Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Salon: Reading Retrospective (May 2002)

I spent most of this past week with the MacDonald clan, re-living the departure of their ancestors from Scotland to Cape Breton and following several generations up to the modern day. I finished reading No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod yesterday and I quite enjoyed it. Now I've picked up The King's Bride by E.T.A Hoffmann, one of my recent acquisitions. I decided to sneak it in, as it's really short and looks like it'll be a fun, quick read. Then after that I'll be reading Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel. It's an e-book so I've printed out all 244 pages, and while reading loose printouts isn't ideal I am looking forward to it as I've heard great things about it. This week I also posted my review of Still Life by Louise Penny, the first book in her Inspector Gamache series. I was in the mood for a mystery and really enjoyed it, and I will definitely be reading on in the series.

So that's where my reading has been taking me these days. Continuing on though with my monthly look back at what I was reading 7 years ago, when I started keeping track of the books I read, here's what I read in May of 2002. Comments in italics are my thoughts at the time from my reading journal (aka spreadsheet).

The Nanny Diaries by Nicola Kraus & Emma McLaughlin
A compelling story with great characters that really came to life. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. 8/10
I still remember feeling so sorry for the little boy in the story.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
A re-read of this well-created Biblical fiction. Dinah is such a believable character and the ending made me cry again! 9.5/10
This was one of those cases when the book was just as moving for me the second time around.

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler
So real! A great preview to the live performance (which I saw in London). 8/10
The book is good but this is totally worth seeing live. So empowering for women, and I have to say it had a positive effect on my life, helping me be more accepting of my own body.

The Shelters of Stone by Jean M. Auel
I loved the previous books in the Earth's Children series that started with The Clan of the Cave Bear, which I devoured as a teenager. But while it was interesting to revisit the characters this was very poorly edited and flat. Too much recapping of what came before with a bit of set up for a final book. Disappointing. 4/10
I wonder if she'll ever finish, or publish the sixth and supposed final book of the series?

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Beautifully-written, heart-warming story. The characters were full of life, but a moderate ending. 7/10
I don't really know what I meant by 'moderate ending', but I guess I wasn't completely satisfied with it. I still remember some parts of the story but I don't remember how it ended anymore so maybe that says it all.

So I read some pretty good books 7 years ago this month with only the one disappointment. I can't complain about that! Have you read any of these?

Back to the present, this week we also got approved for our new apartment, and today we had two different moving companies round to give us a quote. Surprisingly one was basically half-price of the other. We're talking a difference of almost $1000! Guess which one we'll be using? Anyway, it'll be good to move on from sorting and tossing to putting things in boxes. I'll be around a little more this week as I have a few reviews I'd like to post before the end of the month. I hope you have a good week!

Week in review:
Mailbox Monday
'Still Life' by Louise Penny (review)


  1. I read No Great Mischief several years ago and loved it, can't wait to read your review. I've added The Makioka Sisters to my Herding Cats list! Have a great week.

  2. I would think it would be much easier to read an e-book online.

  3. I am planning to read Last Night in Montreal soon as well. It looks like it will be a good one.

    I have heard wonderful thing about Louise Penny and am glad you enjoyed her book, Still Life, Nat.

    I almost did my retrospective today, but decided to push it off until next weekend. I still haven't managed to read The Red Tent despite the rather passionate urgings of one of my friends. The Vagina Monologues is another one I really hope to read one day. I would love to see it performed.

    Congratulations on being approved for your new apartment! That is great news.

    I hope you have a great week, Nat.

  4. I also saw a performance of The Vagina Monologues a few years back. It was indeed very relatable and, you're right, empowering. I loved it.

    How cool that you've been keeping track since 7 years ago! I only started keeping track 4 years ago, although I pretty much remember still almost all the books I've read before then, just not in any particular order.

    We are currently putting things in boxes and moving soon.. so hope you fare better, as I loathe packing and moving. Although I will be glad after all this is over and we can get on with the new place. :)

  5. The Montreal book sounds neat; Montreal's one of those cities I've always wanted to visit. :)

  6. Wow, 9.5! You're making me want to read The Red Rent more than ever.

    I've read The Secret Life of Bees two years ago and I enjoyed it. I can't quite remember the ending either, though.

    I'm glad you found a decently priced moving company! Fortunately my father owns a van, so I could move without having to hire one. Good luck with everything!

  7. I've read THe Red Tent twice and loved it both times! I'll probably read it again one day.

  8. I read "The Red Tent," which I loved, and "The Secret Life of Bees," which I thought was just okay, though there was one part that made me cry (can't remember what it was anymore, though I think it was somewhere in the middle) and I can count on one hand the books that have made me cry.

    Congrats on finding the apartment!

  9. Glad to hear your apartment is sorted out!

    I'll be interested to hear about The King's Bride, as after browsing the Oneworld classics site I decided I had to have it, it sounds such fun.

    The recent film of The Secret Life of Bees was very good, worth watching for Dakota Fanning alone.

  10. Gavin - I'd had No Great Mischief in my stacks for a few years, so I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. I hope you enjoy The Makioka Sisters when you get to it.

    debnance - I just don't really like reading a book on the screen of my laptop, especially since I do most of my reading in bed at night, or on the train while commuting. I've started lusting after an e-book reader though which would make things easier. I wish they were a bit cheaper.

    Wendy - Thanks! Now we can start planning things more specifically, which also means the packing must begin in earnest.

    I'm really looking forward to Last Night in Montreal. I hope it lives up to our high expectations.

    I know some people have complained that The Red Tent isn't accurate according to what's written in the Bible. Since I'm wasn't very familiar with the story that didn't bother me and I just really enjoyed it. I don't know if I'll read it again but it certainly stood up to being read a second time.

    I hope you have a great week too, Wendy! :)

    claire - I wish I'd started keeping track even earlier, but there's not much I can do about that now. Like you, I can usually remember what I read before I kept track but not many details, or when it was exactly.

    I'm not a fan of packing and moving either but I'm starting to look forward to being in our new place. I just wish there wasn't so much to do to get us there. My husband and I were joking the other night saying, wouldn't it be nice if we could just magically teleport all our stuff there in the blink of an eye! LOL. Good luck with your move!

    Eva - I spent a couple days in Montreal a few years ago, but it wasn't nearly long enough. I only caught a glimpse really so I'd love to go again someday.

    Nymeth - Thanks. I think even if we had access to a van, we still wouldn't be able to move ourselves. A lot of it, yes, but we have a big sofa we brought back from England and all my books would probably put a few backs out!
    How are you enjoying your new place? You must be well settled in by now.

    Stephanie - I don't remember now why I re-read it then, for a book group maybe. But it certainly held up to being read again. The ending gets me every time!

    gautami tripathy - It's a great book, isn't it?

    Teresa - Not too many books have made me cry either, although it probably is more than one hand's worth.
    And thanks. Now that we know exactly where we're moving, we can start to plan accordingly.

    Sarah - I only managed a few pages of The King's Bride before I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore last night but it started out well.

    I'd like to see the film of The Secret Life of Bees, but just haven't had an opportunity to do so yet. One of these days.

  11. The Red Tent is one of my favorites also. I think the subtle messages of how we allow ourselves or are assigned roles as women would play out well in any story but the particular circumstances of this novel make the inequities even more apparent as these women exist in exclusively male-defined times. With the red tent as haven. Always makes me stop and ask myself where my haven is? Happy reading!

  12. Good luck with your move, and contratulations on the great price from your movers! What a difference.

    Loved your reading retrospective. I need to re-read The Red Tent for sure.

  13. I remember reading "The clan of the cave bear" a long time ago, I used to enjoy this series. Hope you like "Best Intentions" I liked the writing and story a lot.

    Have a very nice week Nat, courage with the boxes ;D

  14. So happy to hear about your new apartment!! Loved your recap from 7 years read quite a few interesting books. I missed your review of Still Life so I'm going back to read it!!

  15. Still Life looks good! I will always make room for a good mystery.

    I think I'm one of the few people left that has never read The Red Tent!! One of these days....

  16. The Red Tent is on my TBR list. My book club read it before I was a member and rave about it every chance they get.

  17. Good luck with the moving! I hope everything goes really smoothly.

    I really enjoyed The Red Tent and The Nanny Diaries as well--and didn't get all of the hype over Secret Life of Bees. In May 2002 I discovered Harry Potter for the first time!

  18. Frances - You're right. I think the underlying theme of women's roles, or their place in society, could be told in a variety of settings but was quite powerful in The Red Tent.
    I think my haven is being curled up with a good book!

    Andi - Thanks. We couldn't quite believe the difference in price either. We're not complaining though.

    Sylvie - It's been a long time since I read the first books in that series. I totally devoured them at the time though.

    And thanks, I think I might need it! The moving company should be delivering the boxes tomorrow and then the packing will begin!

    Staci - It was quite an interesting mix of books that I read 7 years ago this month. :)

    Stephanie - I'm definitely looking forward to reading on in the series, so that's a good sign.
    And we all have books that we feel we must be the last person to read!

    Jess - I hope you enjoy it when you get a chance to read it. At least then you'll know what they're raving about.

    Trish - Thanks! I don't remember now when I first discovered Harry Potter. I just know it was while living in Japan before we moved to England and before I started keeping track in 2002. Such a fun series!


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