Book 33

33. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines
The story takes place somewhere in Louisiana outside of Bayonne. A young African-American is caught up unexpectedly in the robbery and murder of a white store owner. The real perpetrators are both killed during the incident. The only survivor this young man is sentenced to death. So the story begins. The real story lays with the young teacher who grew up on the same plantation as the condemned being practically forced by his aunt and the boy’s godmother to visit him in prison to teach him to “be a man” before his death. It was an interesting story more as a study of the African-American situation in the rural south during the early 1900’s to mid-1900’s, which is when I placed the novel. As the time frame is never specifically mentioned this was just a guess on my part. The rest of the story I didn’t find that fascinating. I give it 6 out of 10.

Book 32

32. My Antonia by Willa Cather
I don’t recall actually having read any Willa Cather prior to reading this book. I think I must have read some of her short stories when I was younger because I distinctly remember having written a report on her in either elementary or middle school. I know I’ve never read any of her novels, so I’m guessing the report must have involved short story writers. It’s all very hazy.

Anyway, I was actually suprised at how much I liked this book. Seeing how old it was, I didn’t expect it to read the way it did. I don’t dislike novels that come from past eras, but many times the language and story are very distinguisable for more modern novels. I did not find this to be the case with My Antonia. The story is narrated by Jim, who we first meet as a young boy who has just been sent to the wilds of Nebraska to live with is grandparents after the death of parents. Antonia is the slightly older daughter of Bohemian immigrants that lives “next door”. The story basically chronicles both their lives from Jim’s point of view.

I give it an 8 out of 10.

Book 31

31. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
I read this book in two parts because I managed to leave it at the gym. When I first asked about it at the lost and found they said they didn’t have it. Then stuff happened and I didn’t make it to the gym for awhile. When I went back and asked about it again the girl working told me she had seen it and returned it to the library. Well, it turns out she also checked it out herself, so there was a couple months between reading the first half and the second half of this book.

The author discusses her life in Iran leading up to the revolution and takeover by Ayotollah Khomeini and the years of his rule. Additionally, she talks about the time she spent in America during her college years, that influenced the way she viewed what was going on in Iran. All of this is set around her being a professor of literature at various universities and the secret class she taught after the Islamic policies that overtook the country made her leave the university and eventually the country. She includes her story as well as the stories of the girls she taught in her secret class.

I thought it was an excellent story. It gave me a much better view of the political situation in Iran and what it is like to be a woman living under an Islamic regime. It is definitely a heavy book discussing political issues as well as deep analysis of literature.

I’ll give it an 8 out of 10.

Books 26-30

26. Anne of Avonlea
27. Anne of the Island
28. Anne of Windy Poplars
29. Anne’s House of Dreams
30. Anne of Ingleside

More books from the Anne of Green Gables series. There are technically 2 more, but I doubt I’m going to read them. They started getting a little repetitive after awhile. Anne of Green Gables is definitely the best in the series. I think Anne of Windy Poplars is the worst. To many side characters that you don’t care about and way too many old crotchety ladies who come to love Anne.

Book 25

25. Digging to America by Anne Tyler
This was a decent book. Not one of Anne Tyler’s best books, but definitely not one of her worst either. The plot follows 2 extended families over a period of about 10 years from what I can figure. The two families meet at the airport while both waiting to pick up their adopted Korean daughters and forge a friendship from there. Two things that bothered me about this book. One the beginning of the story takes place with the families waiting right at the gate for the plane to come. Unrealistic for today. However, it turns out that this is supposed to be happening in 1997, so it makes sense. Yet, you don’t find out any time frame until at least halfway through the book. If you’re going to have your story structured in a certain time period, don’t wait until halfway through the book to introduce it. And second about 3 chapters from the end of the book the narration changes to that of the adopted daughters, which made little sense to me. Particularly since the thought processes did not seem like those that would come from a child around 7 years old. I’ll give the book a 7 out of 10.

Book 24

24. Shopgirl by Steve Martin
Paul and I watched this movie recently, so I decided to finally check out the book. I used to see it all the time on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, and thought about reading it but I never got around to it for whatever reason. It’s actually billed as a novella because it is a rather short 130 pages. I rarely have a chance to say this, but I actually enjoyed the movie better. For the most part they were similar aside from a few minor things. The ending was slightly different. For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie or read the book I won’t ruin it, but although the ultimate outcome is the same in both it drags on a lot longer in the book. Somehow although perhaps more real, it was also less satisfying to me. It wasn’t great, nor was it horrible so I’ll give it a 7 out of 10.

Book 23

23. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott-
This was an excellent book full of vignettes about Anne Lamott’s faith. The book starts with her discussing her exposures to faith and religion as a child. Then it briefly chronicles her journey from being an alcoholic drug user to turning Jesus. In the remaining stories she discusses both difficult and uplifting times in her life and how her faith both encouraged her and allowed her to make it through. The stories give an excellent view of the struggles that Christian’s go through trying to keep their faith and remembering to turn to God for help. The book felt very real and very true, and although I haven’t gone through many of the things that the author has the ideas and the faith in the stories truly resonated with me. I would highly recommend reading this book. So it gets a 9 out of 10.

Book 22

22. Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin
This book sucked. I do not recommend in any way reading it. Of course it kept its level of suckage just to the point where it wasn’t bad enough for me not to finish it. That’s how evil this book was. I have no idea how to describe the plot because really for the most part there isn’t one. The story winds through about 100 years in New York City with people jumping across time and to and from non-existent places. In the end all the stories are supposed to come together with the past people who wind up in the present affecting the lives of the present people. But really it’s all just kind of stupid. I’ve read one other book by this author and he definitely likes the absurdist, but somehow it seemed to play a lot better in the other book I read. This one just seems like he’s trying to hard and throwing around made up things because he thinks it will be funny. But let me assure you it’s not. The only thing it allowed me to do was cut out whole paragraphs of reading while he was listing off non-existent things that people were supposed to be eating, doing, owning, etc. I give this book a 3 out of 10. And that’s probably generous.