Monday, September 29, 2014

100 Year Old Man by Jonas Jonasson

My rating: 2.8

I can definitely see why people compare this book to both Forrest Gump and The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry.  It was cute and entertaining but definitely not a book that I couldn’t put down or wait to get back to.  It was light, occasionally humorous but definitely more than a little far fetched.  I felt the characters were flat, the humor a little lacking and the writing wasn’t the best.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Invisible by Paul Auster

My rating: 2.0

I read this in 2011.  My girlfriend said I was too hasty in judging it so, without looking at my old review, I reread it.  While Auster is a talented writer, I wouldn't change a thing from my original review:

This book is akin to a car accident that you just can't help yourself with watching....even though you know you will regret it. The book is told in 3 parts, Summer, Fall & The Ending. Summer was very good, Fall was uncomfortable and The Ending just ended. I did LOVE the writing and that almost made me want to rate it higher but, the story line was lacking. I will definitely read something else by Auster in future.

If you are looking for a similar writing style but with a storyline that delivers, I highly recommend checking out Julian Barne's Sense of an Ending.

Friday, September 19, 2014

In The Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White

My rating: 4.0

This book is the true story of 3 things:

1. Neil White and his unabashed self-examination of his attitude, flaws and crime of kiting checks
2. The prison and prisoners of Carville
3. The lepers in Carville (it doubled as a prison and leper colony)

White doesn't hide that he is an unlikable con-man and it took over half the book before he had the epiphany as to the error of his ways.  The prisoners of Carville were an eclectic group and, at times, downright funny.  The story of the lepers in Carville was fascinating.  All in all, an enjoyable read.

Monday, September 8, 2014

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

My Rating: 4.8

About a self-centered, rich dysfunctional family.  The characters and prose and the fantasy descriptions were so well done.  People will either love or hate this book.  I am definitely in the ‘love it’ camp. Such a powerful and well crafted book.  The less you know about this book, the better. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Translator by Nina Schuyler

My rating:  4.7

This is a book for those who appreciate words and language…not for those who want action.  This is also not a happy or upbeat book but, very full of meaning and trying to understand people and life. This beautifully written book feels like the many languages of Hanne Schubert come together.  Hanne is a 53 year old translator and this novel opens with Hanne immersed in translating a well-known Japanese author’s work into English.  You realize the many potential interpretations of the words, sentences, paragraphs. 

When Hanne falls down a flight of stairs, her injury is an unusual but real condition--the loss of her native language. She is left speaking only Japanese, a language learned later in life. With her personal life at a crossroad, Hanne leaves for Japan. There, the Japanese novelist whose work she translated stunningly confronts her publicly for sabotaging his work…and she realizes how she has translated so many things in her life incorrectly. 

The language is stunningly beautiful and captures so much.  It gave me an appreciation for the art of translation and made me wonder how many things we have misinterpreted in our lives by seeing only our own perspective. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

I don’t care about ballet and yet I really enjoyed this book that completely immerses you into the world of professional ballet. This beautifully written novel follows the lives of a mediocre American ballerina who is good but not great and a world famous Russian dancer who defects to America.

Shipstead immerses you into the world of professional ballet and it is an enjoyable journey.  There was good but not great character development and the storyline definitely kept my attention.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Electric God by Catherine Ryan Hyde

My Rating: 4.8

50 year old Hayden lives in a remote cabin in Northern California and struggles with his past, his temper and so many events that haunt him.  At times, he seems to be mellowing in his old age until events unfold that, in an instant, have him reacting in his old ways.

I have read and loved quite a few of Hyde’s books (the author of Pay It Forward) and this one was no exception.  I felt for Hayden.  He became real to me and I felt his pain, his troubles and even empathized with his temper.  This novel is funny, wry, moving and has such believable characters.  I love how Hyde has a penchant for writing about flawed characters that have so many redeemable qualities you just can’t help but cheer for them.  I found this book thoroughly enjoyable and will definitely be reading more by Hyde.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad

My Rating: 4.4

This is an interesting and different novel with no continuous plot or character development, with the chapters being only loosely connected. Ahmad is a talented writer with a gift for poetry.

Each of these impactful stories are set in the Afghan/Pakistan area where the 80 year old author had a long civil service career.  He captures the harsh conditions with love and tenderness and the elegance of a nomadic lifestyle.

This is a series of short stories interlinked by Tor Baz (as the young boy becomes known).  The sparse writing and descriptions are sometimes reminiscent of Cormac MacCarthy. Beautifully told. 

The only things I didn't like was the short story/disjointed feel of each chapter as even though there was the constant of Tor Baz, you had to resituate yourself to each new situation/story.  The other complaint was that the book was so short as it was extremely well written.  If you like short stories, I would think you would find this book extremely enjoyable.