Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Worth noting

I've been reading quite a bit and haven't made time to post. But a couple of highlights:

In The Writing Class, Jincy Willett combines a whodunnit mystery with insights on writing and those who attempt it (some doing it well, others not so well). Her characters are so well drawn and fascinating, especially the protagonist who teaches the title class.

I've also been enjoying Jennifer Weiner's books. As I previously posted, chick lit seems to be the best thing for me right now, since I'm reading in short bursts with many distractions. Weiner's books feel like a step up from most chick lit, with interesting, unpredictable plots and well-developed characters. So far I've read Little Earthquakes, In Her Shoes, and Goodnight Nobody.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Learning new tricks

I'm figuring out how to read while nursing the baby -- impressive, no? However, my sleep-deprived brain can't focus on much more than chick lit, and older library books with beat-up spines do a much better job of lying flat so I don't need two hands. But despite those limitations, I've finished three books:

Something Blue by Emily Giffin -- more memorable than I expected, this was a fun read. Darcy starts out as an unabashedly selfish human, but manages to become quite likable. The story is certainly predictable, but still worth the time.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein -- I thought I'd like this more than I did, and while I did enjoy it, I skimmed more than I normally do. The sections with Enzo's ponderings on racing didn't hold my attention, though I think they were supposed to offer philosophical thoughts on what was happening in the book. I liked the story, but I just thought I'd love and adore it.

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs -- I like Jacobs' writing, how she weaves different characters and stories together. This one had a great range of personalities, all very well developed. Still not highbrow literature, but again, a fun read.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New beginnings (oh, and a book too)

First, a beautiful explanation for why posts will be even fewer and farther between than they have been here lately: She was born on Wednesday, and she couldn't be more perfect. We are slowly figuring out this parenting thing, and I've been in too much of a fog to manage much reading. But I'm sure eventually we'll all get into sync!

I did manage to finish Eclipse. And I officially give up on Stephenie Meyer. I really dislike Bella's whining and weakness, Edward is still overly protective and stifling, and Jacob is just annoying. So that's enough of that for me.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cats and houses

I'm a sucker for a good animal story, and Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World certainly gives that. I found it sometimes got too bogged down with the town's history and with Vicki Myron's own story. It feels rather heartless to say I didn't care as much about her trials and tribulations, but I wanted more of the cat! (I'm very curious about the authorship, though. It's credited to "Vicki Myron with Bret Witter" -- what does that mean, exactly?) I loved Dewey's story and his antics and talents, and my goodness, was he ever an adorable cat. Not cute enough to trump my Atticus, of course: (Click here for a larger version.)

I love a good English manor house story. Usually these are mysteries, in the style of Agatha Christie, and some modern movies have stepped into the genre (can it be called a genre?), like Gosford Park. The House at Riverton, by Kate Morton, tells the story from the servant side while also letting us glimpse the lives of the privileged, and she manages to render both sides sympathetic. Morton's plot is beautifully crafted; she plants details perfectly, so that the events are both surprising and inevitable. I liked the flashback technique -- it was never overdone and worked well to explain how Grace knew so much about her employers' lives. I don't think it gives anything away to say I found the ending tremendously appropriate and yet still heartwrenching.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Catching up

More Carol Goodman, and I'd say this is my favorite of hers so far. The Ghost Orchid is considerably more tinged with the supernatural than anything else I've read by her, and apparently that was just what I needed right now. As always with Goodman's books, it's a great balance of solid writing and not-so-heavy reading.

I can't remember how I happened to find How Far is the Ocean from Here. One day, the library notified me that the copy I requested was in, and even though the subject matter isn't something I'd have normally picked up, I figured I must have had a reason for requesting it. And I'm very glad I gave Amy Shearn's novel a chance. It's a cast of quirky characters brought together in a motel in the middle of nowhere by a young surrogate mother on the run. The premise is perhaps movie-of-the-week with an alt-indie twist, and somehow Shearn makes it work -- it's often just too much, and at the same time, it's just right. Without giving anything away, I found the ending too neat, especially compared to the messiness of life throughout the book. But discounting that, it's very good writing and a satisfying read.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Disappearing acts

My second venture on the Stephenie Meyer bandwagon: I finished New Moon last night. This one left me more perplexed as to why so many adult women are obsessed with these books. For teenagers, I get it completely, but for me, the teen angst is just a bit too much to take. I spent most of the book being annoyed with Bella's logic (lack thereof?), and quite a large chunk of plot toward the end seemed incredibly forced. I didn't dislike it, but I'm not becoming a devotee by any means. (Of course, I'll have to read the next two...) And the Edward love? He's just not my type. Assuming I got over the vampire problem, he's way too protective with a few too many moments of irrational behavior. I'll take old-school Angel and Buffy any day over whiny Bella and crazy Edward.

Maggie O'Farrell's The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox was an enjoyable read, but not terribly memorable. The ending stayed with me but the characters have pretty much already escaped my (admittedly over-extended) mind. The story was intriguing and kept me reading, and I have no real complaints about the writing. It was pretty good. How's that for an underwhelming review?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Arty mystery

I was working on a punny post title like "Mr. Chick-lit" -- combining chick lit plus mystery. But it didn't work.

I like Carol Goodman because her books are interesting enough to hold my attention, well-written enough to keep me from being annoyed, but light enough to read when I don't have a lot of brain left for concentration. The Drowning Tree fits that beautifully, combining (fake) art history with human drama plus a whodunnit. Nice, simple, satisfying. And readable even when my eyes close after about two pages a night.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rich kids? Not that interesting

Gossip of the Starlings sounds like it should be a good story -- boarding school, weird teenagers, pretty New England setting in the mid-80s. But it turns out privileged kids and their problems don't produce too many feelings of sympathy from me. So you did way too much cocaine and bad things happened? There's a shock. Nina de Gramont's writing didn't help much either, especially with the strange narrative shifts away from her first-person protagonist. I never felt like any of the characters had quite enough to them: Skye's character needed more development to explain why she did the things she did, and Catherine simply wasn't particularly engaging either.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Crowd follower

That's me -- I succumbed to the hype and read Twilight. And I did enjoy the first in Stephenie Meyer's series and probably will read the rest, though I don't have a problem waiting for my number to come up on the library reserve list (I believe I'm 332 at the moment). I liked that it combines somewhat realistic teen angst with supernatural elements, and her take on vampires and how they live is interesting and quite original, as far as I can tell. I didn't love Bella's character -- she seemed a bit too unbelievable at times. Yes, she's meant to be an atypical teenager, but she's still a teenager. Still worth having read it, and I'm glad to know what all the fuss is about.

Also rereading my way through the Harry Potter series: I will probably do more of that as things get busier in the next couple of weeks. Those are good for holding my attention when nothing else will.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Post-vacation roundup

How's that for an uninspired post title? I finished both of these last week and hadn't bothered to note anything about them until now.

Amy Bloom's Away is a book I had vaguely heard of but never looked into further until someone recommended it. I don't think I've ever disliked a book she gave me, and Away was no exception. Lillian's story draws the reader in and holds tight. I also loved the way Bloom finished the stories of the peripheral characters, even after they had drifted from Lillian's main story.

Girls in Trucks, on the other hand, was one of those books I finished only because it was a very quick read and I didn't have anything better immediately at hand. Katie Crouch's novel really ought to have been presented as connected short stories (in which case I would have avoided it, but at least I wouldn't have been expecting an actual novel). The episodes were just too disjointed, jumping back and forth in time and changing narrative techniques as well. It was readable, but not great.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Vacation roundup

A much busier vacation than usual, which meant less time for sitting and reading. Still a respectable book count, though:

1. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. I expected to like this much more than I did. It wasn't bad, but after all the fabulous critical reviews, I thought there would be more to it. It was quite plot driven, without a lot of depth to the characters, and it often felt like she wasn't sure whether she was writing a novel or nonfiction -- it really would have been more effective had she been able to choose one or the other.

2. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. Yet another where my expectations were a bit too high. I really like most of Hornby's fiction, but this one felt a little slow to me. I might have liked it better if I had read it closer to when it was originally published.

3. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. Best of the bunch. Yates examines the lives of a young, suburban married couple who realize their lives aren't as extraordinary as they had planned. All of the characters here, even minor ones, were so clearly developed and heartbreakingly real There's a movie version coming out in December, I've learned (which explains why this was on display at the library), with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio as the main characters. I think Kate Winslet is just right for the part, but I'm not as sure about DiCaprio. The stills on imdb.com look good so far, though.

4. The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie. It's not vacation without an Agatha Christie in the mix. This wasn't one of the best, but still satisfying. (As usual, I can't find an cover image of the actual copy I read -- her books have had way too many covers! Perhaps I'll start taking my own pictures eventually.)

5. What I Was by Meg Rosoff. The best part about this book? It only took me an afternoon to read it. Dull, anticlimactic, just bleh.

6. The Summer of Naked Swim Parties by Jessica Anya Blau. A 1970s coming-of-age story, but it lacked any real insight into the main character. Cute, but not much more to it than that.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Racing pace

I had to rush to finish this one, as it was due yesterday with no option to renew. We leave for vacation today, and I didn't really want 10+ days worth of fines. But I managed it without too much trouble -- I Capture the Castle is a relatively quick read. Cassandra, the likable and realistic narrator of Dodie Smith's novel, tells of her quirky family's troubles and successes in the 1930s English countryside. The descriptions of their home and its surroundings are gorgeous, and the plot moves swiftly but unhurriedly. I had seen the recent movie first, and though I didn't remember it clearly, I think it stayed fairly close to the book. (And as always, the book is most definitely better.) An excellent pre-vacation summer read.

(I confess this picture isn't actually the cover image from the version I read, but it's so much prettier. Movie tie-in covers aren't any fun.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Literary meatloaf

I enjoy meatloaf -- flavorful, infinitely variable yet predictable, good as leftovers, filling, warming... What's not to like? I wouldn't want it every day, but it still makes for a good meal. The appropriately titled Comfort Food is much like meatloaf. Kate Jacobs' novel is a light and funny look at Gus, the middle-aged host of a well-known tv cooking show, and her flock of family, friends, and competitors. The book is rather predictable, but the characters are endearing (save Carmen, who I never quite cared about, and Sabrina, whose motivations never really made sense) and draw the reader into their stories. It's a tasty, quick, unchallenging read -- chick-lit with the twist of a slightly older than usual heroine, but otherwise your average take on the genre.

ETA: Blogger seems to be having difficulty with pictures. Will get that fixed soon, I hope. Pictures are working -- yay!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Happy to be ... where?

It's a sociological journey of sorts in Eric Weiner's The Geography of Bliss. On a quest to figure out what makes some places happy and others not so, he travels to some of the countries with the statistically happiest people (with one stopover in one of the most miserable places as well). I enjoyed Weiner's style -- I've seen him compared to Bill Bryson, which I don't think is quite right, though there are some similarities. I really liked all of the information on the science of happiness, which is quite a fascinating field. At points, the book felt a bit slow and redundant; certainly all the places were different, but some dragged a bit. Still quite a fun and interesting read -- Weiner nicely blends his own observations with research and facts about each place, making it both informative and introspective.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Challenge wrap-up

Officially, I've completed The Pub (2008) Challenge, since I've read 12 18 toward the minimum of 8 books published this year. There's still time to sign up, if you're interested -- it's been good to push myself to find and finish more newer books. I'll keep adding to the list as the year until the challenge ends, but so far I've read:

1. The Soul Thief by Charles Baxter
2. The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
3. The Senator's Wife by Sue Miller
4. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
5. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
6. The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer
7. The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir
8. The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt
9. The English American by Alison Larkin
10. The Heroines by Eileen Favorite
11. Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos
12. The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block
13. The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
14. Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs
15. The Summer of Naked Swim Parties by Jessica Anya Blau
16. Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch
17. Gossip of the Starlings by Nina de Gramont
18. How Far is the Ocean from Here by Amy Shearn

So far, The Story of Forgetting and The Monsters of Templeton have been the two I absolutely loved -- I'd highly recommend both of them. How Far is the Ocean from Here is another I'd recommend -- not as highly as the other two, but still very good.

Greater than the sum

Weirdly, I didn't like this book all that much, but it made me want to read more of Kate Christensen's writing. In The Great Man, she looks at the women who surrounded and supported a famous New York artist, who (five years after his death) has two biographers trying to analyze his life and find his secrets. The meetings with the writers allow the women (the artist's wife, mistress, and sister) to explore their own feelings about the man. The characters and story were interesting, but it wasn't the sort of book that made me want to keep reading it. Christensen's writing style is rather nice, though, and the characters were certainly vivid and well-developed, if a bit stereotypical at times.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Roses in December

It's hard to find words for why I loved this book so much and for a way to describe it without ruining it. The Story of Forgetting, by Stefan Merrill Block, alternates between two narrators: one an old man looking back on his life, the other a teenage boy trying to figure out his. Block's writing exquisitely weaves the two stories together, as well as a third tale of an imaginary world called Isidora. There are moments where you simply have to pause and notice how beautiful the words are, not to mention the story itself. This book deserves every bit of praise that has been heaped upon it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The bonds that tie

Belong to Me felt very chick-lit at the beginning, but that perception faded as quickly as it came. While I suppose it qualifies as "women's fiction" (what with having female protagonists, the horror), it's not fluff. Marisa de los Santos explores suburbia and its dwellers without reducing them to stereotypes. At first, I thought there was no way the character of Piper could ever be redeemed and become even remotely human -- she's so unpleasant that you think she can't possibly exist, until you realize you know someone just like her. But the author rather skillfully allows her to grow, without changing what makes her interesting. I wasn't sure I liked where the ending was going when I got to the last third, but I realize in retrospect it couldn't have possibly gone anywhere else -- I don't think it's giving anything away to say that it fit perfectly, without being remotely predictable. Belong to Me examines the way our lives come together in unexpected ways, and how deeply one tiny moment can force us to be intertwined.

Monday, June 30, 2008

California dreaming

I learned after I finished The Ruins of California that it actually started out as a memoir, and then Martha Sherrill discovered some secret she could neither print nor leave out. I'm not sure whether I would have read it differently if I had known there was some autobiography to the novel -- I suspected as much anyway, when I read that both the author and her protagonist were raised in Los Angeles. Inez, the narrator and main character, tells us about her life split between her mother, a former flamenco dancer, and her bachelor father, with his revolving door of girlfriends and man-on-the-town lifestyle. I found it a little slow going at the very beginning but soon became completely absorbed in Inez's coming of age. For most of the book's 10-year span, she straddles a fascinating border of exposure to the free-living California of the '70s and her own innocence, which I suppose is common to any teenager in any time or place. Sherrill's novel is fast-paced enough to hold the reader's interest while being entirely character driven; the story really is simply Inez's development from child to young adult, though the culture of California at the time is captured here as well.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Strange perspectives

Two of-an-evening books, thanks to stormy evenings that kept us inside. The Heroines, by Eileen Favorite, has a fantastic premise: a young mother and her daughter run a bed and breakfast that is visited by heroines from classic literature -- Ophelia, Catherine Earnshaw, Hester Prynne, and more. That aspect of the book was very fun, but the plot itself drifted too much from that premise, with the daughter ending up in a mental ward for a large chunk of the book, a section I did not enjoy at all. That section felt forced, as if the author wanted too much reality infused into a novel that was so well grounded in fantasy. The rest of the book, while it had its moments, wasn't quite enough to make up for that.

Vendela Vida's first novel, And Now You Can Go, also has an intriguing premise. A man holds a young woman at gunpoint in New York's Riverside Park, only to disappear and leave her to deal with the shock. I really enjoy Vida's writing style, with short, quick-changing scenes that somehow flow seamlessly together. The story, however, lost me a bit -- I just wasn't quite sure what it was supposed to mean, or if it simply was what it was. Her second novel, Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, was a much better story and used her writing style to better effect.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The quick and the mysterious

It's a mystery in which sheep are the detectives. It's got to be good. Indeed, Three Bags Full lives up to its whimsical promise, without every being silly. Leonie Swann's novel is plenty amusing (I even laughed out loud twice), but she's also quite serious and respectful toward her sheepy characters. And characters they are -- each with a distinct personalities that I can actually imagine sheep having. I highly recommend this one, especially if you've ever enjoyed an Agatha Christie mystery.

Alison Larkin's The English American is quite a bit sillier, but without any sheep. It's a very quick read and probably fits the chick lit category. This is an enjoyable book, but it doesn't have a lot of depth to it -- quite predictable, with rather stereotypical characters. Certainly not an unpleasant way to pass an afternoon, but nothing exceptional.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Of dreams and things

The Invention of Everything Else is one of those books that I ought to have enjoyed more than I did. Samantha Hunt's dreamlike writing is beautiful, her characters well drawn, and her plot intriguing, but it just lost me somewhere toward the end. I loved Louisa and her part of the story, but Tesla's memories were touched just a bit too much with that essential fogginess of memory. The way Hunt captured memory and its flaws is one of the things most enjoyable and most frustrating about the book -- I wanted more understanding, yet clearly it was meant to be vague. Really, I would certainly recommend this book, even though it didn't work for me. Maybe more of a wintertime read?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Floating among generations

I picked this slim paperback up entirely because of the poetic title and exceptionally lovely cover. Apparently, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water is considered a classic, to the point that it has its own SparkNotes. But I went into Michael Dorris' novel with no knowledge or expectation, and I was most pleasantly surprised. The story is told in turn by three generations of women, beginning with the youngest, who also has the largest part of the story. The book braids their experiences as Native Americans and more simply as people trying to find a place in the world when so much is working against them. I loved how the stories came together, revealing different pieces as each character told her part. An entirely memorable book -- thank goodness for judging by cover!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

High society

It's a rare book that makes me want to sit still and keep reading and at the same time not want to finish. The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets so thoroughly engulfed me in its world that I hated to let it go. To me, Eva Rice's novel feels like what would have happened if Jane Austen had been writing about 1950s England -- it's replete with society parties, courtship, beautiful country homes, and young ladies negotiating the realms of propriety. Jane Austen, of course, never imagined American socialites or the likes of Elvis Presley, but this is what might have happened if she had. The Lost Art was such a fun book, without ever feeling silly or brain-candy-esque -- Penelope and her cohorts are much to smart for that.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

In short

I've finished two books I really enjoyed, and yet I have very little to say about either. I think it's the heat -- I'd rather sit still and read than sit at the computer and type. But here goes...

The Girl With No Shadow was published originally as The Lollipop Shoes, and I don't actually think either title works all that well. But Joanne Harris' continuation of the story from Chocolat does work very well. In this novel, she gives voices to three characters who alternate telling the story. It's a classic battle of good and evil, but with magical and fairy tale elements added in -- and, of course, plenty of chocolate.

In The Lady Elizabeth, Alison Weir takes her impressive historical knowledge and research to breathe life into Elizabeth I's coming of age. The story takes Elizabeth from the death of her mother to her becoming queen. It relies on the facts, as Weir did in Innocent Traitor, but it also adds plenty of fictional elements and intrigue. Weir's historical fiction feels so much more intelligent than many of the others out there, thanks to her background as a historian.

Monday, June 2, 2008

There in the midst of it so alive and alone / words support like bone

It's obvious that Mercy is one of Jodi Picoult's earlier novels. It doesn't have her characteristic twist, and the characters aren't quite as developed as they are in her later works. But Mercy does fit her formula well: timely, complicated issues; alternating perspectives; a trial at the end to wind things up. As I've said before, Picoult is the comfort food of books -- just what you need every once in a while.

I don't normally comment on books I didn't finish, but since I made it through a good 300 pages of Michael Gruber's The Book of Air and Shadows, I thought it would be fair to say why I gave it up. First, it felt to me like Gruber was working way too hard to write something physically heavy: Too many digressions, most of which were relevant but also could have been pared down considerably, and much too much of the "primary source" material, which was unbearable to read. For an authentic primary source, I'll fight my way through the strange spellings and whatnot, but for fiction? And especially for a fictional primary source that, as part of the plot, already had to be transcribed once from an early style of writing, just transfer it to modern English already. The story itself was interesting but a little too much in line with The DaVinci Code and the millions of others like it -- it's been done.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Years go by

In Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks traces a year in the life of a town that quarantines itself in the hopes of keeping the Bubonic Plague from spreading any further. The novel focuses on Anna, the narrator, and her relationship with the town's rector and his wife. The plot and the premise were quite fascinating, but the writing occasionally seemed overwritten -- a bit too much detail here and there, and I'm generally rather fond of detail. The book was interesting and readable, but not memorable for me (which, in fact, is one of the reasons I started this blog -- too many enjoyable but not-standout books out there, and I wouldn't remember which ones I had read).

ETA: I just read an interesting review of this book on Goodreads, and while I don't agree with the reviewer's optimistic view of suffering, I do agree that the "wonder" in the title was missing from the book. However, if Wikipedia can be trusted, the title's origins meant to refer to the fact that the year wasn't as bad as it could have been. Still, in that case, things in the book pretty much were as bad as they could be.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


After an annoyingly long series of abandoned books, I finally managed to get through a couple of quick and enjoyable reads. Most recent was Jacqueline Sheehan's Lost and Found, which I had been eyeing on my mother's bookshelf for a while primarily because of the very cute dog on the cover. It's hard to go wrong with cute dogs. I think this qualifies as chick lit, and certainly it was quite predictable, but it was a sweet book and hey, a dog is a major character. Really, hard to go wrong.

Before that I breezed through The Kindness of Strangers, by Katrina Kittle, though it's not a breezy book by any stretch of the imagination. The subject matter was quite disturbing -- a woman finds out her best friends have been running a pornography ring with their children as the focus. Kittle handles it well, though, much in the style Jodi Picoult. Kittle uses similar shifts in characters' perspectives to narrate the story, which makes it move at a good pace. A good read, but one I was glad didn't stick in my memory for very long.

Friday, May 2, 2008

First challenge completed!

I've finished my first challenge: the Eponymous Challenge, hosted by Between the Covers. My books were:
1. The Girl Who Kept Swimming, by Joshilyn Jackson
2. The Senator's Wife, by Sue Miller
3. Mister Pip, by Lloyd Jones (my unannounced alternate)
4. Mary Modern, by Camille DeAngelis

Sadly, I didn't love any of these books, but I definitely enjoyed playing in the challenge. So a good experience overall. And yay for completion!

Modern love

Camille DeAngelis is an ambitious woman to tackle cloning in a realistic fiction setting. I found Mary Modern fascinating and strange (though, as far as cloning fiction goes, I preferred Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go). The characters in DeAngelis' book were a little too unsympathetic for me -- I didn't really feel sorry for any of them except Mary, and I thought Gray was way too much of a doormat. The political aspect seemed not quite developed enough; there were random snippets from a book that strongly criticized various aspects of the 2000s, and while I don't disagree, it seemed odd to have that disconnected soapbox in there. The story itself, however, and the writing, were entirely compelling and readable; the book is well-paced and the plot suspenseful in the right places. I'm glad the author is putting these ethical and political issues out there for readers to ponder and analyze, but I wish she had given them more context in the fiction.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Month of neglect

At least I didn't entirely quit reading; I just ignored my poor little blog for a few weeks. Two books to catch up on since last I stumbled over here: First was Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. While I definitely enjoyed the book, I think I would have liked it better if I had read it at a more relaxing time. As they say (Doris Lessing said it, in fact), each book has its time for each person. It's hard to go wrong with Neil Gaiman, though, and I think I'll check out more of Pratchett's work as well.

Meg Wolitzer's newest book, The Ten-Year Nap, was a very interesting read. It looks at the lives of four women who left their careers to raise their children. Ten years later, their children don't need them quite as much, and they're left to question the meaning of their lives. All four were very different, and I liked the way Wolitzer examined their day-to-day experiences and feelings without being judgmental (though the women certainly judged themselves).

Friday, April 4, 2008

Island turmoil

I didn't really like this book, but it's hard for me to say exactly why. Mister Pip, by Lloyd Jones, is certainly well written, with interesting characters, but the story just dragged for me. It seemed perhaps like there was too much happening -- Jones wanted to get in the political context of the island, but without ever thoroughly explaining it; he wanted to capture the mother-daughter struggles, but those never seemed fully real; and he wanted the quirky Mr. Watts to have his background and reality, but that got a bit lost in everything else. Intermixed with all this is the children learning Great Expectations from Mr. Watts, which were the most engaging parts of the book. I wanted more of that and less of so much else.

I'm including this for the Eponymous Challenge -- though he starts as a character in the book-within-the-book, Pip does actually become a character in a variety of ways.