Tag Archives: Matthew Norman

Reading the old year out…

31st December 2011

And I must say, I’m not at all sad to see the back end of 2011. It was a very tumultuous year, and I am very happy to be ringing in a new year this evening with a mini-readathon cooked up by two other bloggers (Becky and Tasha) and myself. There will be champagne, so in the infinite wisdom and singing voice of Bing Crosby, let’s start the new year right.

But. Before we get to that, I wanted to do a year end post. As of midnight on December 30, I have read 121 books. Of these, 46 were written by men and 75 written by women (wow!); 109 fiction and 12 nonfiction. This year I read 9 audiobooks, and considering I read none last year, that’s quite a jump. Also, just so you can see my habits, 42 of these books came from the publisher/author/publicist, but I bought 52 and checked out 26 from the library, a pretty decent statistic. Now down to brass tacks….

Least favorite books of the year: Let’s just get this one out of the way. I only really disliked two books this year, and if you’ve been around for a bit, you can probably guess the first one: The Magicians by Lev Grossman. The other I just finished this morning: Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me by Ian Morgan Cron. I’ll put up a review next week with details. Suffice it to say, memoirs are tricky.

Best New-to-Me Series: Well, obviously I love the Patricia Wentworth Miss Silver books, but seeing as they were written in the last century, I won’t call them new. If you’re looking for a vintage mystery, give these a go. Also consider joining me for Miss Silver Saturdays through 2012.

Best New Series: I just finished Discovery of Witches and am pretty much in love with it. I can’t wait for the next one. Many compare it to Twilight, but for me, it was much more reminiscent of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I loved it!

Funniest Book: Hands down, Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman. In fact, this is a book that I plan to re-read soon, I liked it that much. Definitely keep an eye out for debut author Matt Norman.

Best Dark Comedy: Funny Man by John Warner. I’m really surprised this book hasn’t gotten more attention, as I think it’s pretty genius in a lot of ways. I’m really eager to see what else Warner writes.

Book that Made Me Think Rainbow Rowell stole my life and wrote about it: Attachments. Runner up for funniest book of the year, it was just so perfectly me. Sadly, many other bloggers have said the same thing, so obviously I ain’t anything special. Distinctive? Pshaw.

Book That Seriously Creeped Me Out and Blew My Mind: The Magus by John Fowles. Review next week, and boy howdy, what a book. Thanks so much to Sean at Read Heavily for the gift.

Best Middle Grade Book: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier. Absolute fun and super smart. Reminds me of books written when I was young.

Book that Made Me Cry: Thankfully there were only two of these this year (one sparked this post about crying in reading). The other is A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead. This is nonfiction and about the women of the French Resistance. It’s incredibly moving to see just how much the human spirit can endure.

Most Beautiful Book: The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock. This is physically just a beautiful, beautiful specimen of a book. The cover art, the inside art, the paper. It’s technically the biography of a woman artist, but it’s so much more than that.

Biggest Surprise: Ian Fleming’s Bond series. Yes, he can be a misogynistic, slightly-racist ass, but damn, these books are good. If you think you know Bond from the films, think again and join Lit Housewife’s Shaken Not Stirred challenge. You won’t be disappointed.

~and last but not least~

Best Book of 2011: Galore by Michael Crummey. I read this book in April, but it will not leave me. The story is timeless, the writing superb. If you haven’t read it, make sure you add it to your list for the new year. I compare it to East of Eden by Steinbeck and House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. One of my favorite passages from the book is below:

~Watching Judah emerge from the whale’s guts, King-me felt the widow was birthing everything he despised in the country, laying it out before him like a taunt. Irish nor English, Jerseyman nor bushborn nor savage, not Roman or Episcopalian or apostate, Judah was the wilderness on two legs, mute and unknowable, a blankness that could drown a man.

So that’s my list. I wish you all the best in 2012 and hope to see you back here. Thank you all for reading, commenting, emailing, etc. I so enjoy your company.

And on that note, what was your favorite book this year?

Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

2nd August 2011

*I received this book from Harper Perennial through NetGalley in May. I have been not-so-patiently waiting to tell you all about it. Big thanks to Beth Fish Reads, whose blog introduced me to the book. Preorder at Indiebound so you can get the book NEXT TUESDAY!

Every once in a while, I happen across a book so good and so funny I immediately want to buy 10 copies and hand them out to anyone and everyone. Why only every once in a while? To be honest, humor in writing is not easy. Often, comedy is hit or miss. A book might garner a laugh or two from me, but I’ve only been known on two occasions to laugh out loud multiple times during a plane ride. David Sedaris is responsible for making a good friend and my sister steer clear from me on a layover because they were humiliated by my LOL-ing all over the place. Matthew Norman is responsible for the second occasion. Thankfully, I was traveling solo and could have cared less what my snoring, iPod-listening seatmates thought of me.

Domestic Violets (which, I’m sorry, has one of the best covers I’ve seen in a while) is the story of the Violet family. Tom Violet is a man with a problem. Actually, he’s a man with a couple problems. His wife wants a second child, and he cannot quite…ahem…rise to the occasion. Curtis Violet, Tom’s dad, is a famous writer who has just won the Prize (Pulitzer, that is) and been chucked out on his rear by his most recent, and very young, wife. On top of it all, the recession has just hit, and living in D.C., Tom is on tenterhooks, waiting to see how long he will be able to keep a job none really likes all that much, while secretly writing a novel he’s a bit terrified to publish.

What’s it really about? Well, all that stuff I just said, but to break it down: It’s really about a man who hates his job, loves his wife and family, but who isn’t quite sure how to get out of the miserable place in which he finds himself. Domestic Violets is also about how sometimes in life, when the worst happens, it leaves behind it room for the life we always wanted, except not as cheesy as that last line made it sound.

If you are on Twitter, or if you’ve picked up my subtle hints on the blog, you know I loved this book. I mean, I really loved this book. It’s funny (did I mention that already?), it’s endearing, but most of all, it’s just realistic, and I think because of the writer/family realationships, there were moments that reminded me both of The Human Stain by Philip Roth and The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Not in a gimmicky, Norman-is-copying-other-authors sort of way, but in a hey-this-guy-is-a-damn-good-writer kind of way.

Want an example of the humor? Tom Violet sends his daughter to bed and tells her to go to sleep…

I can see by her expression that she’ll do whatever she damn well pleases until she hears me coming up the stairs. By now she’s old enough to know that we’re not going to beat her, so she’s pretty much got the run of the place.

So preorder it. And then come back here so we can talk about it. Because I gave my brother my signed copy I got at BEA (to share the love), and the little punk hasn’t read it yet. He keeps giving excuses like he started a new job and moved and stuff. Whatever.

This book will:

-make you laugh out loud. warning: drinking while reading may cause said beverage to fly from your nostrils.

 

Other reviews:

Beth Fish Reads

The Book Garden (who also compares humor to Sedaris)

Leeswammes’ Blog (who also compares it to Franzen!)