Reviews Weird and Wonderful Books Sept. 20, 2015

A spent a wonderful week with a friend in Santa Barbara, CA but I read nothing but weird and unusual books. Take a look.

Normal by Graeme Cameron – Who’s to say what is normal?  Certainly a serial killers’ normal is not the same as mine – and I hope not – the same as yours.  But none the less his/her life is normal and a bit humdrum to him/her until they fall in love with someone whom they do not want to kill.  This a totally different read and I loved it.  I had to read the ending twice to be sure I “got it”.  *****

Fun House by Alison Bechdel – my first graphic novel.  This is an interesting medium that I’m not certain I enjoy but Bechdel’s memoir is an appropriate story to present to the reader in this format. The poignant coming out  detailed literary allusion etc.  *****

Why I Don’t Write Children’s Literature by Gary Soto – picked this up off the newest books table at the Coronado library based simply on it’s title.  Every so often I like to read a book of essays and this was, like most, a good sampling of Soto’s work.  Some were good, some were okay and a couple were great. If you like this type of book give it a try. ****

The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora – Excellent book of dark short stories.  Even those of you who say you don’t like short stores might like these.  They are all linked together and the book reads almost like a disturbing novel. *****

Trans-sister Radio by Chris Bohjalian – The story of a trans-gendered M2F (male to female) and the woman who loves him before the transition.  Also the story of a great mother-daughter relationship and the story of a divorce.  The book is written around an NPR (Nation Public Radio) broadcast featuring the story of the relationship and the towns’ reaction to the relationship – a clever idea that actually works.  I learned a lot about the struggles of transsexual persons and although, I admit, sometimes the graphic sexual details made me uncomfortable it was a very engaging read. *****




Sept 12, 2015

The hot weather made it a great week for reading and I lucked out.  Both the The Care and Management of Lies and Mudbound were excellent and are likely to become Book Club favorites. As always I don’t give you a synopsis of the book here, just my opinion of the book and my rating of 1 to 5 stars. Click on the link and you can read the full description on Amazon.

This Is Your Life Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison – This is the story many women who grew up in the 50’s and married in the 60’s tell one another – but not until after their spouse has died. Marrying was the expected thing and not all marriages were perfect and not all pregnancies were blessed events but women were taught to endure and “put a good face on it” and they did.  Harriet Chance is 78 – the book would have been more believable if she’d been older – at least in her 90’s but then the timeline would have been off.  So despite the age thing – I’d recommend this book. ****

The Dream Box by Glen Vecchione – I like science fiction and this was a nice read.  The sensual cyborgs Omoo and Amaa have interesting, believable personalities which is something I like. The world created by Vecchione is interesting, and well drawn.  He has a created a society of sinister technologies where the future is threatened by the rising of the “savages”. ****

The Care and Management of Lies by Jacqueline Winspear – written by the author of the Maisie Dobbs series this was my favorite book in this bunch.  It is a beautiful love story set against the damaged world of World War One.  Winspear uses family and friendship, the women’s suffrage movement, the horrors of life in the trenches and a book on household management to create unforgettable characters.  I can truly say that as I turned the last page I was sad to not have another whole book to read – I want to know what happens next.  *****

About Grace by Anthony Doerr – This is the first novel by the author of the acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning #1 New York Times bestseller All the Light We Cannot See. It was sad to watch David Winkler destroy is life. The writing is beautiful but it drags a bit.  ***

Mudbound by Hilary Jordan – A prize-winning debut, about the many forms of prejudice, both subtle and brutal. The story is placed in the Mississippi Delta in 1946 and the writing is authentic and thought-provoking.  It’s a story we’ve read before but it’s told in a great new voice and I think you’ll like it. *****

July 25, 2015

I’m not really sure if anyone wants to read anything more on Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman but I might as well add my two cents worth.  I decided to read To Kill A Mockingbird first and then Go Set A Watchman because the first reports seemed to indicate that Watchman was a sequel to Mockingbird.  Now, I’m siding with the group that believes that Watchman was a draft of Mockingbird.  I think it was heavily edited – it needed it – and the racial tone was changed to match the times. Both books were hard to read.  Mockingbird because, while I remember it from both my first read in school and then the Gregory Peck movie, at this reading I found it to be racist in a way that I’d been taught it wasn’t.  I haven’t heard anyone else talking about racism in Mockingbird but it is certainly there.  Atticus Finch is a nice man.  He want to do right but he is first and foremost a white segregationist and even as he defends Tom Robinson he never believes in the equality of the races. Scout is completely unbelievable as the narrator – if she were telling the story from a 16-year-old point of view it would almost make sense but as an 8-year-old, I just don’t buy it.  I know this is prize-winning classic but some classics need to be retired and I’m happy to know that our local schools have found other books to use when teaching this period and that Mockingbird is no longer required reading. As for Go Set A Watchman it was hard to read because it was just plain terrible.  The writing needed a very good, very strong editor and I think Lee found one and turned this book into To Kill A Mockingbird.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – It’s a classic and if you haven’t read it you should so that you can draw your own conclusions. **

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee – Don’t bother reading this unless you want to join the discussion around the publishing of this book.

A Long Time Gone by Karen White – A going home to find yourself story. It gets a bit long winded in places and starts a bit slow but the relationships are interesting (even though I got a little tired of Vivian’s whining) and it comes to a satisfying conclusion.  ****

The Secret of Midwives – Review

My brain is in total June Gloom mode and I’ve just been hanging about and not accomplishing anything much.  For anyone who doesn’t know, June Gloom doesn’t pertain to sadness that summer vacation has started.  Here on the Southern California coast it means low lying clouds that may or may not – but usually do – clear in the afternoon and then come right back.  It’s a dreary month and I don’t like it!

While I’m struggling to write a page or two of my next  book every day – I do keep reading and reviewing – it’s great to have a time wasting vice that others think is a good thing!

The Secrets of Midwives –  Sally Hepworth – A mother/daughter, meaning of motherhood story. it isn’t exactly an exciting, page turning novel it is a nice easy summer read. Not too “romancey”.  I especially like the grandmother’s story.  **1/2

The Dinner – Herman Koch – I re-read this to be ready for my July book club meeting and I didn’t like it any better the second time around.  Yes, it’s well written but it just isn’t believable to me.  Perhaps I just don’t want to believe that any set of parents would react to their children’s actions in this manner.  I can see why it is promoted as highly controversial but not why it is considered suspenseful. The only reason I’m giving it any stars at all is because parenting is difficult and perhaps I’m missing the point here.  *

Firefly Beach – Meira Pentermann  – I like ghosts and I like painting and I like mysteries but I didn’t like this book.  Nothing about these characters made me believe.

Interpreter of Maladies – Jhuppa Lahiri – I love short stories so I enjoyed this book.  The stories touch lightly on the Indian traditions but are really universal.  ***

What I read this week!

It’s been a quiet week here “reading-wise”.  I did do a bunch of writing on Book 3 FAMILY MYTHS which made me feel productive.  I’ve listed my most recent reads below and now I ‘m off to the library for a fresh supply of books! (Which, of course, makes me happy since I love the library!)

The Life I Left Behind – Colette McBride – I started out loving this book but because the ending dragged I’m only giving it 3 stars.  If you like a psychological thriller with a ghost, you’ll enjoy this and you may even give it more stars – it was 3AM when I was reading the ending and maybe I should have just gone to sleep and finished in the morning.  ***

You Could Be Home By Now – Tracy Manasteer –  All about life in a Retirement Community in AZ. Good variety of characters (young, old and in between), some you’ll like some you won’t, touches on grief, memory, etc.  A decent read.  **

A Reunion of Ghosts – Judith Claire Mitchell – A family legacy of suicide shouldn’t be funny but it is.  The sister’s in each generation are clever and wickedly fun.  It dragged a bit but it’s worth a read just because it’s a dysfunctional family with a twist.  **

Blue Stars – Emily Gray Tedrowe – A story of ordinary people whose sons and husbands and daughters and wives are deployed in Iraq.  What that means to each family and how the politics of the nation and each family affect them all.  It is also a very clear look at what it must be like to have your loved one seriously wounded and how different each family member’s reaction may be.  Non-judgmental and presents a variety of views about the war.  A little soap opera (remember ARMY WIVES) but a good read.  ***