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.