Monday, July 23, 2007

The bloom is off the rose a bit with Wings To The Kingdom by Cherie Priest. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed it a lot, but some flaws started to jump out at me. Maybe it was because a haunted Civil War battlefield just isn't as creepy as a Florida swamp, but I felt there was a little less urgency to the plot this time around. I also thought the writing wasn't as accomplished as I'd initially thought. I'm still eagerly anticipating her third book though and would recommend them to anyone who likes a good ghost story.

Saturday afternoon while I was waiting for my Harry Potter book to arrive I read The Earth, My Butt, And Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler. It's a YA book about an overweight girl who feels like a misfit in her family of thin perfectionists. When an event happens that causes her to reevaluate not only her family but also herself, she discovers her own style and niche. I liked it for the most part, but it bugged me that the author implied the only reason why Virginia was fat was because she sat around eating junk food all day. It's such a lazy shortcut when it comes to sketching a fat character. I liked the doctor that Virginia's mom makes her go to though and the fact that she actually gains weight after her diet fails, which is completely realistic.

Literally two minutes after I finished it, the doorbell rang and the mail carrier handed me Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling which I then proceeded to read straight through without a break. I found it a little slow in one or two parts, but overall I'm very satisfied and feel quite vindicated in several positions I've held since the events of book 6. And that's all I'm saying because I hate people spoiling things for me.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ice by Vladimir Sorokin (translated by Jamey Gambrell) initially had me totally enthralled. Using hammers made of ice, men and women beat on the chests of those they've kidnapped in the hopes of finding others whose hearts will respond with their true names. Those whose hearts remain silent are presumably left for dead while those who are "awakened" are welcomed as brothers and sisters. However my enthusiasm waned with each repetitive chapter as the lack of any real storyline was made apparent. I understand it's part of a trilogy and that a larger arc may appear, and I enjoyed it enough that I think I'll probably read the others when they come out, but it was definitely not as good as I'd hoped. I also had an issue with the translation (or at least I'm assuming it's the translation) because at times it seemed stilted and almost clinical. I have no idea if this is the author's style or a product of the translation, but the end result was that I felt somewhat distant from the book.

I didn't like Enna Burning by Shannon Hale as much as I did her other two books, but it was still pretty good. It continues the story from The Goose Girl, only this time focusing on Enna and the ability she gains of setting fires. She quickly finds that the fire and heat are all-consuming and she and Isi, who is herself struggling with the overwhelming communication from the wind, must find a way to balance themselves amidst a war with a bordering country.

I spent a good part of last Saturday waiting in line to see Spoon, which gave me the perfect opportunity to read Colm Toibin's book of short stories Mothers And Sons. As the title indicates, all the stories are linked thematically, exploring the different ways mothers and sons relate and interact. The writing was lovely and several of them were very powerful. I'm excited to read his novels now.

Leila over at Bookshelves of Doom has been raving about Cherie Priest's novels and I decided it was time to pick up her first, Four And Twenty Blackbirds. I started reading it on the bus ride home and knew before we reached the mall that I needed to hit the library by my house for the second one as soon as possible. It was immediately engaging and established such a deliciously creepy, Southern Gothic atmosphere that I couldn't stop reading. It follows Eden, a mixed race child raised by her aunt, as she tries to piece together her family's history and discover who the three ghosts are who seem to be protecting her. It was awesome, and I had to restrain myself from starting her second book last night after I finished this one because I would have been up all night reading if I had.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

I'm behind again, as usual. Back at the end of June I read the utterly delightful The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy. It's about a young woman, recently out of college, spending a couple of years in Paris meeting artists and actors and having all sorts of adventures. It was funny and charming and made me laugh out loud in public more than once. One culprit: "The waiters at the Select comported themselves with that slightly theatrical mixture of charm, complicity and contempt that one would expect from servants in Hell." In fact, I could open to just about any page and some line on there would make me smile. The narrator, Sally Jay, is self aware enough to know that she's occasionally ridiculous, but confident enough not let that slow her down. I loved her and the book and I'm going to have to buy a copy for myself.

After that I read another Post Secret book, The Secret lives of Men and Women by Frank Warren. I somehow can't pass these by when I see them downstairs on display.

Daisy requested a half year roundup, so I totaled up the books I've read so far this year and found I'm going to have to step up my reading if I even want to break 100. I read 45 books in the first six months of this year. 30 of those were fiction and 15 were nonfiction. There were 5 YA novels, 1 book of short stores, and 1 book of nonfiction essays. Most of them were very good, but seven of them stand out as the best (in the order I read them):
Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Zero by Jess Walter
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian
Icelander by Dustin Long
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

Last week I read Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton, which is about a man who experiences a sort of schizophrenia where he has "dead" moods where a sort of alternate personality takes over. This person wants to kill the woman he loves obsessively in his regular life. And once you meet her, you almost want him to. She's manipulative and cruel, and he almost gets away from her influence a couple of times. It becomes a kind of race - can he keep himself away long enough to lose all interest in her, stay sober, and not lose time, or will his other side kill her. I didn't love the book, but I found it interesting and it did gain momentum as it went on.

Then yesterday I holed up in my room with The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, which is based on a fairy tale I don't think I've read. I find that odd because I read every single one I could get my hands on multiple times for a couple of years when I was a kid and I can't imagine missing this one. Maybe I just forgot it. Anyway. It's about a princess sent by her mother to make a political marriage with a neighboring country. Along the way her guard mutinies and her lady in waiting takes her place, forcing her to flee into the woods. She makes her way to the city and bides her time as the King's goose girl until she can make her move and claim her rightful place.

Today I read The Polysyllabic Spree and Housekeeping Vs. The Dirt by Nick Hornby, the two collections of his ongoing column in The Believer. Everyone else has already picked these to death and I found myself agreeing with their opinions (of course you should stop reading a book you hate, but some reward a slog through; he has a weird view of literary fiction; I hate that he can't tell us what books he hated or gave up on, etc.). There were some nice bits on the comfort of having lots of unread books around and the inability to stop buying them and I took note of a couple of titles that I want to read.


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