Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Little Summer Reading

The cursed nook has made it easier than ever for me to find fantastic books to read -- that "you also might like" tab gets me every time.   Here are some "you also might like" books I did also like.

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka.  This is the story of Japanese "Picture Brides" who travelled to America only to find that their grooms (and America) weren't all they had advertised themselves to be.  It is an interesting book, if you can get past one major hurdle:  there is no main character.  Every single episode in the book, from the young women meeting each other on the boat on their way to California to the tragic march to the interment camps during World War II, are all told in lists.  Lots and lots of lists:  One girl did this.  One girl did that. Another girl did the third thing.

Over.  And over.  And over.

If there is one common woman running through each chapter, I didn't find her.  (Which, I guess is telling of the sheer number of Japanese women who did come here as brides in the 20's.)  But whereas that literary device is fine for an opening paragraph (or maybe even chapter) where it lends suspense and tension, it was a bit much for an entire book -- I kept waiting for the story to start.

I did, however, finish the book. I'm still not sure how I feel about the writing style, but I do appreciate detail and precision of this novel.  Try it, and see what you think.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  I had had this one in my nook  line-up for months when my friend, Jeannine, told me she was reading it and thought it would be a great book to discuss on vacation.  It's a difficult story of a girl who "ages out" of the foster care system; part of her childhood journey is spent on a vineyard with a foster mother who taught her the beautiful meanings behind gifts of flowers -- what am I saying when I send you a bouquet of daisies?

It's a compelling story and a horticulture lesson all in one.  I loved it.
(We did, however, forget to discuss it on vacation!  I guess we were having too much fun!)

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon.  I think I loved this book because the main character, Alice, is a middle-aged wacko like me -- over analyzing too many things in her busy life.  It's a very modern novel full of tweets, Facebook posts and chats; the story centers on an online marriage survey/study Alice joins and her relationship with her anonymous researcher.  I was constantly surprised by this story -- things I thought might happen didn't and things happened that I didn't see coming.  Enough said.

(Just an FYI if you do read this one -- many chapters are simply the answers Alice sends to the researcher.  If you want to know what the questions were, they are all included in the last pages of the book.  If I had read a hard copy, I probably would have flipped there, but since I read this on the nook, I didn't realize this until I was finished.  Clay is reading it now, and asked me the other evening, "Hey, do we ever find out what the questions are?"  and was scrolling to them immediately.  I think I liked it the way I read it, though -- reading the questions at the end was a nice review of the book/marriage.)

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown.  I really liked this book about three daughters of a renown Shakespeare professor who have grown up and return to their small college hometown in Ohio.  Their names, of course, are Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia.  (Now I need to go back and read As You Like It, Othello and Lear to see just how well those names fit!)  There are tons of Shakespeare references in this book, but you don't have to be a Bard scholar to enjoy it; the book reads so easily and is full of beautiful, unique detail.  The sisters are very different, but the same, a point made over and over by the narrator's voice -- the common voice of the three sisters, which was a pretty amazing literary device.  They each have their own dramas to deal with, plus their mother's breast cancer -- it's very rich and very interesting.  (Another FYI -- I had a semester of Shakespeare as an undergrad, and a semester in grad school.  I still have to look up Shakespeare references, and miss a lot of questions about his work on Jeopardy!)

Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo.  So far, there are 4 books in this series about Kate Burkholder, a formerly Amish police chief of a small town in Northeast Ohio.  I have really surprised myself by plowing through all 4 this summer, because graphic murder mysteries are not really my thing.  If they are your thing, you'll probably love these.  Did I love them?  No.  They are sad and dark and involve trauma to sweet children.  But once I started the first book I HAD to finish, and after the first book, I HAD to know what happens to Kate.  And although I don't like to allow dark, evil things into my head and spirit, I can't wait for book 5.  How weird am I?

The Linda Castillo books were not "you also might like" books -- they were recommended by our friend, who is now a published author herself!  If you have a nook or a kindle, download Someone to Watch Over Me  -- I know you will enjoy it!  It's the first in a series of 3 (so far) books about Jennie O'Quinn and her dad, a small town police chief.  Exciting, romantic, fun.  Read it!

I was listening to a novel on the way home from North Carolina (Down Home by John Hart), and still have several chapters before I find out whodoneit, but don't have much desire to finish listening. Just an "Eh" kind of book for me.

In the land of non-fiction, I have started Imagine by Johan Lehrer.  This is a terrific book on the science of creativity (which I always had thought of as an "art"), but it's slow-going for me.  As a reviewer in Publisher's Weekly stated, these  "stories of groundbreaking artists, ideas and inventions are interwoven with discoveries from the forefront of modern neuroscience."  Yep, it's that neuroscience thing that slows me down.  But it's fascinating stuff, especially if you like reading about the development of such diverse things as Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone", the Swiffer mop and Nike's "Just Do It." 

Up next?  I started the Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simons because Clay really wants me to. I told him I've already read several massive Russian novels and have no need to read another, but better this than Atlas Shrugged, right?  And I know that once I can get past the first 50 pages, I'll probably be hooked, as happened with Outlander (which took me nearly 10 years to finally start reading!)  Also in the line up are Little Bee, Unorthodox, The Innocents and Virgins of Paradise.  

I've said it before -- too many books, too little time.  But in the time I'm given, I'm going to read as many as possible!


1 comment:

  1. Georgie,
    I love your book reviews and am especially grateful for your suggestions after a long summer of unrewarding reads -- or shall I say, potentially great books with disappointing conclusions!

    Let's see... I started out with The Book Thief, a novel that my sophomores were assigned for summer reading. In short, for a story with an inventive approach and some great subplots, it was just waaaay too long. There were so many places that the author could have brought it to a stellar conclusion, but instead he just added another chapter. Undaunted (well, maybe slightly daunted), I followed with another YA novel, The Hunger Games. I loved the story but felt slightly miffed to be forced into a sequel. But yes, I am going to read it...

    Next, I read Unbroken, so far my favorite book of the summer. I started it a couple of years ago but couldn't get past the details of Louie Z's track and field career, but Nancy was reading it and wanted to discuss it with me, so I picked it back up and plunged in. What an awesome story!

    Enthused, I next read Lisa See's Shanghai Girls. I'd read two other of her novels last summer and loved the detailed depictions of women's struggles, especially foot binding, so I knew I'd love SG. And I did love it, except for the ending! I was literally shocked to turn to the last page and discover that the end came so abruptly and left so many questions unanswered. Shocked, that is, until I discovered that See penned a sequel! Drat!

    I spent a week or so downloading free trials on Joe's Ipad before finally deciding on my next two reads: I just finished Wide Open by Larry Bjornson - a lovely little novel about the conflict between cattle drivers and settlers in Abilene, Kansas. Told from the perspective of a fifteen-year-old boy, it has the wit and charm of Huckleberry Finn with the wisdom of Lonesome Dove. A great read, except for the ending -- too quick, too easy!

    I have one more novel on my bedside, but I'm afraid it is an uninspired choice. I can't even recall the title right now. I think I will leave it to ferment and turn to one of those you've suggested.

    Nothing makes a girl happier than an evening visit (and respite from the Texas heat) than an evening venture to Barnes and Noble!

    Thanks again for your suggestions,

    ps - Little Bee is fantastic. A little gruesome, but really worth reading!