Friday, August 27, 2010

The Easter Parade by Richard Yates

The Easter Parade: A Novel
Two sisters, Sarah and Emily, are the children of divorced parents. We observe the sisters over four decades, watching them grow into two very different women. Sarah is stable and stalwart, settling into an unhappy marriage. Emily is precocious and independent, struggling with one unsatisfactory love affair after another. Richard Yates's classic novel is about how both women struggle to overcome their tarnished family's past, and how both finally reach for some semblance of renewal.

Yates is one of my favorite authors.  He writes so powerfully and effortlessly.  In just a sentence or two, you are captured by the characters and feel immersed in their lives.  I love how he writes with force and simplicity.  As with all of Yates books, he captures suburban middle America so well.  His books are not happy -- usually dealing with dysfunctional families, alcoholism and dissatisfaction with jobs and life.  He works capture the lives of the characters so well.  When I finished this book, I felt a dissatisfaction but, find that it is staying with me and the richness continues to unfold.

Rating: 4 Recommend

The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha

The Crying Tree: A Novel
The Crying Tree is a story of a family's journey toward justice and forgiveness towards their son's killer. Deputy sheriff Nate Stanley calls home one day and announces he's accepted a deputy post in Oregon. His wife, Irene, resents having to uproot herself and their children, Shep and Bliss, from their small Illinois town, but Nate insists it's for the best. Once they've moved into their new home, Shep sets off to explore Oregon's outdoors, and things seem to be settling in nicely until one afternoon when Nate returns home to find his 15-year-old son beaten and shot in their kitchen. After Shep dies in Nate's arms, the family seeks vengeance against the young man accused of Shep's murder.  As much as this is a heavy topic, the writing feels light and fluffy and not a substantial quality read.

Rating: 3 Just ok

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Boys in the Trees by Mary Swan

The Boys in the Trees: A NovelThis story is set in19th-century smalltown Canada and deals with a horrific crime. William Heath leaves his native England with his young family, eventually landing in Emden, Canada. But just as the family is feeling settled, William is accused in the local paper of embezzlement, and as the scandal peaks, William kills his family. He's sentenced to death, and the novel is taken over by a cross-section of locals—a teacher, a doctor, a boy curious about the facts of the crime—who share their thoughts about the Heaths.

This story sounded intriguing and I have an affinity for Canadian novels but, neither of these facts were sufficient to save this novel.  It meandered and just didn't make me care about any of the characters.

Rating: 1.5 Do NOT Recommend

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

The Forgotten Garden: A Novel
In 1913, a little girl arrives in Brisbane, Australia, and is taken in by a dockmaster and his wife. She doesn’t know her name, and the only clue to her identity is a book of fairy tales tucked inside a white suitcase. When the girl, called Nell, grows up, she starts to piece together bits of her story, but just as she’s on the verge of going to England to trace the mystery to its source, her grandaughter, Cassandra, is left in her care. When Nell dies, Cassandra finds herself the owner of a cottage in Cornwall, and makes the journey to England to finally solve the puzzle of Nell’s origins. Shifting back and forth over a span of nearly 100 years, this is a sprawling,  novel, with family secrets, stories-within-stories, even a maze and a Dickensian rag-and-bone shop.

This has a syrupy sweet feel to it with a touch of mystery.  It rambled and meandered and bored me with too many characters, mediocre writing, a poor plot and nothing in it to keep my interest.

Rating: 2 Do NOT Recommend

Friday, August 13, 2010

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Secret Daughter: A Novel
This novel opens in a small Indian village with Kavita giving birth to a baby girl. The father intends to kill the baby (the fate of her sister born before her) but Kavita has her spirited away to a Mumbai orphanage. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Somer, a doctor who can't bear children, is persuaded by her Indian husband, Krishnan, to adopt a child from India. Somer reluctantly agrees and they go to India where they  adopt Kavita's daughter, Asha. Somer is overwhelmed by the unfamiliar country and concerned that the child will only bond with her husband because Asha and Krishnan will look alike, they will have their ancestry in common. Kavita, still mourning her baby girl, gives birth to a son. Asha grows up in California, feeling isolated from her heritage until at college she finds a way to visit her birth country.  Despite giving me a deeper appreciation for what women feel when they give up a child or can't have their own child, this novel still felt light and fluffy and lacking in the quality of the story telling.

Rating: 3 Just OK

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Only Story by Monica Wood

Rating: 4.6 

Rita, an unconventional hair stylist, has a dream, and she is determined to find and help that lonely soul. He soon appears in the form of John Reed, an unassuming, dejected thirtysomething hovering at the back of an Alanon meeting. As their friendship blossoms into romance, John reveals that his brother brutally murdered his wife and then killed himself, leaving their three-year-old daughter, Aileen, orphaned. Aileen was, and still is, very precious to John, but the three maternal aunts who became her legal guardians will have nothing to do with him because he so closely resembles his homicidal brother. Assertive and persistent, Rita helps John win over his aunts, but as their acceptance of John grows, so does a chasm between John and Rita.

This is a light and easy read and I especially loved the eccentric and quirky Rita and her big heart.  I found myself chucking over lines like: "Either people shrink with age, or short people live longer" and how she collects various people's hair snippets, and stores them in a glass jar, creating "a mix of love and betrayals and partings and death."  This is the first time I have rated a book as both a "Beach Read" and a "Best of" category but, this was a thoroughly enjoyable light little book.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Man From Saigon by Marti Leimbach

The Man From Saigon: A Novel
Susan Gifford, a women's magazine writer who arrives in Vietnam to write human interest stories about the war. Instead, she ends up covering combat and finds an intense friendship with Son, a Vietnamese photographer, and an equally intense love affair with Marc, a married American journalist. During an ambush, Susan and Son are captured by the Vietcong and are marched into the jungle. When they are reported missing, Marc drops a potentially big story to find them. Meanwhile, Susan begins to suspect that Son may not be who he seems. Leimbach masterfully conjures the hothouse atmosphere of foreign correspondents in Saigon in the late 1960s, and in Susan she has created a heroine who is a worthy counterpart to the real life reporters who covered the war. Whether describing a convoy taking fire, a farcical press briefing, a quiet moment between Susan and Marc, or the ironic aftermath of Susan's ordeal, Leimbach expertly captures the contradictions of the war, making this a solid addition to the literature of an endlessly reconsidered conflict.

Rating 4.8 Recommend

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Gosh

Sea of Poppies: A Novel
This is about a crew comes to the vessel, now owned by rising opium merchant Benjamin Burnham. Mulatto second mate Zachary Reid, a 20-year-old of Lord Jim–like innocence, is passing for white and doesn't realize his secret is known to the gomusta (overseer) of the coolies, Baboo Nob Kissin, an educated Falstaffian figure who believes Zachary is the key to realizing his lifelong mission. Among the human cargo, there are three fugitives in disguise, two on the run from a vengeful family and one hoping to escape from Benjamin. Also on board is a formerly high caste raj who was brought down by Benjamin and is now on his way to a penal colony. Interesting but it is too soon yet to know what I think of it.  I just couldn't get in to this book so, after listening to a few chapters, I am moving on.

Rating: 1 Do not recommend

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Wife's Tale By Lori Lansens

The Wife's Tale: A NovelMary Gooch is boring and shallow. She isn't a character where you can say "she's such a great person if people could just see past the fat exterior" -  she is not a great person. I couldn't care less if she was fat, thin, whatever - she is a boring character and I could not even get through the whole book.  To be so miserable and to focus so much on your weight and be so depressed with your life and not to take charge but just to wallow....I can't relate....thank goodness!

Rating: 1 Do NOT Recommend

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

Rooftops of Tehran: A Novel
Pasha Shahed is a typical teenage boy who likes hanging out with his friends on the rooftop terrace of his house in Iran, dreaming about life, love, and what the future holds. What makes this 17-year-old different is that he is living under the harsh reign of the Shah in Iran during the summer of 1973. With his biggest worry being his feelings for Zari, the girl next door who has been promised to another since birth, Pasha has a rude awakening. Told in Pasha’s unique voice and partially in flashback, Seraji’s wonderful coming-of-age story is at times funny and sweet as well as thought-provoking and heart-wrenching.  Initially, this book wais evoking memories of The Kite Runner but it definitely did not measure up to that book.  It was a 'cute' book but definitely not the same caliber as a great book.

Rating: 3.3 Just Ok