88. Bossypants by Tina Fey
I don’t have much to say about this book. It was a quick, funny read in which Fey talks about her life from her childhood through her present life. I had heard good things about the book and it did not disappoint. If you’re looking for a fun easy read I highly recommend this book. I give it an 8 out of 10.
87. The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America by Marc Levinson
This book examines the rise of The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company and all it’s future iterations as the long time largest chain store in America. It also looks at all the ways that some people and the government attempted to fight against chain stores in favor of small businesses. I found this really interesting as this is something that seems to have been a constant battle in Baltimore in recent years. It always seemed like somewhat of a recent issue, but in fact it’s a fight that has literally been going on for a century. I am also interested in A&P’s fate in light of Steve Jobs’ death last night. A&P was long run by the same two brothers, one of whom was the real visionary of the company and lead the company through all the many changes that occurred during his running of the company for many decades. After his death there was no one to step in and fill that vacuum. The company because reactionary instead of proactive and the people at the top became intrenched in trying to maintain their current status quo instead of changing to meet the times. With Apple’s success largely due to Jobs’ visionary leadership, I do think it will be interesting to watch and see if they wind up succumbing to the same fate. I give it a 7 out of 10.
86. Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen
I downloaded this as a free ebook from Barnes and Noble, which about what it was worth. After struggling to make it through Wish You Were Here, I wanted a quick, easy read. This book at least was that. I haven’t seen this book labeled as YA fiction anywhere, but it certainly read like it was to me. I will continue to think of it as YA so that I can give it a more favorable review. If I actually thought it was written as adult fiction my review would be even harsher. The story takes place during 1929 when Prohibition was in full effect. Two young women, Cordelia and Letty leave their small town in Ohio to strike it big in New York City. Letty is determined to make to make it big as a singer while Cordelia is secretly going to meet the man who she believes is her birth father, one of the largest bootleggers in the country. The plot is kind of ridiculous and every issue seems to be resolved too quickly and too easily. The book is actually the first in a trilogy. Need less to say I won’t be reading the remaining two books in teh series. I give it a 3 out of 10.
85. Wish You Were Here by Stewart O’Nan
I actually wound up reading O’Nan’s sequel to this book, Emily, Alone before I read this book. I generally enjoy O’Nan’s writing style in which he really kind of gives a play by play of actions and feelings of characters as they go throughout their ordinary lives. Often there isn’t any major plot points going on. I really enjoyed Emily, Alone which features the same characters, but I could not get into this book and felt like I was forcing myself to read it. I think I just managed to read this book at the wrong time in my life. I needed to be reading something fast-paced and peppier than this book during the always super busy and stressful beginning to the fall semester at my job. This book was not that. It centers around the annual family get together at the family lake house. Emily the family matriarch has decided to sell the house after the death of her husband, so the family including her 2 children, 4 grandchildren and sister-in-law, are gathering for one last vacation. The story goes through their vacation day by day. Although I didn’t particularly care for the book it did fuel my recent obsession with owning a lake house. I give it a 5 out of 10.
84. Light from a Distant Star by Mary McGarry Morris
This story revolves around a young girl entering her adolescence named Nellie. Her family seems to be falling apart around her. Her father is somewhat of an eccentric, wasting his time writing a history of their small town that no one will ever read while the hardware store he runs falls into bankruptcy. Her mother is attempting to keep the family afloat by going back to work as a hairdresser and renting out the apartment attached to their house. Nellie’s older sister is drawing away from the family and on a quest to find her real birth father, and Nellie is often saddled with babysitting her odd little brother. The boarder they take in is a stripper named Dolly who seems to have some bad blood with the ex-convict recently hired by Nellie’s grandfather to help work at his junkyard. Nellie eventually becomes a sort-of witness to a murder and is faced with trying to do the right thing and tell the truth or to keep quiet and help save her family from financial ruin. It seems like it’s supposed to be somewhat of a coming of age story a la To Kill a Mockingbird, but I had a really hard time ever getting into it. I give it a 5 out of 10.
83. A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown
I actually didn’t really know that much about Jim Jones and the whole Jonestown mass suicide other than that it happened and of course the whole don’t drink the Kool-Aid thing. I found this to be a really interesting and informative read. After reading the book I can totally see how people were drawn in by Jones and his movement to begin with. At the beginning before it all went off the rails it seemed to be a really great movement focused on social justice and racial equality that was really progressive for the time. Jones however appears to have developed mental illness issues as well as a drug problem that led him deep into paranoia that altered everything forever. Some people apparently never stopped believing in him, but once many people realized how wrong everything had gone they were in too deep with no way out and afraid for their lives and the lives of their families. If you’re interested in learning more about Jones movement and what really happened at Jonestown I recommend this book. I give it a 7 out of 10.
82. Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
I am really not a fan of science fiction, but appreciate some science fiction writers for other reasons. I attended the annual science fiction writers panel at the American Library Association conference this past summer specifically because John Scalzi was one of the panelists. Despite my disinterest in the genre of novels he writes, I do immensely enjoy his blog Whatever. I think he has a lot of intelligent and reasonable things to say about a variety of topics. There is always a giveaway of books written by the authors featured on the panel. Thus I came away with a copy of Fuzzy Nation. Even though normally I don’t read science fiction I decided to give Fuzzy Nation a shot. The story revolves around a man who is working as some sort of miner on a planet that has been colonized by humans. He’s kind of a careless, screwup who accidentally discovers a large amount of some substance that is considered extremely valuable. At the same time he encounters small catlike creatures hanging around his house. He then becomes involved in a case to determine if they are sentient beings that actually have rights to their home planet and the large amount of valuable substance that was just discovered. I thought it was an ok book, but again it’s just really not my thing. Science fiction fans will probably find it a more enjoyable read than I did. I didn’t hate it, but I think I’ll stick to Scalzi’s writings on his blog as opposed to his books. I give it a 5 out of 10.
81. Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart
Add this book to the many, many books and stories that are best described as Jane Austen fanfic, if you can actually apply that term to books. There were a variety of stories in this book: some were continuing stories of Austen characters, others were stories about Austen herself, and some were modernized stories based on Austen’s books. The latter were my favorite for the most part. Though some of those were a bit wackadoo, in my opinion, with ghosts of Austen’s characters interacting with real people in the present. I think most of the stories were written by romance authors who tend to write Jane Austen take-off romance novels. All of these things combined made it pretty much not my cup of tea as I don’t care for either romance novels or short stories very much. I can seeing this book enjoyable though to people who are into this kind of thing. It’s just not for me. I did pass the book along to someone else who I thought might enjoy it more than I did, so it’s not to say that it’s not worth reading just that you should like this kind of book if you’re going to bother reading it. I give it a 4 out of 10.
80. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
I read this book for one of my book clubs. It was a short, quick read. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this book wasn’t necessarily it. It definitely takes a little bit to get into the book as it starts of very philosophical and theoretical, which I was not expecting at all. Eventually the book does turn into an actual time travel story. Wells definitely provides an interesting perspective on where he thinks the human race will wind up. Hopefully he’s not right because it’s not very pretty. I give it a 5 out of 10.
79. Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan
This is an interesting look at what is supposed to be the true story behind the bestselling book Sybil and the hit TV movie based on it. Using archival material the author delves into the histories of the woman known as Sybil, her therapist, and the author of the book. Based on the evidence in this book it seems clear that there were many ethically questionable things going on between the patient and her therapist and that the diagnosis of multiple personality disorder was entirely fabricated. It’s definitely a very good read for anyone who is interested in psychology. I give it a 7 out of 10.