Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Salon: Reflections

The New Year is fast approaching and, as always, I find myself reflecting about the year that is nearly behind me. I am not quite ready to tally up my statistics nor pick out my top reads of the year. There is always a chance I may fit in one last book, no matter how unlikely.

I could easily blame the Christmas holiday for my lack of attention to my books this past week, but that would not entirely be true. My Christmas was quite relaxing and laid back. My husband and I had a Lord of the Rings movie marathon Christmas Day, watching all three movies in their extended versions. I was reminded of just how much I love those movies: the beauty of the scenery, the unforgettable characters, and a story that never fails to captivate me. Seeing the movies makes me want to read the books all over again. Alas, there are so many books I want to read and not nearly enough time to read them.

Yesterday I spent a good part of the afternoon in Sarajevo, wandering the streets during a war that destroyed so many lives, as wars so often do. My thoughts about Steven Galloway's novel, The Cellist of Sarajevo, are still swirling around in my head, and I am not quite ready to put them to paper. I hope to at least post a review of the book before the year is out.

Earlier in the month, I mentioned wanting to get caught up with my reading reflections from five years ago, and now seems as good a time as any to make good on that promise. I managed to read seven books in December 2003. One in particular stands out for me. It made my list of favorites that year.

As Always, Jack by Emma Sweeny (2002)

Emma Sweeney lost her father before she was born. He was a Naval pilot during the Cold War and died an early death. However, he left behind a legacy of love and humor, which carries on in the future generations of his family. Upon her mother’s death, Emma Sweeney came upon a stack of letters tucked away in her mother’s dresser draw. Emma’s father wrote the letters in 1946 to her mother, when he was stationed in the Pacific. Her parents had met 11 days before her father was shipped out. This book is a love story, one that deeply touched my heart. John Sweeney, aka Jack, was a gifted and humorous writer. His letters carried me back to 1946, made me feel the growing love he felt for Beebe, his future wife, and reminded me of my own love story. I also couldn’t help but think of my own grandfather and wish that I had known more about his earlier life, before my mother and her brothers came along.

It was also at that time when I first discovered Linda Fairstein's Alexandra Cooper, sex crimes prosecutor series. I actually considered not reading more of the series after reading that initial book, Final Jeopardy. However, an article about the author and her career that I came across in the spring of the following year inspired me to give her another try. Linda Fairstein's series is one of the few I am completely caught up in. I especially like how the author weaves historical tidbits about Manhattan into the modern day crime stories.

December of 2003 was a month for seconds as well. Anne Perry's Callander Square and Alexander McCall Smith's Tears of a Giraffe, both seconds in series and my second book by each author, proved to be enjoyable. While the female protagonists in both books are more gentle in their approaches at getting to the bottom of a situation, readers should not mistake that as weakness. Charlotte Pitt and Precious Ramotswe are intelligent and strong women.

No December is quite complete without a war story, and Michael Frayn's Spies fit into this category nicely. The novel is about two boys who weave together a tale of intrigue about one of their mothers, deciding that she is a German spy. They set out to spy on her and what they discover will change the course of their lives.

I finished off 2003 with two holiday themed books, one being Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich, and the other, Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. Interestingly enough, I had very nice things to say about the first in-between numbers book by the author of the Stephanie Plum, bounty hunter series. If you were to ask me today what I thought of it, I would not be quite so kind. Time has a way of shifting our memories. My opinion of Skipping Christmas, however, has not changed much over the last five years. I found it to be quirky and funny yet predictable.

When I look back five years from now upon my reading experiences of this year, I wonder what I will discover. Will unexpected books stand out in my mind? Will I come across a thought I jotted down that surprises me? I look forward to finding out.

Week in Review:
Review of Anarchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill
Review of Sun and Shadow by Åke Edwardson
Review of The Devil's Footprints by Amanda Stevens
1st in a Series Wrap Up

Happy Reading!


  1. There are some books that really make me wish I was more of a re-reader. The Lord of the Rings series is definitely among them. But, ah, I have such a hard time rationalizing re-reading when I don't spend near enough time reading good books for the *first* time. It's so hard! :-/

  2. I know it's heresy, but I actually prefer the LotR movies to the books :-) - and spending a day with all of them sounds like a terrific movie marathon!

    I have a copy of Skipping Christmas in the "holiday books" stack that comes out around this time every year. I've read it a couple of times and agree with your take on it.

    Have a great week, Wendy, and I'll look forward to seeing your year-end recap!

  3. I would echo Megan in wishing I could re-read more often. Or maybe wishing I could give myself permission to re-read more often! The Lord of the Rings would be high on my list.

  4. I too wish I could re-read more, especially when I am older and have a different perspective. I have done that with some of the classics, mostly Dickens since he is one of my favorite authors. I have re-read Ayn Rand and Dostoyevsky but that's about it. Thanks for your post today. Your Lord of the Rings marathon must have been fun. :-)

  5. I think the Cellist of Sarajevo is one of the best books I have ever read - simple and beautiful.

    Happy New Year!

  6. I'm glad you had a relaxing Christmas! I so love the idea of doing a LOTR marathon on Christmas day.

  7. I went ahead and posted my year end wrap up, even though I might still read more. Although it's doubtful I'll get much accomplished in the next three days.

    I read Skipping Christmas a couple of years ago and enjoyed it.

    Happy New Year!

  8. Before blogging I never kept track of what I read and I'm so mad at myself for not doing so! How cool for you to be able to go back to 2003! A well-written and interesting post!

  9. I was reading that the cellist in Cellist of Sarajevo has sued the author for infringement of privacy. I'm following the story and hope it will concludes in a most harmless way.

  10. Wow war stories in December...that's some heavy reading for this time of the year.

    I often reflect on the year in the the summer months.

  11. Isn't it funny how what you really enjoyed 5 years ago might not be something that you care for at all now? I like how we as humans are always changing? That is probably why I like to read so much because there are so many different genres that fit my mood at any given time.

    I really like you've went back in time and reflected on what you were reading.

    Happy New Year!!

  12. I hope you'll have time to participate in my Best Crime Fiction Reads in 2008 Wendy.
    All the best for 2009

  13. I'm glad you had a relaxing Christmas, Wendy. :)

    How time flies, eh? I need to make a list of the books I read this year and hopefully be able to name a book for my 'Book of the Year'... it'd be a tough decision considering there're a few good ones I read this year!! ;)

  14. Your Lord of the Rings movie marathon sounds like pure awesome. I recently re-read The Hobbit, and I am now re-reading the trilogy, so I may have to do a little marathon watching as well once I'm done.

  15. I wish I could get at my journal for 2003. It would be fun to look back at what I read 5 years ago. Alas, it's packed away in the garage since our basement flooded last summer and is still not finished enough to receive the books. The best I can do is look back to my first year of blogging - 2006.

    It's fun to read your thoughts about what you read in Dec 2003.

  16. Megan - I don't often re-read books either for much the same reason you give, but I do have a running list of ones I hope to get to again someday. :-)

    Florinda - Haha! It's okay. You're allowed to prefer the movies. They really are well made. :-)

    I hope you have a great week too!

    Andi - That's really what it comes down to, isn't it? We need to give ourselves permission to re-read books now and then. I'm just as guilty as you and Megan of not letting myself make the time for it. All those unread books shout out just a bit louder.

    Wisteria - I know my viewpoint of Pride and Prejudice changed with years in between reading. It would be interesting to see if that is true for some of the other books I've read over the years. I've only actually reread three books, all of which are classics.

    Jill - It is really good, I agree. I hope you have a great New Year too!

    Nymeth - It was a nice way to spend the day. :-)

    Yvonne - It's just wishful thinking on my part that I'll read all that much more. :-) I think I could safely conclude my year if I wanted to. I hope you have a Happy New Year too!

    Linda - Thank you! I wish I had started keeping track earlier than I did.

    Matt - I hadn't heard that tidbit about the real life cellist. You've got me curious now. I'll have to look into it.

    Serena - I find myself thinking that too, but then I read in the news about the fighting going on in this or that place in the world and I feel the need to recognize that by reading a war type book.

    I notice that a lot of people like reflecting in the middle of the year instead of at the end--or even at both the half way mark and end.

    Staci - It is funny how it works out that way sometimes. I definitely think my reading has expanded over the years. I just don't think I realized how much until I started looking back over my old journals.

    I hope you have a happy New Year as well!

    Kerrie - I will definitely be adding my picks to your list. :-) Thanks for the reminder!

    Melody - Thank you. Time certainly does fly! I look forward to finding out what your book of the year will be. :-)

    Charley - I hope I do talk myself into rereading the book one day soon. And of course, I'll have to start with The Hobbit. :-)

    The movie marathon made for a very long day in front of the TV, but it was fun.

    Booklogged - Thank you. I hope you will be able to get to your old journals one of these days. Sometimes I am surprised at what I read two years ago, and so that would make an interesting retrospective as well.

  17. Wendy, I know exactly what you mean about not being ready to put your thoughts about the book into words ... yet. I feel that way often - and not just with books!

    I'm off to read your review now ...


  18. It's always interesting to look back over reading journals from the past, to see what we were reading and what we thought about it at the time. But sometimes it can be disturbing, too. In looking back at mine, I discovered that I only read about a dozen books in the whole period from 2000 to 2005. I would have been just as glad not to remember that!

  19. I was watching a trailer for the LOTR trilogy today. It really made me want to re-read the books and watch the films again since I haven't seen them since they came out. I read Skipping Christmas about a year after I moved to Mississippi and I remember not being that impressed with the book or the movie either

  20. Shana - Sometimes we just need to let a book sit and marinate for a while. :-)

    Joy - That's true too! I still can't get over the fact that I actually didn't like reading British mysteries at one point all those years ago.

    Jen - Lord of the Rings is such a good story. I need to read some of the author's other work. I've only yet read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by him.

    I can't really remember what I thought of The Kranks, the movie version of Skipping Christmas. I remember thinking it was a fitting translation, but whether I was disappointed or liked it, I can't say.

  21. I can't get enough of the LOTR movies. I totally agree with you about them. I wish to reread the book too. I'm glad you had a relaxing Christmas and I hope 2009 would be a blast for you!

  22. I always wait until the last possible minute too to come up with those end of year lists.. you just never know what good book might pop up right? :)

    Hope your '09 is filled with lots of great books Wendy!

  23. Alice - They're definitely among my favorite movies. :-) I hope you have a wonderful New Year as well!

    Iliana - You just never know what book might slip in at the last minute. :-) Have a great New Year!


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