wish it were theirs. Now that she has died, with three sons and no daughters, her sisters show up, demanding that her husband give it to them. We hear the history of the statue, which is sweet and sad and full of lies.

Bernadette and her husband Bernard had three sons. They both wanted large families, and though they had one son, Sullivan, they wanted more. When they were unable to have any more children naturally, they turned to adoption, eventually adopting an infant and his toddler brother, Tip and Teddy. A few years later, Bernadette dies, leaving her husband, her young sons, and her statue behind.

Our story occurs over two or three days when the boys are in their twenties. Sullivan carries a burden of guilt for an accident in which he was driving, one which resulted in the death of his girlfriend, and the end of his father’s political career. He tries to make up for it by traveling around the world, bringing relief to children in impoverished parts of Africa. Tip is a scientist, interested in the study of fish (ichthyology), shunning most human contact whenever he can. Teddy is a lover of ideas, and is leaning toward becoming a priest like his uncle. Their father, Bernard, is the former Mayor of Boston, and wishes to instill his love of politics in his sons. None of them are the least bit interested.

Sullivan is away in Africa, but Bernard brings Tip and Teddy to see Jessie Jackson give a speech one snowy night. They are invited to attend a party after the speech, and Bernard very much wants the boys to attend, while they are hoping to get to the lab/seminary hospital respectively. Tip and his father are arguing about whether Tip will attend, outside in the midst of a very heavy snow storm, and he steps back into the street, in the way of an oncoming SUV. A nearby woman jumps in to push Tip out of the way, being struck by the SUV herself, and is severely injured. Tip’s ankle is injured as well. The woman’s 12 year old daughter, Kenya, is also in attendance. At this point, the fates of this small group are intertwined, and become more and more so as time goes by. Did I mention that Bernard, Sullivan, and Bernadette are all Irish/white, and Tip, Teddy, the woman and her daughter are all African American?

As the relationships and hopes of the characters twist and turn and intermingle, we are drawn further into the story.  I really enjoyed this book, with its themes of family, identity, race, class, belonging, hope, parenthood, and love.   The characters all came out both better and worse for having met that one fateful night, with one grim exception.  I haven’t decided yet if I liked this book as much as I liked Bel Canto…it was a bit more formulaic.  But what it lost in points for that, I think it picked up again in honesty, and in heart.

~DoSoEvAyMo
I’ve slacked off on this, I know.  Being sick meant not doing much, which is hard to admit to the internets.  “What are you planning on doing today?”  “Work, cook, cough, sneeze”.  Boring.  BUT, today, in addition to work, cough, cook, walk dog, is “A Charlie Brown Thanksiving” on TV.  YAY!

No Country For Old Men

What you might think of as a blessing is often a curse, and if you’re going to pick that curse up and put it in your pocket, do so fully, and don’t look back.

These are words that might have been helpful to Llewelyn Moss before he went out hunting antelope one hot afternoon.  While following the antelope herd on foot, he comes across the horrific remains of a drug deal gone wrong.  Several trucks out in the middle of the Texas desert, shot full of holes, blood and bodies all around, and a big block of heroin in the back.   There is one man still alive, barely, and it seems he’s been there awhile. Clearly in need of help, all he asks for is Agua.  Moss doesn’t have any water, cannot help.  He follows a trail of footsteps and blood, eventually coming across the body of a man, with a suitcase full of money.  Lots of money.  Over two million dollars in used cash.  Even though there’s no one there to see him, he knows that taking this money is not the answer to his prayers, but the beginning of a nightmare.  He knows that money like that doesn’t come without strings attached, that someone will be looking for it eventually.  But he takes it anyway.  That’s his first mistake, putting the curse in his pocket.

His second mistake is in looking back.  He goes home, puts the money under his bed, has a beer, has sex with his young wife, all the while troubled by the thought of the Mexican in the truck, begging for water.  He wakes in the middle of the night, and ignoring the voice in his head, screaming at him to stay put, not be an idiot, he’s going to get himself killed, he takes a jug of water, climbs in his truck, and goes to take pity on the man he found.

Thus begins the hunt of Llwyelyn Moss, the unfortunate man who comes across $2.4 million in No Country For Old Men, a story where the action is described in third person, while the conscience and meaning is found in the first person narrative words of Sheriff Bell.  Bell is the sheriff of the small town where this blood bath of a drug deal took place, and he considers it his duty to protect his constituents, which right now means finding Moss before Chigurh (rhymes with sugar) does.  Chigurh is a psychopathic killer who has been hired to find Moss and bring the money back, no questions asked about who or how many people die in the process.

No Country‘s author, Cormac McCarthy, paints a vibrant picture using sparse words.  The world he visits upon us is bleak and exceedingly violent, yet not gratuitously so.  The bleakness is tempered by a bit of hope, no matter how small.  The violence is balanced out by the goodness of the sheriff in his pursuit, as well as by the very real love that both he and Moss have for their wives.

No Country for Old Men was not what I would call a fun read, but it was a quick page turner of a novel, the kind of book that you don’t want to put down, because you need to know what is going to happen next.  I’ve only read one other book by McCarthy, The Road, and while I liked No Country quite a bit, in my mind there’s no comparison between the two.  The Road drew me in and broke my heart and wrung me out.  No Country simply drew me in and kept me interested.   Still, one could do far worse, and I highly recommend it.

~DoSoEvAyMo
The film version of No Country for Old Men has been tempting me via the On Demand feature of our cable for awhile now.  I’ve been waiting until I finished the book to read it, so this might be a good time.

The Bluest Eye

Quiet as it’s kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941.  We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father’s baby that marigolds did not grow.  A little examination and much less melancholy would have proved to us that our seeds were not the only ones that did not sprout; nobody’s did.  Not even the gardens fronting the lake showed marigolds that year.  But so deeply concerned were we with the health and safe delivery of Pecola’s baby we could think of nothing but our own magic: if we planted the seeds, and said the right words over them, they would blossom, and everything would be all right.

12-year-old Pecola Breedlove’s one desire is to be loved, to be accepted and shown affection by her family and friends.  She feels herself to be ugly, because she is black, and because her whole family believes themselves to be ugly, hopeless, and without control or ownership over their lives or circumstance.  This feeling of helplessness and muted outrage serves as a hostile setting in which to raise a child, and Pecola is doomed from the beginning of this emotional and physical tragedy.  We learn from the very beginning of the book that she will give birth to her father’s child, so the story isn’t about the ‘what’ that will happen, nor the ‘why’ (as that is difficult to handle, says narrator Claudia MacTeer), but instead is found in the ‘how’.

The Bluest Eye is told sometimes from the point of view of Claudia, a friend and neighbor of Pecola,  and sometimes from a third party narrator.  We learn of Claudia’s home life, which while not as loving and warm as she might wish, it is still a stable home in which the parents love their children, and want them to remain safe and healthy.

Pecola’s story is more complicated, and we learn enough background about her parents and their individual and combined pasts to start to understand a bit of how the tragedy will unfold.  They both feel bitterly the contempt and powerlessness afforded them by white society.  They take out their anger and rage on each other, often fighting violently and savagely.  Pecola’s brother often runs away to try to escape the violence of his home life.

Pecola’s father, Cholly, is often drunk, which pleases his wife, because it gives her a reason to hate him, to fight with him, and to feel superior to him.  He was humiliated by white hunters when a young boy, and he has never managed to overcome the shame.  His reaction to this humiliation is telling, and foreshadows his rape of Pecola.

Pecola’s mother, Pauline, has no love for her family, instead lavishing care and attention on the white family for whom she works.  While she keeps her employers’ house immaculate, and is very loving to their little girl, her own home is filthy and unkempt.  Her reaction when Pecola is raped is chilling.

Pecola, surrounded by visions of Shirley Temple and the little girl her mother works for, thinks that perhaps if she were beautiful, she might be loved rather than despised, and might live a happier life.  So she wishes, over and over again, to have blue eyes.  With blue eyes, she would be beautiful, acceptable, and the pain and sorrow would no longer define her life.  We as readers know that it will take a lot more than blue eyes to give a young black girl in the 40’s any power or control over her own destiny.  Knowing how she is destroyed, her sanity shattered, by the events of her young life is difficult indeed.

The Bluest Eye was a heartbreaking book to read, but very well told.  The voices of the narrator and Claudia are honest and straightforward, and their tenderness and warmth for Pecola make you wish that she had someone to give her that tenderness and warmth while it might make a difference in her life.

Sightseeing

“…I held my breath because it seemed the only sound left in the world and all around me then was an extraordinary silence.  It made me feel light, that silence, as if I might float to the ceiling, as if I might be able to open my arms, flap them, and fly with the sparrows.  I don’t know how long I sat there holding my breath in the dark, but I thought then of how loud the world could be, so much clatter and noise, and of how lovely and rare was a moment like this when one need not listen to anything at all.”

I read about Sightseeing on Lotus’s blog, and it sounded like an intriguing read.  At the time, I had a credit at Amazon.com (I’m guessing a Christmas gift, since she wrote her review in January), so I ordered it, and it was put on my TBR pile.  I dusted it off for the TBR Challenge, and I’m really glad I did.

Sightseeing, Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s book of seven engrossing short stories, sucked me in right away.  It’s also a quick read, so that if you wish to savor these stories, you must practice restraint and put the book down now and again.

Farangs is the term for foreigners in Thailand, specifically Caucasians.  It is also the story of a young Thai man in a tourist town, who has a history of falling in love with American women in bikinis, women on vacation with a return ticket in their pocket.

At the Cafe’ Lovely is the story of a boy’s coming of age in the hands of his brother, and their attempts to escape the despair and pain of their mother, who has yet to recover from the pain of their father’s death.  The love between these brothers is wonderful to watch, while their frustration and agony is painful to experience.

Draft Day is a difficult story to read…the story of a privileged young man granted immunity from the draft, even while watching as those less fortunate are sent to battle.  His guilt is palpable.

Sightseeing is a quick journey, a mother and son on a trip that they would probably not take if everything at home were OK.  The poignancy of their journey is lovely.

Priscilla the Cambodian tells of two young Thai boys, living in a community beset by an influx of Cambodian refugees.  At first the boys join in the hatred and anger toward the foreigners, foreigners who bring with them plummeting housing prices, the failure of a neighborhood to thrive, hatred of anything that is different.  But they meet Priscilla, a young girl with gold teeth, who challenges their beliefs.

Don’t Let Me Die in This Place is the story of an American man who has suffered a stroke, is now confined to a wheelchair, cannot move his right side, and does not speak the language of his Thai daughter-in-law and grandchildren.  He feels keenly the loss of his dignity and his sense of self, which he takes out upon his family.

Cockfighter is told from the sole female in the book, a 15 year old girl with a father who fights roosters, and a mother who sews beads onto bras for American customers.  The father has a point to prove against the local mob boss type, while the mother wants, desperately, for him to let this way of life go.  The mob boss’s son has an eye for the protagonist, an eye that terrifies her with its brutality and diligance.

Lapcharoensap is a young Thai-American writer, and his stories deal with universal issues like racism, lust, love, pain, and generational devotion and failures.  Lapcharoensap writes beautiful stories, stories that get to the heart of humanity and the pain of loss and suffering.  I tried to read this book slowly, to savor it, but I ate it up like a delicious bowl of ice cream.  Give it a go…I suspect you’ll love it.

The Abstinence Teacher

“I’ve made a few mistakes in my life,” Ruth began. “Some of them have involved sex, and at least a couple have been pretty big.

“It would be all too easy to pick one of these errors and tell you what I should have done differently, and how much better my life would be if I’d been mature and responsible enough not to have made it. But I’m not sure I believe that. I think it would be more accurate to say that we are our mistakes, or at least they’re an essential part of our identities. When we disavow our mistakes, aren’t we also disavowing ourselves, saying that we wish we were someone else?

“I’m halfway through my life, and as far as I can tell, the real lesson of the past isn’t that I made some mistakes, it’s that I didn’t make enough of them. I doubt I’ll be lying on my deathbed in forty or fifty years, congratulating myself on the fact that I never had sex in an airplane with a handsome Italian businessman, or patting myself on the back for all those years of involuntary celibacy I endured after my divorce. If recent experience is any guide, I’ll probably be lying in that hospital bed with my body full of tubes, sneaking glances at the handsome young doctor, wishing that I hadn’t been such a coward. Wishing I’d taken more risks, made more mistakes, and accumulated more regrets. Just wishing I’d lived when I had the chance.”

Ruth is a high school human sexuality teacher with a mission: to teach teenagers about sex, so that they will stay safe and be able to experience one of life’s greatest pleasures without guilt or fear. She doesn’t talk to them about when this should happen, acknowledging that for each person, it’s different. Some people want to wait until their married, others until they find someone they truly love, others until they find the right person to sleep with today. That’s not her concern. Her concern is dispelling the myths and mysteries about sex.

This concern bites her in the ass, however, when in the midst of a lesson on contraception, one of her students asks her comments about how oral sex is akin to French-kissing a toilet seat. Ruth replies that “from what I hear about oral sex, some people enjoy it.” That’s it. She doesn’t tell the kids to go out and do it, just says that it’s an enjoyable part of human sexuality, for some people. Of course, this backfires horribly, and the student who asked about oral sex has an agenda, and complains to her parents, who complain to the school, and the next semester, Ruth finds herself assigned to teach human sexuality with a decided mission: Abstinence.

Tim is a divorced father of one, a born-again Christian who was saved from his self-destructive alcohol and drug addictions by his conversion to faith. He is also a soccer coach, and one of his star players is Ruth’s daughter, Maggie. After an especially harrowing game, in which his daughter, Abby, is knocked unconscious and he fears she may in fact be dead, he invites the girls on his team to join him in a prayer of thanks. Ruth flips out and pulls Maggie from the field, and lines are drawn in the sand. The Christians vs. the faithless.

While Tim is pretty sure that he acted inappropriately by bringing prayer to the game, and is perfectly willing to let it go and not happen again, his church is thrilled by his actions, declaring him a brave man who is fighting the battle of the Lord. This puts him in a hard spot, because while he loves Christ and is thankful to be saved, he doesn’t take on the role of proselytizer very comfortably. Plus, his ex-wife is horrified, and threatens to go to court to deny him visitation rights to his daughter.

Ruth is a bit sorry she reacted so strongly as well, not wanting her daughter to have to give up the soccer she loves so much just to make a point that is Ruth’s point, not Maggie’s. And now, forced to talk to each other, they find themselves attracted to each other, even though Tim is recently married to a young woman from his church, and Ruth is horrified to find herself attracted to a ‘religious nut’, as she would call him.

Tom Perrotta draws his characters well and sympathetically, flushes them out and makes them read like real people, though not necessarily people you would want to hang out with for too long. They are all deeply flawed and opinionated. But you see the world from their side, and understand their motivations.

I’ve heard that the film rights have been purchased already, which is interesting to me. The drama never reached the crescendos that I thought they might, the characters never suffered as much for their actions as I thought they might, and the conclusion leaves a lot of consequences still up in the air. And there will be consequences. Much of the action in this novel is internal, not external, which makes me wonder if it might make a better indy sleeper hit than a big budget box office draw. Either way, I liked the book, though not as much as I enjoyed “Little Children”, which I found to be a much more thorough and well written book.

The Great Divorce

The Great Divorce is the story of a man, a man dreaming of an exploratory trip to Heaven. He arrives on a bus with many other riders, all of whom are approached by angels, who are trying to help the people to overcome their issues and fears, so that they can enter the kingdom of Heaven.

They are all pretty much given the options of Heaven or Hell, Hell being not so much the fiery pit described by Dante, but more a matter of Not Heaven. The title refers to William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which C.S. Lewis refutes, saying “If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven then we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.” (Hell being described as Not Heaven brings Buffy to mind, of course….she sings, “I live in Hell, ’cause I’ve been expelled from Heaven”. Sorry for the Buffy tangent.) In The Great Divorce, the riders of the bus are sadly mainly determined to hang on to their Earthly faults, unwilling to forgive or forget, or simply be happy, and thus condemn themselves to Hell.

The scenes in which the riders argue with the angels about leaving Earth behind reminded me of nothing so much as the scene in Lewis’s The Last Battle, when the characters enter the tent, and all see what it is that they hope to see in their deepest hearts. One might assume that one’s deepest wish would be to see Heaven, but for some of us, the desire for revenge, or self-glorification, for vindication or validation or justification, might be stronger than the desire for redemption, joy, and eternal happiness.

The angels, who have been sent to welcome the riders into Heaven, are the spirits of people they knew in their life on Earth. Sometimes it is someone they loved and cared for, and other times it might be a mortal enemy.

The segment that struck me most was an angel, talking to her newly arrived love (The Tragedian), who is dismayed to discover that she has been quite happy in Heaven without him.

“You mean,” said the Tragedian, “you mean, you did not love me truly in the old days.”

“Only in a poor sort of way,” she answered. “I have asked you to forgive me. There was little real love in it. But what we called love down there was mostly the craving to be loved. In the main I loved you for my own sake; because I needed you. ”

“And now!” said the Tragedian with a hackneyed gesture of despair. “Now, you need me no more?”

“But of course not!” said the lady; and her smile made me wonder how both the phantoms could refrain from crying out with joy.

“What needs could I have,” she said, “now that I have all? I am full now, not empty. I am in Love Himself, not lonely. Strong, not weak. You shall be the same. Come and see. We shall have no need for one another now. We can begin to love truly.”

A very interesting observation, that so much of love is based on our own desires and fears. Our fear of being lonely, alone and scared. Our desire for family and companionship. But what of love that is based not on our own fears or dreams, but instead, solely on a love for the other person, a desire to make that person happy, and to be happy together.

I’m not sure if our Earthly lives will allow for such a pure love, but it is wonderful to contemplate.

Belong to Me

We think our parents are in charge, right?  Like they know what they’re doing?  But the truth is, they’re making it up as they go along, just like we are.  Just like everyone.  If we judge them by their worst mistakes, they’re all, like, gargantuan failures.  Maybe you should try judging your mom by her intentions, by whether she, like, loves you and is doing her best.

Such is the young teen wisdom of a minor character in Marisa de los Santos’ new book, Belong to Me. It is wisdom that spoke to me in my particular moment of grief, and made me think that perhaps my mother might want to be forgiven as much as I do, for the failure of her not getting better. If so, I am ready to forgive and just remember how much she loved me, how the last time I saw her, she told me she loved me at least 15 times.

Anyway, on to the book.  A few years ago, I read another book by the same author, Love Walked In.  It was chic lit, to be sure, but the best kind, the kind that is written well, that pulls you in, and makes you care about the characters.  It turns out that Belong to Me is a sequel to Love Walked In, continuing the story of Cornelia Brown, but also bringing in a few other characters, characters who you aren’t so sure about at first, but who grow on you and you learn to admire them for their strengths, and to forgive them for their weaknesses.

I was interested to read that de los Santos is an award winning writer of poetry, something which comes through in her writing and makes you want to really care about the characters in her books.   The strength of her words compensates for the slightly formulaic storyline, and the depth of the characters makes you want to keep reading more.

Belong to Me, like Love Walked In, is mainly about the strength of the ties that bind us all together, especially families in their many incarnations, but also the strengths and loyalties of friendships. I liked this book a lot, and I’m looking forward to the next book by Ms. de los Santos. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an easy summer read, especially one that doesn’t feel like a throw away book.  This is a book, these are characters, that might just stick with you for awhile.

Plainsong

Plainsong, by Kent Haruf, is the kind of book that you read feeling like you kind of know what’s coming…there are no great surprises in plot, no great mysteries. Yet the telling of the story is so beautifully done, the characters so real and true and honest, that you don’t mind that you’ve pretty much figured out how things will turn out.

Plainsong is a story told from many different angles and edges. There is the schoolteacher, Maggie Jones, who is a kind and giving woman, who turns out to be the fabric that binds the other narratives together. There is Guthrie, the father of two young boys, also a school teacher. He refuses to allow a class bully to get away with cruelty when he sees it, and we find out where such cruel children generally learn their ways. There are Guthrie’s sons, Bobby and Ike, who learn a lot about the ways of the world while delivering newspapers in the mornings, collecting for papers in the afternoons, and wiling away the hours in between. There are the McPheron brothers, two crusty men living on a cattle ranch, who have not known the kindness of human love since their parents died when they were young teens. They are isolated and lonely, and yet more than willing to open their hearts when someone comes along who needs them. There is Victoria Roubideaux, a 17 year old girl who finds herself pregnant with no one to turn to when her mother kicks her out. The way these stories intersect and intertwine is lovely and beautiful, because Haruf’s prose is a spot on depiction of decent, yet troubled, people, and the ways that they succeed and fail in the isolated small town life of the prairies of Colorado.

I really enjoyed this book, and I really felt for the characters. Highly recommended.

The Book Thief

The Book Thief is a tale of World War II told from a different point of view than any other book I’ve read on the subject…and at the same time, it’s just like the other World War II books I’ve read.

I’ve read the Diary of Anne Frank, Number the Stars, The Snow Goose, and at least several others. I’ve seen many WWII movies, including The Thin Red Line and Saving Private Ryan. All of these books and films are told from the point of view of the allies, or that of people fleeing the tyranny and death camps of the Nazis. The Book Thief is the story of a German family within Nazi Germany. That was quite different and novel to me, to see a glimpse into a German town, a German village, a German mindset during this most horrific time. (Writing this, it occurs to me that Schindler’s List was told from a German perspective…I had forgotten that.)

What The Book Thief has in common with the others is that it is a story of bravery, courage, and heroism. It’s the story of Liesel, a young girl who is given into a foster family by her mother, who can no longer be assured of enough food for her children. Liesel is haunted by the death of her young brother, and the lack of having a father. She is illiterate, and yet, when she comes across an unusual book at her brother’s burial, she cannot resist the temptation to pocket the volume.

Liesel comes to live with a couple in a small village, whose children are grown and independent. The father is an accordionist who can no longer scrape together much of a living himself, and a harsh woman prone to name-calling and swearing. The father, Hans, owes a debt to a friend from WWI, who saved his life. He is called upon to repay that debt when the friend’s son comes to hide in their basement. The friend is a Jew, and the son is in hiding.

The narrator of the story is Death, who, contrary to popular belief, does not really enjoy his job. He aches for the souls that he removes from Earth, aches for their families left behind, longs to free them from their pain and suffering. He calls this a small story, and in many ways it is…it is the small story of a small family, doing their best to survive in a horrific time, trying to stay beneath the radar of the Nazi party, trying to feed themselves and the Jew in their basement, who is himself wracked with guilt over the risk that this family is taking in order that he might survive.

Along the way, we meet Liesel’s best friend, the mayor’s wife, neighbors with kind hearts, and neighbors without kind hearts. All of these characters come together to paint a story of hope, of survival, and of the bravery and horrors of war.

Truly one of the most touching, best books I have read in quite awhile. It’s listed as Young Adult, though please don’t be scared away by that listing. It’s a great book for any age.

TBR Challenge

Well, it’s a new year, and apparently in the book blogging world, that means, time to take on some new challenges. Amongst the select few books that got to stay when we purged our bookshelves recently, one shelf is full of books that I want to read, but haven’t had a chance to get to yet…in other words, To Be Read books, TBR. This challenge can be found here, and the rules are:

** Pick 12 books – one for each month of 2008 – that you’ve been wanting to read (that have been on your “To Be Read” list) for 6 months or longer, but haven’t gotten around to.

** OPTIONAL: Create a list of 12 “Alternates” (books you could substitute for your challenge books, given that a particular one doesn’t grab you at the time)

** Then, starting January 1, 2008, read one of these books from your list each month, ending December 31, 2008.

(for more information, please read the challenge FAQs)

So, I’m late, but not so late that I can’t read my 12 books in 12 months, I don’t think. So, here goes, here are my 12 books that have been cluttering up my shelves lately, and I need to read them so I can decide if they get to stay or if they get donated to the library next time:

The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins

The Abstinence Teacher, by Tom Perrotta

Pictures of Hollis Woods, by Patricia R Giff

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis

No Country For Old Men, by Cormac Mccarthy

The Passion of Artemisia, by Susan Vreeland

Sightseeing, by Ratta Lapcharoensap

Charming Billy, by Alice McDermott

Plainsong, by Kent Haruf

I’ve had some of these books for several years, while others are a bit newer, and I don’t remember where I got them all or what drew me to them…but I’m excited about diving in and finding out if I like them or not. Guess you’ll be getting some book reviews out of me this year, huh? And if you feel like taking this challenge on, go let Mizbooks know! I’m sure she’d love to have you in on the fun. 🙂