Oliver Twist

by Charles Dickens

I have only read this title once previously, having largely avoided it because of Bill Sykes. He is just too scary. Fagin is creepy too. Two nasty villains is apparently enough to scare me away. Actually Mr. Bumble makes three. Lots of villains here.

Aside from the bad guys, there is much to love here. We have the usual assortment of humorous character names (like Mrs. Thingummy, the nurse who presides over Oliver’s birth) and wry descriptions. Mr. Giles, a servant, is described as laboring ‘under a very agreeable sense of his own merits and importance’. Brittles, an underservant, ‘has been a slow boy for upward of thirty years, there appeared no great probability of his ever being a fast one.’ Dickens makes me smile, with his distinctive voice.

My heart went out to Oliver, as he passes from tragedy to tragedy. Such an honest, earnest child.

I would like to put in a word for poor Nancy, who has moments of generosity in her sad life. She tries to shield Oliver and, amazingly, still loves the awful Bill Sykes. She expresses pleasure when he shows up, in spite of his habit of beating her up. Perhaps her young death is the best outcome for her tragic situation.

Oliver Twist is not my favorite Dickens but it is well known due to its many film adaptations. My top picks are Our Mutual Friend and Great Expectations (in spite of my high school English teacher doing her best to ruin it for me). Stay away from Barnaby Rudge, Pickwick Papers and Hard Times if you are picking up Dickens for the first time since school.



My Life with Bob

By Pamela Paul

I had a feeling I was going to love this book and it did not disappoint. It even had the best new book smell. Pamela Paul started a book listing every book she read when she was in high school. Each chapter focuses on a period in her life and a book that symbolizes that time. 

I started journaling my own reading about fifteen years ago. Unlike Paul, who usually lists only title and author, I write a paragraph about each book. 

Books about books. My happy place. 

My Life with Bob

by Pamela Paul

I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!! A wonderful book about the reading life. Paul keeps a reading journal, recording only author and title so she make one journal last her whole life. Her book chronicles the stages of her life on her way to becoming editor of the New York Times Book Review. Talk about dream jobs! Her father started her on her reading journey by being a pushover for books she wanted, and she has continued that with her own children. Like any serious reader, books have played important parts in her life, even contributing to her divorce, when she and her first husband fiercely argued about books.

I keep a reading journal too, but usually write a little about each book so I am on my third journal. So this is a subject close to my heart.

My favorite parts are near the end, after her children are born and her heart returns to children’s literature, even becoming children’s books editor for the Times. I agree with her, that books you read as a child affect you deeply. I can remember lying on my bed as the room grew darker, too engrossed in Charlotte’s Web to get up and turn on the light.

I love how certain books symbolize different chapters in Paul’s life. I am writing a memoir and am referencingĀ  books that were important at the major turning points of my story.

If you love books about the reading life or are willing to put your toe in this genre, run to your bookstore and buy this one. Five stars, all the superlatives.Ā  I ordered it for my niece for Christmas (hope she doesn’t read this).

Who Am I Jealous Of?

I just read a news story about Gretchen Rubin, who apparently said we can hone in on what we truly want out of life by noticing who we envy. Anne Bogel (Modern Mrs Darcy) is the answer for me. The woman makes a living reading and writing about books, for crying out loud. Plus travels and speaks at book get-togethers. If that isn’t heaven on earth, I don’t know what is. Sign me up. 

Lucky You

Honestly, I do read books I adore but this is not one of them. This is my least favorite Book of the Month selection so far. 

Three young adult friends (Ellie, Chloe, and Rachel) are so discouraged with their lives that they wind up living off grid with Rachel’s boyfriend, Autry. I guess Rachel did it on purpose but the others definitely drifted. Autry’s plan is to live off the land with Rachel for a year in a family cabin to restore ‘health’. The plan is for The Project to be chronicled in a bestseller, if  Autry can just start writing. 

Nobody accomplishes anything or grows through their challenges in this discouraging book. I want to smack every character. 


By Robin Cook

I can remember enjoying Robin Cook’s books when I was younger so either his writing is worse or my standards are different. Or both, of course. 

I was sick for much of May and was looking for the book equivalent of comfort food, something engrossing but not too challenging. Our heroes here are two 20 somethings who decide to sell their eggs to finance a stay in Italy to write their theses. Unexpected symptoms after their procedures lead them to investigate the clinic further so naturally they get jobs at the clinic under assumed names.  The fertility clinic is run in an old asylum, perfect for scary moments as the girls try to answer their questions about what is really happening to all those eggs being harvested. You don’t want to know what they find as they follow every evil Doctor, old asylum cliched plot line. Nasty. 

Please don’t waste your time on this book. It has no redeeming qualities.