Archive | July, 2012

For Whitney T.

31 Jul

I am SO very glad you are loving Rules of Civility – isn’t it such a refreshing read? As for what to read next…I have some thoughts. If you can wait a little bit, Song of Achilles comes out in paperback on August 28th. This was really really good. Like Rules, I wanted to go back and reread parts of it. It is told from the point of view of Patroclus, Achilles best friend, and the wonderfully nerdy woman who wrote it writes that they were more than friends. So, there are one or two suggestive boy-on-boy scenes, but really they don’t leave much of an impression at the end. And it is SO WELL WRITTEN. And so smart. And such a love story.

Or I would recommend A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano. Completely different from Rules of Civ. and Song of Ach. but also very good. Flannery O’Connor is a character – the story is set in her home town around the time she was diagnosed with Lupus and had to move back home and in with her mother. Although Flannery is an important character and plays an important role in the book, it is much more about some of the townspeople dealing with life – and residual feelings of dislike towards Flannery. 

Dear Favorite Random House Rep…

25 Jul

Thank you, thank you for recommending this book. I very much loved it – even though it ended as I suspected it would, with tears. I am going to post about it later since it doesn’t hit bookshelves until October 2nd. I just wanted you to know that I agree with your blurb. Fantastic.

Alternate History

25 Jul

I just got home from another long road-tripping weekend – this time moving my best friend from Richmond, VA to Providence, RI. With her three cats. It was a long but oh-so-fun weekend without much time to read. I did, however, manage to knock out Stephen Carter’s The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln on my flights to Richmond/from Providence.

I have to say – I did not love it. Yes, it is an interesting idea (that Abe survives the assassination attempt…and is facing impeachment for war crimes and treason). And yes, I liked the main character (a smart young black woman who goes to work, against all odds, at the law firm representing Lincoln in the impeachment trial). And yes, you might THINK that when one of the partners in the firm shows up dead alongside an African American woman assumed to be a prostitute that the story would pick up speed and be unputdownable. Unfortunately, I found that it never really picked up – and just when I thought the story would take off, it was bludgeoned down with more political details and courtroom jargon. If it had been perhaps 200 pages shorter, maybe I’d have liked it better.

I also bought and am cruising through Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. I have no idea who I’d recommend this book to, but I’m enjoying reading Cheryl Strayed’s advice to her readers. She writes as Sugar, so her advice is littered with “Sweep Pea”s and “Darling”s. But she is a great writer and her responses are very personal and good.

Road Trip Weekend.

16 Jul

I just got home from a quick weekend drive up to Cincinnati to meet one of my best friend’s fiancé. It is about a 10 hour drive – and with no air conditioning or cd player, you’d think it would have felt like 20. But luckily for me, I had some great audiobooks loaded on my iPod and the drive flew by with one earbud securely in my ear. I usually like to listen to fast-paced action adventures when I drive, something about the short sentences and quick plot lines make for great listening. So this time, I listened to a thriller that is a couple of years old that was a go-to recommendation based on the reactions of my dad, grandfather and brothers: The Bricklayer by Noah Boyd.

It was a pleasure to listen to – I was definitely wrapped up in the drama and surprised by the turns it took (although I   guessed the surprise player before the end). The story revolves around an ex-FBI man (now a bricklayer) who gets called in to help on a case that seems to have an inside source. There are prominent dead bodies and high ransoms, and the FBI needs someone with the Bricklayer’s “Take No Prisoner” attitude. Of course, the investigation leads him all over the country and into many a booby-trap. Very good and fast. 

On the way home, I dug into a book I’d read a long time ago (and remembered loving but not much more than that), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. I didn’t get to finish this one – the drive was too short – but will finish it up soon. It is just as good as I’d remembered – about two cousins (Sammy Clay and Josef Kavalier) who go into the Comic Book business with a superhero known as The Escapist. Josef, trained in the art of magic and escape, had fled Prague just as WWII was beginning and much of the story revolves around his aggression towards the Nazi Powers and his fear for his family’s (still in Prague) safety. More literary than The Bricklayer and just as entertaining. I think the version I listened to was abridged, so I’m going to dig out my copy and thumb through to see what I missed.

Chinese Soaps

10 Jul

This weekend I was reminded of something I learned long ago – I have horrible self-control when it comes to a good book. There is no earthly reason that I should stay up past 1am reading, when I know my alarm is set for 5:35am. But still, there are nights where I tell myself ‘one more chapter!’ and then turn off the lights, roll over, and then sit and stew for a good 10min about the ‘last chapter’ I read. And then, inevitably, I turn the light back on for ‘just one more.’ Last night, I went through this whole rig-a-marole with The Red Chamber by Pauline Chen. In the introduction, Pauline Chen basically says that this is a retelling of a famous Chinese tale called “Dream of the Red Chamber” that was originally VERY long with a VERY large cast of characters. Here is what I thought:

It took me a long time to get everyone’s names straight – but I FLEW through it. Very much like a Chinese soap opera – lots of betrayal and mixed messages and disasters. As much as I loved the story and sped crazily through it – I thought it was lacking ANY historical detail or anecdote or sense of place. I know from the back of the jacket that it takes place during the 18th century, but in my mind it might as well have been present day. I would compare it to some of Lisa See’s work – if you stripped Lisa See’s work of the historical detail I love her for. Even though there are no references to custom or clothing or architecture or food or materials that would clarify the time period, the story is good. Fast and captivating.

Gone Baby Gone

8 Jul

Sometimes you get a book that you CAN’T PUT DOWN…like this one. What a wonderful day I had completely wrapped up in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I had sort of high expectations – a lot of people whose reading I love have loved this book – and was almost expecting to be a little bit let down. But no! From the minute I picked this book up, I was hooked. I want everyone I know to have read it so we can talk about Amy, about Nick, about the ending. I passed it along to my dad, because he is a good fast reader and a pretty good judge of books. I woke up to a text from him saying “I can’t believe ___!!!” Now, everyone else just go read it so we can ALL talk about the ___!

New Books in Brief

5 Jul

A clever coming-of-age story set during what seems to be the Apocalypse – the Earth has been bumped off it’s rotation, and the days keep getting longer and longer. It starts with an extra 17 minutes of daylight each day, but before long the day/night cycle has been completely destroyed. Julia, a 10 year-old you’ll love, is having a hard enough time trying to grow up without the slow-coming Apocalypse to worry about.

I really enjoyed her first, Sister, which was about a woman who couldn’t believe her sister’s death was suicide and sets out to investigate. Her new one, Afterwards, is great. Narrated by a mother and daughter who are outside of their broken bodies looking in – it is a mystery and a reflection of family and motherly love. Another one of those reads with so many twists that you just don’t know whom to believe. Perfect suspenseful read.

 I thought this book had a lot of promise. And I kind of petered out on it. Set in the barely settled West, a solitary man named Talmadge has set up a beautiful orchard. On a trip to town to sell his fruits, two young and dirty girls – both pregnant – steal some of his apples and disappear into the town. Not long after, they show up on his orchard….and the story follows them from that moment on an incredible path. Parts of it reminded me of The Snowchild, and parts of it felt like East of Eden.

  UGH. I was one of those people who felt so-so about A Reliable Wife. There are people who loved it and people who didn’t, and I was happily in between. This new one, however, I found so dark and depressing. That’s it.

A Little Bit of History…A Lot of Story.

5 Jul

Here is a book I loved. And I don’t even know, really, who Louise Brooks is. This is the story of a young Louise Brooks, ready to head out to an elite dance school in New York City. It wouldn’t be proper, however, for a young girl to head to the big apple without a chaperone – and Cora Carlisle signs up for the job. She has her own reasons for wanting to venture from Wichita to NYC – for her it is a chance to uncover the secrets of her own past. While Louise proves a rebellious and unruly charge, Cora also finds her own sort of rebellion in the big city. I would compare it to The Paris Wife in that it is a story based on truth but so fleshed out with wonderful story line that you just want to keep reading. Another book that falls into this category is A Good Hard Look by Ann Napolitano – which if you haven’t read you should add to your list also (set in the south, featuring Flannery O’Connor as a character).