Reading Frenzy

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A to Z Challenge

It's been a challenge just to come up with this list. Some of these are from my book club, some are in my tbr stack, and some I'll just have to get hold of. Looks like I have a great block of time to read next week (picture me, sitting the deck of my room at the Good View in Guandong, China, sipping whatever they sip over there). I'll take A, D, F, L, R and S -- and maybe a few more if I can find them in paperback in the next couple of days. I do reserve the right to amend these titles.

Alternatives to Sex - Stephen McCauley
Bonesetter's Daughter - Amy Tan
Confessions of a Memory Eater - Pagan Kennedy
Doctor's Wife - Elizabeth Brundage
Eat the Document - Dana Spiotta
Fried Eggs with Chopsticks - Polly Evans (1/22/07)
Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls
Historian - Elizabeth Kostova
Intuition - Allegra Goodman
Juniper Tree Burning - Goldberry Long
Kommandant's Girl - Pam Jenoff
Lisey's Story - Stephen King
Mohawk - Richard Russo
Nowhere City - Alison Lurie
Obsession - Jonathan Kellerman
Piece of Cake - Cupcake Brown - 1/28/07
Quartet in Autumn - Barbara Pym
Rain Line - Anne Whitney Pierce - 1/25/07
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See
Thirteen Moons - Charles Frazier
Undead and Unwed - MaryJanice Davidson
Vanished - Mary McGarry Moris
Worst Hard Time - Timothy Egan
XXX - Wendy McElroy
You Suck - Christopher Moore
Zoia's Gold - Philip Sington

Friday, November 10, 2006

Eat, Pray, Love

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Picture yourself. A journalist, living in New York City. Devastated by 9/11, a nasty divorce and a crushing follow-up romance, you get an offer to spend a year away. To spend months learning Italian and savoring the pastas and pizzas in Italy, traveling to India to stay in an asram for meditation and communion with the sacred to refresh the soul, and finally to Indonesia, to balance the two. How fast can I pack?

Elizabeth Gilbert did just that, and the result is a lush, funny, warmhearted memoir of her time with the people and places and magic she experienced. At the beginning of her journey she was in a dark place, deeply depressed, and through the people she met, and the reconnection with her deepest self, she immerges reborn, and refreshed, with a new zest for life and love. Warm, funny, infectious and insightful, this is a memoir/travelog you'll never forget.

This book transformed my daily drive, as I listened to the audio version which the author herself read. I'm going to buy myself a hard copy, and a few extras for holiday gifts. AND, she's coming to my area in December, I can't wait!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Before you start reading The Thirteenth Tale, carve out a long afternoon, or a weekend to devote to it. Savor the prose, lose yourself in the gothic overtones. Enjoy it. This was my mistake--life and my lack of ability to focus kept interrupting my reading, and this is a book to be read leisurely, to be savored like a fine meal and good wine.

Getting past the fact that I undermined my opportunity to fully indulge myself, let me say that there's a lot to appreciate about this book. The cover, and even the inside cover is beautiful. The atmosphere created is pretty close to flawless. The writing is lush and gorgeous:

"There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic."

It's got all those points that make it classic gothic. But I did have a few issues. I thought some of the characters--particularly the twin sisters--could have been more fully developed. The ending felt a little rushed, and the plot a bit formulaic, the ending a bit unrealistic.

I'd probably give it 8 out of 10 stars. Definitely I'd like to reread it, but next time on a dark and stormy night, in a soft cushy chair, in front of a crackling fire, with a cat at my feet.

And if you read it, let me know what you thought. And don't miss the author's website:

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Talk Talk by T. C. Boyle

When Dr. Dana Halter, a deaf teacher, is stopped for a traffic violation, her life spins out of her control when she is handcuffed and jailed for a slew of serious crimes, none of which she committed. A victim of identity theft, she enlists her boyfriend Bridger to help her deal with unbelieving authorities, an unsympathetic boss, and when no one seems serious about going after the real crook, she talks him into helping her track him down.

The thief is Peck Wilson, a career criminal determined to live the good life the easy way with assumed identities and stolen fortunes. And finding him turns the search into dangerous territory.

These three characters are definitely not cookie cutter, one dimensional characters. Dana is smart, assertive, prickly and doesn't suffer fools well, especially those that have preconceived opinions about deaf people. Bridger, the weakest of the three, is a digital film editor who imagines himself as one of his superheroes coming to the rescue of Dana. Peck, who has managed to take on the persona of an upper class doctor--not practicing--and who knows fine wine and cuisine, drives luxury autos--lives in upscale housing with his unsuspecting lover and her daughter in Marin County on his victims' dime, or rather dollar. He has definite anger management problems, and sees himself as the victim here, pursued by Dana and Bridger, and he's just as prepared to seek revenge against them as they are determined to stop his crime spree.

I really enjoy Boyle, this book reminds me there are a few of his books I haven't read yet. Put this one on your list.

The Ruins by Scott Smith

Two couples, vacationing and partying in Cancun, meet a German tourist whose brother has disappeared into the jungle to an archaeological site. Heading out to the Mayan ruins to help their new friend find his sibling sounds like an adventure to write home about, so the five of them plus a Greek tourist who speaks virtually no English head out for a day trip. After an uncomfortable journey, fighting bugs and heat, the lark turns into horror for the five travelers, and the mosquitos and humidity they endured on the way there are nothing compared to what they do find.

Well, be prepared to suspend your disbelief. Smith does a pretty good job of exposing each of the players strengths and weaknesses, and how they relate to one another, and how they hold up under terror. It's a bloody and macabre tale, a definite page turner.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back by Claire Fontaine and Mia Fontaine

Claire Fontaine escapes with her daughter from an abusive home life with her husband, but not before he manages to sexually abuse Mia. Claire and Mia undergo therapy at the time, but she's warned that when her daughter reaches adolescence, many of the issues will resurface. And they do, Mia turns to drugs and self mutilation, and finally, heavily addicted to cocaine, she runs away from home to escape from the pain. Her mother and stepfather manage to track her down, and send her to a boot camp in the Czech Republic. When that school is closed down, she is sent to another camp in Montana which helps these teens deal with the pain and shame that cause them to try to self-destruct. At the same time, parents also take part in group therapy to help them understand not only their children, but themselves.

The book alternates between Claire and Mia, as they each descend into hell, and finally start their road back to wholeness and health. The book seemed to deal with the past and present honestly, and thoroughly, and it was interesting to me that it showed the different methods that were used to break through, based on the experiences and personalities, strengths and weaknesses that both children and parents possessed. Mia was fortunate to have parents that found the right program for her, as well as for them, and to be able to afford it as well. This avenue might not work for all teens, but Mia was one of the lucky ones. This is a book I'll be thinking about for a long time.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

How Elizabeth Barret Browning Saved My Life
by Mameve Medwed

Abby, an almost graduate of Harvard and owner of an antique booth in Cambridge, feels like life is passing her by. Her mother has recently died, her ex-fiance wrote a tell-all book, her last boyfriend dumped her, and her business is looking a bit shabby. Life takes a turn when another antique dealer catches sight of a chamber pot that she inherited from her mother and he talks her into taking it to the visiting Antique Roadshow. There she learns that the pot belonged to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and has a value of $75,000.00. Before she can enjoy her windfall, her ex-best friend, who was the daughter of her mother's partner, sues her for ownership of the pot.

There's not a lot here about EBB, the book's mostly about Abby's unresolved issues with her friend, her ex-fiance and her choice of career. It's an enjoyable read, especially if you love looking for finds at flea markets and antique shops, and if you're familiar with Cambridge and Harvard, that's an added bonus. The writing is witty, and just when you're about to strangle some of the characters, they come through.