A. Reader

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The World to Come by Dara Horn

This novel covers a wide range of territory, from Jewish oppression in Stalinist Russia to the battlefields of Vietnam to junior high life in Newark, New Jersey, to modern day Manhattan. We even get a glimpse into an eternal world inhabited by the "already-weres" and the "not-yets." Throw in some Yiddish folklore, some mystery, some romance, some art history... Like I said, it covers a lot, and it all revolves around a stolen painting by Marc Chagall. An interesting author's note states that the theft of the Chagall artwork, which fuels the novel, is based on an actual event where a painting was stolen from a museum in New York and later turned up anonymously in a post office in Topeka!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Shopgirl by Steve Martin

My book club read the book for February. A slim volume and I had high hopes for the book - even though the movie was pretty well trashed by critics.
The story started well and I was quite impressed with funnyman Martin's writing style. He created the lonely shop girl, Mirabelle who works in the glove department of Neiman's, "selling things that nobody buys any more."
Of course, about the time that I am thinking that I might want to recommend the book to a couple people suddenly the F-bomb is dropped. And dropped frequently throughout the book. Not that I am a prude, but I really didn't need it more than the first time that was a shock value to the conversation.
The main character is a bit passive for everything that is going on around her, but she does make progress within the book.
Otherwise the story is cleverly written with moments of graceful pain.

Village School by Miss Read

Sweet and easy reading. A spinster school teacher who talks about life in the quaint English village and her two room school house. No scandels, not a single "desparate housewife", and no real pressing world issues. But nice stories without being too syrupy.
Mom called it a "cozy read" and that is how it should be read. Warm cookies and a glass of milk while under a blanket with a curled up kitty on your chest and/or a dog laying at your feet.

Village Centenary, Thrush Green and Mrs. Pringle of Fairacre are other titles in the 30-plus series.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Maybe a Miracle by Brian Strause

While sneaking out to get high before his senior prom, Monroe Anderson discovers his little 11-year-old sister Annika floating face down in their swimming pool. He jumps in to save her and manages to restore her breathing, but she is left in a coma. Soon miracles seemingly begin occurring around her: the face of Jesus appears on the hospital wall, rose petals rain down from the sky, and Annika begins displaying stigmata on her body. She soon inspires pilgrimages and visits from the sick and grieving seeking healing in her presence. Monroe’s mother turns their home into a religious shrine for the comatose girl. His workaholic father grows increasingly distant. Monroe struggles to make sense of all the craziness and stay connected to the little sister he has always known and loved.

This was a fairly interesting novel. It kept me wondering what was going to happen and often surprised me.

Cell by Stephen King

A pulse is transmitted simultaneously to every cell phone around the world, turning all who hear it into savage, zombie-like killers. The small minority of non-cell phone users (or “normies”) are left to survive in a world overrun by “phone-crazies” and attempt to somehow defeat them and restore some semblance of civilization. I am not a big Stephen King fan, but I just couldn’t resist the theme of the demonization of cell phones.

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle

This graphic novel recounts a French-Canadian animator's two month stay in North Korea. He travels to Pyongyang to oversee the production of a cartoon for his French company. This book gives a fascinating glimpse into what has to be one of the most bizarre places on the planet.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Eldest by Christopher Paolini

Harry Potter meets the Lord of the Rings. If you have read Eragon, you will enjoy this sequel. After the battle at Tronjheim (presented in the last book), Eragon travels to Ellesmera to continue his training as a dragon rider. While Eragon is training, the Varden are preparing for battle with Empire. Back in Carvahall, Eragon's childhood home, Eragon's cousin Roran has to defend himself from the Empire who thinks Roran knows something of Eragon. Roran must either turn himself in or put the whole of Carvahall in danger by defying the empire. This story in lots of ways is better than Eragon. It's more developed and there is more action to keep the story interesting and moving along. I predicted the twist and revealed secret at the end, but it didn't take away from the story at all. A thoroughly enjoyable read and I can't wait for the sequel.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Blue Shoe by Anne Lamott

This was the first book for my book club. According to the reviews brilliantly captures the dilemma of a divorced woman from the so-called "sandwich generation" in her latest, a funny, poignant and occasionally gut-wrenching novel that tracks the efforts of Mattie Ryder to cope with her divorce, find a new man, deal with her mother's aging and restore the emotional equilibrium of her two young children.
Mostly it was irratating. Mattie is a perfect size twelve for Sears. That is her "job". She doesn't let her mother sell the family home so she can move into it. There are rats in the walls and the exterminator sent to get rid of them finds he doesn't have the stomach to kill them. (The company sends someone else.) The whole first half of the story is somewhat jumbled and I really wanted to smack the main character frequently. There is one character who seems to be a voice of reason, but isn't in the book often enough. Mattie reminded me of a modern day Scarlett O'Hara. (Which for the record, I have only gotten to chapter 3 of Gone With the Wind because she was whiney.)
Interestingly, all 8 of us in the book club disliked the book in various degrees. Two of us, the hostess and myself, couldn't bear to finish it. We were told the end, which seemed a bit forced and trite. The one plus for the book is that Lamott is incredibly good at descriptions. They are clever and very vivid. But overall, I would say a pass on the Blue Shoe.
We were told by one woman in my group that she was disappointed in Lamott's fiction. She had read some non-fiction works by Lamott that she said are really thought-provocting.

Glimmering Girls by Merrill Joan Gerber

For those women who went to college during the late 50s and early 60s this novel will certainly strike some cords of rememberence. The "protection" of the fragile female by wrapping her in layers of rules in the dorms; the limited aspirations of most girls to teaching, nursing, or wedded bliss; and the general silliness of many college activities are well-limned in this novel. Francie, Liz, and Amanda explore that life and the rebellion that it inspires in this short novel.

Glimmering Girls by Merrill Joan Gerber

For those women who went to college during the late 50s and early 60s this novel will certainly strike some cords of rememberence. The "protection" of the fragile female by wrapping her in layers of rules in the dorms; the limited aspirations of most girls to teaching, nursing, or wedded bliss; and the general silliness of many college activities are well-limned in this novel. Francie, Liz, and Amanda explore that life and the rebellion that it inspires in this short novel.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl by Kate McCafferty--fiction

A young girl, Cot Daley, is kidnapped from Ireland in the mid seventeenth century to work as an indentured servant in the sugar fields of Barbados. Thirty years later she recounts her story of what it is like to be a virtual slave, her relationships with the African slaves, and the uprising of both groups against the plantation owners. I found the story pretty dry and tedious. I did not know that thousands of Irish were shipped to the West Indies, so it was interesting from an historical point of view.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Brother's Price by Wen Spencer

Role reversal gets a workout in this novel of a world where women work and the scarce men are sex objects. (Not that there is much in the way of sex in this book) . Boys are dressed to attract women and advantageous marriages are arranged into clans of sisters by sisters. The Eldest daughter calls the shots and life can be boring for boys. Jerin has the misfortune to fall for two of the royal sisters--how can they get together so he doesn't have to marry into the local pig-farmers family? Some of the role reversal is really stretching things, but the story moves along well after the first chapter.

The Paperwhite Narcissus by Cynthia Riggs

Victoria Trumbull is a ninety-two year old newspaper correspondent on Martha's Vineyard. Because of her intimate knowledge of the residents, she manages to solve mysteries on the side. This is the fifth mystery in the series. Victoria is fired from her reporting job at the Island Enquirer because of her age. This doesn't deter her--she goes to the rival newsletter and gets things moving there. Her former editor rehires her to investigate the series of fake obituaries he is receiving, all naming him as the deceased. It was fun, although some of Victoria's traits became a little annoying through repetition.

Princesses: The Six Daughters of George III by Flora Fraser

It's no wonder the British royal family is so messed. Of the six daughters of George III, only three married. None had a particularly happy life. This biography explores the lives of the six women and touches, by association on their brothers and their family lives. The relationships are fascinating.

The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why by Dalton Conley

Conley contends that there is greater differences in the economic realities of individual family members than between families. Think of the differences between Jimmy and Billy Carter, or a family where one is a banker and the other a bank robber. He says that birth order is not necessarily the deciding factor--that other things like divorce or parental death at the wrong time will be the tipping point. An easy to read book that makes it easy to say "It isn't MY fault".

The Story of Chicago May by Nuala O'Faolain

Chicago May was an Irish woman who left her home and traveled to America in 1890, where she embarked in a life of crime to avoid the life of a household drudge. Famous in her time, she engaged in everything from prostitution to murder. Of course, she was eventually caught and brought to trial. While some of this book is speculation, especially about her undocumented early years, the rest of this true crime book is well documented. I love the picture on the front--what a floozy!