Sunday, February 21, 2010

Caspian Rain by Gina Nahai

I tried to like this book.  The writing was so over there was no subtlety left for the reader to infer....anything.  This story takes place in Iran, in the years before the Islamic revolution. Told by a young girl, we learn of the peculiar circumstances under which her parents first laid eyes on each other, and the troubled relationship that denied both mother and daughter a normal life.

The majority of the story is about Bahar (meaning "spring") the girl's mother, who comes from the Jewish slums.  She is so pathetically bubbly and open with all of her husband's society friends who are put off by her lack of style.  You want to feel sorry for this poor inept girl but, the way the story is so in your face which is the biggest put off of all.  I am on to other, hopefully better reads.

Rating: 0 Do Not Recommend

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Right of Thirst by Frank Huyler

The masterpiece of Right of Thirst, has the two essential attributes of any great novel: it is exquisitely written and it deals with profoundly universal themes. Cardiologist, Charles Anderson is reeling from the death of his wife, from cancer, when he volunteers to assist with earthquake relief in an unnamed region of the world very much in today's news, the vague border regions of Pakistan.

How does one do "good" in one's life, how do we make a difference if we see our lives wanting, are universal questions for us all, and ones that this serious novels ask and attempt to answer. How does one do "good" in far away, vaguely sinister and foreboding and dangerous parts of the world is also such a question. Frank Huyler confronts these issues with stupendous literary talent and the sensibility of an intensely caring and proficient medical doctor.  If you value unusually beautiful prose that makes you stop on each page and savor some special moment, then you simply must read this book.

Rating: 4.3 Recommend

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

First, a HUGE thank you to Dasima for sending me this book!  This is the first book to make it to my "Best of 2010" list.  She knew I would love the way this story unfolds in a quiet Asian way, and it transported me into the lush rainy landscape of Malaysia.  It has beautiful language, history, suspense, big themes of torn loyalty and self-discovery....not to mention it is set in Penang.  Thank you Dasima :-) Wikipedia says the author Tan Twan Eng ranks in the top 3 best writers writing today and, I have to agree.

Starting in 1939, the novel tells the story of young Philip Hutton and his friendship with Hayato Endo. Philip, born to a British father and a Chinese mother, finds himself drawn to a mysterious Japanese diplomat and aikido master, and soon becomes his devoted student.  This book varies between modern day with Philip as an old man reflecting back on his life and then seemlessly shifts back to the time he is talking about in 1939 with the Japanese invading Malaysia.

This is an amazing novel for any author but, especially a first time novelist and it is reminding me of Cutting for Stone.  I can see why many felt that this should have won the Man Booker Prize or at least been on the short list (vs. just being on the long list).  If the dreamlike depictions of the lush Malay landscapes don't draw you in, the engaging narrative will. I enjoyed this book a lot and found it easy to lose myself in it's pages for hours.  Despite the beautiful writing, this is not a light book and it is not to be read in short bursts but, rather consumed when you have an hour or more to devour it.  I was sad to finish it and yet felt such a satisfaction and respect for all of the decades of events that had unfolded.  Truly an amazing story that enlightened me about a period of history I was unaware of.

Rating: 4.9 Definite Recommend

Thursday, February 11, 2010

That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo

When you combine a great title like "That Old Cape Magic"; a book about wonderful Cape Cod, and a Pulitzer Prize winning author, along with hearing some great reviews, I eagerly started listening to this on my commute. I wasn't thrilled from the beginning.  I kept expecting the story to get better--to have some positive thrown in with the negative, dysfunctional marriages the story centers around or, at least some hope thrown in with the desperation-but it never happened. There was some humor thrown in, but not very much. I just felt this book was so negative and didn't understand why people (of several generations no less!) who were so miserable would stay together to continue to make each other miserable rather than choosing to be happy - either together or apart.  I just couldn't finish it as for me, life is too short to be miserable - in real life or by subjecting myself to a book that I am not enjoying.  I toasted it and am moving on to the numerous better books that are waiting for me to enjoy.

Rating: 0 Do NOT Recommend

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

An Unfinished Life by Mark Spragg

How I have never read any Mark Spragg books until now is a mystery to me.  Thanks Luci for this recommendation.  From when I first started listening to this book I was immediately drawn in.  An old rancher reluctantly takes in his daughter-in-law and granddaughter in this light 'formula' but enjoyable novel .

Jean hasn't been back to her hometown in Wyoming, since her husband, Griffin, died in a car accident. Jean was driving, and Griffin's father, Einar, has never forgiven her for his son's death. Ten years and four boyfriends later, Jean has run out of money and options. With her precocious nine-year-old daughter, Griff, she escapes boyfriend number four, a smirking brute named Roy. Einar isn't happy to see mother or daughter, but Griff loves his log house and ranch life. This book is formula and laid out for a Hollywood formula movie (knowing who starred in the movie probably spoiled the book for me) but, it is still enjoyable entertainment.

Rating: 3 Strong OK