Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

The PearlThe Pearl by John Steinbeck
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

While I love Steinbeck's writing style and the voice of this novel, I didn't care much for this story. It is a parable of a poor Mexican family who finds a pearl and the consequences. Overall, it was just ok.

Taft by Ann Patchett

TaftTaft by Ann Patchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ann Patchett is my "go to author" when I am in book limbo and she didn't fail with this book. The story of Nickel's relationship with Marion, their son Franklin and Nickel's bar and the people there was enjoyable. I love Patchett's writing style and how she brings so much life to her characters in so few pages. Definitely not Patchett's best, which I consider to be Bel Canto, but still glad that I read it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4.8 of 5 stars

On Nick & Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing. Don’t read too much more about this book or it will spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that Gone Girl is a wickedly witty and fun psychological mind bender. Like watching a car accident – you will be a voyeur on their marriage. Just when you think you have it figured out, it will twist and turn…along with your emotions and who you favor. It may not be for everyone but, if this is your cup of tea, it is thoroughly enjoyable. Not only is the writing witty and edgy but, the whole plot will keep you licking every page for the next crumb of the story. I will definitely be reading more by Flynn.

Monday, July 16, 2012

To toast or not to toast?

It used to bother me when a friend who has recommended GREAT books in the past, recommended a book that I didn’t care for.  What was wrong with me?  I know they have good taste, why don’t I like it?  This was especially true with a book that it seemed ‘the whole world’ loved and I didn’t.  Am I a heathen?  What am I missing?  Surely if I just read a few more pages, I too will be drawn in and claim this book as my favorite!  Not so.  I found that the more that I would force myself to continue with the book, the more I struggled with it.

Now, I try to “toast a book” fairly quickly.  I have come to realize that even if I share a lot of similar books with a friend, we will always have some books we have a divergence on, and that is ok.

Remember that life is too short for bad books and, that bad books are 100% personal.  It is like desserts - you may share common taste with someone but you will find the occasional "favorite" they can't appreciate and vice versa.  So, move on as, your next great sweet book is out there waiting for you!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Heft by Liz Moore

My rating: 4.8 of 5 stars

I do understand how some reviewers say this book was maudlin but for me, I fell in love with it. This story is told through the voices of 58 yo Arthur Opp, who is 500 lbs and hasn’t left his Brooklyn home in 10+years, and 17 yo Kel Keller who has reluctantly just made the difficult switch from a school in Yonkers to attend elite Pells Landing. The tie between these dissimilar characters is Charlene – Kel’s mother and Arthur’s former student and penpal. The common thread is that all of these characters have is a lot of dysfunction – sad, lonely and in desperate need of help - and yet, instead of feeling revulsion or even depression, the author makes you feel so much empathy for each of them. These characters are complex and complete.

I listened to the audio version and the narrators are wonderful. I quickly fell under the spell of the intellectual voice of Arthur Opp. So much so, that it was hard for me to make the transition to the introduction of Kel’s voice (always a sign that I have subtly been drawn in to the previous character much deeper than I realized, until I miss them). Soon, I had almost as much enjoyment, or at least compassion, for Kel. Both characters have many flaws but, somehow, Moore does an impeccable job of making you empathize with their plights/choices. She captures the characters flaws and insecurities and makes you cheer for them and want more. If that wasn’t enough, I loved the peripheral character of Yolanda (“I’m pregnant you asshole!” LOL!)

I love an ending that doesn’t wrap everything up in a too perfect bow and Moore didn’t disappoint.

A quote from People magazine “The single word of the title is obviously a reference to Arthur’s morbid obesity, but it also alludes to the weight of true feelings and the courage needed to confront them. Heft leads to hope.”

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. Watching the snail (her tai chi master) helps her to overcome the frustration she feels at her plight and to take hope in her future.

It takes a pretty good author to make reading about snails interesting and she pulls it off! I never knew there was so much to know about snails.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett

The Magician's Assistant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ann Patchett weaves a wonderful story capturing so much history of her husband, his gay lover and her husband's relationship with his family that she thought was dead. Her characters come alive - even Phan and Parsifal/Guy who are dead. I loved Dot and her mid-western warm attitude.

This story unfolds and captures so much. This is not the same caliber as Bel Canto but, thoroughly readable and enjoyable.

Canada by Richard Ford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The opening lines of the book are "First, I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later." I didn't have to read too far beyond this to instantly sense that, despite it being dark, this was going to be on my "Best of 2012" list.

15 year old Dell, narrates dramatic, life-changing events that happened to him and his twin sister, Berner, in a very sparse but powerful tone to capture this coming of age story. This is not an 'action' book but all through this book, I had a sense of foreboding.

The prose is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Yates (if you didn't like Revolutionary Road, I doubt you would enjoy this). It is obvious that Ford was taught by Oakley Hall and E.L. Doctorow. I love his phrasing and nuance of language. I will be seeking out his other works. This is the best book I have read in a while. Perfection.