Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Seriously Literate: October

Wow. November is like, yesterday(plus). And the only part I'm ready for is the time I guess October Book Club is a bit overdue? Sorry we go:

Strangers at The Feast, Jennifer Vanderbes
Sooo...I forgot I read this book. And so I'm reviewing about a week after I had the full story settle, which may be a good thing. Or a bad, seeing that it apparently didn't affect me the way the back of the book promised it would. ("An important story," it boasted).

I have a feeling I sped through it too quickly (I started it a day before it was due back, so I may have hurried a bit), but it was a good story. Until near the very end, you don't see what is really happening...but once you do, well...I was torn as to who I was supposed to see as the villain. And to me, that makes a good story. I like sympathizing with characters, no matter if they 'deserve it' or not...which made this even better, since I ended up torn, as I said, as to who deserved it.

I'm guessing if you read this you can tell who I ended up feeling sorriest for (hello, big blue-liberal-equal-rights-flag over here. Hint=not the rich white folk.).

Overall Consensus: Interesting read. Would probably make for another good sociology class assignment.So really, it was more college course material than enjoyable reading. But good all the same. Short, sweet, and interesting. Go for it. (And in my only political outlet: Vote Jerry Brown!)(P.s., I'm late. But yay to all of you who read my mind!)

Fortune's Rocks, Anita Shreve
Shreve has some themes she enjoys carrying over, I've noticed...she likes to deal with younger woman/older man relationships, she likes traveling between times (or writing in the past, as in this example) and she likes endings. Not here-you-go,-all-in-a-pretty,-perfect-bow-package endings, but endings that give the reader hope that everything will work out in that fairy-tale relationshipy way. Without having to tell us or be all sappy and lame about it. Which...really...well, are kinda the same as any ending that 'works out.' hmm..this is killing my whole point...but it holds true. Not a happy ending, not a sad ending, just a 'hmm' ending.. I'm ok with that, I guess. (In other words, I still will read Shreve's novels, if only cause they're enjoyable)

Overall consensus: It's a good story, set in the 19th century. A bit long, but I enjoyed all of it. A little bit too perfect an ending in contrast to the rest of the story's struggles (which I found heartfelt)...but that's a minor complaint. I enjoy this author, what can I say?

City of Thieves, David Benioff
Kate recommended this one, claiming both she and husband loved it. And yet I opened it, saw the phrase (well, roughly) My grandfather killed two Germans in a knife fight, and the book was promptly set down, renewed twice, and was not to be opened for another 5 weeks.

I really need to start reading the summaries on the inside flaps. Cause, me? I judge books by their cover. And their first paragraphs. I know better, of course, but that's never really stopped me before.

And so I attempted it again. And of course, thought it was fantastic. I like when books tell a very specific story, and this is one. It takes place over a small amount of time, but long enough, as in the real world, to build relationships, be traumatic/enlightening, and to bring permanent people into one's life.

OMG, just read it. It's lovely.

Overall consensus: I liked it enough to want to order his first book for next month. Well, maybe. I have about a million (six) checked out right now. But it was wonderful. Thumbs up.

Body Surfing, Anita Shreve
Yes, two by the same author this month. But since Fortune's Rock took place decades ago, and this one is present(ish) day, it's a whole different feel. It was a good light read. Love triangles and the accompanying torment ( do I describe this...I feel like the characters had feelings that I wasn't privy too...I didn't really get the passion that she may have intended). As usual, she left the ending wide open, which can be either gratifying or infuriating, depending on how you feel about loose ends. (I imagine it says something about me that I have been avoiding the last season of The Sopranos for this exact reason)

Overall consensus: Not my favorite of Shreve's novels, but by no means bad. One of my favorite parts, though, was when I *Spoiler-ish alert* had a fantastic OH! moment when the characters began referring to the history of the home...and I recognized more than one prior inhabitant. easy read, but she's written better.

Ape House, Sara Gruen
As soon as I heard that the author of Water for Elephants had a new novel out (thanks boss lady!), I was all over it. And I want to give another 5 star review. But the two books are so different, I can't compare them in any sort of meaningful way. And so here it is: Read it. I wanted it to be as beautiful as WFE, but it's not. Let's back way up right now:

When I was 8, I wanted to be either a dermatologist, an archeologist or a should point out at this point that I was so moved by a Bio-Anthro class in college that the idea of working with bonobo monkeys was something I knew I would love, but in the end couldn't imagine making an actual career of. But the idea of how similar we are to these creatures, biologically...well, it's fascinating. I dare you to read this book and disagree.

Overall consensus:Thumbs up. If you respect animals, evolution, and are as fascinated with the thought of learning sign language for no other purpose but to communicate (theoretically) with apes (and even if you don't), it's a good, fascinating read.

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