Wednesday, January 27, 2016

From the Archives: Favorites From 2006 (The Last Two Reviews From My Pre-Blogging Days)

I began keeping a reading journal several years before I began blogging. I find it interesting to sift through my thoughts of books that I read back then. My reviews were often brief and contained little substance, but I thought it'd be fun to document them here on my blog as well as share them with you. Here are a couple of my reviews from 2006:


Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Random  House, 2005
Fiction; 258 pgs

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is the story about the lives of two special friends in nineteenth-century China. The two girls are matched as laotongs, a rare friendship that is established between two girls specially chosen to be lifelong friends. They communicate through a secret language called nu shu. The descriptions and writing style of Lisa See, the author, brought to mind Arthur Golden with Memoirs of a Geisha. I found the historical and cultural aspects of the novel intriguing: the foot binding process, the role of women in society and within the family, for example. The chapter and description of the foot binding process was difficult to read at times. Foot binding was a big part of the Chinese culture during that time period and a reflection on the place of women in society. It was believed that foot binding was proof of personal discipline and an ability to endure the pain of child birth as well as whatever other misfortunes might come. Small feet were a sign of beauty. The smaller the feet, the better the wife. Lisa See painted a disturbing portrait of women’s roles in those days, where only having male offspring made a woman valuable and women were the property of their husband’s family. While this idea still exists today in one form or another in some cultures, it was even more widespread back then. The friendship and misunderstandings between Snow Flower and Lily brought to mind Hassan and Amir from Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. Like it did for Amir, my heart ached for Lily and the poor choices she made, which ultimately caused a riff in her friendship with Snow Flower. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a powerful novel, not one that I will easily forget, and is by far the best novel I’ve read so far this year.


The Lincoln Lawyer (Mickey Haller #1)  by Michael Connelly
Little, Brown & Company, 2005
Crime Fiction; 404 pgs

Defense Attorney Michael Haller’s clientele are not always the most popular among society. He defends drug dealers, gang members, rapists, and murderers. His most recent client promises to bring in a paycheck. He’s a well-to-man accused of raping and brutalizing a woman he picked up in a night club. As he builds his defense, Haller suddenly finds himself in the middle of something even bigger than he expected. His friend and colleague turns up dead and Haller must put his wits to the test, possibly to save his own hyde. Author Michael Connelly lets readers into the backdoor of the defense attorney world. Michael Haller is a character whose ethics and morals raise eyebrows at almost every turn. As sleazy as he seems at times, it’s impossible not to be pulled in by his charm and root for him all the way. Michael Connelly has written a funny, suspenseful thriller that was difficult to put down and kept me up until the wee hours of the morning to finish. I did find the story was predictable in how it eventually played out. Trying to avoid any spoilers, I do have to say that I did smile at the very end of The Lincoln Lawyer. Michael Connelly knows how to be true to his characters.


And with this, the last of my journal entries pre-blogging days has been posted to my blog. I initially began keeping a reading journal the later half of 2003 in hopes of keeping track of the books I read. I thought it would be fun, not to mention a good way to help me remember what I read. I wrote a brief synopsis of each book and followed it up with my general thoughts, often just a line or two, sometimes more, depending on how inspired I was by the book or just how much I had to say. Kind of like how my reviews seem to work out today . . . I'd like to think I have gotten better and organizing my thoughts and explaining what it is I liked or did not like about a book a bit better since I began blogging, but I also know it will probably always be a work in progress.

I posted the first one on November 2, 2008, as part of my Sunday Salon posts, referring to them as my "Reading Retrospective" posts.  In my first post, I featured the first three books I ever recorded in my reading journal in the fall of 2003: Mystic River by Dennis Lehane, The Mindhunter by John Douglas, and The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Eventually I came to post my pre-blog reviews independently as From the Archives posts.    

Many of the books I remember, and revisiting my exact thoughts after I read them has been both entertaining and sometimes even surprising.  It's amazing how our perceptions change over the years. There were books I barely remembered at all and wish I had written more about to help jog my memory.  There are those books I remember liking more or even less than I actually did when I read them. A reflection of the books, a faulty memory, or perhaps just a changing perspective over time? Maybe a combination of some or all of those things. There were also many authors I just had to read more by and yet . . . And yet, it's impossible to get to all the books we want to read.  I'm still working on it.  

I have enjoyed revisiting my reading during the time I kept my journals. My only regret is that I didn't start writing down my thoughts about the books I read sooner. Thank you for taking this journey into the past with me.

Before Goodreads and LibraryThing and book blogging, did you keep track of your reading? Have you ever looked back on your reading over the years? What stands out for you when you look back?


© 2016, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

26 comments:

  1. Oh, I'm sorry that we are at an end of your pre-blogging book thoughts, Wendy. I've enjoyed these. Loved Snow Flower and discussed it with a book group. We had quite the talk about that whole foot binding thing. Ick.

    And, yes, you know that I have kept track of my reading (mostly) for over 20 years. I wish that it had been longer though. I've met women who have kept track since they were 8 years old. How I wish I had done that. There are authors that I can recall or figure out with the help of Google, but some are just on the tip of my tongue and I'm not sure I'll ever find them. Yes, my tastes have changed some, but I think I also know that my great love of the mysterious in fiction has been something that's been there pretty much my whole reading life. Still is.

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    1. Kay - I wish I had thought to keep track during my childhood! I imagine I would find I've forgotten a lot, but at least to have that record . . . Maybe I should make my daughter start now. ;-)

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  2. That's too bad we're at the end of your journals. I really enjoyed seeing these posts. It's nice to see reviews for older books that I missed when they were first out. I definitely need to try Lisa See. I even own a couple of her books but I've yet to actually read them!
    For a long time I didn't keep track of my reading at all but around 14 or 15 years ago I started keeping a journal but it's just date started, title, author, page number, and date finished so not nearly as interesting!

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    1. Katherine - My goal was to eventually have all of my reviews here on my blog (and on Goodreads), and so in that way I'm glad to have it done finally. I need to read more by Lisa See. I've only read two--both of which I loved.

      Even just keeping titles and authors and dates read is something!

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  3. I've read a lot of raving reviews on Snow Flower and the Secret Fan but just haven't got around to it. Hopefully this year.

    I've enjoyed reading your thoughts on the books you read during your pre-blogging days so I'm sad to see this is your last post. I wish I'd jotted down my thoughts on the books I read before blogging but alas, that's how things are.

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    1. Melody - It's such a good book, Melody. I hope one day you will read it.

      I am sad this is my last From the Archives post too. If only I'd been better at keeping track of what I read long before I started. :-(

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  4. When I was a teen, I had a bookmark I used to count up the books I read with it (tally marks). Other than that, I never kept track, except for my ill fated first blog (back in 2007 or so) which had a few reviews. I enjoyed Snow Flower and the Secret Fan too- Lisa See is an awesome author for diverse fiction.
    ~Litha Nelle

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    1. Litha Nelle - What fun! I imagine it was fun seeing the number of those tallies go up the more you read. :-)

      I agree with you about Lisa See!

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  5. Loved Snow Flower, it remains my #1 favorite Lisa See novel. The foot binding sticks with me:(

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    1. Diane - It's one of my all-time favorite books. I really need to make time to reread it.

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  6. I'm amazed and a bit envious that you were reviewing books well before you started blogging! And I enjoyed both these reviews. Like Katherine, I appreciate reviews of "older" books.

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    1. Lark - It was a good way to help jog my memory of what I read--not to mention I love making lists. :-)

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  7. It's great that you enjoy writing your thoughts about books, and for so long!

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    1. Pat - I find writing down my thoughts about the books I read to find closure--if that makes sense. It helps me organize and process my thoughts. I've always enjoyed writing, and so this is just an extension of that. :-)

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  8. This is so cool that you've been able to post about all of your books from your journals pre-blogging days. I remember reading Snow Flower & The Secret Fan - the foot binding part was horrifying. I've read a couple of her other books and do enjoy her storytelling!

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    1. Iliana - It's been a fun project. :-) I love Lisa See's writing.

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  9. I read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See pre-blogging days as well, and I remember tearing up over it.

    It's funny how our perception of books and what we take away from reading experiences can change over time. I think it has to do with how as we read different genres and authors, we just become more seasoned readers, that and life experiences can help us relate to certain books more than others.

    Happy weekend :)

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    1. Naida - I'm sure I cried buckets when I read Snowflower and the Secret Fan. The story really moved me.

      I agree; I think our impressions of books are influenced by our life experiences, and perhaps our opinions of those books change as we grow.

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  10. I read my oldest blog posts sometimes and can't get over the fact that I've already forgotten some of those books that I have read. No wonder I am a re-reader. LOL! I've been meaning to try Connelly for awhile now. Thanks for sharing these kinds of posts with us!

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    1. Samantha - That happens to me too often. Sometimes even when I'm looking over what I read over a year's time at the end of each year. I probably shouldn't admit that. LOL Thank goodness for written records.

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  11. Its such fun to have a look at old 'reviews'. I also kept a record of books read though to say I reviewed them is going a bit far. More like a list than anything else, most however were accompanied by a critique of sorts even if it was only a word or two.

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    1. Tracy - That's how my early "reviews" began. Brief and to the point. Sometimes I think I should go back to that, but once I start writing, I can't seem to stop. :-S

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  12. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan has been on my list to read for years.

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  13. I haven't read Snow Flower, but loved the Lincoln Lawyer and of course the movie was good too :)

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    1. Kimberly - Yes, the movie Lincoln Lawyer turned out well, didn't it? :-) I enjoy Michael Connelly's books quite a bit. I haven't read nearly enough.

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