Thursday, August 11, 2011

Seriously Literate-Summer '11.0

It's amazing what a couple beach days and flying round trip across the country lets you accomplish, reading wise...I've been a reading machine the past month, so I'll spare you any long drawn out reviews (or, will try, anyway) and just post my basic impressions. If you want to chat/more info, you know where to find me.

Testimony, Anita Shreve
Well, I finally read my last Shreve novel. Not because I've read them all, just because I'm a) over it, and b) this one I really disliked. Way too confusing to read (each chapter changes tone, POV, and narrator. Weird.) and I just didn't like the story very much, which is about a teenage orgy that gets videotaped and leaked throughout a private boarding school campus, and then the mess/general life-fuckery that follows. (Is that a word? It's going to be my new favorite.) It got all kinds of rave reviews elsewhere, so I was actually looking forward to it, too. Eh. Oh, well.

Girl in Translation, Jean Kwok
Quick fact: Burbank is one of a long list of airports who have bookstores with a Read and Return program—you buy, you read, and you sell it back at a participating airport for 50% of the price. Which would have been even cooler had I not immediately lost my receipt after I bought this, but good to know all the same.

This is a semi-autobiographical story of a young girl who immigrates to America with her mother and is forced to spend her days struggling at school to fit in and gain her footing (she's incredibly bright, but the language barrier proves to be a constant battle for her), her evenings working in a sweatshop, and her nights attempting to survive in horrible sub-human living conditions. It's not an earth shatteringly new concept or story, but it was interesting to see the world we're used to from the other side...I liked it.

Sarah's Key, Tatiana DeRosnay
You know how you sometimes read a book knowing it's going to be sad...knowing what has to happen...and still get sucker punched into shedding a tear when it does? Sigh. I'm such a baby. And this one gut punched me twice-once in a sad way, once in a happy way, even though I knew both were coming.

This is not a good way to begin this review. So now, I will just say that I really enjoyed this novel. It tells two stories simultaneously-one of a Polish girl living in 1940's Paris, whose family is swept off to a concentration camp, and one of an American journalist living in 2000's Paris, who is assigned to write about the sweep 60 years later. Their stories become intertwined, family secrets are exposed, and lives are irreparably changed. Historically fascinating, incredibly sad, and hard to put down...I read this one between Buffalo and Las Vegas in one swoop.

I Know this Much is True, Wally Lamb
First thing out of Hubby's mouth when he saw this cover was, "(sneer) What's that about? Baaaabies?" Yes, darling. Just because I'm knocked up, I now read books about babies. What? No. It IS however, about twins—one of whom has schizophrenia, and the other who has to deal with the repercussions of his twin's turbulent actions. If you've read anything else by Wally Lamb, you know he doesn't mess around...he digs in deep and tells some effed up stories. But as dark and uncomfortable as they can be, they still seem...real. Thumbs up. Totally satisfying ending, even if it wasn't all puppies and rainbows.

The Calling, Inger Ash Wolfe
Ok, what is it with authors and pseudonyms? Just use your real name! Are you ashamed? Did you lose a bet? Trying to dodge your taxes? I don't get it. Cause Mr./Ms. Wolfe, all I know is that you're a Canuck (well, presumably anyway, your books take place in Canada), and a "well known North American novelist." And, damn it, I want to read more of your stuff, which is difficult when you play so coy.


This book reminded me why I love forensic crime dramas on TNT and devoured Patricia Cornwell novels back in the day...psychopaths can be fascinating. I'll be reading more of the mysterious Wolfe's novels, I guarantee that.

The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
I'd actually love to hear from those of you who read this, because I'm assuming some/most/all of you know more about the bible stories that this is based off of than I do, and I wonder how that changes the reading of this novel. My personal opinion was that, not knowing these stories at all,I had no idea what would happen, who these people were, and why/if they were important in the biblical sense. It also meant I spent a lot of time flipping to the front of the book to the family tree the author so kindly provides for people like me (and maybe like you, I don't know.)

Based solely on what it was, this is the story of the lone daughter in a family of a dozen siblings, her four mothers (sister-wives, in the most literal sense), their husband (Jacob), and her life both with and without this 'tribal' family. The detail is beautiful, even when telling of horrible happenings, and it's pretty easy to get pulled into the world that's being described. It's basically just her life's story. I was expecting something different, but it was good.

I also read the Hunger Games, but I'll spare you and leave that for August, when I'll read the rest of the trilogy. In the meantime, just go get it and read it. You'll devour it. I've also got another Inger Ash Wolfe mystery, Cutting for Stone, and Zorro. And hopefully Matt Taibbi's The Great Derangement, but we own that one, so it keeps getting pushed back for library books.

Happy Reading!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the suggestions. I have been meaning to read "I Know This Much is True." :-)