Category Archives: Book crave

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The Invisible Bridge
On the one hand, this is the story of the author’s grandparents, Hungarian Jews during the holocaust. How can you criticize?
On the other hand, it’s an overwrought romance followed by tedious suffering-through-war times.

The Husband’s Secret
Entertaining, easy read. Fluff, but on the good end of fluff. Same author as What Alice Forgot.

A Natural History of Dragons
I thought that I would love this, but I sort of didn’t. It was more of a mystery than it was a fantasy, with dragons. And the narrator was a bit heavy-handed in her explaining to me just how smart and forward thinking she was. Halfway through it, I started regretting my rec to LZ, but apparently, she liked it!

 

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recently read

20140524-094227-34947234.jpgThe Luminaries was on every list of the books you should be reading, so I wanted to read it. Real bad. So bad that I waited for my turn to get it at the library for months and months.

But I got it, and let many other books fall by the wayside while I chugged through this 830 page beast.

For a while, I thought that I hated it. But I stubbornly persisted until I was actually curious. The basic premise is a mystery and it did its basic job of intriguing me with it’s fancy “who done it” plot. But it was so fancy that I don’t think I ever really understood. I had the sense that something very clever had happened and I just couldn’t quite ferret it out.

Similarly, I had a nagging feeling that all of the astrology references and the chapter structure were also supposed to be telling me something clever, but I was too busy calculating my library late fees to get it.

And while I’m pretty confident that the villain was responsible, I still don’t know how the one guy got murdered and the lady got passed out in the random nowhere place.  But it was very complicated and I’m sure the author lady was very smart in thinking it all up.

Just not so smart that it could be clearly conveyed to this dogged reader.

’til the next one…

 

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Recently Read

stack of booksIn the midst of pre-wedding lunacy, I stopped having the bandwidth for anything. But then I got married, immediately stopped thinking about getting married, and I tumbled through a bunch of books.

The Cove, by Ron Rash: In the tradition of Heaven and Winter’s Bone, this book is about back woods Appalachia people, albeit set in World War I times. Laurel has got some sort of birthmark and she lives up on a part of the mountain that is shady, so neighboring mountain hicks think she is a witch. She finds a mute man in the woods and he doesn’t think she’s a witch, so she gets friendly. Good ole boys get rage-y and tragedy ensues.

Among Others, by Jo Walton:  A cross between a Flavia de Luce novel and What a Girl Wants, that movie with Colin Firth and Amanda Bynes. Told diary-style by the protagonist, who (unlike Laurel above) IS a witch. A teenage witch! She doesn’t really do anything witch-y, though. In fact, she is adamant about not using magic. But she does see fairies in the woods. Mostly, the book is about how she likes to read a lot of science fiction and fantasy novels.

The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman: A novel that’s really a collection of short stories. Stories about the various people who work for a newspaper in Rome during a several-decade time period. The pieces aren’t really tied up into some neat inter-connected package like you might expect. But each little tale is so piquant in its illustration of some emotional exchange or experience, that I think this was, in the end, quite good.

The Lifeboat, by Charlotte Rogan:  A big passenger ship sinks in 1914 (2 years after the Titanic) and some of the people get in lifeboats. The book opens with Grace on trial for her life for something that happened while she was on a lifeboat with 39 other people for 3 weeks. What follows is an account of her experience on the lifeboat with the other survivors who suffer and power-struggle, while she reflects on her path to marriage-trap Henry, who she’s JUST married about two seconds ago and who is super rich, but no one knows she has married!

Big Machaine, by Victor LaValle:  For such a seemingly juicy plot, this was a bit of a slog to get through. There’s a supernatural element that seemed superfluous to the better parts of the book – the story of Ricky Rice, growing up in a strange religious cult, becoming a heroin addict, mysteriously being invited to Vermont to work as a oblivious researcher on a team of other societally-rejected black folk.

The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey:  Fairy tale-esque and as such, rather predictable. But very engaging and nice to read. A girl appears in the place of a snowman made by an elderly couple who lives miles away from anyone else. She disappears in the summer and reappears every year once the snow falls. Incredibly beautiful descriptions of winter homesteading life in Alaska.

Up next – Telegraph Avenue and The Golem and the Jinni. Anything else I should add to the queue?

 

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recently read

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These are the two books I’ve managed to read as of late:  The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani and NW by Zadie Smith.

(I blame Candy Crush for this dearth of reading.  Such a wretched little game, but I can not stop.  It is infringing on my more worthwhile past times!)

So, The Shoemaker’s Wife was a very pleasant and engaging read.  I was invested enough in the characters that I had some moments of eye seeping at the end when the author decided it was time to manipulate my heartstrings thusly.
It’s about two teenagers in Italy who meet when they’re 15 years old in their tiny village.  They are obviously supposed to then be in love, but events transpire, separating them.  Lo!  We meet again in NYC!  Obviously, let’s be in love.  Missed opportunity and missed communication.  We shall keep one another squirreled away in some deep dark place of secret pining, but let’s carry on about our business of being hard working WWI era immigrants, yes?  Yes!  Finally, over a decade after our first meeting, we will cross paths again and make our merry way.  Things continue merrily, more and less, the end.

And NW?  This was not an easy read.  It wasn’t particularly dense, though, so once I committed to a read-it-up-rodeo, I did get through the last 200+ pages pretty quickly.
I’ve never read a Zadie Smith novel before, always anticipating that they’d be too smart and meaty for me to really enjoy.  And as I’d expected, I didn’t particularly enjoy this book.  Although, I feel like I appreciate it more now that I’ve finished and read some of the reviews of the book.  I need someone else to tell me what was interesting to then feel interested.
This was (mostly) about two women who grow up in a poor neighbor of London and live in a tower block.  They grow up and escape their background to varying degrees, but their background continues to impact them, their outlooks, and identities to varying degrees.
They are best friends and then not friends and then acquaintance-friends who are still in touch because of their long-lived status as bffs. Along the way, there are confused feelings about having or not having children, about marriage, and their families (who still live in the projects.)  As the reader, along the way, you are supposed to be intrigued by the dialogue, London jargon and slang, and strange structure of the book.

all for now.

 

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Recently read

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I recently read some books.  And had a torrid affair with the Beautiful Creatures young adult trilogy (which I surreptitiously read ebook style).

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen – vaguely amusing. reminded me a bit of Bridget Jones, but from a man point of view.  Characters were rather unbelievable in their portrayal of one archetype or another, but some were still likable.
Shrug.  Maybe see the movie instead?

The Family Fang – oh, what a weird book.  About a family of performance artists.  The parents were masters of their craft – doing destructive and crazy things in public just to see and record the reactions of passers-by.  Once they had kids, they started using them in the act and the kids grow up without learning how to engage in any normal sort of way.  The “art” is intended to make other people uncomfortable and that’s how reading the book largely made me feel.

The Magician’s Assistant – I remember reading and loving Bel Canto (also written by Ann Patchett) many years ago, so I had high expectations for this one.  I liked this book alright, but didn’t love it.  Sabine is in love with her gay friend, Parsifal the magician.  After Parsifal’s main man friend dies, he marries Sabine (because why not?) and then he dies.  His family, which he had told her had died in a car crash in his youth, is actually alive and living in South Dakota and seeks her out to get reacquainted with their lost son through her.
I couldn’t get behind the premise of the story and was left befuddled by the outcome, but it was written in a beautiful, dream-like way, making it an easy and engaging read.

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ruby heists, parmesan rinds, and book titles

San Francisco has this annual bonanza of bookishness called LitQuake. It’s a 9 day series of readings and signings and workshops and literary shenanigans jam packed into a week.

Because I have the stamina of a couch oriented granny, I can usually only make it to one or two things, even though there’s something fantistic every evening and all throughout the weekend times.
Last year, we made it to only one, an outdoor Midsummer Night’s Dream-themed reading of The Great Night.

The novel sounded interesting, but I never read it.

Possibly because I fell hopelessly in love with the comedic stylings of Andrew Sean Greer and Daniel Handler, who took the stage after the reading.

They played an accordian and a ukelele and sang a song, full of double entendres, about the fairies in Buena Vista park.

I am delighted and smitten. A year passes and I get distracted by other sundries.

And then!

What to my wondering eyes should appear?

They were teaming up at LitQuake again this year!

Inside, this time, they sat in a little living room vignette and asked one another questions drawn from a fishbowl.

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And man, those are some funny guys. I ha-ha’ed with gusto and wished ferverently to make them my friends.

Somehow, I failed to achieve this goal later when I was getting some books signed, but I am confident that my adoration and charm will eventually win them (or at least one of them) over.

This other guy did a lovely job of telling about the evening and got some great pictures, so if you’d like to get a better idea, read his blog. But better if you can see either of these guys in person to experience the crushing for yourself.

And or! Read their books!

Daniel Handler (or sometimes Lemony Snicket)
Andrew Sean Greer

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smuttery

I can only tolerate so much buzz before I must read the book.  Even if the buzz is erotic buzz.

You know where this is going.

I read Fifty Shades of Grey and it’s subsequent cohorts.  It’s the Twilight fan fiction that, instead of being all eye-rollingly chaste, is eye-rollingly porny!

The dynamic between Christian and Anastasia is uncannily Edward and Bella-like, except that instead of wanting to murderfy her, Christian wants to hog-tie virginal Ana up and beat her senseless with whackers and then do the sexing.  He’s bossy, unreasonably wealthy, super hot (no sparkle, though), and into BDSM.  Gasp.

I couldn’t stop reading it, in spite of the absolutely awfulness of the writing.  No shocker there.  I’ve gotten totally hooked on crap before, including the actual Twilight series.

A huge part of the suspense was waiting to find out just exactly what sort of kinky business Christian is into.
And will Ana consent to it?
And will she like it?

And I’ma tell you now, so stop reading if you don’t want it spoiled for you:

-Not that kinky.
-Yes, she goes for it.
-Yes, she likes everything.

So once it’s clear that yes, Ana is a secret horndog, there are new plot elements, like bad guys out to get her and miscommunications resulting in pending break-up, to keep the story line going.  Always peppered with graphic sex scenes throughout.

It was all just so unrealistic, it pissed me off.  The over the top, adolescent, vomitrocious, can’t-live-without-you love.  From two people who have never actually experienced romantic love before.  How everything just works out so nice and perfect in every way, getting everything they want.  And you can now add to that list:  being constantly and instantly in the mood for business and ALWAYS having simultaneous happy endings, every time, multiple times a day.

Scoff.

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